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Last Updated: 2019/08/05
Summary of question
Can you provide a short biography of Imam Hussein (AS)?
Please provide a short biography of Imam Hussein (AS).
Concise answer
Historians unanimously believe that Shia”s third Imam was born in the holy city of Medina but there are little differences as to the date of his birth. Sheikh Tusi (460 A.H.) says that the Imam (AS) was born on third of Sha”ban in the fourth hegira year[1] whereas Sheikh Mufid (413 A.H.)[2] and some Sunni historians[3] believe he was born on the fifth of Sha”aban in the same year.
Ibn Shahr Ashub reporting on the same event claims that Imam Hussein (AS) was born on Thursday or Tuesday in the year in which the Battle of Khandaq took place.[4]
Imam Hussein (AS) is son of Ali (AS) son of Abi Talib son of Abdul Muttalib son of Hashim son of Abd Manaf son of Qusai. His mother was Fatima (SA) daughter of the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his family.
Parental Nickname
Imam Hussein”s parental nickname was Aba Abdillah[5] and his special patronymic nickname was Abu Ali[6].  Although Imam Hussein (AS) had a young baby named Abdullah Razi” who was martyred on the day of Ashura, there is no reason to indicate that the Imam”s nom de guerre or parental nickname was associated with this child because such nicknames are common among Arabs and it is, obviously, not necessary for someone to have a child to make a nickname with it such as Aba Salih, the parental nickname of Imam of Time, Imam Mahdi (atf) and Abu Turbab, the nickname of the Commander of the Faithful, Ali (AS). [7]
Imam Hussein (AS) has many titles such as Rashid, Tayyib, Wafi, Sayyid, Zaki, Mubarak, Mutahhar, Dalil ”Alaa Zātillah, Sibt-e Rasulillah, Shahid[8], Tharallah[9], and Sayyid al-Shuhada.[10] It is likely that some of these titles may have been attributed to Imam Hussein (AS) after his sad martyrdom.
Imam Hussein (AS) had married five women in his life. His wives” names are:  Shahr Banu, Layla, a lady from Quza”ah tribe (who died while Imam Hussein (AS) was still alive), Rubab and Umm Ishaq. The only woman who was definitely present in the event of Karbala was Ali Asghar”s mother, Hazrat Rubab who returned to Medina along with the captives taken by Yazid”s army. The presence of Shahr Banu and Hazrat Layla in Karbala has been doubted by historians.[11]
Imam Hussein”s Children
According to historical sources, Imam Hussein (AS) had six sons and three daughters.
Imam Hussein”s sons were:
1. Hazrat Sajjad (AS)[12]
2. Hazrat Ali Akbar[13]
3. Ja”far[14] who died during the lifetime of Imam Hussein (AS).[15]
4. Muhammad[16]
5. Umar[17]
6. Hazrat Ali Asghar or Abdullah[18]
1. Fatima[19]
2. Sakina[20]
3. Zaynab[21]
Imam Hussein (AS) in the Lifetime of the Prophet of Islam (S)
Imam Hussein (AS) lived seven years of his childhood during the lifetime of his holy grandfather, the Messenger of Allah (S), as well as his holy mother, Fatima (SA).[22] He grew up under the heavenly and divine care and love of his grandfather, the Holy Prophet (S) with whose extraordinary love and respect his self-confidence and esteem were reinforced and strengthened. There is no doubt as to the fact that one of the outstanding characteristics of Imam Hussein (AS) during his childhood was that the Prophet (S) gave him special attention. Not only did he love Imam Hussein extremely, but he also loved and honored those children who played with him and expressed affection towards him.
