Political Lessons from the Martyrdom of Hazrat Hussain RA

“And do not say about those who are killed in the way of Allah, “They are dead.” Rather, they are alive, but you perceive [it] not.”

(Holy Quran 2: 154)


The extremely sad martyrdom of Hazrat Hussain RA is no doubt one of the most tragic events in the history of Islam. He is the beloved grandson of our beloved Holy Prophet (PBUH), revered by Muslims all over the world throughout the history of Islam. The family of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) (Ahli-Bait) is the most beloved, revered, honored and respected to all Muslims.

In this article the lessons we get from the martyrdom of Imam Hussain RA will be discussed.

Hazrat Imam Hussain (RA) in the Eyes of Non-Muslims

Kingdomship/Monarchy Cannot be Accepted in Islam

Islam propagates the idea that sovereignty belongs to Allah alone. No one else has the right to govern people unless they do it within His defined limits. The humans are sent to this earth as vicegerents (Caliphs) to Allah to establish His rule and system. When a prophet is present among the people, he is Allah’s chief vicegerent and once he passes away, the next best person among the Muslim nation is chosen by the mutual consent and consultation of the believers.

Islam does not approve of this extremely important duty of Khilafah being transferred from father to son (or other relatives like brothers) especially when many other qualified people are present at the place and time. This would lead to Kingdomship.

In a long Sahih Hadith narrated by Imam Ahmad and Imam Abu Dawood RA, five periods of history have been told and predicted by the Holy Prophet (PBUH):
1. Period of Prophethood ending with Prophethood of himself, Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH)
2. The second period predicted was a system of caliphate on the methodology and way of the prophets (PBUT). This was the period of the rightly guided Caliphs including uptil Hazrat Hassan’s RA six month rule.
(Hadith: “The Khilafah after me in my Ummah will last for thirty years. Then there will be kingship after that.” (Imam Ahmad and Imam Tirmidhi)
3. The third period of Islamic history is that there will be a period of cruel kingship or Mulkan ‘Aa’dhan, literally, ‘biting kingship’ i.e. cruel kingship. This was the period of kingships of Ummayads and Abbasids with lavish life style, dynasties, ruling with an iron fist and deviation of many true teachings of Islam with Bida’aat (Innovations).
This period started with Hazrat Muawiyah RA and continued with Yazeed and other Umayyads and Abbasids. Hazrat Hussain RA wanted to finish this ‘cruel biting kingship’ period and re-establish Khilafah on the methodology of the Prophets PBUT.
4. The fourth period has been called Mulkan Jabriyyan (forced kingship); meaning most likely to describe colonial rule and present day rule of western powers over Muslims. We are living in this period for even though we maybe free, we are living under western control (through UN, Central Banks, IMF, World Banks etc)
5. The fifth period will be the return of Khilafah on methodology and way of the prophets. This will most likely be brought by Imam Mehdi and Hazrat Eesa (AS)

So Hazrat Hussain RA and many other great Sahaba at the time including Hazrat Abdullah Ibn Umar RA agreed that there were many people more qualified for rulership than Yazeed and they were not going to allow this evil of kingship (3rd period mentioned above) to begin in such an early phase of Islam, as it would lead to disastrous consequences and a decline/downfall of the Muslim Ummah.

Hazrat Hussain RA basically wanted to get rid of this innovation (Bidah) of cruel kingship that had crept in to the political system. They knew the consequences of the change from ‘Khilafat’ to ‘Malookiyat’ (Khilafah to Kingdomship).

Hazrat Hussain (RA) wanted to preserve the true faith from corruption. He wanted to establish justice. He wished to bow only to Allah, not to tyranny and oppression. Things had become so bad at time of Yazeed that revolt became necessary if possible.

Khilafah: An Alternate Solution to Democracy

Some improvement occurred during time of Hazrat Umar bin Abdul Aziz RA who was martyred by the Umayyads themselves.

It is Okay to Have Different Political Views if Intentions are Right

This is a very important lesson we get from this crucial moment. We go a little back in history: Hazrat Hassan RA (the elder brother of Hazrat Hussain RA) resigned as a Khalifah six months after rule to avoid bloodshed among the Muslims. He had witnessed two major civil wars between Muslims (Jang e Jamal and Jang e Siffin), in which thousands of Muslims were martyred.

Hazrat Muawiyyah RA was ruling over Syria and there were chances of another and even bigger civil war. Hazrat Hassan RA didn’t want that to happen again. He wanted no more bloodshed. Enough was enough. So he resigned and gave pledge (bayah) to Hazrat Muawiyya (RA). Hazrat Muawiyyah RA ruled for twenty years and there was much needed unity & peace in the Muslim Ummah once again.

“Hazrat Abu Bakrah RA said: I saw the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) on the minbar, with al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali RA beside him, and he turned to the people sometimes and turned to al-Hasan RA sometimes, and said: “This son of mine will be a leader, and perhaps Allah will bring about reconciliation through him between two great groups of Muslims.” 

(Sahih Bukhari)

Thus with this important political step taken by Hazrat Hassan RA, this prophecy came true.

