Yazid Demands Allegiance
Yazid, in order to assure his kingship, needed the submission of his political rivals. He ordered the governor of Medina to take the allegiances of Imam Husayn (grandson of Prophet Muhammad and spiritual leader of the community) and Ibn az-Zubayr1 (a political rival of Yazid) right away, and if they refuse, to kill them. It was late in the night, but the governor immediately sent a deputy to call them. He found them in Masjid al‑Nabi, the masjid of the Prophet and the center of the city. Ibn az-Zubayr became suspicious of the governor’s messenger coming at such a time.
Imam Husayn immediately said, “This must have to do with the death of Muawiyah, and the governor must want us to pay allegiance to his son Yazid before anyone knows about it.”
This became apparent to Ibn az-Zubayr when he went to meet the governor. But, when Imam Husayn went, he went well armed, with thirty of his best followers, on horseback. Imam Husayn told them to wait at the door, and when they hear an argument, come in, otherwise, stay outside the door. As soon as he came inside, the governor told him straight out, “You have to pay allegiance to Yazid.’’
Imam Husayn replied, “A person like me should not pay allegiance secretly. If you want, you can call all the people, in public, and ask everyone, and us with them, to have one voice.”
The governor accepted, but his secretary Marwan warned him, “If he leaves you and does not pay allegiance now, you will not have power over him again. Put him in prison until he pays allegiance, or kill him.”
Imam Husayn said, “Whoever of you kills me will be sinful and untruthful.” Then, to the governor, he said, “O governor! We are the People of the Prophet’s House, and we are descendants of the Prophet. Yazid is a drunkard who kills people without reason, and a person like me does not pay allegiance to a person like him. However, let us meet in the morning and let us see, you and us, who is most eligible for leadership.”
Then, the governor said some harsh words, in a loud voice, and when the thirty guards heard the noise, nineteen of them broke the door, came in, took Imam Husayn, and all thirty of the Imam’s guards rode off together with the Imam.
Marwan turned to the governor and said, “You did not obey me, and you will not have power over the Imam again.”
Governor Walid said, “Go and blame someone else, Marwan. You want me to kill Imam Husayn because he refuses to pay allegiance? And you think this is an easy thing to do, to get away with the blood of Husayn?”
The Imam immediately went to visit the grave of his grandfather and continued praying until morning. During the night, governor Walid sent deputies to Imam Husayn’s house. They could not find him, and they thought that he left the city. In the morning, the governor’s deputy found the Imam at the grave of his grandfather. He came to Imam Husayn, advising him to pay allegiance because it was better for his life.
Imam Husayn said, “If Muslims pay allegiance to Yazid, say goodbye to Islam.”
The next night, Imam Husayn went to the grave of his grandfather again and recited a few chapters of the Holy Quran. Then he said, “O Lord! This is the grave of Your Prophet Muhammad, and I am the son of his daughter, and You know best what is happening to me. I do not want anything but to promote the right and prevent the wrong. I ask You by the right of this grave, that you choose for me what pleases You.”
Then he cried and fell asleep. He had a dream that his grandfather Prophet Muhammad foretold what is going to happen in the future. When he woke up in the morning, he went to his family, his brothers, al‑Atraf and Muhammad Ibn al-Hanafiyyah, as well as Umm Salamah, and other lady members of his family. They were upset about his refusal to pay allegiance to Yazid and his decision to leave Medinah for Mecca.
His argument to Umm Salamah was, “If I do not leave now, eventually they are going to kill me. I should not give them excuses at this time.”
He bade farewell to all the family and asked them to be brave. When he left, he left his will with his half‑brother, Muhammad Ibn al‑Hanafiyyah. On the will he wrote:
“In the Name of God, the Most Kind, the Most Merciful. This is the will that Husayn Ibn ′Ali Ibn Abi Talib leaves to his brother Muhammad Ibn al‑Hanafiyyah, that Husayn has witnessed that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His servant and His Messenger. He brought the truth from God that heaven is true, that hell is true, and the Time will come without any doubt, and God will resurrect everyone from his or her graves.
Indeed, my movement is not evil, reckless, mischievous, or unjust. I do support correcting what is wrong in the nation of my father, I do want to encourage the right, and prevent the wrong, and follow the tradition of my grandfather, and my father, ′Ali Ibn Abi Talib. Whoever accepts me by truth, God is the protector of the truth, and whoever refuses this, I will be patient while God decides between me and them, and He is the best Judge. This is my will to my brother and all success depends on God, and only on Him I rely.”
Imam Husayn sealed the will and gave it to his brother Muhammad Ibn al‑Hanafiyyah. He left Medina on Sunday night, two days before the end of Rajab, along with his brother ′Abbās, the children of his brother Hassan, and other family members. While leaving he recited the Verse from the Quran:
“So, he [Prophet Moses] left it [the city] in fear, hoping. He said, ‘O Lord! Save me from the unjust people!”2
He chose to take the main route to Mecca. Some tried to convince him to take a less‑traveled route, so it would not be so easy for the governor to find him.
Imam Husayn refused, saying, “I am not going to deviate from the common road, and God does whatever He decides.”