History of the Saracens/Yezid I

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Hejirah 60-64. a.d. 679-683.

Yezid, the son of Moawiyah, was inaugurated caliph on the new moon of the month Rejeb, of the sixtieth year of the Hejirah, which coincides with the seventh day of April, in the year of our Lord six hundred and eighty.[1] He was born in the twenty-sixth year of the Hejirah, according to which account he was thirty-four (lunar) years old when he was saluted emperor. He was forthwith acknowledged lawful caliph in Syria, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Persia, and all the other Mohammedan countries. But the cities of Mecca and Medina, and some others of Chaldea, refused at first to submit themselves to him. Among the great ones none but Hosein and Abdallah the son of Zobeir opposed his succession, and they disputed the caliphate with him to their death.

He confirmed all his father’s lieutenants and officers in their appointments. The governor of Medina was Walid the son of Otbah; of Cufah, Nooman the son of Bashir; of Bassorah, Obeidollah the son of Ziyad; of Mecca, Abdallah Amrou. After his accession, the object he had most at heart was to bring in those that had opposed his nomination as his father’s heir and successor. With this view, he wrote the following letter to Walid governor of Medina. “In the name of the most merciful God. From Yezid emperor of the faithful to Walid the son of Otbah. Moawiyah was one of the servants of God, who honoured him and made him caliph, and extended his dominions, and established him. He lived his appointed time, and God took him to his mercy. He lived beloved, and died pure and innocent. Farewell. Hold Hosein, and Abdallah the son of Ammar, and Abdallah the son of Zobeir, close to the inauguration without any remission or relaxation.” Walid, upon the receipt of this letter, sent for Merwan the son of Hakem, and consulted him on the contents of it. Merwan advised him to send for Hosein and Abdallah, and tender them the oath before they were apprized of the caliph’s death; and if they refused to take it, then at once to strike off their heads. But either this scheme was not so closely concerted but the parties concerned received some private intelligence of it, or else they had themselves suspicion of it. Whichever way it was, Walid’s messenger, who found them at the mosque, was sent back with this answer, “That they would come presently.” After a short deliberation, Hosein went to the governor’s house, attended with a number of his friends and domestics, whom he placed about the door, with orders to rush in if they should hear any disturbance. The governor, having acquainted him with Moawiyah’s decease, invited him to swear allegiance to Yezid. He answered, “That men of his distinction did not use to do things of that nature in private; neither did he expect that he would ever have desired it of him; that he thought it better to wait till, according to the custom upon such occasions, all the people were met together, and then do it with one accord. Walid consented. But Merwan, who easily saw through this excuse (as indeed the governor did too), said to Walid, “If he does not do it now, before he goes away, there will be a great deal of blood shed between you and him; wherefore hold him close, and do not let him go out till he hath owned his allegiance; but if he will not, strike his head off.” Hosein leaped out, and having first reproached Merwan for his advice, went to his own house. Merwan swore to the governor that he was never like to see Hosein any more. The governor told him he did not trouble himself about it; adding, that he had everything he desired in this world, and as for the next, that he did not believe that that man’s balance would be light who should be guilty of the murder of Hosein. It is an article of the Mohammedan faith, that at the last day there shall be a balance, supported by the divine power, that shall extend to the utmost limits of heaven and earth, in which the most minute actions of mortal men shall be weighed, and he whose evil deeds outweigh his good ones shall be damned; on the contrary, he whose good deeds overbalance his evil ones, shall be saved. For this reason Walid said, “That his balance, who should kill Hosein, would not be light,” meaning that wherein his evil deeds were put. Then Walid sent for Abdallah the son of Zobeir, who put him off for a space of four and twenty hours; and, in the meantime, taking along with him all his family and his brother Jaafar, departed for Mecca. Walid sent a party of horse to pursue him, but to no purpose. Whilst Walid was thus taken up with Abdallah, he had little time to take notice of Hosein, who, whenever he sent for him, put him off with an excuse, and in the meantime made all the preparation he could in secret to follow Abdallah. He left none of all his family behind him except his brother Mohammed Hanifiyah, who, before they parted, expressing the most tender affection and concern for him that can be imagined, advised him by no means to venture himself in any of the provinces, but to lie close either in the deserts or the mountains, till his friends were gathered together in a considerable body, and then he might trust himself with them. But if he was resolved to go into a town, he could not be so safe anywhere as in Mecca: where, if he met with the least appearance of anything to alarm him, he should immediately withdraw and retire to the mountains. Hosein, having thanked him heartily for his sincere advice, made the best of his way to Mecca, where he met with Abdallah.

Yezid, not well pleased with Walid’s remissness, removed him from the government of Medina, and gave it to Amrou, a very proud man, the son of Saïd, who was governor of Mecca. He gave Amer the son of Zobeir, who mortally hated his brother Abdallah, a commission to march against him. Abdallah engaged him in the field, routed him, and put him in prison, where he kept him till he died.

Now though Abdallah seemed to have interest sufficient to carry his point, and had beat down all opposition before him, and the Medinians had openly declared for him, so that his fame was spread round about the country, yet Hosein’s glory so far outshone his that he had no chance of being the choice of the people, so long as he was alive. Hosein, both upon the account of his near relationship to Mohammed, and his own personal qualifications, was reverenced above all men alive. Moawiyah, so long as he lived, treated him with the utmost respect. And when Hasan had resigned in favour of Moawiyah, the caliph used often to invite both him and his brother Hosein, always receiving them with the utmost courtesy, and never failing to dismiss them with noble presents. After Hasan’s death, Hosein frequently sent to Moawiyah, and paid him a visit once every year. He also joined with his son Yezid in his expedition against Constantinople. Hosein was the hopes of all the Irakians; never were people more overjoyed than they were at the death of Moawiyah, whom they had all along detested as a tyrant and usurper. They thought that now there was a period put to their slavery, and they should be under the gentle government of a man that was sprung of an almost divine race. The Cufians were so impatient, that they sent message after message to him, assuring them that if he would but make his appearance amongst them, he should not only be secure of his own person, but in consideration of the esteem which they had for his father Ali, and his family, they would render him their homage and services, and acknowledge him for the only lawful and true caliph. They assured him that there was no manner of difficulty in the matter; all the country being entirely devoted to him, and ready to expend in his cause their lives and fortunes. The messengers they had sent, one after another, came to him at last in a body, pressing him with the utmost vehemence, to do what he himself had little aversion to; only he thought it the part of a prudent man, in an affair of so great consequence, and attended with so much hazard, to use a little caution and circumspection. Accordingly, he sent his cousin Muslim into Irak, to feel the pulse of the people, and see whether or no they were so unanimously in his interest as had been represented; and ordering him, that if he found things favourable, to head a body of them, and beat down all opposition that should be made. Besides he gave him a letter to the Cufians to the same purport. Muslim left Mecca and passed through Medina, from whence he took along with him a couple of guides, who led him into a vast desert, where there was no road; one of them perished with thirst, and the other soon after died of the colic. This unprosperous beginning seemed ominous to Muslim, and discouraged him to that degree, that having reached a spot where there was water, he refused to proceeed in his journey, till he should receive further instructions from Hosein, to whom he despatched a messenger. Hosein ordered him, by all means, to go on to Cufah, and act pursuant to the directions he had already received. When he came to Cufah, he communicated his business privately to such as he could trust, and the matter was so cautiously whispered about, that they reckoned themselves secure of eighteen thousand adherents before Yezid’s deputy Nooman had heard of it. Muslim, satisfied with this success, did not defer to acquaint Hosein with it. He wrote to him, and told him that every thing was made plain and easy for him now, and that nothing was wanting but his presence. Upon this notice, Hosein set out upon his journey from Mecca to Cufah.

Nooman at last received information of the increasing popularity of Hosein, and the forwardness of his party. Surprised and concerned, he immediately made a speech to the people, exhorting them to a peaceful behaviour, and to avoid all manner of strife and contention. He assured them that for his own part he would not be the aggressor, nor meddle with any person, unless he was first insulted or provoked; nor would he take up any man upon suspicion. But at the same time he swore by that God, besides whom is no other, that if they revolted from their Imam (Yezid), and withdrew their allegiance, he would fight against them as long as he could hold a sword in his hand. Upon this one of the bystanders told him that this was a matter that required stirring, but that he talked like one of the weak ones. He answered, that “He had rather be one of the weak ones in obedience to God, than one of the strong ones in rebelling against him.” With those words Nooman came down. News of the whole was carried to Yezid, who sent immediately and removed Nooman from the lieutenancy of Cufah, and gave it to Obeidollah, the son of Ziyad, together with that of Bassorah, which he had before. This he did at the instance of Sarchun, the son of Moawiyah; for before that time he was not affected well towards Obeidollah, probably because his father, Ziyad, was against his being declared heir to Moawiyah.

Upon this appointment Obeidollah went from Bassorah to Cufah. He rode into the town in the evening, with a black turban on (which was Hosein’s dress), and as he passed along and saluted the crowd, he was re-saluted by the title of the son of the apostle, they imagining it had been Hosein, of whose coming they were in hourly expectation. But to their no small grief and mortification, they were soon undeceived, when some of Obeidollah’s retinue bid them stand off, and make room for the Emir Obeidollah. With his retinue, which was but seventeen horse in all, he went directly to the castle, and began to think of proper means for the extinguishing this sedition. For this purpose, he gave three thousand pieces to one of his domestics, who was to pretend that he had come out of Syria to promote the inauguration of Hosein, and to contribute to his interest. Muslim had a house in town, where he polled great numbers every day. Here accordingly Obeidollah’s man presented himself, and managed his business so well, that he easily gained credit to his story, and was introduced to Muslim, who took down his vote for Hosein. And the better to colour the matter, he gave some of his money towards the buying arms, to one whom Muslim had appointed to receive all the money that was contributed by the party, and to purchase arms with it. He also continued a few days among the adherents of Hosein, till he had sufficiently informed himself of all their plans and circumstances, and then made his report to Obeidollah. Muslim had changed his quarters, which at first he had taken up at Hani’s house, and removed to Sharik’s, who was one of the grand Omeras. Sharik being sick, Obeidollah sent him word that he would pay him a visit. Upon this Muslim was secreted in the chamber, with the design of surprising and killing the governor. The signal for his onslaught was to be the sick man’s calling for water. Obeidollah came attended by Hani and one servant. They sat down (except the servant) and talked with Sharik a while, but Muslim’s courage failed him. The girl that was bringing the water, spying Muslim standing there, was ashamed, and went back with it three times. At last Sharik called out loud, “Bring me some water, though it kills me.” This made Obeidollah’s man suspect that there was something more than ordinary in the matter, so he gave a hint to his master, who immediately left the house. When they were gone Hani and Sharik asked Muslim why he did not kill him. He answered, “He had heard a tradition of the apostle, who had said, ’The faith is contrary to murder: let not a believer murder a man unawares.’ Wherefore,” he said, “he durst not kill him in his house.” They told him that if he had done it, nobody would have concerned themselves to revenge his death, and they could have secured him in the possession of the castle.[2]

