The Martyrdom of Imam Husain (as) in Sunni Sources

Dated: October 11, 2016

Imam Hussain’s Martyrdom in Sunni Hadiths
We are often asked by our Sunni brethren, why do we mourn for Imam Hussain (as), why do we beat our chests, and who killed him? Even such false accusations are levelled at us that the Shias killed him.
To these brothers and sisters, we say that Sunni hadiths themselves have given numerous narrations, considered to be authentic, that talk about the Prophet predicting the tragedy of Karbala, crying over it, and revealing who would be behind his massacre.
The Martyrdom of Imam Hussain (as) in Sunni Hadiths

Here we quote some of these hadiths, all from Sunni sources, about the martyrdom of Imam Hussain a.s.
During Imam Hussain’s life as a child

One narration from the Prophet’s wife Aisha tells us that she narrated:
The Prophet (S) said: "Gabriel informed me that my grandson al- Husain (as) will be killed after me in the land of al-Taff and brought me this Turbah (mudd/soil) and informed me that this is the soil of the place he will be martyred."
Sunni reference:
 Tabaqat,by Ibn Sa’d, al-Tabarani, as quoted in: al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar Haythami, Ch. 11, section 3, p292
 The Narration of Anas bin Malik 

حدثنا مؤمل حدثنا عمارة بن زادان حدثنا ثابت عن أنس بن مالك أن ملك القطر استأذن ربه أن يأتي النبي فأذن له، فقال لأم سلمة املكي علينا الباب لا يدخل علينا أحد، قال وجاء الحسين ليدخل فمنعته، فوثب فدخل فجعل يقعد على ظهر النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم وعلى منكبه وعلى عاتقه، قال: فقال الملك للنبي أتحبه؟. قال نعم. قال: أما إن أمتك ستقتله، وإن شئت أريتك المكان الذي يقتل فيه. فضرب بيده فجاء بطينة حمراء، فأخذتها أم سلمة فصرتها في خمارها. قال قال ثابت: بلغنا أنها كربلاء. أحمد ٢٤٢/٣

Narrated Mu'ammal, narrated Umaarah bin Zaadaan, narrated Thaabit from Anas bin Malik that the Angel of Rain took permission from his lord to visit the Prophet  so He gave him permission. The Prophet  told Umm Salamah  to watch the door so no one could come in. Al-Hussain  came wanting to enter and I stopped him. But he jumped, entered, and started sitting on the back of the Prophet  [al-Hussain was a young child at the time], and on his shoulders. Then the angel asked the Prophet , “Do you love him?”. He said, “yes”. The angel said, “Indeed your Ummah will kill him, and if you wish, I can show you the place where he will be killed”. Then, he struck with his hand and came with red clay. So Umm Salamah  took it and tied on it in her veil. Thaabit [the sub-narrator] said, “it has reached us that it's Karbala”. [Recorded in Musnad al-imam Ahmad, vol. 3, p. 242]
The Narration of Umm Salamah, the Wife of the Prophet 

حدثنا وكيع قال حدثني عبد الله بن سعيد عن أبيه عن عائشة أو أم سلمة. قال وكيع: شك عبد الله بن سعيد. أن النبي قال لإحداهما: لقد دخل علي البيت ملك لم يدخل علي قبلها فقال لي: إن ابنك هذا حسين مقتول، وإن شئت أريتك من تربة الأرض التي يقتل بها. قال: فأخرج تربة حمراء. مسند الإمام أحمد ٢٩٤/٦

Narrated Wakee', narrated Abdullah bin Sa'eed, from his father from Aisha or Umm Salamah [Wakee' said this doubt came from Abdullah bin Sa'eed] that the Prophet  said to one of them [either Aisha or Umm Salamah ], “An angel entered the house on me, he never entered on me before, and he said to me, 'this son of yours, al-Hussain, will be killed, and if you wish I can show you the soil from the earth where he will be killed'. Then he took out some red soil”. [Recorded in Musnad al-imam Ahmad, vol. 6 p. 294]
 During Imam Husain’s life as an adult

The Narration of Ali bin Abi Talib (as)