The most important event during the childhood of Imam Hussein (AS) was his taking part in mubahalah (malediction) in which he and Imam Hasan, peace be upon them, were introduced[23] (in the Quran) as the manifestations of "our sons".[24]
Imam Hussein (AS) During Imamate of Imam Ali (AS)
Imam Hussein (AS) lived thirty years of his blessed life in the time of the imamate of his noble father, Ali (AS), who did not see anyone but God, who did not look for anyone other than God and who did not find anyone other than God, he whose life was characterized by purity, submission and servitude to God.  Indeed, he did not rule except with justice and equity despite all the difficulties and hurdles imposed on him during his leadership. During this time Imam Hussein (AS) obeyed his father”s commands wholeheartedly, and like his brother and an obedient and loyal soldier, he helped promote and achieve the Islamic goals set by his father in the years in which he apparently held the power and caliphate. During this period, Imam Hussein (AS) was always in the company of his father taking part in the battles. He fought along with his father in the arbitration event of Nahravan Battle as well as in the incidents following the Battle of Siffin.  He witnessed closely how some people betrayed his noble father; he witnessed their disloyalty and treachery and tolerated all the calamities and sorrows that befell him. He was known for his nobility, greatness and valor. Everyone showed him respect and treated him with dignity and reverence.
Imam Hussein (AS) during Imamate of Imam Hasan (AS)
Following the martyrdom of the Commander of the Faithful Ali (AS), Imam Hasan (AS) took charge of Muslims” leadership, and Imam Hussein (AS) paid allegiance to him. He was a friend and aide of Imam Hasan (AS) in all administrative and legal affairs during his caliphate and leadership. In addition, Imam Hussein (AS) gave his brother special respect as he considered him his imam (leader).  It can be said that no one followed and dignified his brother as much as he did.
Under all circumstances, Imam Hussein (AS) complied with his brother”s decisions. He was subservient to the commands and policies adopted by him. When the war trumpet sounded over the land against Syrian enemies, Imam Hussein (AS) played an active role in mobilizing and dispatching warriors and forces to Nukhayla and Maskan camps. He accompanied his brother to Madaen and Sabaat to collect and recruit soldiers.[25] Following repeated breaches and defections on the part of the Iraqi soldiers, Imam Hasan (AS) was offered a peace treaty by Mu”awiyah. To serve Islam”s and Muslims” best interest, Imam Hasan (AS) had to accept the offer and sign a peace treaty with Mu”awiyah. He suffered a lot at the hands of Syrians, and Imam Hussein (AS) was there with him sympathizing with him. Since he knew that the peace treaty was in Islam”s and Muslims” best interest, he never objected to Imam Hasan (AS).  Following the peace treaty, Imam Hussein (AS) returned to Medina along with his brother and therein he chose to live.[26] He spent ten years of his life during the imamate of Imam Hasan (AS) helping his brother and standing beside him, obeying him and following his orders. As well, following his martyrdom, he remained committed to the peace treaty as long as Mu”awiyah was alive.
Status and Position
Although all the Infallibles enjoy divinely gifted authority and they are all infallible (AS), there is no barrier to their infallibility, inerrancy and authority to be equal. In the theoretical level, there is nothing to indicate that their infallibility is graded and that one of the infallibles is more inerrant than the other. In other words, although there is no problem per se, in one of them being more infallible than the other and to enjoy for the same reason certain privileges, there is no reason to prove that the privileges given to one imam were not given to another imam because of the variation in their status and ranks. In fact, it is very much likely that that their status and wilayah (guardianship) and infallibility are equal. But another factor had made him outstanding with the said characteristics. They include privileges such as the transfer of the position of Imamate to the offspring of Imam Hussein (AS), shifa (healing) in the clay (turbat) of his tomb, fulfillment of duas near his grave and so forth. When it comes to the cause of these privileges, assuming that they enjoy equal position in the eye of God, we must say that honoring Imam Hussein (AS) is equal to honoring all the Ahlulbayt (AS) and other Imams (AS). Paying more attention to Karbala is in fact paying more attention to the wide-ranging lessons which Karbala gives to humanity. Therefore, one who remembers and commemorates Imam Hussein (AS) is as if he is paying attention to all the infallibles.[27]
Morals and Manners
Like his noble grandfather and father, Imam Hussein (AS) had the best moral traits and virtues in his individual, family and social life. He resembled the Prophet (S) most in complexion and manners[28] so much so that in the darkness of the night he was identified with the luminosity that covered him.