Sharik died three days after. As for Hani, upon Obeidollah’s commanding the registers to be strictly searched, under the severest penalty, he was found standing upon record as an old offender, and one that had opposed Obeidollah before. Obeidollah remembered him, and sent some of the Omeras, who brought him to the castle.[3] When he came there, Obeidollah asked him what was become of Muslim. He at first pretended to know nothing of him, but being confronted by Obeidollah’s servant, who had seen Muslim at his house, and paid him money to buy arms for the service of Hosein, he had nothing to say for himself but that Muslim intruded himself upon him into his house, and did not come thither by his invitation. Obeidollah commanded him to produce him. He answered, “That if he was under his feet, he would not take them off from him.” At this Obeidollah gave him such a blow with his mace, that he wounded him ha the face, and broke his nose. Upon this Hani attempted to seize one of the swords of the guards, but was prevented. Obeidollah told him he had forfeited his life, and commanded him to be imprisoned in a room in the castle. The people of Hani’s tribe presently came flocking about the castle, imagining that he was murdered, but the cadi sent one to tell them that he only was detained to be asked some questions about Muslim, and bade them be quiet, and return peaceably to their houses, for though the emir had struck him, the blow was not mortal. Muslim having heard this news, mounted his horse, and gale the word, “Ya mensour ommet!”[4]; which was the signal for a general rising agreed upon among Hosein’s party. Four thousand men joined him, and he led them to the castle under two colours, the one red, the other green.[5]; Obeidollah was then in the castle prison, discoursing with the Omeras and chief men concerning Hani’s business, and cautioning them against sedition, when the watch came and surprised them all with the news of Muslim’s appearance before the castle. Obeidollah sent out of the castle several men of note and authority among the people, who rode backwards and forwards, dissuading them from hazarding their lives in so perilous an enterprise. In the meantime Obeidollah bade those that were with him to look out of the castle, and encourage the loyalists. A woman called out to Muslim, and told him he might go about his business, or the people would find him more work than he would like; and Muslim’s followers, considering that the event was dubious, began to desert by degrees, till he had no more than thirty men left with him; so he retired in the evening and hid himself. Taking the opportunity of the twilight, he departed from Cufah, without so much as a guide left to show him the way, or any one to comfort him or give him shelter. Night came on, and he was upon the road alone in the dark, not knowing one step of the way, nor whither he was going. At last he found a house standing alone in the field, and knocked at the door, and was answered by an old woman. In the days of her youth and beauty she had belonged to a great man, but afterwards had by another a son, whom she expected out of the field. Muslim asked her for some water, which she gave him; but perceiving that he made no haste to go away, she told him that it was not proper for him to stand there at her door, neither would she allow it. At last he let her understand that it was in her power to do a thing which she should have no reason to repent of. She asked him what it was; he told her his name was Muslim, and that the people of the country had deceived him. She no sooner heard his name but she readily let him in, and having conveyed him into the most secret and retired part of her house, made the best provision for him she was able. At last her son came home, and observing his mother going backwards and forwards very often, would not rest satisfied till she had acquainted him with the occasion of it, which to satisfy his importunity she did, having first enjoined him to secrecy. But he, having heard that Obeidollah had promised a reward to any one who should give information of Muslim’s hiding place, went and informed in the morning. Wherefore, before Muslim well knew where he was, he found himself surrounded with three or four score horse. In this strait he betook him to his sword, and defended himself bravely, for he beat them thrice out of the house. They pelted him with stones, and put fire upon the ends of canes, and flung at him; till at last he went out and fought them in the open air. Here, overpowered with numbers, and grievously wounded in a great many places, particularly in his lips, which were almost cut to pieces, he was seized and disarmed, and being bound, was mounted upon his own mule. When he perceived that it was quite out of his power to help himself, he wept. One of the men that was present told him that it did not become a man that had entered upon so great an undertaking to weep; but he answered that it was not upon his own account that he shed tears, but for the sake of Hosein and his family, who he feared were upon their journey from Mecca to Cufah, having, as he supposed, set out either that very day or the day before. Then turning to Mohammed, the son of Alashat, he begged of him, if it was possible, to send to him in his name, to entreat him to go back. This Mohammed granted, but the messenger did not do his part. When Muslim came to the castle gate, he found there a great many of the Omeras, some of whom he knew, and others knew him, waiting for admission to Obeidollah. Muslim was very thirsty, and begged for a draught of water; but one of the men told him he should have no drink till he drank the hanim, that is, the scalding liquor which the Mohammedans feign is to be the drink of the damned in hell. When Muslim was brought into the presence of Obeidollah, he did not salaam or salute him, at which, when the bystanders wondered, he said if Yezid were there himself, he should not think himself obliged to do it, unless he would give him his life. Obeidollah told him that he had come thither to make a disturbance, and sow the seeds of division amongst people that were all unanimous, and all agreed upon the same thing. Muslim resolutely answered, “It is not so; but the people of this province know very well that your father, Ziyad, has killed the best of their men, and shed their blood, and exercised over them the tyranny of a Cosroes or a Cæsar, and we come to govern with justice, and appeal to the determination of the book.” Obeidollah called him a rogue, and told him he did not use to appeal to the determination of the book when he was tippling wine at Medina. For the truth of which accusation Muslim appealed to God. Having leave given him to make his will, he whispered one of his friends, and left him seven hundred pieces, desiring him to beg his dead body of Obeidollah, and to take care to prevent Hosein’s advancing any further in his journey. He was overheard by one that stood by, who told every word he said to Obeidollah. He did not disapprove of any one article in it; and as for Hosein, he said if he would be quiet nobody would meddle with him, but if he was the aggressor, they would not flinch from him. Muslim was then carried to the top of the castle and beheaded. The head was first thrown down to the bottom, and the body after it. Then Hani was brought forth and beheaded in the street. Both the heads were sent for a present to Yezid, with a letter specifying the several circumstances of their crime and death. This was on the eighth day of the month Dulhagiah, in the sixtieth year of the Hejirah.

The earnest and repeated solicitations of the Cufians made Hosein resolve to accept their invitation, and go directly to Cufah. They had sent him in a poll of a hundred and forty thousand: which, together with their letters he bundled up, to carry along with him. The wisest of his friends looked upon it as nothing less than madness, to embark in so desperate an undertaking. At last, when he seemed resolved to go, they told him it was his destiny that precipitated him. Abdallah, the son of Abbas,[6] told him, that there was a report spread of his intended journey to Cufah, and desired to know what he meant by it. Hosein told him, that if it pleased God he had so determined. The son of Abbas answered, “that indeed if the Cufians had taken arms, killed their emir [Obeidollah], and taken the whole country into their own hands, and then invited him to come and assume the government, there would be something in it, and he should advise him to go. But that so long as they were under the command of their emir, whose forces were dispersed throughout those territories for the security of the country, they had, in effect, done nothing more than invite him to a war; and that he had no security that they would not oppose him, and that they who had been the most forward in showing an interest in his cause might not in the end prove his greatest enemies.” Hosein said, “he would leave the event to God.” After this, Abdallah, the son of Zobeir came to make him a visit, and inquire into his design. Among other discourses, he said, “I do not see any reason why we should leave everything to the disposal of these men, when we are the sons of the Mohajerins or Refugees, and have a better right and claim to the government than they.” Hosein told him that the chief of the nobility had written to him, and that his sect (the Shii) were already to stand up for him to a man. To which the son of Zobeir answered, “that for himself, if he had such a sect to stand up for him, he would not neglect the opportunity.” Hosein easily saw through his meaning; for Abdallah, who was a man of a restless, aspiring temper, knew very well that all his own pretensions would be in vain, so long as Hosein should be alive, but if any thing should befall him, the way to the caliphate would be made clearer for himself; and this, as soon as he was gone, Hosein took notice of. However, Abdallah the son of Abbas, was still very uneasy; and resolved to leave no means untried to dissuade him from his undertaking. He came again to Hosein, and represented to him the fickle temper of the Irakians, and entreated him either to stay till they had got rid of their enemy the emir, or at least to go into that part of Hejaz, where there were places of strength. He had recommended him, if he was determined on making the attempt, to write circular letters to all his friends, and keep himself retired till they had formed a body, and were capable of making a formidable appearance. By this course, things, he hoped, might succeed according to his desire. Hosein told him, he knew that he advised him as a friend. “At least,” added the son of Abbas, “if you be resolved to go, do not take your wives and children along with you, for, by God, I fear your case will be like Othman’s, who was murdered whilst his wives and children stood looking on. Besides, you have rejoiced the heart of Abdallah the son of Zobeir, in leaving him behind you in Hejaz. And,” he concluded, “by that God, besides whom there is no other, if I knew that by taking you by the hair of the head I should succeed in detaining you at Mecca, I would do it.” Then he left him, and, meeting with Abdallah the son of Zobeir, he told him, he had no reason to be sad, and immediately repeated the verses “Ya leka ming kobeiratin,” &c., in which the Arabian poet so beautifully addresses the lark, and bids her, as long as the field and season favour her, to enjoy herself, and sing, and take pleasure in her young ones, and whatsoever else delighted her; but still to assure herself she should not escape the nets of the fowler.