حدثنا محمد بن عبيد حدثنا شرحبيل بن مدرك عن عبد الله بن نجي عن أبيه أنه سار مع علي، وكان صاحب مطهرته، فلما حاذى نينوى وهو منطلق إلى صفين فنادى علي: اصبر أبا عبد الله، اصبر أبا عبد الله بشط الفرات، قلت وماذا؟ قال: دخلت على النبي ذات يوم وعيناه تفيضان، قلت: يا نبي الله أغضبك أحد؟ ما شأن عينيك تفيضان؟ قال: بل قام من عندي جبريل قبل فحدثني أن الحسين يقتل بشط الفرات، قال: فقال هل لك إلى أن أشمك من تربته؟ قال قلت نعم. فمد يده فقبض قبضة من تراب فأعطانيها فلم أملك عيني أن فاضت. أخرجه أحمد ٨٥/١

Narrated Muhammad bin Udaid, narrated Shurahbil bin Mudrik, from Abdullah bin Nujayy, from his father, that he traveleld with Ali, and he used to carry his purifying water.  When they were next to Nainawa on his way to Siffin, Ali  called, “Be patient Oh Abu Abdillah (the kunya of his son al-Hussain), be patient Oh Abu Abdillah by the banks of the Euphrates.  I [Nujayy] said, “what is this?”]  He [Ali] said, “I entered upon the Prophet  one day while his eyes were shedding tears.  I said, 'what is it with yours eyes shedding tears?'.  He said, 'Rather, Jibreel was here earlier and he told me that al-Hussain will be killed by the bank of the Euphrates and he [Jibreel] said 'do you want me to provide you a sample from his soil [where he will be killed] so you can smell it?' and I said 'yes'.  So he extended his hand and he took a grip from the soil and gave it to me so I couldn't help my eyes to fill with tears'”.  [Recorded by Ahmad, vol. 1, p. 85.]
Around the time of Ashura in 61 AH, the year Imam Hussain a.s was martyred

There are two narrations:

Narrated Salma:
"I went to visit Umm Salamah and found her weeping. I asked her what was making her weep and she replied that she had seen Allah’s Messenger (S) (meaning in a dream) with dust on his head and beard. She asked him what was the matter and he replied, `I have just been present at the slaying of al-Husain.’"
- Sahih Tirmidhi, per:
- Mishkat al-Masabih, by Khatib al-Tabrizi, English Version, Tradition # 6157

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Abbas:
One day at midday he saw in a dream the Prophet (S) dishevelled and dusty with a bottle containing blood in his hand and said, "You for whom I would give my father and mother as ransom, what is this?”
He replied, "This is the blood of al-Husain and his companions which I have been collecting today.” He told that he was reckoning that time and found that he had been killed at that time.
- Musnad Ahmad Hanbal;
- Dala’il an-Nubuwwah, by al-Bayhaqi; per:
- Mishkat al-Masabih, by Khatib al-Tabrizi, English Version, Tradition # 6172
The skies shed blood in grief of Imam Husayn (as)

Allamah Ibn Hajar Makki writes:
“Abu Said says that on the day of the martyrdom of Husayn, there was fresh blood found under every stone lifted; and the sky also rained blood whose result was evident on clothes for ages. Abu Naim says that on the day of the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (as) our containers (of water) were full of blood.”
Sawaiq al-Muhriqa, Page 192
It is written in Tafseer al-Jalalayn, page 411 Annotation no.7 (published in Karachi) Under “Fama Bakta Alaihim Sama” Sa’di has been quoted as saying:
“When the oppressed Imam was martyred, the sky wept on his martyrdom; the weeping of the sky is its being red and anger is the reason behind the bloody tears.”
Beating Oneself – In Sunni Sources

On the issue of why  Shias beat themselves, we present the evidence that in the  Ahl’ul Sunnah’s authority work Ma’arij al Nubuwwah, Chapter 1 page 248:
“Adam was so distressed that he smashed his hands onto his knees and the skin from his hands caused gashes from which bone could be seen”.
This is clearly a case of Adam a.s. hitting himself in grief, as a Prophet. Thus hitting oneself is a natural expression of grief. It may not be in some countries and cultures such as England, but emotional distress and very open gestures of crying and lamenting are the norm in Italy, Spain, South America, and the Indian subcontinent.
Hitting oneself is also evident from the Quran. In Surah adh-Dhaariyaat we read that Sara (as) struck her face when she was told that she would conceive a baby.

