Ali Asqar ibn Hussain

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Ali Asqar ibn Hussain
Native name
عـلی الأصغر بـن الـحـسـیـن
DiedFriday, 10th of Muharram, 61 A.H./ 10 October 680 (Gregorian Calendar)
Karbala’, ‘Iraq
Resting placein Imam al-Hussain's grave in Karbala.
Known forThe youngest martyr in the Battle of Karbala
  • Hussain ibn Ali (father)
  • Rabab (mother)
RelativesMuhammad (maternal great grandfather), Ali ibn Abi Talib (paternal grandfather), Fatima (maternal grandmother), Hasan ibn Ali (uncle), Muhsin ibn Ali (father), Umm Kulthum bint Ali (aunt), Ali ibn Hussain- Sajjad (brother), Ali al-Akbar (brother)

Ali Asqar ibn Hussain (d. 10 Muharram 61/ 10 October 680), commonly known as ‘Ali al-Asqar (“younger ‘Ali”), was Imam Hussain’s youngest son. He was killed at the Battle of Karbala by an arrow shot at his throat and is commemorated annually by Shi’a community during Muharram rituals. He is the youngest martyr of the Battle of Karbala on the day of Ashura. He is given the title "Bab al-Hawa'ij".

Ali Asqar’s Birth and Martyrdom[edit | edit source]

His mother was Rabab bint Imraʾ al-Qays b. ʿAdi Kalbi.[1] According to various sources, he was a new-born child [2], or an infant. [3] After trying to reach the Euphrates River, Hussain, surrounded by his enemies and badly wounded, took ʿAbdallah in his lap. A man from the Banu Asad shot an arrow into the baby’s neck, killing him; Hussain gathered his blood in his hands, spilled it on the ground, and invoked God against the evil-doers. [4] Various later accounts confuse ʿAbdallah b. Hussain and ʿAbdallah b. Hasan, the latter of whom was killed defending his uncle Hussain. According to Tabari [5], the ʿAbdallah b. Hussain was killed by Hani b. Thabit Hazrami, and ʿAbdallah b. Hasan by Harmala b. Kahel. According to the later Persian tradition, ʿAbdallah b. Hussain was killed by Harmala b. Kahel Azdi, who shot an arrow through the baby’s throat.[6] Rawzat al-Shuhada adds that the arrow also penetrated Hussain’s arm; he removed it, stanched the bleeding, and took care not to spill a drop of blood on the ground. In various chronicles not concerned with Shiʿite tradition regarding the three sons of Hussain named ʿAli, there are further confusions; thus ʿAli Zayn-al-ʿAbedin is sometimes called ‘Ali Asqar instead of ʿAli Awsat.[7] In Tarikh-eQom [8] “Imam ʿAli Akbar” refers to Shahrbanuya’s son (i.e., Zayn-al-ʿAbedin), and “ʿAli Asqar, the son of Layla,” to ʿAli Akbar; ʿAbdallah (= ʿAli Asqar) is killed by an arrow in his mother’s arms.

Commemoration and Shi’i Rituals[edit | edit source]

In Muharram ceremonies and commemorations, ‘Ali Asqar is represented as an innocent child suffering unbearable thirst; his martyrdom provokes loud lamentations in the whole harem (and in Muharram assemblies). Popular iconography represents Hussain, generally riding a white stallion, holding ‘Ali Asqar in his arms before the enemy ranks; he says to them, “Oh people, even if in your opinion I am a sinner, this baby is sinless. Give him a sip of water!”.[9] ʿAli Asqar’s martyrdom is celebrated at length in Rawza-Khani literature [10]; in Cerulli’s collection of taʿziyas, he is not specifically mentioned, though his martyrdom is represented in the majles dedicated to the death of Imam Hussain.[11] It seems that in earlier taʿziya tradition a complete majles was dedicated to ‘Ali Asqar.[12] The infant’s cradle is a conspicuous element on the stage.[13] ‘Ali Asqar is also represented in Muharram processions [14] and celebrated in folklore. He is buried with other martyrs of Karbala near Imam Hussain’s grave.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Tabari, p. 387; Mofid, al-Ekhtesas, Tehran, 1379/1959-60, p. 83
  2. Yaʿqubi, II, pp. 290f.
  3. one-year-old in Balʿami; Tarikh, p. 268; Chronique IV, p. 43; six months in the Arabic “historical romance” of Ebn Taʾus Taʾusi, tr. F. Wüstenfeld, Der Tod des Husein ben ʿAli und die Rache, Göttingen, 1883, p. 91
  4. Tabari, II, pp. 359-60; Baḷʿami, p. 268; Chronique IV, p. 44
  5. II, p. 387
  6. Hussain Waʿez ashefi, Rawzat al-Shuhada, ed. M. Ramazani, Tehran, 1341 Sh./1962, p. 343; Habib al-siar [Tehran], II, p. 55
  7. e.g., Dinavari, Cairo, 1330/1912, p. 256; Habib al-siar II, p. 61
  8. ed. S. J. Ṭehrani, Tehran, 1313 Sh./1934, pp. 195ff.
  9. Rawzat al-Shuhada, p. 342; Habib al-siar II, p. 55
  10. e.g., Jawhari, Tufan al-bokaʾ, Tehran, n.d., pp. 254-59
  11. Rossi and Bombaci, Elenco, nos. 539, 576, 583, 603/1, 699
  12. A. Chodzko’s collection, Cat. Bib. Nat., Supplément persan, no. 993, drame no. 23
  13. see, e.g., the list of properties in Rossi and Bombaci, Elenco, no. 603/1
  14. H. Massé, Croyances et coutumes persanes, Paris, 1938, I, p. 127, after S. G Wilson

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • See also Y. Lassy, The Muharram Mysteries among the Azerbeijan Turks of Caucasia, Helsingfors, 1916, pp. 39ff., 99, 124.
  • E. Rossi and A. Bombaci, Elenco di drammi religiosi persiani (fondo mss. Vaticani Cerulli), Vatican City, 1961 (indices).
  • H. ul-Ameene, Islamic Shiʿite Encyclopaedia, Beirut, 1973, IV, pp. 172ff.
  • J. Calmard, Le Culte de l’Imām Ḥusayn, Etude sur la commémoration du drame de Karbaladans l’Iran pré-safavide, thesis, University of Paris III (Sorbonne), May, 1975, index and Tableau A, Tableau B. (J. Calmard).

Source[edit | edit source]