No remonstrance having any influence on Hosein,[7] though Abdallah the son of Abbas sat up with him all night, trying to move him from his purpose, he set out from Mecca with a suitable retinue on the eighth day of the month Dulhagiah, being the, very same day on which his cousin Muslim was killed at Cufah, (though some say the day before) concerning whom he had received no other intelligence than what he had sent him, that all things went well. The Emir Obeidollah was apprised of Hosein’s approach; and sent a body of a thousand horse to meet him under the command of Harro the son of Yezid, of the tribe of Temimah, a man no way disaffected to Hosein’s cause. It was at Asseraph that the two armies came together; Hosein’s men had been for water at the river, and drawn a great deal for the horses, which he ordered them not to make use of for themselves alone, but also to water the horses of his enemies. At noon he commanded the people to be called together, according to the custom of the Mohammedans, and came out to them with nothing on but his vest, his girdle and his shoes, and alleged the invitation of the Cufians as the reason of his undertaking that expedition. Then he asked Harro, “ if he would pray amongst his men;” who replied, “that after him he would.” They parted that night and went every man to his tent, and the next day Hosein made a speech to them, wherein he asserted his title to the caliphate, and exhorted them to submit to him, and oppose all that stood against him, and who wrongfully usurped authority over the people. Harro told him, “That he did not know who had written to him, nor on what subject.” Upon Hosein’s producing the letter, Harro said, after he had read a little of it, “We are none of those that had any hand in writing of it, and we are commanded as soon as we meet you to bring you directly to Cufah into the presence of Obeidollah the son of Ziyad.” Hosein told him, that he would sooner die than submit to that, and gave the word of command to his men to ride; but Harro wheeled about and intercepted them; which provoked Hosein to say, “ May your mother be childless of you!”[8]; (a common curse amongst the Arabians.) “What do you mean?” Harro answered, “If any man but yourself had said so much to me, I would have had satisfaction, but I have no wish to mention your mother, otherwise than with the greatest respect.” Then speaking to his men they retreated, and he told Hosein, that he had no commission to fight with him, but was commanded not to pat with him, till he had conducted him to Cufah. But he bade him choose any road that did not go directly to Cufah, or back again to Medinah. “ And do you,” says he, “ write to Yezid or Obeidollah, and I will write to Obeidollah. Perhaps it may please God that something will occur to relieve me from the risk of being exposed to any extremity upon your account.” Hosein, upon this, turned a little out of the way towards Adib and Kadesia, and Harro told him, “that it was his opinion, that if he would be the aggressor and first set upon the Cufians, he might gain his point; but if he suffered himself to be attacked he would perish.” Hosein asked him, “ if he thought to terrify him with death.” When they came to Adib they met with four horsemen, who turned out of the way to come up to Hosein. Harro would have ridden between them and Hosein, but he would not permit it. As soon as they came up, Hosein asked them what news. Thirmah, who was their guide, answered, “All the nobility, to a man, are against you; as for the rest, their hearts are with you, but to-morrow their swords will be drawn against you.” Hosein then asked him, if he could give him any tidings of his messenger Kais? (one that he had sent before him to prepare the way). Thirmah said, “As for your messenger Kais he was brought before Obeidollah, who commanded him to curse you and your father Ali; instead of which he stood up and prayed for you and your father, and cursed Obeidollah and his father Ziyad, and exhorted the people to come into your assistance, and gave them notice of your coming. For which Obeidollah commanded him to be thrown down headlong from the top of the castle.” At this news Hosein wept, and repeated this verse of the Koran, “There are some of them who are already dead, and some of them that stay in expectation and have not changed.” He then added, “O God! let their mansions be in paradise, and gather us and them together, in the fixed resting-place of thy mercy, and the delights of thy reward.” “Then,” said Thirmah to him, “I do not think the people that are along with you a sufficient match for those that are against you. How is it possible, when all the plains of Cufah are full of horse and foot ready to meet you? I beg of you, for God’s sake, if it be possible, do not go a span’s breadth nearer to them; but if you please, I will conduct you to our impregnable mountain Aja, in which God hath secured us from the kings of Gasan and Hamyar, and from Nooman,[9] the son of Almundir, and from the black and the red; you may retire thither, and stay among us as long as you please. And if any calamity befalls us then you can send to the tribe of Tay; for I believe there will be no less than ten thousand of that tribe with their swords ready at your service, and by God, nobody shall ever get at us.” Hosein said, “God reward thee;” but still persisted in his resolution of going forwards, and Thirmah took his leave.

When night came on, he ordered his men to provide as much water as they should have occasion for, and continued his march.[10] As he went on he dosed a little, and waking on a sudden, said, “We belong to God, and to him we return. I saw a horseman, who said, ‘Men travel by night, and the destinies travel by night towards them.’ This I know to be a message of our deaths.” In the morning, as soon as the prayers were over, he mended his pace, and taking the left hand road came to Nineve (not the ancient, but another town of the same name), and as he rode, with his bow upon his shoulders, there came up a person who saluted Al Harro, but took no notice of him. He delivered a letter to Al Harro, containing orders from Obeidollah, to lead Hosein and his men into a place where there was neither town nor fortification, till his messengers and forces should come up. This was on Friday the second day of the month Moharrem, in the sixty-first year of the Hejirah, that is, on the first day of October, in the year of our Lord six hundred and eighty.

The day after, Amer the son of Saïd came up with four thousand men, which Obeidollah had ordered to Deilam. They had pitched their tents without the walls of Cufah; and when they heard of Hosein’s coming, Obeidollah commanded Amer to defer his intended march to Deilam, and go against Hosein. Amer begged his pardon; and when Obeidollah-threatened him upon his refusal, he desired time to consider of it. Every one that he advised with dissuaded him from it; insomuch, that his nephew said to him, “Beware that you do not go against Hosein, and rebel against your Lord, and cut off mercy from you; by God, you had better be deprived of the dominion of the whole world, than meet your Lord with the blood of Hosein upon you.” In these expostulations he seemed to acquiesce, and to be overruled; but, upon Obeidollah’s renewing his threats, he marched against him; and, meeting him in the place above-mentioned, sent to inquire what had brought him thither. Hosein answered, that the Cufians had written to him, but since they had rejected him he was willing to return to Mecca. Amer was glad to hear it, and said, he hoped in God he should be excused from fighting against him. Then Amer wrote concerning it to Obeidollah, who sent him this answer, “Get between him and the water, as he did by Othman the innocent and righteous, the injured emperor of the faithful. Make him and his companions acknowledge the government of the emperor of the faithful, Yezid; when they have done that, we will consider of further measures.” From that time Amer’s men began to hinder Hosein’s from getting any water. Now the name of the place where they intercepted him was called Kerbela, and as soon as Hosein heard it, he said, “Kerb and bala;” that is, “trouble and affliction.” At last, Hosein proposed a conference with Amer between the two armies. Accordingly they met, attended, each of them, by twenty horse, who whilst they discoursed kept a due distance. In this conference (according to Abulfeda and some others) Hosein proposed one of these three conditions for Amer’s decision: either that he might go to Yezid, or else have leave to return back to Arabia, or else be placed in some garrison where he might fight against the Turks. Amer wrote word of this to Obeidollah, who seemed at first to look upon it as a reasonable proposal; till Shamer stood up and swore that he ought not to be admitted to terms till he had surrendered himself; adding, that he had been informed of a long conference between him and Amer. This remark totally changed Obeidollah’s mind. There is a tradition from one that attended Hosein all the way from Mecca, and overheard this conference; according to which, Hosein did not ask either to be sent to Yezid, or to be put into any of the garrisons, but only that he might either have leave to return to the place from whence he came, or else be at liberty to go where he would about the country, till he should see which way the inclinations of the people would turn.

Obeidollah, who was resolved not to run any risk by suffering Hosein to come too near to Cufah, for fear of an insurrection, sent Shamer with orders to Amer, that if Hosein and his men would surrender themselves, they should be received; if not, that Amer should fall upon them and kill them, and trample them under their horses’ feet. Shamer had besides secret instructions, authorizing him, if Amer neglected to execute these orders, to cut off his head, and command the forces himself. Obeidollah gave a letter of protection and security to four of Ali’s sons, Abbas (whom he had by Obeidollah’s aunt), Abdallah, Jaafar, and Othman; which they refused to accept, saying, that the security of God was better than that of the son of Somyah.[11] Obeidollah also sent a letter to Amer, chiding him for his remissness, which made him undertake to fight against Hosein when Shamer proposed it to him, without knowing that his refusal was to cost him his head. Amer drew up his forces in the evening, on the ninth of the month Moharram, and came up to Hosein’s tent, who was sitting in his door just after evening prayer. He and his brother Abbas desired time till the next morning, when he would answer them to anything they should demand of him. This was granted; and one of Amer’s men said, that if a Deilamite (a nation which they mortally hated) had asked such a small request, it ought not to have been refused. As they were keeping watch during the night, Hosein leaned upon his sword and slept. His sister came and waked him; and as he lifted up his head, he said, “I saw the prophet in my dream, who said, ‘Thou shalt rest with us.’” Then, beating her face, she said, “Woe be to us;” but he answered, “Sister, you have no reason to complain. God have mercy upon you; hold your peace.” In the night she came again to him sighing, and saying, “Alas, for the desolation of my family! I wish I had died yesterday, rather than have lived till to-day; my mother Fatima is dead, and my father Ali, and my brother Hasan! Alas, for the destruction that is past, and the dregs of it that remain behind.” Hosein looked upon her and said, “Sister, do not let the devil take away your temper.” Then beating her face, and tearing open her bosom, she fell down in a swoon. Hosein, having recovered her with a little cold water, said, “Sister, put your trust in God, and depend upon the comfort that comes from him; and know that all people of the earth must die, and the people of the heaven shall not remain; but everything shall perish, but the presence of God who created all things by his power, and shall make them return, and they shall return to him alone. My father was better than I, and my mother was better than I, and my brother was better than I; and I, and they, and every Mussulman has an example in the apostle of God.” Then charging her not to use any such behaviour after his death, he took her by the hand, and led her into her tent; and addressing his friends, he told them, that these men wanted nobody but him, and desired them to shift for themselves, and get away if possible to their respective habitations; but Al Abbas replied, they would not, and said, “God forbid we should see the time wherein we should survive you.” Upon this he commanded his men to cord the tents closer together, and to run the ropes into one another, that the enemy might not get between them. Thus they made a line of their tents, and a trench being dug at one end of it by Hosein’s orders, they threw into it a quantity of wood and cane, which, to prevent their being surrounded, they set on fire, so that they could be attacked only in the front. They spent all that night in hearty prayer and supplication, the horse of the enemy’s guard riding round about them all the while. The next morning both sides prepared for battle; and Hosein put his small force, which amounted to no more than two and thirty horse, and forty foot, into good order. Amer, having drawn up his men, and delivered his standard to one of his servants, advanced close to Hosein’s camp. In the meantime, Hosein went into a tent, and having first washed and anointed, he then perfumed himself. Several of the great men did the like; and when one of them asked what was the use and meaning of so doing, another answered, “Alas there is nothing between us and the black-eyed girls, but only the brief interval till these people come down upon us and kill us.” Then Hosein mounted his horse, and took the Koran and laid it before him, and, coming up to the people, invited them to the performance of their duty: adding, “O God, thou art my confidence in every trouble, and my hope in all adversity!” He set his son Ali on horseback, the eldest of that name, for there were two of them, but the other was very sick. Then he cried out, “Hearken to the advice that I am going to give you;” at which they all gave attention with profound silence. Then, having first praised God, he said, “O men! if you will hearken to me and do me justice, it will be better for you, and you shall find no handle for doing aught against me. But if you will not hearken to me, bring all that are concerned with you together that your matter be clear, and then make report of it to me without delay.[12] My protector is God, who sent down the book (i. e. the Koran), and he will be the protector of the righteous.”[13]