There are numerous reports about the Imam Hussein”s generosity, munificence and valor which he had inherited from his forefathers.[29] The nightly prayers and communication with the Lord and recitation of the Quran were so important for him that he, in the hardest and most difficult circumstance when surrounded by his enemies, he asked his enemies to give him time to communicate with his Lord as well as to recite the Quran.[30]
The Ashura Uprising
Following the martyrdom of Imam Hasan (AS) in the year 50 A.H., Imam Hussein (AS) took charge of Imamate.  Twenty years after oppression and brutality against people especially Shiites, Mu”awiyah died in the year 60 after hegira. He allowed his son Yazid to rule after him in deliberate violation of the contract he had signed with Imam Hasan (AS).  Yazid was a corrupt drunkard and opposed to Islam. He deliberately disrespected Islamic symbols and drank wine openly. Imam Hussein (AS) stood up against him opposing from the very beginning.
Yazid wrote a letter to the governor of Medina ordering him to get Imam Hussein (AS) to vow allegiance to Yazid. He commissioned him that if Hussein son of Ali (AS) did not give allegiance, he had to kill him. Imam Hussein (AS) never wanted to give allegiance to Yazid. He decided to leave Medina for Makkah.  At this time, the people of Kufa who had just heard the news of Mu”awiyah”s death wrote lots of letters to Imam Hussein (AS) asking him to travel to Iraq and Kufa. Imam Hussein (AS) first sent Muslim b. Aqil as an emissary to Kufa. When Muslim arrived in Kufa, thousands of individuals from the people of Kufa extended a very warm welcome to him but upon the arrival of Ubaidullah ibn Ziad, the new brutal and cunning governor of Kufa, the Kufans began to disperse out of fear of persecution betraying Muslim b. Aqil and leaving him alone.[31]
Names of Stations on the Route of Imam Husayn from Makkah to Karbala
First of all, we must note that in this study, names of the stations are provided that have been mentioned and recorded in reliable hadith and history sources. That is because in recent centuries names of certain other stations have been mentioned that are not found in early sources.
Thus, the places which Imam Hussein (AS) covered in his long journey from Makkah to Iraq until he arrived in Karbala are the following:
1. Bustan (Ibn Mu”ammar), 2. Tan”eim, 3. Saffah, 4, Zaat ”Irq, 5. Khuzaymah, 6, Hajir Batn al-Rummah, 7. Zurud, 8, Tha”labiyyah, 9. Shuquq, 10. Zubalah, 11. Batn Aqabah, 12. Sharaf, 13. Zu Hasm, 14, Uzaib Hajanat, 15.Ruhaymah, 16. Qasr Bani Muqatil, 17. Naynava (Karbala). As we know, Imam Hussein (AS) remained in Karbala until the event of Ashura took place.[32]
Why did Imam Hussein (AS) take his family with him?
One of the important topics which must be studied in connection with the event of Ashura is Imam Hussein”s motive of taking his family to Iraq.  When an individual makes a decision he makes sure it serves his best interest and that the decision does not entail any harm.  In view of this, different motives have been mentioned in regards with this approach. They include the following:
1 – Submission to divine will and decree: That is, God had decreed for Imam Hussein (AS) and his devout companions to be martyred and his family members to be taken captives. In other words, it was the Will of Allah, the Almighty, that Imam Husain (a.s.) be martyred and his noble family be taken captives. The divine will signifies perfection of Imam Hussein (AS).
2- Religious motivation: Since Imam Hussein”s revolution and uprising was religiously-motivated and holy, it was highly critical and significant for Imam Hussein (AS) to take his family with him. That is because the spiritual and gnostic mood and the love of God which was in the hearts of the Imam”s children and family were very helpful and valuable.
