بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
For us to understand any Historical narrative we must look at the sources of it. And more so if the history speaks about an Islamic event. Sunni Muslims have always taken narrations extremely seriously, be they Ahadith or Athar of the Sahaba, or the Tab’ieen, or those that followed them in righteousness.
We are an Ummah of Isnad, chains of narrators define our knowledge that is passed from one person to the next, this deen has been preserved by the people narrating it down to us. It started with Jibreel narrating to our beloved Messenger peace be upon him, and is now in the hands of our people of knowledge.
So, anything that has reached us over the last 1400 years is extremely scrutinised and must go through an extreme process of affirmation and negation before it is accepted as sahih or even hasan.
Karbala is of these highly important incidents, and for us to Understand the Killing of Hussein Ibn Ali radhiAllahu anhu, we first need to understand where the information comes from and then verify if indeed the information is authentic.
I will not attempt to be a textual-critic of any sorts, as that is not my field of expertise. I will however mention narrations and narrators, as that is closer to my field, and I will mention what is known about the primary sources, that speak about the Killing of Hussein (Maqtal Al-Hussein), alayhi salaam.
Side Note: If you have ever wondered why the shia say, Alayhi Salaam after the names of the Ahl Al-Bayt, you only need to look at the Sahih of Bukhari to see narrations that say the same. There are even narrations that speak of Aisha with Alayha Salaam after her name. It is an acceptable saying even in Sunni circles even though it’s not something that is practiced in this day and age.
Of course, as Sunni Muslims the most common source for us regarding the Karbala Incident is, Al Bidaya Wal Nihaya, by Ibn Kathir. Why? Because it’s the most available one and most easily accessible, and it seems that most speakers (not history students) seem to speak from Ibn Kathirs work.
Of the early sources for the Sunnis is also Ibn Hajr’s work, but the narrative is a little different, and concentrating on only one primary source saves a lot of preparation work. Anyone that has ever done proper university level research will know that it is a lot easier if we quote from only one source.
Now, At Tabaqat of Ibn Saad, also conveys the story, Ibn Saad was a major scholar of Hadith but when it comes to the incident of Karbala we do not get a chain of narrators, one of the sources he mentions is Al-Waqidi. Al Waqidi was known to be a liar in Madinah, so that creates a huge problem.
Tarikh At Tabari also narrates a short version of the incident, but that narration contains a weak narrator, Khalid Bin Yazid Ibn Assad is in the chain of narrators, and he was very weak, and that makes it unreliable.
Abu Arab At-Tameemi in his Al-Mahn, narrates the incident and that is also a very weak narration.
So, what then is, “the First source”?
Ibn Kathir quotes from this primary source, and that is the Maqtal Abu Mikhnaf, a work on the incident at Karbala by a man called; Abu Mikhnaf Ibn Yahya, who lived and wrote about the incident, approximately 100 years after Karbala. Abu Mikhnaf Ibn Yahya wasn’t just a Shi’i Scholar, he also somehow (miraculously) had access to, spy obtained letters from: Yazid to Hussein, The Kufan Peoples Letters to Hussein, Hussein’s Letters to the Kufan people, the letter of Muslim Ibn Aqeel to Hussein, Then Hussein’s response to his cousin Ibn Aqeel, then Ibn Aqeel’s response to Hussein, Ubaydillah Ibn Ziyad letters to Yazid, and so on goes the story.
You see, posessing all of these letters is a very far fetched idea. It is almost impossible to reconcile this claim with rational thought.
You see, there are no substantial proofs for what would be, these primary and best sources of the incident. This is all too loose and has no chains of narrators.
I propose based on the evidences that believing in Abu Mikhnafs work would be like, believing in the Gospel writers who lived 100 years after Jesus peace be upon him. It is a fairy tale! Just like the 12th Imam. Ibn Mikhnaf’s version creates a bias presentation, leaning toward the Ithna Ashar’a understanding of the incident.