As soon as he uttered these last words, his sisters and daughters lifted up their voices in weeping; at which Hosein said, “God reward the son of Abbas;” alluding to his having advised him to leave the women behind him. Then he sent his brother Al Abbas and his son Ali to keep them quiet. He next reminded them of his excellency, the nobility of his birth, the greatness of his power, and his high descent, and said, “Consider with yourselves whether or no such a man as I am is not better for you; I who am the son of your prophet’s daughter, besides whom there is no other upon the face of the earth. Ali was my father; Jaafar and Hamza, the chief of the martyrs, were both my uncles; and the apostle of God, upon whom be peace, said both of me and my brother, that we were the chief of the youth of paradise. If you will believe me, what I say is true, for by God, I never told a lie in earnest since I had my understanding; for God hates a lie. If you do not believe me, ask the companions of the apostle of God [here he named them], and they will tell you the same. Let me go back to what I have.” They asked, “What hindered him from being ruled by the rest of his relations.” He answered, “God forbid that I should set my hand to the resignation of my right after a slavish manner. I have recourse to God from every tyrant that doth not believe in the day of account.”

Just upon this, a party of about thirty horse wheeled about, and came up to Hosein, who expected nothing less than to be attacked by them.[14] At the head of them was Harro, that had first met with Hosein. He came to testify his repentance, and proffer his service to Hosein, declaring that if he had once thought it would ever have come to that extremity, he would not have intercepted his march, but have gone with him directly to Yezid. However, to make the best amends for his mistake that his present circumstances would admit of, he was resolved now to die with him. Hosein accepted his repentance; whereupon Harro stood forth and called to the people (to Amer in particular), “Alas for you! Will you not accept those three articles, which the son of the apostle’s daughter offers you.” Amer told him, that if it lay in his power he would, but Obeidollah was against it, and had been chiding and reproaching the Cufians, for expressing the least inclination to hearken to them. Then said Harro, “Alas for you! You invited him till he came, and then deceived him; and this did not satisfy you, but you are even come out to fight against him! Nay, you have hindered him, and his wives, and his family, from the water of the Euphrates, where Jews, and Christians, and Sabæans drink, and hogs and dogs sport themselves; and he is like a prisoner in your hands, incapable of doing himself either good or hurt.” Then Amer said to the slave, to whom he had given the flag, “Bring up the colours.” As soon as they came up to the front of the troops, Shamer shot an arrow, and said, “Bear witness that I shot the first arrow.” The battle thus begun, they exchanged arrows apace on both sides. Two of Amer’s men, Yaser and Salem by name, went out, and offered themselves to single combat. Abdallah, the son of Ammar, having first asked leave of Hosein, answered them, and killed Yaser first, and Salem next; though Salem had first cut off all the fingers of his left hand. The next that offered himself came up close to Hosein, and said to him, “Hosein, you are just at hell.” To whom Hosein replied, “By no means; alas for thee, I go to a merciful Lord, full of forgiveness, easy to be obeyed; but you are more worthy of hell.” Upon this, as the man turned about, his horse ran away with him, and he fell off. His left foot, however, was caught in the stirrup, and as he was dragged along, one of Hosein’s men lopped off his right leg. His horse continuing his speed, his head was all the way dashed against the stones till he died. There were several single combats fought, in all which Hosein’s men were superior, because they fought like men that were resolved to die. This made some of the leading men advise Amer not to expose his men any longer to the hazard of single combats. Then Amrou, the son of Hejaj, who commanded the right wing, gave an onset with these words, “Fight against those who separate from the religion, and from the Imam [Yezid], and from the congregation.” “Alas!” said Hosein, “how is it that you thus encourage your men against us? Are we the men that separate from the religion, and you those that keep to it? When your souls are separated from your bodies, you will know which of us most deserve hell-fire.” In this attack Muslim, the son of Ausajah was killed; he was the first that died on Hosein’s side, and Hosein went and commiserated him at his last gasp. Hobeib said to him, having first told him that he was near paradise, “If I was not sure that I should soon follow you, I would fulfil your will, whatsoever it was.” To whom Muslim answered in a very low voice, “This is my will (pointing to Hosein), that you die for him.” Then Shamer gave an onset with the left wing with such violence, that they almost penetrated to the spot where Hosein was, but Hosein’s horse bravely repulsed them; so that they sent to Amer for some archers, who ordered above five hundred to advance. As soon as they came up, they let fly their arrows so thickly amongst Hosein’s horsemen, that they were all immediately reduced to foot. Harro, perceiving his horse wounded, leaped off from him with his sword in his band, as eager as a lion.

Amer, perceiving that the enemy was inaccessible every where but in the front, commanded his men to pull down the tents; but that not succeeding, for Hosein’s followers killed those that went about it, Shamer, (God confound him, ) called for fire to burn Hosein’s tent (having first struck his javelin into it) with all that were in it. The women shrieked and ran out of it. “How,” said Hosein, “what, wouldst thou burn my family? God burn thee in hell-fire.” One of the great men came to Shamer, and represented to him how scandalous, and how unbecoming a soldier it was to scare the women. He began to be ashamed of it, and was thinking of retreating, when some of Hosein’s men attacked him, and drove him off the ground with the loss of several of his men. It was now noon, and Hosein bade some of his friends speak to them to forbear, till he had said the prayers proper for that time of day. One of the Cufians said, “They will not be heard.” Habib answered, “Alas for you, shall your prayers be heard, and not the prayers of the apostle’s family, upon whom be peace!” Habib fought with great courage till he was killed. Then Hosein said the noon prayers amongst the poor remainder of his shattered company, and to the rest of the office he added the prayer of fear, never used but in cases of extremity. During the time of the fight he said several prayers, in one of which there is this pathetical expression, “Let not the dews of heaven distil upon them, and withhold thou from them the blessings of the earth, for they first invited me and then deceived me.” After the prayers were over the fight was renewed with great vehemence on both sides, till the enemy came up close to Hosein, but his friends protected him. One of them killed ten besides those he wounded; till, at last, both his arms being broken, he was taken prisoner, when Shamer struck off his head. Hosein’s party were now almost all cut off, and his eldest son Ali was first wounded with a lance, and afterwards cut in pieces.”[15]

The rest were most of them singled out by the archers and shot. As for Hosein, hardly any of them could find in his heart to kill him. At last one came and struck him with a sword upon the head and wounded him, so that his headpiece was full of blood, which he took off and flung away, saying, that he had neither eaten nor drunk out of it, and bound up his head in his turban. Quite tired out, he sat down at the door of his tent, and took his little son Abdallah upon his lap, who was presently killed with an arrow. Hosein took his hand full of the child’s blood, and throwing it towards heaven, said, “O Lord! if thou withholdest help from us from heaven, give it to those that are better, and take vengeance upon the wicked.” At last he grew extremely thirsty, and whilst he was drinking, he was shot in the mouth with an arrow. Then lifting up to heaven his two hands, which were full of blood, he prayed very earnestly. Shamer now encouraged some of the stoutest of his men to surround him. At the same time a little nephew of his, a beautiful child, with jewels in his ears, came to embrace him, and had his hand cut off with a sword: to whom Hosein said, “Thy reward, child, is with God; thou shalt go to thy pious forefathers.” Being surrounded, he threw himself upon his foes, charging sometimes on the right, and sometimes on the left, and which way soever he turned himself, they flew off as so many deer from before a lion. His sister Zeinab, the daughter of Fatima, came out and said, “I wish the heaven would fall upon the earth:” then turning to Amer, she asked him if he could stand by and see Hosein killed. Whereupon the tears trickled down his beard, and he turned his face away from her. Nobody offered to meddle with him, till Shamer, with reproaches and curses, set on his men again, and one of them, for fear of Shamer, threw a lance at him, but made it fall short, because he would not hurt him. This act however emboldened the rest, and at last one wounded him upon the hand, a second upon the neck, whilst a third thrust him through with a spear. When he was dead, his head was cut off. In his body, when examined, thirty-three wounds were counted, and thirty-four bruises.[16] Shamer would also have killed Ali the youngest son of Hosein, who was afterwards called Zein Alabedin, i. e. “The ornament of the religious,” but was then very sick, had not one of his companions dissuaded him.

They took Hosein’s spear, and the rest of the spoil, and divided all his riches, and his furniture, and even went so far in thus plundering, as to take away the women’s richest clothes: though Amer had forbidden their going near the women, and had expressly declared, that whosoever took anything from them, should be made to return it again. For all this nothing was restored. All of Hosein’s seventy-two men were killed (seventeen of which were descended from Fatima), and on the other side, there were eighty-eight killed, besides the wounded. They now rode their horses over Hosein’s body backwards and forwards so often, that they trampled it into the very ground. Haula, who had his head, went away post with it to Obeidollah; but finding the castle shut, he carried it home to his own house, and told his wife, that he had brought her the rarity of the world. The woman was in a rage, and said, “Other men make presents of gold and silver, and you have brought the head of the son of the apostle’s daughter. By God, the same bed shall never hold us two any more;” and immediately leaped out of bed from him and ran away. He however, soon procured another of his countrywomen to supply her place, who afterwards reported that she was not able to sleep all that night, because of a light which she saw streaming up towards heaven from the place where Hosein’s head lay, and white birds continually hovering about it. Haula the next morning carried the head to Obeidollah, who treated it with great indignity, and even struck it over the mouth with a stick. Upon which Zeid the son of Arkom said to him, “Cease striking with that stick, for I swear by him, besides whom there is no other God, I have seen the lips of the apostle of God (upon whom be peace) upon these lips.” Obeidollah angrily replied, “That if he was not an old man, and out of his wits, he would strike his head off.”[17]