3- Security reason:  Imam Hussein (AS) had been threatened to death and there was no house in Medina that he could send his children to. No one offered to protect and take care of the Imam”s family.  That was why Imam Hussein (AS) was worried about his children lest they should be taken captives when he himself was alive. That is because it was strongly likely that Yazid”s agents might arrest the Imam”s family in the city of Medina and then take them captives.[33]
Finally, Imam Hussein (AS) and his faithful and devoted companions were martyred in Karbala on Saturday in the year 61 A.H.[34]
The Reward for Visiting Imam Hussein (AS)
According to religious sources, pilgrimage of the infallible Imams (AS) especially Imam Hussein (AS) has been highly recommended and people who do not visit the tomb of the Imam (AS) without a valid excuse has been denounced.  It is desirable to visit the tomb of Imam Hussein (AS) throughout the year whenever one can afford. However, it is said that the ziarat (pilgrimage) earns one more reward, if it is performed on the night preceding Friday, as well as on the day of Arafah, in the months of Rajab and Sha”ban, and on the day of Ashura and Arba”een.[35]
As for Arba”een, what has been narrated in our religious culture is the commemoration of the fortieth day of the martyrdom of the chief of martyrs, Imam Hussein (AS) which falls on the twentieth of the month of Safar.
When Imam Hussein”s women and children returned from Shām (Syria) and arrived in Iraq, they said to the guide, "Take us en route to Karbala." As and when they reached the place where Imam Hussein (AS) and his friends had been martyred, they saw Jabir b. Abdullah Ansari with a few people from Banu Hashim and a man from the family of the Prophet (S) who had come to visit the grave of Imam Hussein (AS). All of them arrived there at the same time and started to cry and lament the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (AS). They held a passionate gathering which was highly heartrending.  The ladies also joined them and they mourned for several days.[36]
Those, who believe that the family of Imam Hussein  (AS) returned to Karbala after captivity, have different opinions about the date and time of this return. According to some of them, it is unlikely for Imam Hussein”s family to return to Karbala on the first fortieth day of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (AS). That is because the distance was long and they stayed in Syria long enough. However, some others present their arguments and evidence telling that it was possible for the caravan to return on the first forty days, Arba”een. However, if such an event presumably has taken place, it has taken place only once.[37]
Burial of Imam Hussein and other Martyrs of Karbala
There are different reports about how Imam Hussein (AS) and those who were martyred along with him were buried:
1. According to some reports, Imam Sajjad went back to Karbala in a miraculous way to bury the martyrs and Imam Hussein (AS). These reports assert that the burial of an infallible Imam cannot be undertaken by anyone other than an infallible Imam. There is a narration from Imam Reza (AS) in which he has said that the fourth Imam (AS) attended his father”s burial ceremony.
2. According to some other reports, the martyrs of Karbala were buried by the residents of Ghazeriyah from Banu Asad tribe. 
Based on our research, these two reports are not contradictory and to reconcile between, it can be said that:
A) Given that Imam Zainul Abedeen”s presence (in Karbala) was extraordinary, the residents of Ghazeriyah did not sense his presence, or that they saw Imam Zainul Abedeen (AS) but they did not recognize him.