When Hazrat Muawiyyah RA died, people gave their pledge to his son Yazeed, whom he had nominated as his successor before his death, mainly just to continue the period of peace and tranquility after all the turmoil that had occurred due to the civil wars.

However, two major personalities of that time refused to give their pledge to Yazeed, basically due to the reason mentioned above-Kingship; one was Hazrat Hussain RA and the second was Hazrat Abdullah Ibn Zubair RA. Hazrat Hussain RA started receiving letters and delegations from Kufa, Iraq requesting and even demanding him to come to Kufa.

Hazrat Abdullah Ibn Umar RA, Hazrat Abdullah bin Zubair RA, Hazrat Abdullah Ibn Abbas RA and many other senior Sahaba and Tabieen RA pleaded with him not to go to Kufa. They told him these were the same people who had killed your dear father Hazrat Ali RA. They were of the opinion that it would be a useless venture.

Hazrat Hussain RA however told them that he had received thousands of letters from Kufa and secondly he did not want any possible bloodshed to take place in the Holy City of Makkah. Still to be sure he did send his cousin Hazrat Muslim bin Aqeel RA to Kufa to see for himself.

We can see here that, although their political opinions vastly differed, the intentions of all these great Sahaba and Tabieen were very good by heart, thus giving a very important lesson that it is perfectly okay to have different POLITICAL opinions, if the intentions are good.

Imam Hussain’s Mission & Martyrdom Emphasize Relation between Islam and Politics

There is a wrong belief that God forbid Imam Hussain RA was striving to become a ruler/Khalifah. That was not his objective at all. He wanted an end to Kingdomship and tyranny. He wanted true caliphate according to the methodology of the Prophets PBUT to be revived. That was his mission.

People question the relation between religion/Islam and politics. This great mission of the Imam emphasizes the importance of the relation between Islam and politics, so much so that he laid down his life for this mission.

Difference Between Religion & Deen & the Fault with Secularism

Imam Hussain did Not Wish to Become a Ruler. This was the aim of people like Yazeed and Ibn Zayyad

Betrayal, Treachery have Always Lead to the Downfall of Muslims

Unfortunately, despite sending all those letters to Hazrat Hussain RA, despite 12000 or more people in Kufa giving their pledge to Hazrat Hussain RA through Hazrat Muslim bin Aqeel RA, the people of Kufa surrendered very soon to the ruler Ibn Zayyad sent by Yazeed. Some were bribed and some turned into cowards, fearing for their life.

This lead to the martyrdom of Hazrat Muslim Bin Aqeel RA, cousin of Hazrat Hussain RA  and ultimately lead to the tragic martyrdom of Imam Hussain RA.

This was one of the greatest betrayals in the annals of history, for not a single person in Kufa turned out to defend Hazrat Muslim bin Aqeel RA and they witnessed his martyrdom. Then not a single person from Kufa went to Karbala close by to defend Hazrat Hussain (whose camp had been besieged there for one week (since 3rd Muharram, 61 AH).

Such types of betrayal by Muslim rulers, leaders, elders, influential people etc have always lead to the downfall of Muslims. Such people should be knowing they shall receive the greatest punishment from Allah on the day of judgment and perhaps in this life as well.

Hadith of the Holy Prophet PBUH “Every traitor will have a banner on the Day of Resurrection and it will be said: This is the betrayer of so-and-so.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)

Criteria for Revolt against a Muslim Ruler

This has been discussed in detail in another blog:

Criteria for revolt against a Muslim Ruler

In short, when Hazrat Hussain RA was informed that the people of Kufa had betrayed him and his cousin, he realized he did not have the force/numbers for a revolt/change. He then gave three suggestions: that either a) he be allowed to go back to Makkah, or b) be allowed to meet Yazeed directly (for talks) or c) he be allowed to go the borders (for worship/Jihad).

One Should Fight till the Very End

Ibn Ziyyad did not accept any of his three suggestions and informed him to come to him and either give pledge to Yazeed or be ready for war. Hazrat Hussain RA rightly believed it was inappropriate and cowardly to go to Ibn Zayyad. He was not going to be taken as a prisoner to Ibn Zayyad.

Hazrat Hussain RA fought till the very end. He had never bowed down before tyranny and oppression and he was not going to do so till the very end. One by one his all of his relatives were being martyred right before his eyes but he stood firm right until the end.

Determinants of Success

Our elders tell us of four major possibilities:

  1. A leader/leadership/party and the people fail in this life and the hereafter. An example is Pharoah (Firaun) and his followers who were drowned in this life and will be among the losers in the hereafter
  2. A leader/leadership/party and the people succeed in this life and the hereafter. A perfect example is Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) and his followers.
  3. A leader/leadership/party and the people fail in their mission in this life but are successful in the hereafter. Here a good example is Hazrat Hussain RA and his followers and other martyrs who die before worldly success is achieved.
  4. A leader/leadership/party and the people are successful in this life but will not be successful in the hereafter. Example of such people are Ibn Ziyyad, Shimr etc

Martyrs Remain Alive & Oppressors/Tyrants are Forgotten

“And do not say about those who are killed in the way of Allah, “They are dead.” Rather, they are alive, but you perceive [it] not.”

