Al-Taff

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Al-Taff (Arabic: الطَفّ) which is another name for the area of Karbala was the last station on Imam Hussain’s path from Mecca to Kufa. Al-Taff lies west of Kufa along the alluvial plain of the Euphrates. The word al-Taff is frequently used in the literature of Ashura and Arabic poems as phrases such as "Yawm al-Taff" (Day of Taff), "Qatil al-Taff" (Casualties of al-Taff), and "Waq'at al-Taff" (Event of al-Taff) refer to the Battle of Karbala.

Location and Meaning[edit | edit source]

Al-Taff is the desert region that lies west of Kufa along the alluvial plain of the Euphrates. It is higher than the low-lying ground by the river and forms the transition to the central Arabian plateau. Al-Taff has several meanings. According to the authorities quoted by Yaqut (iii. 359), al-taff means an area raised above the surrounding country. It also means a seaside or a riverbank. Since Karbala was on the side of Euphrates, it came to be called "al-Taff".

Events[edit | edit source]

Leaving Qasr Bani Muqatil, Al-Hussain and his companions continued their way towards Kufa. On the way, Imam was heard repeating: Inna lillah wa inna ilayhi rajia’un, wal hamdu lillahi rabbil ‘a lamin... (We belong to Allah and to Him shall we return, and all Praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of the worlds).

His son, Ali al-Akbar, heard him and asked about the reason which prompted him to keep repeating these statements. Said the Imam, “I drowsed for a moment, whereupon I saw a horseman saying, ‘These people are marching as fates march towards them,' so I realized that we are being eulogized.” “May Allah never permit you to see any evil,” said Ali al-Akbar,

“Are we not right?” “We are, by the One to Whom all the servants shall return,” Al-Hussain answered. “O father! In that case, we do not mind at all having to die so long as we are right,” said Ali. Al-Hussain said, “May Allah reward you for being such a good son with the best of rewards whereby He rewards a son on behalf of his father.”[1]

Al-Hussain kept marching till he arrived at Ninawa.[2]

There, an armed man riding a camel was seen coming in their direction. They waited for him. He turned out to be a messenger sent by ibn Ziyad to al-Hurr carrying a letter wherein he was ordering al-Hurr to be rough in treating Al-Hussain and not to permit him to set up his camp anywhere other than in the wilderness where there was neither access to water nor any natural fortifications.

Such was the letter which al-Hurr himself had read to Al-Hussain who said to him, “Let us camp at Ninawa, or al-Ghadiriyya, or Shufayya.” “I cannot do that,” said al-Hurr, “for the man [governor] has already assigned men to spy on me.”[3]

Zuhayr ibn al-Qayn said, “O son of the Messenger of Allah! Fighting this band is easier for us than fighting those who will come after them. By my life! Armies will come to us which our eyes had never seen before.”

Al-Hussain said to him, “I shall not be the one who fights them first.” Then Zuhayr said, “There is a village nearby at the bank of the Euphrates; it is defensible and it overlooks the Euphrates from all but one direction.” Al-Hussain asked him about its name, and when he came to know that it was called “al-’Aqr,”[4] [which means in Arabic “hamstringing”], the Imam said, “We seek refuge with Allah against hamstringing.”

Al-Hussain then turned to al-Hurr and asked him to keep on marching further.

They all marched till they reached an area called Karbala. There, al-Hurr and his company stopped in front of Al-Hussain, forbidding him from going any further, saying, “This place is near the Euphrates.” It is said that as they were marching, al-Hussain's horse stopped and refused to move just as Allah had caused the she-camel of the Prophet to stop at the Hudaibiya.[5]

It was then that Al-Hussain inquired about the name of that place. Zuhayr said to him, “Keep on marching and do not ask about anything till Allah brings us ease. This land is called al-Taff.” He asked him whether it had any other name, so he told him that it was also called “Karbala’”. It was then that the Imam started weeping.[6]

He said, “O Allah! I seek refuge with You against the karb [affliction] and bala’ [trial and tribulation]![7] Here shall we camp, and here will our blood be spilled and our graves be dug! My grandfather the Messenger of Allah had told me so.” [8]

By Allah! Never shall I forget, even if all do,

How his charging mare stood at al-Taff,

O mare of his! Did the hand of fate tie you

So you stood and refused to budge?

You used to be faster than a cloud's lightning;

Calamity descends whether you speed or not.

Should you not have avoided the road and strayed

From that valley to the wide expanse?

How did you take him to perdition, may you

Lose your father, how dared you?

Why did you not refuse, why?

O what a great stand when

Those throngs did gather and stand!

A great stand that shook the foundations

Of Allah's Arsh a great shaking,

So shall Yazid stand One Day

When it will be said to Ahmad:

“Stand up and intercede!”

