His sacrifice is an everlasting example of justice and peace irrespective of national borders, ethnicity, religion, gender, and socio-economic and educational levels. For such reasons his soul rules the hearts of people and his way lights the example of the path of righteousness.
It all began a few decades after the departure of the Prophet of Islam (S) when his grandson Imam Hussain (A) began witnessing the desertion of Islam amongst the Muslim nation and the gripping corruption of the institute of the caliphate. Islam was on the brink of annihilation and Muslims were living numb of its moral teachings. Imam Hussain (A), a living spirit of his holy grandfather, could no longer remain silent.
Historical records tell us that after Mu'āwiya’s death, his corrupt, cruel, unjust, and shameless son, Yazīd, occupied the station of caliphate and wrote to his governor in Madīna to force Imām al-Ĥusayn (A) among others to pay the oath of allegiance to him, or else execute him.
When the Imām (A) is asked to pay his oath of allegiance to Yazīd, he offers a convincing and wise explanation. He first introduces himself and then Yazīd, and thereafter says:
'My example [who it utterly submissive to Allāh] cannot give his hand to the like of Yazīd [who is an open sinner]"
In short, he (A) says:
Premise 1: I am a manifestation of truth
Premise 2: Yazīd is a manifestation of falsehood
Premise 3: A manifestation of truth cannot unite with a manifestation of falsehood
Conclusion: Hence I cannot agree to pay the oath of allegiance to him
The interesting point here is that the Imām (A) does not merely say "I will not pay the oath of allegiance to Yazīd". Rather he says “anyone like me cannot pay the oath of allegiance to anyone like Yazīd". In other words, Imam (A) clarified that truth never unites with falsehood, and that truth will not unite with falsehood.
Therefore, this statement is not a personal issue, but a universal lesson for all times and all places. It is a direction for every truth-seeker and informs the wrongdoers that a truth-seeker will never yield to falsehood.
Thereafter, Imām al-Ĥusayn (A) resolves to leave Madina for Makka with his noble family members. This forms the basic anecdote of this short treatise. It is a move of truth towards Truth from the champion of truth itself.
It is narrated in al-Irshād that:
Then al-Ĥusayn (A) journeyed to Makka while he recited the following verse of the Qur'ān: “And he left the place in the state of fear and apprehension; he said: 'O Lord, save me from the oppressors” (Quran, 28:21) and Imam (A) proceeded for the main highway to Mekka.
The above verse speaks of Prophet Mūsā (A)’s escape from Egypt when fleeing from Fir'awn, but is also applicable for Imam al-Ĥusayn (A) too. Just as Mūsā (A) flees from Fir’awn and his comrades, alĤusayn (A) flees from the Fir’awn of his time.
The 'state of fear' in the verse however should not be mistaken for 'fear of death' because infallible leaders are far from such states. The fear in this verse perhaps was from any event that would hamper his path from fulfilling his mission of awakening the slumbering folk and reviving Islam in their hearts and minds of the Muslims. Thus he did not want to be martyred before he fulfills his mission.
Then when Imām al-Ĥusayn (A) reaches the outskirts of Mecca and sees its mountains, he recites the following verse of Qur'ān:
“And when he turned his face towards Midian he said: 'maybe my Lord will show me the right way.” (28:22)
This verse also pertains to Prophet Mūsā (A) when he enters the city of Midian. Imam al-Ĥusayn (A) by reciting the verse perhaps sought Divine help to carry out his mission of conveying his message and stance to all the Muslims of the world in the proper way. He seeks guidance so that he may fulfill his mission in the best possible manner.
The decision taken by Imam (A) to come to Makka reveals his timely move and extreme wisdom. He would have gone to other places suggested by his companions, as a result of which he would be safe from the calamities and able to adopt a life of peace. However, he had a loftier mission, and the only way to carry out the mission of his grandfather (A) and to save the religion of truth was to go to a place where he would get a global audience. As a result, these pilgrimages of Hajj would be able to communicate to their people the pathetic state of the government and every committed Muslim rises for the truth.
1. Kitāb al-Irshād, Shaykh Mufīd, v.2, p.33
2. In Everlasting Instruction;Imam al-Husayn’s (‘a) Journey to Makka, Abu Muhammad Zaynu’l 'Abidin