Karbala and Beyond 5


The Muslim of Kufa came in groups to meet Muslim as he stayed at alMukhtar’s house, pledging to him their obedience. This increased his
happiness and elation. When he read to them Imam al-Husain’s letter,
Abis ibn Shibeeb al-Shakiri stood and said, “I do not speak on behalf of
the people, nor do I know what they conceal in their hearts, nor do I
deceive you in their regard. By Allah! I can tell you what I personally
have decided to do. By Allah! I shall respond to your call, and I shall
fight your enemy. I shall defend you with my sword till I meet Allah
desiring nothing except what He has in store for me.” Habib ibn
Muzahir said, “You have briefly stated your intention, and by Allah, the
One and only Allah, I feel exactly as you do.” Sa’d ibn Abdullah al￾Hanafi made a similar statement. Other muslim came to swear the oath
of allegiance to him till his diwan counted as many as eighteen
thousand men. Some historians say that they were as many as twenty
five thousand men. According to al-Shabi, however, the number of
those who swore allegiance to him reached forty thousand. It was then
that Muslim wrote Imam al-Husain (ع) a letter which he handed to Abis
ibn Shibeeb al-Shakiri informing him of the consensus among the
people of Kufa to obey him and to wait for his arrival. In it, he said, “A
scout does not lie to his people. Eighteen thousand Kufians have
already come to me; so, hurry and come here as soon as this letter
reaches you.” That was twenty-seven days before Muslim’s martyrdom.
The Kufians, too, added to it their own letter wherein they stated the
following: “Hurry and come to us, O son of the Messenger of Allah! A
hundred thousand swords are in Kufa on your side; so, do not tarry.”
This angered a group of the Umayyads with vested interests. Among
them were Omer bin Sa’d, son of the renown Sa’d ibn Abu Waqqas,
Abdullah ibn Muslim ibn Rabi’ah al-Hadrami, and Imarah ibn Uqbah
ibn Abu Mueet. They wrote Yazid warning him of the arrival of
Muslim ibn Aqeel and the rallying of the people of Kufa behind him,
adding that al-Numan ibn Basheer, governor of Kufa, was not strong
enough to stand in his [Aqeel’s] way. Yazid deposed al-Numan ibn
Basheer and appointed Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad in his place. The new
governor was a man very well known for his ruthfulness. Yazid ordered
Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad to rush to Kufa in the company of Muslim ibn
Omer al-Bahili, al-Munthir ibn al-Jarad, and Abdullah ibn al-Harith ibn
Nawfal escorted by five hundred soldiers whom he hand-picked from
among the people of Basra. Ibn Ziyad rushed to Kufa, paying no
attention to anyone who fell off his horse due to exhaustion even if he
were one of his own closest friends. For example, when Shurayk ibn al￾A’war fell on the way, and even when Abdullah ibn al-Harith fell,
thinking that Ibn Ziyad would slow down for their sake, Ibn Ziyad paid
no attention to them, fearing that Imam al-Husain (ع) might reach Kufa
before him. Whenever he passed by a checkpoint, its guards thought
that he was Imam al-Husain (ع), so they said, “Welcome, O son of the
Messenger of Allah!” He remained silent till he reached Kufa via the
Najaf highway. When he arrived, people welcomed him and said in one
voice: “Welcome, O son of the Messenger of Allah!” This only
intensified his outrage. He continued his march till he reached the
governor’s mansion. Al-Numan did not open the gate for him, and he
spoke to him from the mansion’s roof-top. Said he, “I shall not return
the trust to you, O son of the Messenger of Allah!” Ibn Ziyad said to
him, “Open the gate, for your night has extended too long!” A man
heard his voice and recognized him. He, therefore, said to the people,
“He is Ibn Ziyad, by the Lord of the Ka’ba!” They, therefore, opened
the gate for him then dispersed, going back home.
In the morning, Ibn Ziyad gathered people at the grand mosque. There,
he delivered a speech warning them against mutiny and promising them
generous rewards for conforming. Said he, “Anyone found to be
sheltering one of those who scheme against the authority of the
commander of the faithful [meaning Yazid] and who does not hand him
over will be crucified on the door of his own house.”
When Muslim ibn Aqeel came to know about Ibn Ziyad’s speech and
his explicit threats and having come to know about people’s conditions,
he feared being assassinated. He, therefore, left al-Mukhtar’s house
after the dark and went to the house of Hani ibn Urwah al-Mathhaji
who was a very zealous Shi’a. He was also one of Kufa’s dignitaries,
one of its qaris of the Holy Qur’an, and the shaikh and chief of the
Banu Murad. He could easily raise four thousand troops fully armed
and eight thousand cavaliers. If he includes his tribe’s allies from
Kindah, the number would swell to thirty thousand. He was one of the
closest friends of the Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali ibn Abu
Talib (ع) on whose side he fought in all his three battles. He had seen
and was honoured by being a companion of the Prophet (ص). When he
was later killed in defense of Imam al-Husain (ع), he was more than
ninety years old. Muslim ibn Aqeel stayed at the house of Shareek ibn
Abdullah al-A’war al-Harithi al-Hamadani al-Basri, one of the main
supporters of the Commander of the Faithful, peace be with him, in
Basra. He had participated in the Battle of Siffeen and fought side by
side with the great sahabi Ammar ibn Yasir. Due to his distinction and
prominence, Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad appointed him as Governor of
Kerman on behalf of Mu’awiyah. He used to be in contact with and in
the company of Hani ibn Urwah.
The Shi’as kept meeting Muslim ibn Aqeel secretly at Hani’s house
without attracting the attention of Ibn Ziyad, admonishing each other to
keep it to themselves. Ibn Ziyad, therefore, could not know where
Muslim was. He called Maqil, his slave, to meet him. He gave him
three thousand [dinars] and ordered him to meet the Shi’as and to tell
them that he was a Syrian slave of Thul-Kila and that Allah blessed him
with loving Ahl al-Bayt of His Messenger (ع), that it came to his
knowledge that one of the members of Ahl al-Bayt (ع) had come to that
country, and that he had with him some money which he wanted to
deliver to him. Maqil entered the grand mosque and saw Muslim ibn
Awsajah al-Asadi offering his prayers. Having seen him finish his
prayers, he came close to him and made the above claim to him.
Muslim ibn Awsajah prayed Allah to grant that man goodness and
success. He then accompanied him to the place where Muslim ibn
Aqeel was hiding. The spy delivered the money to Muslim and swore
the oath of allegiance to him. The money was handed over to Abu
Thumamah al-Saidi who was a far-sighted and a brave Shi’a dignitary
appointed by Muslim to receive the funds and to buy thereby weapons.
That man kept meeting Muslim every day. No secrets were kept from
him, so he kept gathering intelligence and getting it to Ibn Ziyad in the

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