One very important lesson we learn from this tragedy is that people who lay down their lives for Allah or His cause are martyrs and they are alive in a way in which we do not perceive. Even today Hazrat Hussain RA lives in our hearts; we love him and the family of the Holy Prophet PBUH.

No one remembers or respects or likes Yazeed, Ibn Zayyad and all those who wronged Hazrat Hussain RA and his family RA. Even the people of Kufa who betrayed Imam Hussain RA are badly remembered and blamed for his martyrdom.

One Should Avoid Bloodshed

Another lesson we get from this tragedy is that one should try to avoid bloodshed as much as possible. This was why Hazrat Hassan RA resigned and gave his pledge to Hazrat Muawiyyah RA. This was one of the main reasons why many Muslims gave pledge to Yazeed to avoid bloodshed. Imam Hussain RA also wanted change in Khalifah without bloodshed. This is why when he found out about the betrayal of the people of Kufa, he wished to go back to Makkah or meet Yazeed or to abstain from politics in future.

The Ruler is Responsible for His Governors/Subordinates

Ultimately the ruler/Khilafah/Prime Minister etc is responsible for his governor, ministers and everyone of his subordinates. It is said that Ibn Ziyyad & others were responsible for Hazrat Hussain RA and his family’s martyrdom and not Yazeed.

But it is well known that Yazeed replaced the governor of Kufa with Ibn Zayyad and even after the martyrdom of Hazrat Hussain RA, Yazeed did not hand out any punishment to Ibn Zayyad or his men involved in the massacre at Karbala and Ibn Zayyad even continued to remain governor afterwards.

One May have to be Patient in Times of Adversity

Another lesson we learn is to be patient in times of adversity.

“On the authority of Hazrat Abu Saeed al-Khudri (RA) who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah PBUH say, “Whoever of you sees an evil must then change it with his hand. If he is not able to do so, then [he must change it ] with his tongue. And if he is not able to do so, then [he must change it] with his heart. And that is the weakest [effect of] faith.” (Recorded in Muslim).

“Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), that the Prophet (Blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “There will be tribulations during which one who sitting is better than one who is standing, and one who standing is better than one who is walking, and one who is walking is better than one who is running. He who exposes himself to them will be drawn to them and whoever find a refuge from them, let him seek protection therein.”

Narrated by al-Bukhaari (3601) and Muslim (2886).

Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar (RA) said, commenting on the meaning of this hadeeth:

The words “He who exposes himself to them” means, the one who wants to find out about them and does not want to ignore them.

“will be drawn to them” means: they will destroy him, because he will expose himself to destruction because of them.

“whoever find a refuge from them” means a place where he may seek refuge from the evil (of this turmoil).

“let him seek protection therein” means: let him withdraw to a place so that he may be safe from the evil of the turmoil.

And this was one of the requests of Hazrat Hussain RA; that he may be allowed to go to a (secluded) place to worship or take part in Jihad.

To Strive for Unity of the Muslim Ummah

We should strive for unity among the Muslim Ummah. Hazrat Hasan RA swore allegiance to Hazrat Mu‘aawiyah RA as caliph, and yielded the caliphate to him. That occurred in 40 AH, which was called the year of unity (‘aam al-jamaa‘ah) because the people united under Hazrat Mu‘aawiyah RA in that year. So sometimes for the sake of unity of the Muslim Ummah and to avoid bloodshed, one may have to change political strategies.

Hold Fast to the Rope of Allah

To Have Political Awareness

The lesson also teaches us to be aware of the political situation concerning Muslims around the world and especially in the area one lives. One should be able to recognize and differentiate between enemies of Islam and people who really want to establish true Islam in the land.

One should be able to recognize the hypocrites including treacherous people, the betrayers of Islam who betray Islam and Muslims at every opportunity. These are the people who live only for their vested interests and/or to please the rulers and their Zionist masters.

There is no doubt that Jews lead by Ibn Saba and his followers had a great role to play in the martyrdom of Hazrat Usman RA, Hazrat Ali and also Hazrat Hussain RA.


There are great lessons to be learnt from this great tragedy of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain RA and these are also important to know besides the historical facts of the case.

Often we have to respect our political opinions if intentions are good, in order to avoid enmity and hatred amongst each other.

Almost all present Muslim rulers are the Yazeeds and Ibn Zayyads of our times. We have to continue to assess the political situation at all times in the place where we live, especially in times of Fitna (turmoil). Sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing at all (only express by the tongue and heart) especially in places & times of extreme turmoil and Fitan.

May Allah guide us all and help us learn from the teachings of Imam Hussain RA.

And Allah knows best.

Historical References

YouTube Lectures on the topic by Late Dr. Israr Ahmad, Sheikh Yasir Qadhi and other Sunni Scholars.

May Allah be Pleased with Them!

2 thoughts on “Lessons from the Martyrdom of Hazrat Hussain RA

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