The Battle of Karbala – A Critical Study
The following is a comparison of the martyrdoms of the several of Al-Hussain’s companions during the battle of Karbala. In this article, we will take a look at the actions of Habeeb bin Al-Muthahir, Zuhair bin Al-Qain, Yazeed bin Al-Muthahir, Nafi’ bin Hilal, a man from the tribe of Kalb, Abdullah bin Muslim bin Aqeel bin Abi Talib, Awn bin Abdullah bin J’afar bin Abi Talib, a man from the tribe of Ghifar, Al-Hur bin Yazeed, Al-Qasim bin Al-Hasan bin Ali bin Abi Talib, and their actions at the battle of Karbala.
Like our previous articles on the actions of Muslim bin Ali, Abu Al-Fadl Al-Abbas, Ali Al-Akbar, and their actions at the battle of Karbala, we will be comparing two books that have been attributed to Abi Mikhnaf Lut bin Yahya. The first book is the original and accurate rendition of Abi Mikhnaf’s book on the battle of Karbala, while the second is a forgery that has been attributed by him. For more on this, refer to our article on the history of Karbala.
The purpose of this article is to demonstrate the lengths of what the liars and storytellers went through in order to attribute false information to the events at the battle of Karbala.
For the purpose of clarity, we will be referring to the original version as “Version A” and the altered rendition as “Version B”.
- The Size of Umar bin Sa’ad’s Army
- Habeeb bin Al-Muthahir
- Zuhair bin Al-Qain
- Yazeed bin Al-Muthahir
- Nafi’ bin Hilal
- Abdullah bin Muslim bin Aqeel bin Abi Talib
- Awn bin Abdullah bin Ja’afar bin Abi Talib
- The Man from the Tribe of Ghifar
- Al-Hur bin Yazeed
- Al-Qasim bin Al-Hasan bin Ali bin Abi Talib
The Size of Umar bin Sa’ad’s Army at the Battle of Karbala
According to the original report from Abi Mikhnaf, the number of troops under Umar bin Sa’ad was four thousand men. (See p. 99)
Version B (p. 118) includes the following:
“Abu Mikhnaf said: Then Umar bin Sa’ad (la) gathered his troops in right and left flanks. He placed Al-Shimr bin Thi Al-Jawshan (la) on the right with 20,000 knights, and Khawli bin Yazeed Al-Asbahi (la) on the left with 20,000 knights.”
In total, the number of the army of Umar bin Sa’ad was 80,000 knights. (Refer to p. 97.)
Habeeb bin Al-Muthahir
In Version A of his actions in the battle of Karbala (p. 131-132), we find Abu Mikhnaf saying:
“Huṣain bin Tameem then attacked them and Habeeb bin Muthahir came forth to him. He (Habeeb) struck his horse’s face with his sword, which caused it to raise both legs from the ground and he (Huṣain bin Tameem) fell. His companions came to him and dragged him away.
Habeeb then recited:
If we were high in number – Or half of you then you would have fled – Ye worst of men in lineage
He also recited on that day:
I am Habeeb and my father is Muthahir – A knight of war and a flaming war
You are more prepared and more in number – We are more loyal and more patience
We are upon truth and clarity – We are more fearful (of Allah) than you and excusable
He then fought fiercely. A man from Bani Tameem then came up to him and struck him on his head and killed him.”
In Version B (p. 124) we find him reciting a very similar set of poetry. However, after reciting it, we find him doing the following:
“He then attacked Al-Huṣain (bin Tameem), struck him on his head, and cut off his horse’s nose, causing it to fall. He then attempted to go for his head. However, his (Ibn Tameem’s) companions came to his rescue. Then a man from Bani Tameem came and killed him, but he (Habeeb bin Muthahir) continued fighting until he killed thirty-five knights. However, they were too much for him, and they killed him.”
Zuhair bin Al-Qain
Not much is known about the final moments of Zuhair bin Al-Qain at the battle of Karbala in Version A (p. 133). Abu Mikhnaf reports:
“He (Al-Hur) and Zuhair bin Al-Qain fought together fiercely, and if one got exhausted, the other would help him out, and they did that for a while.”
The following verse of poetry is also attributed to him:
“I am Zuhair and I am Ibn Al-Qain – I protect with my sword Al-Hussain”
He also would hold Al-Hussain’s shoulder and recited:
“Move on forth guiding and guided – For today you meet your grandfather the Prophet
And Al-Hasan and Ali Al-Murtadha – And the young man with two wings
And the lion of Allah the martyr”
Version B of Zuhair bin Al-Qain’s actions at the battle of Karbala are a lot more dramatic. Abu Mikhnaf reports (p.126):
“He attacked the men and kept on attacking until he killed fifty knights. Though, he feared that the time of prayer would pass by him, so he returned to Al-Hussain and said, ‘My Mawla I fear missing the prayer, so please lead us in prayer.’”
Then, after rallying the troops and reciting the poetry that has been attributed to him in Version A (with some variances), he attacks and kills seventy more knights.
Yazeed bin Al-Muhasir
Very little is known about Yazeed bin Al-Musahir. Abu Mikhnaf in Version A (p. 138) records:
“I am Yazeed and my father is Musahir – Braver than a lion in a filled forest
My Lord, I will bring victory to Al-Hussain – and I will turn my back to Ibn Sa’ad”
Yazeed bin Ziyad bin Al-Muhasir was one of those that came out with Umar bin Sa’ad to (fight) Al-Hussain. Though, when they rejected Al-Hussain’s conditions, he joined him, then fought until he was killed.