When the news of her nephew Hosein’s disaster reached Zeinab, Ali’s sister, she put on her worst clothes, and, attended by some of her maids, went and sat down in the castle. Obeidollah asked thrice her name before any one told him. As soon as he learned who she was, he said, “Praise be to God, who hath brought you to shame, and hath killed you, and proved your stories to be lies.” But she answered, “Praise be to God, who hath honoured us with Mohammed (upon whom be God’s peace), and hath purified us, and not [dealt with us] as you say, for [none but] the wicked is brought to shame, and the lie is given [to none but] to the evil one.” He replied, “Do not you see how God hath dealt with your family?” She answered, “Death was decreed for them, and they are gone to their resting-place; God shall bring both you and them together, to plead your several causes before him.” This put him into a rage; but one of his friends bade him remember that she was a woman, and not to take anything amiss that she said. Obeidollah then told her, “That God had given his soul full satisfaction over their chief [Hosein] and their whole rebellious family.” Zeinab answered, “You have destroyed all my men, and my family, and cut off my branch, and tore up my root. If that be satisfaction to your soul, you have it.” He swore, she was a women of courage, adding, “That her father was a poet, and a man of courage.” She answered, “That courage was no ingredient in a woman’s character, but she knew how to speak.” Then, after ordering the women of Hosein’s company to be sent to Yezid, he looked upon Ali, Hosein’s son, and commanded him to be beheaded. Here Zeinab, all in tears, embraced her nephew, and asked Obeidollah, if he had not yet drunk deep enough of the blood of their family; and entreated him, if he was resolved to kill the lad, to give her leave to die along with him. Young Ali begged of him, for the sake of the near relationship that existed between him and the women, not to send them away without so much as one man to attend them in their journey. Obeidollah, pausing a while, and looking sometimes upon Zeinab, and sometimes upon Ali, was astonished at her tenderness, and swore he believed she was in good earnest, and had rather die with him than survive him. At last he dismissed him, and bade him go along with the women. This the people looked upon as a very providential deliverance, and said that Obeidollah would have killed Ali, but God diverted him from it.

Obeidollah now went from the castle to the great mosque, and going up into the pulpit, said, “Praise be to God, who hath manifestly shown the truth, and those that are in the possession of it; and hath assisted Yezid the governor of the faithful, and his party[18] and killed the liar the son of the liar, Hosein, the son of Ali and his party.” This provoked Ali’s party to the last degree; several of them rose up in great indignation, and amongst the rest there was one who was blind of both his eyes, which he had lost in two several battles, and used to continue in the mosque, praying from morning to night. He, hearing the son of Ziyad’s speech, cried out, “O son of Merjanah! (that was his mother’s name) the liar, the son of the liar, are you and your father, and he that gave you your commission and his father. O son of Merjanah! you kill the sons of the prophets, and yet speak the words of honest men.” For this speech the blind man was blamed by every one, even of his own party, who feared that by his rashness, he had not only brought destruction upon himself, but upon them too. He was seized by Obeidollah’s order, but upon his crying out, he was rescued by his party, of whom there was not less than seven hundred at that time in the town. Notwithstanding his escape at the time, he was soon after killed, and his body hung upon a gibbet on the heath for an example.

Hosein’s head was first set up in Cufah, and afterwards carried about the streets, and then sent to Yezid at Damascus, along with the women and young Ali. When Obeidollah’s messenger came to Yezid, wishing him joy of his success, and the death of Hosein, Yezid wept and said:— “I should have been very well pleased without the death of Hosein. God curse the son of Somyah; if I had had Hosein in my power, I should have forgiven him. God loved Hosein, but did not suffer him to attain to anything.” Shamer and Mephar, with a body of men, conducted the captives; but Ali, who travelled with a chain about his neck, would not vouchsafe one word to them all the way. It is said, that while they were upon the road, Yezid consulted with his courtiers how he should dispose of them. One of them said, “Never bring up the whelp of a cur; kill Ali the son of Hosein, and extinguish the whole generation of them.” At this speech Yezid held his peace. Another of a milder temper said, “O emperor of the faithful, do with them as the apostle of God would do, if he were to see them in this condition.” This moved him to compassion. When he saw Hosein’s head, he said: “O Hosein, if I had had thee in my power, I would not have killed thee!” Then sitting down, he called in the chief of the Syrian nobility, and ordered Hosein’s wives and children to be brought before him. When he saw the mean condition of the women he was very angry, and said, “God curse the son of Somyah; surely if he had ever been related to these women, he could never have treated them after this scandalous manner.” Then turning to Ali, he said, pointing to Hosein’s head:-” This was your father, who set at nought my right, and tried to jostle me out of my government; but God hath disposed of him as you see.” Upon this Ali briskly answered with this verse of the Koran:—“There is no calamity befalls you, either in the earth, or in your ownselves, but it was in a book before we created it.”[19] Yezid, turning to his son Kaled, bade him answer him; but Kaled was young and ignorant, and had nothing to say. Then said Yezid, “What calamity hath befallen you, is what your own hands have drawn upon you, and he pardoneth a great many.”[20] One of the Syrians begged Yezid to give him Fatima, Ali’s daughter. She, being but a little girl, could not tell but it was in Yezid’s power to grant this, and in a great fright, laid hold upon her sister Zeinab’s clothes for protection, who knew very well that it was contrary to the law to force any one out of their own sect. Zeinab exclaimed:—“He lies! By God, though I die it neither is in your power nor his.”[21] At which Yezid was angry, and told her, that it was in his power, and he would do it if he pleased. She, however, insisted that he could not force them out of their own religion; at which he started up in a passion, and demanded, “Is this the language that you come before me withal? It was your father and your brother that went out from the religion.” Then, cried she, “You, and your father, and grandfather were all in the right!” This provoked him to call out, “It is thou that liest, thou enemy of God.” “How,” said Zeinab, “you, the governor of the faithful, and reproach us unjustly, and make an ill use of your power!” At which he blushed and held his peace. The Syrian petitioning again for Fatima, Yezid cursed him, and bade him be quiet. He then ordered the women to be conducted to the hot bath, and sent them clothes and all provisions necessary for their refreshment after the fatigue of their tedious journey. He entertained the women with all possible respect in his palace; and Moawiyah’s wives came, and kept them company the space of three days, mourning for Hosein. So long as they stayed, he never walked abroad, but he took Ali and Amrou, Hosein’s two sons, along with him. Once he asked Amrou, who was very little, whether he would fight with his son Kaled; Amrou immediately answered, “Give me a knife, and give him one.” An enemy to the family of Ali, a court flatterer, said upon this:—“Depend upon it always, that one serpent is the parent of another.”

After they had taken a competent time for their refreshment, and were resolved to set out for Medina, Yezid sent for Hosein’s wives and children to take their leave of him, and commanded Nooman, the son of Bashir, to provide them with all necessary provisions, and send them home under a safe convoy. When he dismissed them, he said to Ali, “God curse the son of Marjanah; if your father had fallen into my hands I would have granted him any condition he would have desired, and done whatsoever lay in my power to have saved him from death, though it had been with the loss of some of my own children. But God hath decreed what you see. Write to me: whatsoever you desire shall be done for you.”

They travelled by night and day, and the person to whose care Yezid had committed them was very vigilant, and behaved himself so civilly and respectfully all the way, that Fatima said to her sister Zeinab, “Sister, this Syrian hath behaved himself so kindly to us, do not you think we ought to make him a present?” “Alas!” said Zeinab, “we have nothing to give him but our jewels.” “Then,” said the girl, “let us present him with them.” She consented, and they took off their bracelets, and sent them to him with an apology, begging of him to accept of them as a token of their respect for his courtesy. He, however, modestly declined them with this generous answer, “If what I had done had been only with regard to this world, a less price than your jewels had been a sufficient reward; but what I did was for God’s sake, and upon the account of your relationship to the prophet, God’s peace be upon him.” When they came to Medina there was such lamentation between them and the rest of the family of Hashem, as is beyond expression.

There are different reports as to what became of Hosein’s head.[22] Some say it was sent to Medina, and buried by his mother; others, that it was buried at Damascus, in a place called the Garden-gate, from whence it was removed to Ascalon, and afterwards, by the caliphs of Egypt, to Grand Cairo, where they interred it, and erected a monument over it, which they called the “Sepulchre of Hosein the martyr.”[23] Those Egyptian caliphs, who called themselves Fatimites, and had possession of Egypt from before the year four hundred, till after the year six hundred and sixty, pretend that Hosein’s head came into Egypt after the five hundredth year of the Hejirah.[24] But the Imams of the learned say that there is no foundation for that story, but that they only invented it to give currency to their pretended nobility of extraction, since they called themselves Fatimites, as being descended from Mohammed’s daughter Fatima.

Some again pretend to show its burying-place, near the river of Kerbela;[25] others say that there are no traces of it remaining. The first Sultan, however, of the race of the Bovides built in that spot a sumptuous monument, which is visited to this very day with great devotion by the Persians. This sultan called his edifice by the name of Kunbud Faïz, which signifies, in the Persian language, the “Magnificent Dome;” but it is now commonly called, in Arabic, Meshed Hosein, “The sepulchre of Hosein the martyr.”[26]

The caliph Al Motawakkel, who began to reign in the year two hundred and thirty-two, persecuted the memory of Ali and his family to that degree, that he caused Hosein’s sepulchre (called by the Persians “the holy, sublime, and pure place” ) to be quite razed and destroyed; and in order the more completely to obliterate the least vestige of it, designed to bring a canal of water over the spot. However, he was frustrated in this attempt, for the water would never come near the tomb, but, out of respect to the martyr, kept its distance. From this circumstance that water was called Haïr, which signifies “astonished” and “respectful,” a name which; upon account of the miracle, has since passed to the sepulchre itself. Lastly, among the different statements of the fate of Hosein’s head, we meet with an account of one Naim, who used to be angry with any one that pretended to know the place of its burial.[27]

The two titles which they generally give Hosein in Persia are, that of Shahid, “the martyr,” or that of Seyyid, “the lord;” and by the word Alseidani, which signifies “the two lords,” without adding anything more, they always understand the two eldest sons of Ali, who were Hasan and Hosein.[28][29]

Arabian writers report, amongst other acts of piety which Hosein practised, that he used every twenty-four hours to make a thousand adorations or prostrations before God, and that at the age of five and fifty years he had gone five and twenty pilgrimages on foot to Mecca, whereas, to be accounted a good Mussulman, it is not requisite to go above once in a whole life.

Yezdi, in a treatise concerning the divine love, relates that Hosein having one day asked his father, Ali, if he loved him, and Ali having answered that he loved him tenderly, Hosein asked him once more if he loved God, and Ali having also answered that question affirmatively, Hosein said to him, “Two loves can never meet in the same heart, neither hath God given a man two hearts.” At these words Ali’s heart was moved, and they say he wept.