A stand, it was, followed by a fall

That gave us a drink hard to take

A stand, it was, that caused Muhammad's progeny

To always grieve till the Pretender, for eternity.[9]

Source[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. al-Tabari, Tarikh, Vol. 6, p. 231. On p. 48 of Maqtal al-’Awalim (of ‘Abdullah Nur-Allah al-Bahrani), it is stated that “Al-Husayn took a nap in the after-noon at al-Udhayb. He saw in a vision someone saying, ‘You are speeding, yet death is speedily taking you to Paradise.'” According to p. 226, Vol. 1, of al-Khawarizmi's book Maqtal al-Husayn, al-Husayn reached al-Tha’labiyya where he slept in the after-noon. He woke up weeping. His son, ‘Ali al-Akbar, asked him why he was weeping. ‘Son! This is an hour in which no vision tells a lie! Just as I felt drowsiness overtaking me..., etc.'”
  2. According to Vol. 10, bound edition No. 7, dated 1330 A.H./1912 A.D., it was one of the Taff villages, a town full of scholars and scholarship. It reached its zenith during the time of [[Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq]]. At the beginning of the third century, it did not amount to anything.
  3. al-Mufid, Kitab al-Irshad.
  4. al-Ghadiriyya is named after Ghadira, a clan of Banu Asad. It is said to lie to the north of ‘Awn’s grave. In Manahil al-Darb by Sayyid Ja’far al-A’raji al-Kadimi, a manuscript at the private library of the authority Shaikh Agha Buzurg al-Tehrani, ‘Awn is the son of ‘Abdullah Ibn Ja’far Ibn Mar’i Ibn ‘Ali Ibn al-Hasan al-Banafsaj Ibn Idris Ibn Dawud Ibn Ahmad al-Mas’ud Ibn ‘Abdullah Ibn Musa al-Juhn Ibn ‘Abdullah Ibn al-Mahz Ibn al-Hassan II Ibn [Imam] [[al-Hasan]] son of the Commander of the Faithful. He lived at the holy city of al-Ha’ir, and he had an estate two farasangs from Karbala’ where he died. He was buried there, and his grave lies under a dome. His shrine is sought by pilgrims and by those who have nathr. Many people are confused about him. Some say he is the son of [[‘Ali Ibn Abu Talib]], whereas others say he is the son of ‘Abdullah Ibn Ja’far at-Tayyar, since the latter was buried at the martyrs' cemetery at al-Hair. There are ruins there of a citadel known as Banu Asad's citadel. As regarding Shufayya, it is a well belonging to Banu Asad. Al-’Aqr used to be the area where the people of Bachtnuzzer used to reside. The Battle of ‘Aqr is the one wherein Yazid Ibn al-Muhallab was killed in 102 A.H./720 A.D. All these places are villages close to each other. On p. 95, Vol. 3, of his concordance titled Al-Mu’jam fima Ista’jam, al-Bakri says, “People used to say that the offspring of Harb sacrificed their religion in the Battle of Karbala’; the offspring of Marwan sacrificed their manliness in the Battle of ‘Aqr. It means that the first did so when they killed al-Husayn at Karbala’, whereas the other party did so when they killed Yazid son of al-Muhallab at ‘Aqr.” On p. 16 of his book Tarikh al-Mosul, Ibn Iyas (who died in 334 A.H./945 A.D.) cites Kathir Ibn ‘Abdul-Rahman al-Khuza’i saying, “Goodness, by Allah, was annihilated when the son of al-Muhallab was killed.” And on p. 16, it is stated that al-Farazdaq eulogized Yazid Ibn al-Muhallab with verses one of which is the following: No female ever conceived nor did any deliver Anyone after the one killed at ‘Aqr.
  5. al-Turayhi, Muntakhab, p. 308, Hayderi Press edition (dated 1369 A.H./1950 A.D.).
  6. Ibn Shadqam, Tuhfat al-Azhar (a manuscript). On p. 209, Vol. 3, of Siyar A’lam al-Nubala’, al-Thahbi writes saying that when al-Husayn asked which land it was, and when he was told it was called Karbala’, he said, “Karb (affliction) and bala’ (trial and tribulation).”
  7. al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 10, p. 188.
  8. See Al-Luhuf of Ibn Tawus.
  9. Excerpted from a 93-line poem by Shaikh Muhammad Ibn Sharif Ibn Falah al-Kadimi, the same poet who had composed the “Kerrari Poem” in praise of the Commander of the Faithful, one critiqued by as many as eighteen of his contemporary poets. Both poems are among the manuscripts at the library belonging to the authority critic al-Amini, author of the Al-Ghadir encyclopaedia.