B) Imam Sajjad (AS) buried the martyrs with the help of Banu Asad tribesmen because it was not possible for Banu Asad to bury the martyrs. That was because they were villagers who were not present in the Battlefield, and, without the help of a guide, they were unable to recognize the martyrs the martyrs in order to bury them, especially in view of the fact that the bodies were decapitated. Therefore, considering the belief that an infallible Imam (AS) cannot be buried by anyone other than an Infallible, we conclude inevitably that the guide must have been Imam Sajjad himself, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.[38]

[1]Sheikh Tusi, Muhammad b. Hasan, Mesbah al-Mutahajjid wa Salah al-Muta”abbed, vol.2, p.828, Beirut, Al-Shi”ah Jurisprudence Institute, first edition, 1411 A.H; Ibn Mashhadi, Muhammad b. Ja”far, Al-Mazar al-Kabir, p.399, Qom, Islamic Publications Office, first edition, 1419 A.H.; Kaf”ami, Ibrahim b. Ali, al-Mesbah (Junnat al-Aman al-Waqiyah wa Junnat al-Iman al-Baqiyah), p.543, Qom, Dar al-Razi (Zahedi), second edition, 1405 A.H.; Amin Ameli, Sayyid Mohsen, A”yān al-Shi”ah, vol.1, p.578, Beirut, Dar al-Ta”aruf Lil-Matbu”at, 1403 A.H.
[2] Sheikh Mufid, Al-Irshad fi Ma”refat Hujajillah ”Alaa al-”Ibad, vol.2, p.27, Qom, Sheikh Mufid Congress, first edition, 1413 A.H. Manaqib Aal Abi Talib (AS), vol.4, p.76; Hamwi, Muhammad bin Ishaq, Anis al-Mu”meneen, p.95, Tehran, Be”that Foundation, 1363 (Persian calendar), Husseini Ameli, Sayyid Taaj al-Deen, al-Tatimmah fi Tawarikh al-A”emmah (AS), p.73, Qom, Be”athat Institute, first edition, 1412 A.H.
[3] See: Ibn Hajar al-”Asqalani, Ahmad bin Ali, Al-Isabah fi Tamyiz al-Sahabah, vol,2, p.68, Beirut, Dar al-Kotob al-Ilmiyyah, frist edition, 1415 A.H.; Ibn Asaker, Abul Qasim Ali bin Hasan, Tarikh Madinat Damishq (History of Damascus), vol.14, p.115, Beirut, Dar al-Fikr, 1415 A.H.
[4] Manāqib Aal Abi Talib (AS), vol.4, p.76; See "The Distance between the Birth of Imam Hasan and Imam Hussein (AS)", 47164.
[5] Al-Irshad fi Ma”refat Hujajillah ”Alaa al-”Ibad, vol.2, p.27
[6] Manāqib Aal Abi Talib (AS), vol.4, p.78.
[7] The Parental Nickname of Abaa Abdillah, 6707.
[8]Tabari, Muhammad b. Jarir, Dalael al-Imamah, p.181, Qom, Be”athat, first edition, 1413 A.H.
[9] "Assalamu alayka ya tharallah wabna Tharih"; Kulayni, Muhammad b. Ya”qub, al-Kafi, vol.4, p.576, Tehran, Dar al-Kotob al-Islamiyyah, fourth edition, 1407 A.H.
[10] Sheikh Saduq, Al-Amaali, p.127, Beirut, A”lami, fifth edition, 1400 A.H.; Vide: "Examples of the Titles of Sayyid al-Shuhada", 68747.
[11] See: "The Fate of Imam Hussein”s Wives after the event of Karbala", 11647.
[12] Al-Irshad fi Ma”refat Hujajillah ”Alaa al-”Ibad, vol.2, p.135; Balazari, Ahmad bin Yahya, Ansab al-Ashraf, vol.3, p.146, Beirut, Dar al-Fikr, first edition, 1417 A.H.
[13] Al-Irshad fi Ma”refat Hujajillah ”Alaa al-”Ibad, vol.2, p.135; Sibt bin Jawzi, Tazkirat al-Khawas min al-Ummah fi Zikr Khasaes al-A”emmah, p.249, Qom, Sharif Razi Publications, first edition, 1418 A.H.
[14] Al-Irshad fi Ma”refat Hujajillah ”Alaa al-”Ibad, vol.2, p.135; Dalael al-Imamah, p.181; Tazkirat al-Khawas, p.249.