Hosein, touched with his father’s tears, resumed the discourse, and to comfort him said, “If you had your choice between the sin of infidelity towards God or my death, what would you do?” Ali answered, “I would sooner deliver you up to death than abandon my faith.” “Then you may know by this mark,” replied Hosem, “that the love you have for me is only a natural tenderness, while that which you bear towards God is a true love.”

Hosein was killed on the tenth day of the month Moharram, in the year of the Hejirah 61.[30] This date is so celebrated amongst the Persians, that to this very day they call it the day of Hosein, Yaum Hosein, Rus Hosein. The memory of, and mourning for his death, are still annually celebrated among them. It is this anniversary weeping, and extravagant lamentation, that still keeps up the aversion of that nation to all the Mussulmans that are not in the same sentiments with themselves. And causes, for the time at least, an implacable hatred between them and the successors of the family of Ommiyah; between all those who do not look upon Abubeker, Omar, and Othman, to have been usurpers, and those who regard Ali as the only rightful and lawful successor of Mahomet.[31]

My anonymous author is very severe upon the sect of Ali,[32] both upon the account of the many fables they have invented concerning Hosein, and their superstitious observance of the day of his death. Let us hear him in his own words. “The sect of Ali,” says he, “have forged a multitude of abominable lies upon this occasion. They say that the sun was eclipsed, so that the stars appeared at noon day; that you could not take up a stone but there was blood under it; that the sides of the heavens were turned red, and when the sun arose the beams of it looked like blood; that the heavens looked like clotted blood; that the stars came one against the other; that the heavens rained gore; and that before this day there was no redness in the heavens; that when Hosein’s head was brought into the palace, the walls dropped with blood; that the earth was darkened for the space of three days; that nobody could touch any saffron or juniper[33] all that day but it burnt his fingers; and that when one of Hosein’s camels that was killed was boiled, the flesh of it was as bitter as coloquintida; besides innumerable other lies without any manner of foundation. But this is true, that they that had a hand in his death, soon fell sick, dwindled away, and came to nothing, and most of them died mad. In the time of the government of the family of the Bowides, they used to keep this day as a solemn fast, and throw dust and ashes about the streets of Bagdad, and clothe themselves with black sackcloth, and making use of every mark of sorrow and mourning, a great many of them would not even take a draught of water, because Hosein was killed when he was drinking. But all these are abominable inventions and vile practices, contrived on purpose to cast an aspersion upon the government of the house of Ommiyah, because he was killed in their time. Now they that killed him urge in their defence, that he came to depose a person that had been set over them by the consent of all the people, and attempted, by means of Muslim, to make a division among them. Some of the learned doctors, however, with the utmost indignation, object to this as a pernicious and dangerous way of arguing. They determine thus:—If a certain number did interpret [the law] against him, they had no right to kill him, but ought rather to have accepted one of his three proposals. But still,[34] if a party of insolent fellows find fault with a whole people, and rise against its prophet (upon whom be God’s peace), the matter is not to be [determined] according to their practice and example, but according to the majority of the nation, both ancient and modern. Those that were concerned in Hosein’s death, were only a small handful of Cufians (God confound them), and the greatest part of them had written to him, and brought him into their pernicious counsels and designs; neither did all that army [that went against him] approve of that which fell out; nor did Yezid, the son of Moawiyah, the governor of the faithful, at that time approve of his death (though God knows), nor had any aversion to him. What appears most probable is, that if he had had him in his power before he was killed, he would have spared his life, according to his father’s direction, as he said he would himself.

“Now certainly every Mussulman ought to be concerned at the sad accident of his death (God accept him), for he was one of the lords of the Mussulmans, and one of the learned men of the society, and son of the most excellent of the daughters of the apostle of God, and one, besides, who was devout, courageous, and munificent. Yet, notwithstanding all this, what these people do in making an outward show of sorrow, which, perhaps, is all that most of them do, is not at all becoming. His father was a better man than him, yet they did not keep the day upon which he was murdered, as they do that of Hosein; and Ali was killed as he went out to morning prayer, on the seventeenth of the month Ramadan, in the fortieth year. Othman, too, the son of Affan, was a better man than Ali, according to those that follow the tradition and the church;[35] and he was killed after he had been besieged in his own house, in the hot days of the month Dulhagiah, in the thirty-sixth year; and yet the people never kept his day. And so in like manner Omar, the son of Al Khattab, was a better man than Othman. He was killed as he was saying the prayers in the Imam’s desk, and was reading the Koran, and his day was never kept. And Abubeker was a better man than he, but the day of his death was never observed. And the apostle of God (upon whom be peace), who is absolute lord of all the sons of men, both in this world and that which is to come, God took him to himself, even as the prophets before him died; yet the Mussulmans never made such a stir about the observance of the day of his death as a solemn day, as these fools do about the day in which Hosein was killed.” Thus far my author in his own words.

This same year Yezid made Salem, the son of Ziyad, lieutenant of Sejestan and Chorassan, upon his coming as ambassador to him.[36] Salem was then twenty-four years of age. As soon as he came to his charge, he gathered together a select number of forces, and the best horses that could be found, in order to make an invasion upon the Turks. He carried his wife along with him (the first Arabian woman that ever passed over the river Jihon), who was brought to bed of a son in that part of the country which is called the Sogd of Samarcand, being the neighbouring plains and villages that lie round about that city, from whence he was afterwards surnamed Sogdi, that is the Sogdian. When she lay in, she sent to the Duke of Sogd’s lady to borrow her jewels; who sent to her her golden crown, which was set full of them. She had not, however, the good manners to restore it, but carried it along with her upon her return to Arabia. Salem sent Mohalleb to Chowarezm, the chief city of the Turks, who were willing to purchase peace at any rate. He therefore assessed them and their cattle at so much a head. Salem having taken out of the whole sum, which was very considerable, what he thought fit, sent the rest to Yezid. He then marched forwards towards Samarcand, whose inhabitants also purchased peace at a high price.

This same year, in the beginning of the month Dulhagiah, Yezid made Walid the son of Otbah governor of Medina, who headed the people on pilgrimage to Mecca, both this and the following year. Bassorah and Cufah were still in the hands of Obeidollah.

Hosein, being now out of the way, Abdallah the son of Zobeir, who had never submitted to Yezid’s government, began now to declare publicly against him, and deposed him at Medina. The inhabitants of Mecca and Medina, perceiving that Yezid did all that lay in his power to suppress the house of Ali, rebelled against him, and proclaimed Abdallah caliph. As soon as he had taken their suffrages, in order to strengthen his interest by popularity, he made long speeches to the people, greatly exaggerating all the circumstances of Hosein’s death. The Irakians in general, and the Cufians in particular, he represented to be the most perfidious villains upon the face of the earth; having first invited him, and then basely betrayed him afterwards. He dwelt upon the scandalous extremity they had reduced a person of his dignity to, either of surrendering himself into the hands of the son of Ziyad, or else of fighting at so great a disadvantage. He depicted at length his heroism in preferring an honourable death to an ignominious life. He magnified his merits, and reminded them of his exemplary sanctity, his frequent watchings, fastings, and prayers. In a word, he made a skilful use of every topic that might contribute towards the endearing his memory, and stir up in the people a desire of revenge, and an utter abhorrence and detestation of that government which was the cause of his death. The people, who were always well affected to Hosein, heard these discourses with delight, and Abdallah’s party grew very strong. When Yezid heard of his progress, he swore he would have him in chains, and accordingly sent a silver collar for him to Merwan then governor of Medina, with orders to put it about his neck, and send him to Damascus, in case he persisted in his attempts; but Abdallah ridiculed both them and their collar.

There was at this time one Abdallah the son of Amrou in Egypt, a person of great repute for his profound understanding. He used to study the prophet Daniel. Amrou, the son of Saïd, governor of Mecca, sent to him to know what he thought of this man, meaning Abdallah the son of Zebeir. He answered, “That he thought of him no otherwise than as of a man that would carry his point, and live and die a king.” This answer from a man of his character gave great encouragement to Abdallah and his party, for it had a great influence upon the generality of the people. Amrou the son of Saïd, the governor of Mecca, was in his heart a mortal enemy to Abdallah and his pretensions, yet still he thought it the best way to carry it fair with him. Some of Yezid’s courtiers represented to him, that if Amrou had been heartily in his interest, it was in his power to have seized and sent Abdallah to him; upon which suggestion Yezid removed him, and put Walid the son of Otbah into his place.

