Arabic Accounts of Al-Husayn's Martyrdom

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Arabic Accounts of al-Husayn's Martyrdom
Arabic Accounts of al-Husayn's Martyrdom.jpg
AuthorI. K. A. Howard
Publisherin CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

The book Arabic Accounts of al-Husayn's Martyrdom is an attempt to reconstruct the tradition of historical writing about the martyrdom of the Imam al-Husayn.

About the Author[edit | edit source]

Ian Keith Anderson Howard, 1939-2013. I. K. A. Howard, who died in March 2013, was a distinguished scholar of Islamic studies, and one of the few Western scholars to devote themselves the study of Shi’ah Islam. He translated a number of important Shi’ah texts and wrote a series of articles on Shi’ah Islam at a time when there was little other work being undertaken on this important subject in Western universities, as such he can be seen as a pioneer in the field.

About the Book[edit | edit source]

This booklet published in CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017, has 28 pages.

It examines the importance of the martyrdom of the Imam al‑Husayn in the great attention paid to it by 16 early Muslim historians whose works have survived to the present day.

Abstract of chapters[edit | edit source]

Introduction[edit | edit source]

The author deduces the historical tradition from the writings of later historians. In attempting to describe this historical tradition, he has divided the account into ten phases. He examines both the early works, and monographs written later about the martyrdom of the Imam al‑Husayn (in the third and fourth centuries).

Al-Asbagh b. Nubata[edit | edit source]

The first known account of the martyrdom of the Imam al‑Husayn is by Al‑Asbagh b. Nubata, who was a prominent member of the Shi’i community who came from Kufa.

Jabir b. Yazid al-Ju`fi[edit | edit source]

The second account is attributed to Jabir b. Yazid al‑Ju`fi who was a well-known Shi’i scholar and follower of the Imam al‑Baqir. His verse tells that the blood shed by the tribesmen will be reckoned against them.

Ammar b. Mu`awiya[edit | edit source]

Jabir's contemporary, Ammar b. Mu`awiya al‑Duhni begins his report with a vivid introduction in which he says that he asked the Imam al‑Baqir to tell him about the death of al‑Husayn so that it might be as if he was there himself. In this part, there is an account which agrees in its basic outline with the version of Ibn al‑Kalbi, while being much shorter and briefer.

Al-Masu’di[edit | edit source]

Al‑Mas'udi gives a slightly different version of Ibn Ziyad's entry into Kufa and adds some descriptions of the attempt to persuade al‑Husayn not to go to Kufa. He then reverts to `Ammar's account and faithfully reproduces it.

Awana b. al-Hakam[edit | edit source]

Awana presents his reports without any isnad. This suggests that they are taken from a continuous account which he had written. Awana seems to be the only source for the story of Yazid consulting his father's Christian advisor, Sergius.

Abu Mikhnaf[edit | edit source]

According to Abu Mikhnaf's reports, it can be said that he is anti‑Umayyad and in favour of the Imam al‑Husayn, but whether he was actually a Shi’i is questionable and the majority of the reporters suggest that he was reporting from an existing literature.

Hisham b. al-Kalbi[edit | edit source]

Hisham b. al-Kalbi does supplement Abu Mikhnaf's reports, which was already discussed.

Nasr b. Muzahim[edit | edit source]

Nasr b. Muzahim was a Shi’i, and tended to favour the Shi’i tradition. If his complete work had survived, there would have been a much fuller Shi’i version of his account.

Al-Mada’ini[edit | edit source]

There is no clear idea of the account of al‑Mada'ini. It is possible that it is the main source of al‑Baladhuri for Abu Mikhnaf.

Al-Waqidi[edit | edit source]

Unfortunately, little or nothing survives of the monograph written by al‑Waqidi. It is claimed by both Ibn Nadim and his secretary, Ibn Sa'd, that al‑Waqidi was a Shi’i.

Khalifa b. Khayyat[edit | edit source]

Khalifa b. Khayyat writes annalistic history, and therefore has to mention the death of the Imam al‑Husayn. He gives a list of the members of the Imam's family who were killed.

Al‑Baladhuri[edit | edit source]

Al‑Baladhuris account gives the impression of being the most historically balanced, in the sense of presenting all possible versions.

Al-Dinawari[edit | edit source]

Al‑Dinawari gives us a fairly full account. He follows the traditional account, but it is probably based on a later recension of Abu Mikhnaf's work. In effect, al‑Dinawari's version is basically presenting the standard version with a high degree of sympathy and support for the Imam al‑Husayn.

Al-Ya’qubi[edit | edit source]

Al‑Ya`qubi, who was almost certainly a Shi’i, has devoted little space to the account of the martyrdom of the Imam al‑Husayn in his history. Generally, his account gives the impression of being a rather hurried summary of Abu Mikhnaf and it does not add appreciably to our knowledge of the historical tradition.

Ibn A’tham al-Kufi[edit | edit source]

Ibn A'tham al‑Kufi gives us the most embellished account of the martyrdom of the Imam al‑Husayn. He prefaces his account by including lists of isnads, which he claims are his sources. His work is a survey of the persecution of the descendants of Abu Talib. His account is brief in comparison with al‑Tabari and al‑Baladhuri, but he does give a useful account.

Al-Mufid[edit | edit source]

Shaykh al‑Mufid in his work Kitab al‑Irshad, presents an account of the martyrdom of the Imam al‑Husayn. He claims that his authorities are Ibn al‑Kalbi and al‑Mada'ini.

Source[edit | edit source]