Eternal Epic of Ashura
Perhaps, no movement in the history of Islam has been as restricted in terms of geography and short as the epic of Ashura. But it is the second most effective event in the history of Islam after the emergence of Islam and the start of the mission of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA).
Furthermore, it has deeply impacted the entire human history. Indeed, humanity and the divine values highly owe their survival to the fateful day of Ashura and the great sacrifice of Imam Hussein and his loyal companions.
Karbala is in Iraq. The troops of Imam Hussein (AS) numbered just 72; while the enemy hordes were 30,000 armed-to-the-teeth men. When the sun shone on the day of Ashura, the greatest epic of history was in the making. Early in the morning, Imam Hussein (AS) put his troops in battle array. After the Fajr prayer, he divided his troop, which constituted of 32 cavalrymen and 40 infantrymen, in three parts: the right wing, the left wing and the middle wing.
The right wing was commanded by Zuhair ibn Qayn and the left wing was commanded by Habib ibn Mazaher. Imam Hussein himself stood in the middle. Then he gave the banner to his valiant brother Abul Fazl Abbas and the tents were set up in the back.
On the other side, Umar ibn Sa'ad also divided his criminal hordes to several groups. Thus the two troops were ready to fight.
Imam Hussein (AS) exerted his utmost to avoid fight and bloodshed. But the enemies, boastful of their bigger number compared with the very small number of Imam Hussein's companions, would not accept any advice.
Imam Hussein sent some of his companions to the enemy to explicate the truth to them and dissuade them from crime. The third infallible successor of the Prophet tried several times to jolt their dead conscience with enlightening words and moving speeches but in no avail as the Imam himself said that they wouldn't accept the word of truth as their stomachs are filled with haram (forbidden) food.
Umar Sa'ad officially started the war with shooting the first arrow and encouraging his hordes to attack and fight. In a short time, the two troops neared each other and were engaged in close combat.
A small troop of less than 100 men, in which there were some teenagers and elderly, were stiffly resisting against a troop of tens of thousands of fully armed men. The companions of Imam Hussein (AS) were the manifest example of the Qur'anic ayah which says, "Mohammad, the Apostle of Allah, and those who are with him are hard against the faithless and merciful amongst themselves."
In Karbala, the hearts of the Imam's companions were filled with the love of God and love of Hussein. In those tough conditions, they demonstrated unmatched pictures of sincerity and steadfastness. The companions of Imam Hussein courted martyrdom with dignity and honour. Thus, the enemy was dumfounded and frustrated.
The enemy had imagined that Imam Hussein's small-numbered troop would be crushed within a few moments. But once they were engaged in the battle they realized that they have stood in front of stiff mountains of faith and loyalty. The companions of Imam Hussein (AS) continued fighting till the afternoon.
As the collective and unanimous assault was inconclusive for the ungodly hordes of Yazid, they changed their tactic to close man-to-man combat. Although the troops of Umar Sa'ad had unanimously come to Karbala, there were many among them who were reluctant to fight the grandson of prophet Mohammad (SAWA) and were forced to stand with Umar Sa'ad's troop. They would hesitate to take part in all-out battle. In addition, individual combat was better for the small army of Imam Hussein as each brave companion could fight several enemies and this would put the enemy in the passive position.
Thus, the battle prolonged and the companions of Imam Hussein (AS) would go to the battlefield one by one and court martyrdom after severe combat. Imam Hussein (AS) would be present by every loyal companion at the time of martyrdom. At these celestial moments, the companion would ask the Imam, "My Master, have I fulfilled my obligation? Are you satisfied with me?" And Imam Hussein would answer them positively with tears in his eyes.
When all of the companions were martyred, Imam Hussein entered the battlefield himself. The blood of Mohammad, Ali and Fatema was running in his veins. Once again, he testifies with God that he has done whatever was necessary to deliver people from ignorance and deviation. The grandson and third infallible successor of the last Prophet fights in an epic manner. His valour reminds the viewers of the valour of his father Ali (AS).
The sun has passed from the middle of the sky when the soil of Karbala is hued with the pure blood of the Prophet's grandson. The enemies, drunk with their apparent victory, raise the heads of the martyrs, including that of Imam Hussein, on spearheads and take the womenfolk and children as captives.
The unmatched epic of Ashura is the gushing spring of all divine values and human virtues. It is not just an event but it is a culture, as put by Ayatollah Khamenei, which keeps enlightening and guiding people throughout the world towards God and fighting oppression and tyranny.