What becomes an even greater bombshell, is that 800 years (Yes, Eight Hundred Years) after Abu Mikhnaf’s work, comes another work, titled the same way, by the same Author, but the content is different. It is this late version that is being sold to the masses, this is where the exaggeration and the beliefs of the Shi’a are based, and the leading Shi’I Hadith scholars say, “nobody knows where it came from.“
Couple known differences in the two books (by the same Author 800 years apart) is that in one work Hussein has between 70-100 people with him, and is attacked by 4,000 people, in the other book he is attacked by 80,000 people. In the early book he kills 1 (one) person, in the later book he kills 1,500 people. The greatest and most commonly spread exaggeration is the story of Abu Fadl Al-Abbas, Ali’s son from another wife (Not Fatima Az-Zahra radhiAllahu Anha), the Half brother of Hussain and Hassan, may Allah be Pleased with them both.
The story goes:
“Hussein is thirsty, and he sends his younger brother Al-Abbas to get him some water. Al-Abbas starts to get the water in some bags and he is attacked on his way back, and as he tries to drink some of that water (as he is now thirsty) he remembers Hussein and how thirsty he was, when he sent him to get the water. He defends himself and loses one arm in the battle. It is then said that, with one arm he killed 180 of the people that attacked him. Then his other arm is cut off (yes it is a copy of the Jafar Ibn Abu Talib incident at Mu’tah, for those that know the seerah), and then he places the sword in his mouth (I am not kidding here subhanAllah), and with the sword in his mouth he dies a martyr.“
The issue being, people believe this. Allahul musta’an.
As Hitler’s Propaganda Henchman, Goebbels said: “if repeated to you enough times, a lie will become the truth”.
In the original work Al-Abbas is not alone and is with other men and he successfully brings the water to Hussein. Now compare the two works, by the same author, 800 years apart.
This could be an earliest incident of a copy paste job in the history of Islam. This becomes a theme in the work, major incidents that were authentically attributed and narrated by the sahaba are used in this work and exaggerated upon, and all of them become the super powers of the Shi’a Imams. And we seek refuge with Allah.
The worst part of it all is that, The Zaydis, The Sunnis and The Ithna Ashari Shia, all quote from this later book. Those Sunnis that have lectures on the incident like Yasir Qadhi (on You Tube) also use bu Mikhnaf’s work, under the title of Ibn Kathir or Ibn Saad, or Tarikh At-Tabari. Do you see how complicated it gets.
Now, saying all of that, Alhamdulillah, we have enough of sahih narrations that when brought together will give us a clear understanding of the Killing of Hussein, without having to rely on the liars, Abu Mikhnaf’s work..
We have ahadith in Tarikh At-Tabari, Sahih Bukhari, Tabarani and the Musannaf of Ibn Abi Shayba. This is always the better option, using multiple sources is harder on the seeker of truth, but it is the scholarly thing to do, multiple narratives almost always confirm the truth, if they do not contradict one another.
I needed to get this part out before I write on the incident. Alhamdulillah.
Unfortunately, if you scour the internet you will only find Shi’i sites that write about the incident, and if you do find Sunni material, they also inadvertantly are using the same source, and that created an academic conundrum. Like the answer I found from Zakir Naik, that instructs the questioner to buy the book from Abu Mikhnaf in India for an in depth analysis. Allahul musta’an.
In sha Allah, I will be using authentic Sunni Narrations and Ahadith, to create a fresh narrative of the incident, and re-construct Al Karbala in a sahih way, check back for the second part of this article on Karbala, and the Killing of Hussein radhiAllahu Anhu.
May Allah have mercy upon the Family of our Beloved Messenger Muhammad salAllahu Alayhi, wa ‘Ala alihi wa sallam.
والله تعالى أعلم
وصلى اللهم وسلم وبارك على نبينا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه والتابعين
أخوك أبو ناصر