The author of صلاح النشأتین Salah an-Nash’atayn records saying that the tragic and historical battle culminated on a Friday, the tenth of Muharram, 61 A.H., corresponding to October 13, 680 A.D., a day known in Islamic history as Ashura. Imam al-Husayn (ﻉ) delivered two sermons to the misled souls that surrounded him from all directions, trying to bring them back to their senses, but it was to no avail.
The dumb and stonehearted rogues were not affected by al-Husayn’s eloquent sermons. He asked them, “Am I not your Prophet’s grandson? Am I not the son of the Commander of the Faithful, cousin of the Prophet and the first male to believe in the divine message of Allah? Is not Hamzah, the head of the martyrs, my father’s uncle? Is not the martyr Ja’far at-Tayyar my uncle? Did the Prophet not reach your ears with words spoken in reference to me and to my elder brother (al-Hassan), saying, These (al-Hassan and al-Husayn (ﻉ) are the masters of the youths of Paradise’?”
The renown historian at-Tabari and all other historians unanimously record that when al-Husayn (ﻉ) proceeded so far in his sermon, the audience was moved against their wish, so much so that tears began to flow from the eyes of friends and foes alike. It was only al-Hurr, however, who was truly moved to the extent of stirring to action. Slowly did he walk as he kept saying, “Allah! I turn to You in repentance from the depth of my heart, so do forgive me and forgive my sinful misconduct towards the Prophet’s beloved Ahl al-Bayt.”
Approaching the Imam with eyes streaming with tears, with his shield turned the other way and his spear turned upside-down, he knelt down and kept crawling on his knees till he reached the Imam and fell on his feet kissing them, begging for his forgiveness. Al-Husayn (ﻉ) accepted his apologies and prayed for him. Meanwhile, al-Hurr’s defection alarmed Omer ibn Sa’d, the commander-in-chief of the enemies of al-Husayn (ﻉ) and of Allah. He was afraid such defection might encourage other commanders of his army to do likewise.
Calling his slave, who was bearing the standard, he put an arrow on the string of his bow and discharged it at al-Husayn (ﻉ), signaling the beginning of the battle. Martyrs fell one after another, recording epics of heroism unlike any others in the entire history of the human race. Their names and deeds of heroism are recorded on the pages of history for all generations to come.
The First Lady Martyr
Wahab ibn Abu Wahab, a Christian, and his wife, also a Christian, were married only a fortnight ago. Having witnessed what went on between al-Husayn (ﻉ) and his foes, they sympathized with al-Husayn (ﻉ) and embraced the Islamic creed at his hands. The words of the Imam’s sermons penetrated their hearts and found an echo. Wahab’s mother, still Christian, said to her son, “I will not be pleased with you till you give your life away for the sake of al-Husayn (ﻉ).”
Wahab charged at the enemies of Allah like a lion, and when a man from Kufa severed his right arm, he transferred the sword to the left and went on fighting as if nothing at all had happened. Soon his left arm, too, was lopped off by a single stroke of a sword, and the hero fell to the ground. His wife watched the whole scene. She pleaded to the Imam thus as she darted towards his enemies, “O Imam! Please do not ask me to go back! I prefer to die fighting rather than to fall captive in the hands of Banu Umayyah!”
The Imam tried to dissuade her, explaining to her that fighting is not mandated on women, but at seeing her husband martyred, she ran to him and, putting his lifeless head in her lap, she began to wipe it with her clothes. Soon a slave of Shimr ibn Thul-Jawshan put an end to her life while she was thus engaged; may the Almighty shower His blessings on her. It is unanimously agreed on by the historians that she was the first lady martyred on that day. Wahab’s mother was very happy. She said, “Allah! Thank You for saving my honour through my son’s martyrdom before the Imam.”
Then the old Christian lady turned to the Kufians and said, “You wicked people! I bear witness that the Christians in their churches and the Zoroastrians in their fire houses are better people than you!” Saying so, she seized a stout candle (or, according to other accounts, a tent post) in her hand and fell upon the enemies, sending two of them to hell.The Imam sent two of his companions to bring her back. When she stood before him, he said to her, “O bondmaid of Allah! Women are not allowed to go to war. Sit down; I assure you that you and your son will be with my grandfather in Paradise.” Another martyr to be mentioned here, who was also Christian, is John, a slave of the great sahabi Abu Tharr al-Ghifari, may Allah be pleased with both of them. He had been for many years in the service of Abu Tharr, and although he was a very old man (according to some accounts, he was 90 years old), he fought al-Husayn’s enemies till he was martyred