Version B of the report of Yazeed bin Al-Musahir adds a couple of more lines of poetry. It also refers to him as Yazeed bin Al-Muthahir and not Al-Musahir. Abu Mikhnaf (p. 129) allegedly says:
“He then attacks the men and continued to attack until his kills fifty knights. They he was killed, may Allah be satisfied with him.”
Nafi’ bin Hilal Al-Jamali
Nafi’ bin Hilal Al-Jamali’s actions in the battle of Karbala were documented in Version A as follows:
“Nafi’ bin Hilal fought on that day and would shout: ‘I am Al-Jamali. I am upon the religion of Ali.’ Then, a man named Muzahim bin Huraith came out to him and said: ‘I am upon the religion of Uthman.’ He (Nafi’) replied: ‘You are upon the religion of the devil.’ He (Nafi’) attacked him and killed him.”
Version B though refers to him as Hilal bin Nafi’ Al-Bajali. The narration states that: “He was raised by the Commander of the Believers and used to me an archer. He would write his name on the arrows and shoot.”
The narration continues: “He then fought the men and killed them, defeating their heroes, and continued to kill until he killed seventy knights. He was then killed, may Allah have mercy upon him.”
Abdullah bin Muslim bin Aqeel bin Abi Talib
Version A of what occurred to Abdullah bin Muslim bin Aqeel is a very summarized one. Abu Mikhnaf (p. 140) only states:
“Amr bin Subaih Al-Sadda’I shot an arrow at Abdullah bin Muslim bin Aqeel, which caused his palm to stuck on his head. He was then unable to move his hand. He (Amr) then shot him with another arrow into the heart. They were then attacked by men from all sides.”
As for version B, it includes several lines of poetry attributed to Abdullah bin Muslim in which he praises Bani Hashim, Al-Hussain, and his bravery. It then includes (p. 137):
“He then attacked them and continued fighting until he killed ninety men. Then an accursed man shot him with an arrow in the head.”
Awn bin Abdullah bin Ja’afar bin Abi Talib
Version A of Awn bin Abdullah bin Ja’afar’s actions at the battle of Karbala was originally short. The narration (p. 140) states nothing more other than Abdullah bin Qutba bin Al-Ta’ee Al-Nabhani attacking Awn bin Abdullah bin Ja’afar and killing him.
Version B is somewhat lengthier due to the attribution of the following poetry (p. 138). The narration then continues by stating that he attacked the men and continued to attack until he killed eighty knights. Then he was killed.
The Man from the Tribe of Ghifar
Version A (p. 134) of the report states that two men, Abdullah and Abdulrahman, the sons of Azra Al-Ghifari, came to Al-Hussain. They said to him: We wish to be killed in front of you by protecting you. Al-Hussain accepted them and allowed them to fight beside him. One of them began to recite poetry in praise of their bravery and their tribe.
Version B (p. 138-140) uses similar poetry with some variances, though it only speaks of one man and not two. The narration refers to him as Jabir bin Urwa Al-Ghifari and it states that he was an old man that witnessed the battle of Badr with the Messenger – peace be upon him – , as well as other battles. The narration describes him of one that has long eyebrows and that he had to push them away from his eyes. However, this didn’t prevent him from killing eighty men at the battle of Karbala.
Al-Hur bin Yazeed
Version A of Al-Hur bin Yazeed’s actions at the battle of Karbala includes his attempts to reason with the army. It also includes (p. 126) him reciting the poetry of the Jahili poet Antara and that he was victorious in a duel. It also includes (p. 133) more poetry from him later on within the battle, as well as his partnership with Zuhair bin Al-Qain in the midst of battle, as we have included above.
Version B of Abi Mikhnaf’s report is a lot more detailed. It starts off (p. 146) with Al-Hur approaching Al-Hussain and asking him permission to enter battle, and to die for Al-Hussain. He then recites several lines of poetry before throwing himself in the midst of his enemies. He then defeats their heroes and kills a hundred knights before returning to Al-Hussain. He then recites some more poetry and curses the people of Kufa for betraying Al-Hussain and preventing him from drinking water, while allowing Jews, Christians, dogs, and pigs. He then recites some more poetry (p. 150) before killing another eighty or so knights. Umar bin Sa’ad then ordered his men to shoot arrows at him. They do as they are told, and he is filled with arrows, until he looks like a hedgehog, as the narration says. They then took him in as a prisoner of war, but cut off his head and tossed it to Al-Hussain.
Al-Qasim bin Al-Hasan bin Ali bin Abi Talib
Version A (p. 141) of the report depicts Al-Qasim bin Al-Hasan as a weak young man that is attacked by Amr bin Sa’ad bin Nufail Al-Azdi. He is struck on the head and immediately falls to the ground while calling out his uncle Al-Hussain.
In Version B, of the report (p. 152) makes him out to be quite the warrior, as it includes that he was able to kill seventy knights. However, he is ambushed by an accursed man who strikes him on the head, and thus, his actions at the battle of Karbala come to an end.
The above mentioned points are but a few of the exaggerations that we find in Version B of the battle of Karbala. We purposefully did not include all what we deem to be fabrications in order to not cause this article to be too large in length. For more material similar to this, again, refer to our articles on Muslim bin Aqeel bin Abi Talib, Ali Al-Akbar bin Al-Hussain bin Abi Talib, and Abu Al-Fadl Al-Abbas bin Ali bin Abi Talib.
May Allah punish those that have fabricated these tales. It is a clear that they did not believe that they death of Al-Hussain was a tragedy enough, so they had to distort his noble martyrdom into this unbelievable legend.