As soon as Walid had taken possession of his new government of Mecca,[37] he began to exert his authority by imprisoning three hundred of the servants and dependants of his predecessor Amrou. But Amrou sent a private message to them, bidding them break the prison at such an hour, when he promised there should be a sufficient number of camels ready for them kneeling in the street, which they were immediately to mount, and repair to him. This measure succeeded. When Amrou came before Yezid, he first received him courteously, and bade him sit down by him, and then began to rebuke him for his remissness in the execution of his commands, and not taking sufficient care to put down Abdallah and his party. To which he answered, “Governor of the faithful, he that is present sees more than he that is absent. The greatest part of the people of Hejaz and Mecca were favourably inclined to Abdallah’s party, and encouraged one another as well in public as in private. I, however, had no forces sufficient to oppose them, if I had attempted it. Besides he was always upon his guard, and in fear of me, and I carried it fair with him in order to take a proper opportunity of getting him into my power. Notwithstanding his influence and caution, I nevertheless often reduced him to great straits, and hindered him from doing a great many things he wished to do. Thus I placed men round about the streets and passages of Mecca, that suffered no man to pass till he had written down his own name and his father’s, and from which of God’s countries he came, and what was his business; and if any one was a friend of his, or one whom I suspected to favour his designs, I sent him away; if otherwise, I permitted him quietly to go about his concerns. However, you have now sent into my place Walid the son of Otbah, who in all probability will give you such an account of his administration as will justify my conduct, and convince you of the fidelity of my services.” Yezid was very well satisfied, and told him, that he was an honester man than they that had incensed him against him, and that he should depend upon him for the future.” In the meantime the new governor Walid was employing all his skill to ensnare Abdallah, who was always upon his guard, and was still too cunning for him.[38] At the same time Walid had to watch the movements of one Naidah, a Yemanian, who, upon the death of Hosein, appeared in arms with a body of men against Yezid; as for Abdallah, he and Naidah were so familiar that it was generally believed that Naidah would give him his allegiance. Quickly after Walid’s arrival,[39] Abdallah sent a letter to Yezid, complaining that he had sent a fool of a governor thither, that was not worthy of so important a trust; that if he would appoint a man of a tractable disposition, their differences might be compromised as well for the good of the public as their own in particular. Yezid, desirous of peace upon any terms, indiscreetly hearkened to the voice of his mortal enemy, removing Walid, and sending, in his stead, Othman the son of Mohammed and grandson of Abu Sofian. This Othman was by no means qualified for a trust of that importance, being raw, ignorant, and altogether inexperienced. He sent ambassadors from Medina to Yezid, who received them kindly, and gave them presents; but they took such offence at his manners and conversation, that when they returned, they did all they could to inflame the people against him. They told the Medinians that their caliph had no religion at all; that he was frequently drunk with wine, and minded nothing but his tabors, his singing wenches, and his dogs; that he used to spend whole evenings in talking with vile fellows and singing girls. For their part, they declared they did depose him; in which action they were followed by a great many, who, as it is said, gave their allegiance to one Abdallah the son of Hantelah. One of the ambassadors, Almundir by name, did not return with the rest to Medina, but went to Obeidollah to Bassorah, who entertained him in his house, with a great deal of friendship, for they were old acquaintances. As soon as Yezid was informed how the rest of the ambassadors had used him at Medina, he wrote to Obeidollah to bind Almundir, and keep him close till further orders. This Obeidollah looked upon as a breach of hospitality, and instead of obeying the order, showed it to Almundir, and advising him when the people were come together, to pretend very urgent business, and in the presence of them all to ask leave to be gone. Accordingly the request was made and granted, and away goes Almundir full of resentment to Medina, where he confirms all that the other ambassadors had said before to Yezid’s disadvantage; adding, that though he confessed that Yezid had presented him with a hundred pieces, yet that could not influence him so far as to hinder him from speaking what he was a witness of, his drunkenness, idle conversation, and neglecting prayers oftener than any of his men. Yezid was informed of all, and vowed to be revenged on him for his ingratitude. Yezid now sent Nooman the son of Bashir to Medina to quiet the people, and persuade them to return to their duty and allegiance. When he came there, he represented to them the folly of their proceedings, and the danger they exposed themselves to by such seditious practices; assuring them that they were not a match for the forces of Syria. One of them asked him what motive induced him to come upon such an errand? Nooman told him, “Because he was loath there should be any blood shed between the two parties, and see these poor creatures (meaning the Ansars or inhabitants of Medina) killed in their streets and mosques, and at the doors of their own houses.” They would not be ruled by him, and he left them; but they found afterwards to their cost that his warning was only too true.

The Medinians, in their obstinacy, having renounced all allegiance to Yezid, set over the Koreish, Abdallah the son of Mothi, and over the Ansars, Abdallah the son of Hantelah, a noble person of excellent endowments, very religious, and universally respected: he had eight sons, and they had all gone along with him on the embassy, to Yezid, who presented him, besides vests, with a hundred thousand pieces, and each of his sons with ten thousand. In the beginning of the sixty-third year, the Medinians broke out into open rebellion, after the following manner:—Gathering together in the mosque round about the pulpit, one of them said, “I lay aside Yezid, as I lay aside this turban,” throwing, with these words, his turban upon the ground. Another said, “I put away Yezid as I put away this shoe.” Their examples were followed by others, till there was a great heap of shoes and turbans. The next step they took was to turn out Yezid’s lieutenant Othman, and banish all the family of Ommiyah, together with all their friends and dependants, from Medina. The latter being in all about a thousand, took refuge in the house of Merwan the son of Hakem, where the Medinians besieged them so closely that they sent word to Yezid, “That unless they received speedy relief they must inevitably perish.” Yezid, when he heard they were so many, wondered that they should have ever suffered themselves to be shut up without making the least resistance. He then consulted with Amrou, the son of Saïd, as to the fittest person to be sent upon this expedition; at the same time offering the commission to him. Amrou, however, excused himself, telling him, “That he had done him all the service he could there before, and yet he was pleased to remove him from his government; but now, since the blood of the Koreish was to be poured upon the dust, he begged that somebody not so nearly related to them as he was might be employed in that business. Upon this the caliph sent for Meslem, the son of Okbah, who, though very ancient and infirm, was willing to undertake the command of the forces, consisting of twelve thousand horse and five thousand foot. Meslem told Yezid that those thousand men who suffered themselves to be so distressed without fighting, did not deserve any assistance; that they had neither shown personal courage nor loyalty to their sultan; that they ought to be let alone till they had exerted themselves, and shown that they deserved support.” But Yezid told him, “that his life would be a burden to him, if their safety were not provided for.” Yezid rode about with his sword by his side, and an Arabian bow over his shoulders, viewing the troops, and giving directions to his general Meslem. Particularly he ordered him to take care of Ali, the son of Hosein, concerning whom he had been informed that neither he, nor any of his family were parties to the measures of the rebels, wherefore he commanded him to show him respect. As for the town, he was to summons it three days successively, and if it did not surrender upon the third summons, then, whenever he took it, he was to leave it for three days entirely to the mercy of the soldiers.

The Medinians, who had dug a large ditch round about the city, refused to surrender, and the general made preparations for a storm. He was advised to make his assault on the east side, that the besieged might have the sun in their faces: this proved of service to him. The Medinians made a vigorous defence, and held out a considerable time. In the end, however, most of the Ansars and considerable men being killed, finding themselves hard pressed, they would have surrendered on terms, but Meslem, from whose hands they had refused peace at the beginning of the siege, would not receive them but at discretion.

At last, forcing an entrance into the city, sword in hand, he first of all sent for Ali, and treated him with respect; and, to quiet all his apprehensions, he dismissed him honourably, calling for his own camel and sending him home upon it. Then his men put all to the sword that they met, plundered everything that was valuable, and ill-treated the women. Without any reverence for its being the burying-place of the prophet, they sacked it for three days; and those that escaped the edge of the sword Meslem took under the protection of the government, but only upon this condition, that they should own themselves slaves and vassals to Yezid; upon which account he purchased the name of Musriph, which signifies in Arabic, “extravagant, exorbitant,” because he had exceeded his orders.[40] This battle was fought when there were three nights left of the month Dulhagiah.[41] Meslem, having thus severely chastised the insolence of the Medinians, marched directly with his army towards Mecca, but died by the way, in the month Moharram of the sixty-fourth year. Upon his death, Hosein took upon him the command of the army, and besieged Abdallah in Mecca during the space of forty days, during which time he battered it so roughly, that he beat down a great part of the temple,[42] and burnt the rest; and this city had run the same fortune with Medina, if the news of Yezid’s death had not recalled Hosein into Syria.[43]

Abdollah[44] heard of Yezid’s decease before the Syrian army had received any intelligence of it, and called out to them from the walls, and asking them what they fought for, for their master was dead. But they, not believing him, continued their siege with great vigour, till they received further and authentic information. Hosein now told Abdallah that he was of opinion that it would be the best way to forbear shedding any more blood, and proffered him his allegiance if he would accept of the government; assuring him, that all this army, wherein where the leading men of all Syria, would be in his interest, and that there was no fear of any opposition. But Abdallah was afraid to trust him. As they were talking together, just where the pigeons from the temple of Mecca were pecking something upon the ground, Hosein turned his horse aside, which Abdallah taking notice of, demanded his reason; he said he was afraid his horse should kill the temple pigeons. Abdallah asked him how he could scruple that, and at the same time kill the Mussulmans. Hosein told him, that he would not fight against him any more, and only desired that they might have leave to go round the temple of Mecca before their departure; which was granted. Abdallah afterwards, when it was too late, repented of having rejected the services of Hosein, who was accompanied on his return into Syria by all those of the house of Ommiyah that were in Medina.

Yezid died in Hawwarin,[45] in the territories of Hems, when four nights were passed of the first Rebiyah, in the sixty-fourth year of the Hejirah, in the thirty-ninth year of his age, after he had reigned three years and six months. He was a man of a ruddy complexion, pitted with the small pox, with curly hair and black eyes. He had a handsome beard, and was thin and tall. He left behind him several children of both sexes, of whom his son Kaled is reported to have been skilled in the art of alchymy, and his son Abdallah to have been the truest bowman of all the Arabians in his time. His mother’s name was Meisun, of the family of the Kelabi. She was an excellent poetess,[46] and had pleased Moawiyah’s fancy to that degree with some of her verses; that he made her go back into the desert amongst her own relations, and take her son Yezid along with her, that he also might be brought up a poet. This part of his education succeeded, for he was reckoned to excel that way, though his chief talent consisted in making a drunken catch.

It is observed of him, that he was the first caliph that drank wine publicly, and was waited upon by eunuchs. Besides, the Arabians reproach him with bringing up and being fond of dogs, which the more scrupulous Mohammedans have in abomination.[47]

But the greatest vices of this caliph were his impiety and covetousness, which occasioned a certain author[48] to say, that for the empire of the Mussulmans to flourish, it ought to be in the hands of princes either pious, like the first four caliphs, or liberal, as Moawiyah; but that when it was again governed by a prince who, like Yezid, had neither piety nor generosity, all would be lost.

The Mohammedan doctors look upon Yezid’s allowing the soldiers to commit such abominable outrages in the city of the prophet,[49] and suffering it to be so profaned, as a very wicked action.[50] They do not scruple to say, that although he did it thinking to preserve his life and government, God nevertheless had dealt with him as a tyrant, and, by cutting him off in the flower of his age, had inflicted judgment upon him for his presumption. In condemnation of Yezid, they quote this saying of Mohammed, “Whoever injureth Medina shall melt away, even as salt melteth away in the water.”

By Persian authors he is never mentioned without abomination, and ordinarily this imprecation is added to his name, Laanabullah, that is, “The curse of God be upon him;” in reference not to his vices, but to the death of Hosein, the son of Ali, whom he first of all attempted to destroy by poison, and afterwards caused to be killed, with all his family, on the plains of Kerbela.[51]

Under his caliphate the Mussulmans conquered all Khorassan and Khowarezm, and put the estates of the prince of Samarcand under contribution. The motto of his seal was, “God is our Lord.”