[15] Al-Irshad fi Ma”refat Hujajillah ”Alaa al-”Ibad, vol.2, p.135.
[16] Ibn Shahr Ashub Mazandarani, Manaqib Aal Abi Talib (A.S), vol.4, p.77, Qom, Allamah, first edition, 1379 A.H.; Dalael al-Imamah, p.181; Muhaddith Arbali, Kashf al-Ghummah fi Ma”refat al-A”emmah, vol.1, p.582, Qom, Manshurat al-Razi, first edition, 1421 A.H. Tazkirat al-Khawas, p.249.
[17] See: "Umar son of Imam Hussein (AS)" question, 39282.
[18] Al-Irshad fi Ma”refat Hujajillah ”Alaa al-”Ibad, vol.2, p.135, Dalael al-Imamah, p.181, Ibn A”tham Kufi, Ahmad bin A”tham, al-Futuh, , vol.5, p.115, Beirut, Dar al-Adwaa, 1411 A.H.
[19] Al-Irshad fi Ma”refat Hujajillah ”Alaa al-”Ibad, vol.2, p.135; Kashf al-Ghummah, vol.1, p.582; Ansab al-Ashraf, vol.2, p.197; Tazkirat al-Khawas, p.249.
[20] Al-Irshad fi Ma”refat Hujajillah ”Alaa al-”Ibad, vol.2, p.135; Ansab al-Ashraf, vol.2, p.195 and vol.3, p.146.
[21] Manaqib Aal Abi Talib (AS), vol.4, p.77, Dalael al-Imamah, p.181; Kashf al-Ghummah, vol.1, p.582.
[22] Masudi, Ali bin Hussein, Ithbat al-Wasiyyah, p.16, Qom, Ansariyan Publications, third edition, 1426 A.H.
[23] See: "Conditions of Mubahalah", 6231.
[24]Aal-e Imran verse 61
[25] Tabari, Muhammad bin Jarir, Tarikh al-Umam wa al-Muluk (Tarikh al-Tabari), vol.5, p.165, Beirut, Dar al-Turath, second editoin, 1387 A.H.
[26] Ibid, p.166; Ibn al-Jowzi, Abul Faraj, Al-Muntazam fi Tarikh al-Umam wa al-Muluk, vol.5, p.184, Beirut, Dar al-Kotob al-Ilmiyyah, first edition, 1412 A.H.; Ibn Kathir al-Damashqi, Imad al-Deen Ismail, al-Bedayah wa al-Nehayah, vol.8, p.19, Beirut, Dar al-Fikr, (no date mentioned).
[27]See: "Superiority of Imam Hussein (AS) over other Imams", 16714.
[28] Ansab al-Ashraf, vol.3, p.142.
[29] See: A”yan al-Shi”ah, vol.1, p.579-580; Atarudi, Azizullah, Musnad al-Imam al-Shahid (AS), vol.1, p.32-52, Tehran, first edition, 1376 (Persian solar calendar).
[30] See: Sharif Qarshi, Baqir, Hayat al-Imam Hussein (AS), vol.1, p.132 -134, Qom, Eravani Religious School, fourth edition, 1413 A.H.
[31] See: Imam Hussein information tree on
[32] See: "Names of the Stations on the Route of Imam Hussein (AS) from Makkah to Iraq", 58126.
[33] See: "Imam Hussein”s Motives for Taking his Family with him", 83277.
[34] Al-Irshad fi Ma”refat Hujajillah ”Alaa al-”Ibad, vol.2, p.133.
[35] See: "The Reward for Visitation of the Tomb of Imam Hussein (AS)" 48098.
[36] The Arba”een of Imam Hussein (AS), 20640.
[37] See: "The Return of the Caravan of Imam Hussein (AS) to Karbala, Arba”een", 12159.
[38] "Burial of Imam Hussein (AS) and Martyrs of Karbala", 65843;  "Burial of the Pure Body of Imam Hussein (AS)", 33804.
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