Then came forward his wife in grief, she smote her face and said (what! I) An old barren woman?”
Quran 51:29
“Faskat” does not just mean rub or touch, it means slap and this is evidenced from Sahih Muslim Book 030, Number 5851, Bab Fadail Musa:

Abu Hurraira reported that the Angel of Death was sent to Moses (peace be upon him) to inform of his Lord’s summons. When he came, he (Moses) boxed him [Sakka] and his eye was knocked out. He (the Angel of Death) came back to the Lord and said: You sent me to a servant who did not want to die. Allah restored his eye to its proper place (and revived his eyesight), and then said: Go back to him and tell him that if he wants life he must place his hand on the back of an ox, and he would be granted as many years of life as the number of hair covered by his hand. He (Moses) said: My Lord what would happen then He said: Then you must court death. He said: Let it be now. And he supplicated Allah to bring him close to the sacred land. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: If I were there, I would have shown you his grave beside the road at the red mound.

This has also been reported in Sahih Bukhari, Book 23 Volume 2, Book 23, Number 423, Book of Funerals.
The slapping of Prophet Ibraheem (as)’s wife Sara is proven from the Qur’an. The Qur’an tells us to adhere to the ways of the people of Ibraheem (as), so if the Shi’a beat themselves whilst mourning for Imam Husain (as) such acts are lawful.
Certain sahaba also hit themselves in grief:  we read in Ahl’ul Sunnah’s authoritative work Aqd al Fareed, Volume 1 page 342:

ولما نُعي النًّعمان بن مُقَرَّن إلى عمر بن الخطاب وضع يدَه على رأسه وصاح يا أسفي على النعمان

When Umar received news of the death of Numan ibn Muqran, he placed his hand on his head and wailed: ‘O my grief for Numan!’
We find a similar narration in Kanz al Ummal, Vol.8, Page 117, Kitab al Maut.

 Nothing could be more certain on this matter than the beating and mourning of the wives of the Prophet (saww) on the news of his death.  As narrated by al Tabari in History Volume 9 page 183 (English translation by Ismail Poonawala):

Abbas narrates:
“I heard Ayesha saying “The Messenger of God died on my bosom during my turn, I did not wrong anyone in regard to him. It was because of my ignorance and youthfulness that the Messenger of God died while he was in my lap. Then I laid his head on a pillow and got up beating my chest and slapping my face along with the women”.
Ibn Katheer  in al Bidayah wa al Nihayah Volume 5 page 420 published by Nafees Academy Karachi records the event as follows:
“Rasulullah (s) died while he was in my lap. Then I laid his head on a pillow and got up beating my face along with other women”.
1. Bidayah wa al Nihayah (Urdu), Volume 5, page 420
2. Sirah Ibn Ishaq, page 713 (declared ‘Hasan’)
3. Sirah Ibn Hisham, Volume 4 page 655
4. Musnad Abi Yala, Vol 8 page 63 Hadith 4586 (Hussain Salim Asad declared it ‘Hasan’ and stated that that the same tradition is recorded in Musnad Ahmad with ‘Sahih’ chain) 
5. Irawa al-Ghalil, Volume 7 page 86 (Declared ‘Hasan’ by Al-Albaani)

Likewise we read in Imta al-Asma by Maqrezi, Volume 2 page 137:

وقد قامت أمهات المؤمنين يلتدمن على صدورهن وقد وضعن الجلابيب على رؤوسهن ونساء الأنصار يضربن الوجوه وقد بحت حلوقهن من الصياح

“The mothers of believers began to hit their chests and put veil upon their heads, while the women of Ansar were hitting their faces and their voice got hoarse due to crying.”
Do we need to say any more? Would the wives of the Prophet (s) indulge in a Haraam activity? Look at the beating ritual by the women of Madina. Ibn Katheer mentions how extreme that beating was that their faces reddened with slapping.
We read in Madarij al Nubuwah, Volume 2 page 441, whilst discussing the death of the Prophet (s):
“When the situation of the Prophet worsened, Bilal emerged beating his head and loudly wailing,’I wish my mother had not given birth to me, and that if she had I wish that I had died before this day’”
 Was the Muazzin and loyal Servant of the Prophet (s) ignorant of the verses on patience? Even in this case none of the companions raised any objection at the action of Bilal. Moreover the Holy Prophet (s) was yet alive and not dead. This is the extreme extent of grief. Then how can similar action for Imam Husayn (as) be prohibited?
At the time of Uthman’s death, we read in Tareekh Kamil Volume 3 page 89:

“When Uthman was killed his killers intended to sever his head. His wives Naila and Umm’ul Baneen lay over him screamed and began to beat their faces”
Narrations also record that Uthman’s daughter also acted likewise. As evidence we shall rely on the following Sunni works:
Al Bidayah wa al Nihaya, Volume 7 page 371
Tareekh Tabari, Volume 6 page 302
Tareekh Aathim Kufi, page 159
“Ibn Jareer narrates that when the killer intended to sever Uthman’s head, the women began to scream and strike their faces. This included Uthman’s wives Naila, Ummul Baneen and daughter”.
Al Bidayah wa al Nihaya, Volume 7, page 371
If the wives of Uthman can mourn Uthman’s killing in this way then the Shi’a of Maula ‘Ali (as) can likewise mourn the slaying of Imam Husayn (as) in this way.
In esteemed Sunni works we find that Muslims mourned at the death of Ahmed bin Hanbal:
Tareekh Baghdad, Volume 4 page 422
Hayaat al Haywaan, page 101

قال وسمعت الوركاني يقول يوم مات احمد بن حنبل وقع الماتم والنوح في أربعة أصناف من الناس المسلمين واليهود والنصارى والمجوس

‘He (Abu Bakr al-Makki) said: ‘I heard al-Warkani saying: ‘The day on which Ahmad bin Hanbal died, in it ‘Matam’ and lamentation took place among four types of people, the Muslims, the Jews, the Christians and the Zoroastrians”.
The Muslims killed Ibn Hanbal and also mourned him. If Matam is such an extreme sin, then why was such sin committed for this Sunni Imam?
Sunni sources also claim that the heavens mourned at the death of Umar.
We read in Riyadh al Nadira page 187:
“When Umar died the jinns recited a eulogy ‘Umar female Djinns are mourning you in a loud voice and they are beating their faces’
Seven days of mourning were declared for Khalid bin Waleed.
We read in Kanz al Ummal Volume Six page 118:
“The narrator said people had attributed the prohibition of elegies to Umar, but the fact is that when Khalid bin Waleed died the women of Banu Mugheer indulged in seven days of mourning. They reddened their chests, wailed, food was distributed and elegies were recited. Umar did not place any prohibition on this mourning”.
When Ahl’ul Sunnah’s great hero dies elegies and self beating occurs under the watchful eye of Umar and he takes no remedial steps to quash this alleged Bidah.

Did the Shia Kill Imam Hussain (as)?

Often the charge is levelled at us that we killed Imam Hussain (as) and are mourning out of guilt. This is a slanderous allegation. The Shias are the people who have been fiercely loyal to the Prophet (sawa) from the beginning: every utterance and action of his has been sacred for us, and at every step we have followed every command. This includes his request and the Quranic verse that the Prophet asks nothing from us but following  the Quran and love for his family. His companions were also faithful in this command – Bilal al-Habishi, Salman al-Farsi, Meesam al-Tammaar, Abu Dharr al-Ghifari, Owais al-Qarini, Ayub al-Ansari – were all loyal to Imam Ali (as) and the Ahlul Bayt (as). The Shias follow in their footsteps: the few Shias from Kufa who were loyal to Imam Hussain (as) such as Mukhtar al-Saqafi, Meesam al-Tammaar – were arrested and jailed immediately. The rest of the Kufans who called Imam but then turned traitors were not the Shias of Ali but were the Shias of Yazid, for they all were bought by him or succumbed to their fears. Such traitors were from the companions. As many sunni scholars also have pointed out, Imam Hussain (as) was murdered by the descendants of certain companions of the Prophet, especially Umar ibn Saad, Yazid ibn Muawiya, not by the Shias.
Hence, it is very clear, that mourning and beating oneself is a natural expression of grief and is a question of Love. Those who love Imam Hussain (as) will naturally mourn him even more than their own loved ones. And it is also clear that the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (as) was foretold in Sunni hadiths.
Some of our Sunni brethren have been joining us throughout the month of Muharram mourning, attending our gatherings, learning, crying, and mourning for the Prophet’s most beloved grandson.  World Ahlul Bayt Islamic League (WABIL) invites all of you to contact us for further information on our website, and to join Shias in their mourning rituals so that together we may condole the Prophet and his Ahlul Bayt and show our loyalty to Imam Hussain (as).
Sayed Mohammad Al-Musawi
World Ahlul Bayt Islamic League (WABIL)
London (UK)

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