Original footnotes[edit]

  1. MS. Hunt. No. 495. Abulfeda.
  2. MS. Hunt. No. 495.
  3. See Esther vi. 1.
  4. “O thou that art helped by the people!” meaning Hosein.
  5. “Red was the colour of the Ommiyades, green that of the Alides, and black that of the Abassides.”—Baron De Slane.
  6. MS. Hunt. No. 495.
  7. MS. Laud. No. 161, A.
  8. Arab. Thacolatka Ommoka.
  9. Concerning him, see Socrates’ Hist. Ecclesiast. lib. vii. cap. 18.
  10. MS. Laud. No. 161. A.
  11. Obeidollah was not the son of Somyah, but her grandson. The same style of designation is frequently used in the Old Testament.
  12. Koran, chap. x. 72.
  13. Ib. vi. 194.
  14. MS. Laud. No. 161. A. MS. Hunt. No. 495.
  15. “Ali Akbar, the eldest son of Hosein, aspired to the distinction of being the first of his family to lay down his life in defence of his parent. Having announced aloud his name and descent, he rushed into the thickest of the enemy, and, animated by the presence of his father, he made ten different assaults, in each of which he sacrificed two or three of his opponents. At last, almost suffocated with heat and thirst, he complained bitterly of his sufferings. His agonised father arose, and introducing his own tongue within the parched lips of his favourite child, thus endeavoured to alleviate his sufferings by the only means of which his enemies had not yet been able to deprive him. The gallant youth then rushed for the last time into the conflict, but being wounded from behind, he fell and was cut to pieces in his father’s sight. This overwhelming spectacle wrung from Hosein his first and only cry; whilst his sister Zeinab threw herself on the mangled remains of her nephew, and gave a loose to the most violent expressions of despair and sorrow.” —Price.
  16. The following pathetic circumstances attending the death of Hosein are extracted from Major Price:— “An arrow having transfixed his horse, the unfortunate Hosein came to the ground, and was left, fainting with thirst and fatigue, to contend alone and on foot against a remorseless multitude. The hour of prayer, between noon and sunset, had arrived, and the devoted Imam began his religious duties. Whilst thus engaged several of the enemy drew near, but, impressed with a sentiment of awe at his appearance, successively retired. His child Abdallah was killed in his arms, and having repeated the passing formula for the spirit of his slaughtered infant, he implored his Creator to grant him patience under these accumulated afflictions. At length, almost exhausted by thirst, he directed his languid steps towards the Euphrates, but the enemy, with loud vociferations, endeavoured to frustrate his intentions. Hosein, however, had already thrown himself on his breast over the stream, and was beginning to taste the luxury of the refreshing element, when an arrow pierced his mouth. Rejecting the now ensanguined draught, Hosein indignantly arose, and having extracted the winged mischief, he withdrew to the entrance of the tents and there took his last stand, his month streaming with blood. His adversaries now closed round the person of the devoted Imam, who, notwithstanding, continued to defend himself with such admirable intrepidity and presence of mind as to excite the surprise and terror of his assailants, and kill or disable not a few of their number. Labouring under such extreme anguish of mind from the appalling spectacle of a murdered family, covered with wounds, deprived of water for so many days, and assailed by such multitudinous odds, as well as by distress and horror in every shape and form, he exhibited such an example of courage and constancy as seemed to be beyond the scope of human prowess. Wounded in four and thirty places by different weapons, extremely weakened through loss of blood, and fainting with intolerable heat and thirst, he still opposed an invincible resistance to the assaults which were directed against his person from every side. Reduced to this extremity he was at last approached by seven of the enemy, one of whom drawing near to assail him, found a fatal opportunity, and struck off one of his arms close to the shoulder. He now fell; but, by a kind of convulsive effort he sprung once more to his feet and endeavoured to make at the assailant; but again sinking to the earth, the soldier approached from behind and thurst him through the back with a javelin till the point came out at his breast; then withdrawing the fatal weapon, the soul of Hosein fled through the orifice. His head was struck off, and his body was exposed by his murderers, whilst several of the barbarous conquerors proceeded to pillage the tents, and stripped the women of their head-dresses and wearing apparel, and would have proceeded to still greater outrage, had not Amer stopped the progress of the plunderers by ejecting them from the tents.”
  17. MS. Laud. No. 161. A. MS. Hunt. No. 495.
  18. That is Yezid and Moawijah.
  19. Koran, ch. lvii. 22.
  20. Ib. ch. xlii. 29.
  21. She used that word to express her contempt of him; and gave him the lie for demanding what was impracticable.
  22. A curious tradition respecting Hosein’s head has been preserved by Imam Ismail: When Hosein’s head was sent to be presented to Yezid, the escort that guarded it halting for the night in the city of Norwil, placed it in a box, which they locked up in a temple. One of the sentinels, in the midst of the night, looking through a chink in one of the doors, saw a man of immense stature, with a white and venerable beard, take Hosein’s head out of the box, kiss it affectionately, and weep over it. Soon after, a crowd of venerable sages arrived, each of whom kissed the pallid lips, and wept bitterly. Fearing that these people might convey the head away, he unlocked the door and entered. Immediately, one of their number came up, gave him a violent slap on the face, and said, ‘The prophets have come to pay a morning visit to the head of the martyr. Whither dost thou venture so disrespectfully?’ The blow left a black mark on his cheek. In the morning he related the circumstances to the commander of the escort, and showed his cheeks, on which the impression of the hand and fingers was plainly perceptible.” —Taylor’s Mohammedanism.
  23. Meshed Hosein.
  24. MS. Hunt. No. 495.
  25. Adhadedoulat.
  26. D’Herbelot in Motawakkel.
  27. MS. Hunt. No. 495.
  28. D’Herbelot.
  29. The title is Resalat phi biyani’l mebabbat.
  30. October 19, a.d. 680. Though the English reader must not suppose that they keep annually the ninth of our October, but the tenth of Moharram, according as it falls, because theirs is the lunar year.
  31. Mrs. Meer Hassan Ali, in her Portraiture of Mohammedanism in India, gives the following description of this mourning:— “I have been present,” says she, “when the effect produced by the superior oratory and gestures of a manbree (reading the history of the house of Ali), has almost terrified me; the profound grief evinced in his tears and groans, being piercing and apparently sincere. I have even witnessed blood issuing from the breasts of sturdy men, who beat themselves simultaneously as they ejaculated the names ‘Hasan!’ ‘Hosein!’ for ten minutes, and occasionally for a longer period in that part of the service called Nintem. . . . . . The expressions of grief manifested by the ladies are far greater, and appear to be more lasting, than with the other sex: indeed, I never could have given credit to their bewailings, without witnessing, as I have done for many years, the season for tears and profound grief return with the month Moharram. In sorrowing for the martyred Imam, they seem to forget their private grief, the bereavement of a beloved object even is almost overlooked, in the dutiful remembrance of Hasan and Hosein at this season; and I have had opportunities of observing this triumph of religious feelings in women who are remarkable for their affectionate attachment to their children, husbands, and parents:—they tell me, ‘We must not indulge selfish sorrows of our own, whilst the prophet’s family alone have a right to our tears. . . . . My poor old Ayah (maid servant) resolves on not allowing a drop of water, or any liquid, to pass her lips during the ten days’ mourning; as she says, ‘her Imam, Hosein, and his family, suffered from thirst at Kerbela, why should a creature as she is be indulged with water?’ This shows the temper of the people generally; my Ayah is a very ignorant old woman, yet she respects the memory of her Imam.”
  32. MS. Hunt. No. 495.
  33. Arab. Wars.
  34. MS. Hunt. No. 495.
  35. What the Jews call [Hebrew] Edah, the Greeks [Greek], and we “church,” the Arabians call “jemaah,” and mean the very same thing by it, namely, the congregation of the faithful united under their lawful Imam, or head. And they denominate as we do, those that separate from them, according to their particular tenets or opinions.
  36. MS. Laud. No. 161. A.
  37. An. Hej 62, cœpit Sept. 19, a.d. 681.
  38. MS. Laud, No. 191, A.
  39. MS. Hunt. Naidah.
  40. Abulfeda.
  41. When Meslem took the command he was obliged to take medicine, and was only allowed to eat a little, but he only followed the medical prescriptions until the taking of Medina. After that was captured he ate most voraciously, and said, “Now that the rebels are punished I am ready for death. In reward for having slain the murderers of Othman, God will forgive me my sins.-” —Weil.
  42. Some authors, however, say that the temple was not set on fire by the besiegers, but that Abdallah, hearing in the night a shouting from the mountains of Mecca, and wishing to discover the cause, put some fire on the end of a spear, which, being wafted by the wind, the sparks laid hold first on the hangings, and then caught the wood-work.
  43. An Abyssinian superintended the engines that were throwing stones and combustibles upon the city, and was delighted at the destruction of the place and the sacred temple, whose columns were completely shattered. He likewise filled several barrels with pitch, set fire to them, and threw them against the Kaaba, so that every thing around it was burnt. Here a miracle is related. One day, when this Abyssinian was about to send a number of these pitch-barrels against the temple, a fierce wind suddenly arose, the flames seized the machines, and burnt the black and ten of his companions. This took place on the same day that Yezid died at Damascus. The fire likewise pursued all those who assisted in assaulting the city, and consumed them altogether. When the Syrians beheld this manifestation of the wrath of God, they were struck with terror, and raised the siege, saying, “With God’s temple we will have nothing more to do.” Hosein, who as yet knew nothing of the death of Yezid, wrote to Damascus and described the position of Abdallah. On the following day the latter sent a messenger to Hosein, to ask him for whom he was fighting, as Yezid was dead. Hosein supposed the information to be false, and waited till Thabit Ebn Kais arrived from Medina and confirmed the news of Yezid’s decease—Weil.
  44. MS. Laud. No. 161.
  45. Abulfeda.
  46. Meisun was the Bedouin bride of Moawiyah, and amidst all the pomp of Damascus she still sighed for the desert. Some of her verses are thus translated in Carlyle’s “Specimens of Arabian Poetry.”

    “The russet suit of camel’s hair,
       With spirits light and eye serene,
     Is dearer to my bosom far
       Than all the trappings of a queen.
    “The humble tent, and murmuring breeze
       That whistles through its fluttering walls,
     My unaspiring fancy please,
       Better than towers and splendid halls.
    “The attendant colts, that bounding fly,
       And frolic by the litter’s side,
     Are dearer in Meisuna’s eye
       Than gorgeous mules in all their pride.
    “The watch-dog’s voice, that bays whene’er
       A stranger seeks his master’s cot,
     Sounds sweeter in Meisuna’s ear
       Than yonder trumpet’s loud-drawn note.
     “The rustic youth, unspoil’d by art,
       Son of my kindred, poor, but free,
     Will ever to Meisuna’s heart
       Be dearer, pamper’d fool, than thee!”

  47. D’Herbelot.
  48. Rabi Al Akvar.
  49. MS. Hunt. No, 495.
  50. MS. Laud. No. 161. A.
  51. D’Herbelot.