When we want to study the march of Imam Hussein (a.s.), we have to take it as a whole. We have to study how he made peace as well as when he made war. In both cases, he was a revolutionary. To engage in a revolution does not mean only fighting in a direct way; you might fight with when you hold your sword in your hand, as well as when it is on your side. In many cases, you might fight by preparing the circumstances, and the base that could face the challenges. Such a war might be more effective in the beginning than resorting to arms.
A war by means of peace
How did Imam Hussein (a.s.) start his war through Imam Hassan (a.s.)'s peace. They both made a truce with Muawiyah, because the army was exhausted, and the people were unaware of the real picture, as a result of the wars from the beginning of Imam Ali (a.s.)'s caliphate until his martyrdom, which veiled the deviated rule of the Umayyad rule.
People lacked a clear vision. Wars usually make people preoccupied with what is going on-especially when one of the parties is victorious. Moreover, the fighters were tried and they were not enthusiastic to go to war. The tribal leaders benefited from this exhaustion and were able to convert it to benefit its own interests. The war in these circumstances represented a loss for the cause and not only for the person.
Imam Al- Hassan (a.s.) wanted to give the people a chance to experience the rule of the Umayyads, and learn how deviated they were. The revolution would then be a natural reaction that people will reach as a result of their own experience.
And this what happened, and people began to learn the type of class discrimination, partisanship and fanaticism the Umayyad rule represented, especially how they used to employ their own people and leave the others no matter how qualified they were.
Then in the end, Muawiyah who promised Imam Al-Hassan (a.s.) to be the caliph after him, conspired and poisoned the Imam (a.s.). When the Imam (a.s.) was martyred, Muawiyah wanted to force the people to pledge loyalty to his son, Yazid. A man stood carrying bags of money in one hand and a sword in the other had saying: “Who pledges the loyalty will have this (pointing to the money) and who refuses will have that (pointing to this sword).”
Such tyranny aggravated, and the honorable companion, Hujr bin Udai was killed along, with his son and some of his followers, because he refused to renounce Imam Ali (a.s.).
This killing was met with the protest of Aisha, the mother of believers, since the killing of Hujr was a terrorist act, for he was known for his piety.
Then, cursing Imam Ali (a.s.) was passed as a law in all Friday prayers and Eids and in all parts of the Islamic state.
This rule of tyranny aggravated until people could no longer tolerate it, and revolution became a natural reaction that everybody was talking about.
Then, the whole situation was further aggravated, when Muawiyah asked the people to pledge their loyalty to his son, Yazid.
He stood up in a decisive stand that gave the issue its significant size and said: we are the family of prophethood whom the Quran was revealed to, while Yazid is a dissolute man who drinks wine and kills innocent people despite Allah's prohibition. And ended by saying: A man like me does not pledge loyalty to a man like him.
Revolution on Tyranny
Thus, Imam Hussein declared his opposition to the tyrant rule. Then he started to prepare the psychological atmosphere for leaving Al-Medina. He chose to leave the people before the ninth of Zil-Hijja while the pilgrims were on their way to Mina. He transformed his Hajj into an Umra and left the people who were waiting for the Imam to be with them on the Mount of Arafa. The people were heading for Mina while he was heading for Iraq.
Why did the Imam take such a step?
He wanted the people to wonder about why he did not leave straight to Iraq from Makkah, but left the day the people were getting ready to stand at Arafah, to initiate a revolution against Yazid and the Umayyad rule.
He also left in an interesting way. Usually a rebel would not take with him his family and children and those of his, but the Imam did just that to create a feeling of protest in the eyes of everyone who saw the convoy making the people feel that even the Imam's family and children were threatened by the tyrant ruler, and that it would not be safe to leave them in Medina, the continuation of the revolution after his Martyrdom.
The means and the goals
The Imam marched on. He was followed by many people. Some of them seeking the positions and other gains they would attain if he were to be successful.
But the Imam was well aware of their motives, that is why he stood up and gave a sermon in which he told them about the inevitable fate and said: “It is better for me to receive death which I shall surely meet. I can see my limbs turn by wild beasts of the desert between Nawawis and Karbala.”
Why did he say that?
To let everybody who followed him for the sake of this world learn that he was seeking to serve the message and not looking to become a king…That like his father he was not thinking about any rule, nor did he have any personal ambitions, and that he only wished to establish the right and do away with the wrong.
Why did the people of Kufa back out of supporting Imam Hussein (a.s.)?
The Imam continued to march forward for he was determined to continue his revolution until the very end. He was not, as some of those who recite the Ashoura commemorations claim, confused, and did not know where to go or what to do. He knew from the beginning that what he was engaged in is a revolution that will end up with his martyrdom, since the Islamic reality needed a shock as big as his martyrdom and the tragedy he was about to face.
But why did the people of Kufa who were (between eighteen and thirty thousands) pledged their loyalty to the Imam drew back of their promises. One of the elements that led to this development was that Ubaidallah bin Ziad arrested the leaders of the revolution. When the masses are left without a leadership that plans the steps and leads the march, any party, whether ruling or not, can manipulate them, since the role of the masses is usually emotional and responds to various forms of intimidation and promise for rewards (the carrot and the stick approach).
They loved the Imam and Ahl-el-Beit, and they were angered by the social and political reality, but it seems that the lack of leadership that guides and warns them, coupled by the fact that their identification was emotional, made Ibn Ziad succeed in freezing their emotional state when he came carrying the whip in one hand and money in the other.
This is what we should learn in our contemporary life. If we want, as Muslims and believers who refuse any tyranny or oppression, to remain faithful to our Islamic belief, our life should be a continuous revolution that seeks change. The followers may be many or few, but in all cases the revolution should continue. This is the duty of every Muslim who believes in Allah, The Most Exalted. If this is our goal in life, then our life should be one of continuous struggle to establish the right and do away with the wrong.
We should therefore study the two phenomena that led to the back away of the masses: The faithful leadership and the nation's awareness.
Leadership is fundamental
One cannot underestimate the significance of the role of leadership in Islam. The following verse: “O Messenger! deliver what has been revealed to you from your Lord; and if you do it not, then you have not delivered His message,” implies that the leadership is very important, to the extent that neglecting it is equivalent not conveying the Message. It is as if Allah is telling His Messenger (p) that if you leave this life without appointing a qualified and faithful leader, it would be as if you have not conveyed the message, because leadership is about the way the message acts in life. If it is to be immune from deviation, there should be a leadership that ensures the following of the straight path. It was said in our traditions that Islam was built on five pillars, Prayers, Fasting, Pilgrimage, Zakat and Wilayah, which non was emphasized more than it.
Why? Because the Wilayah represents the leadership that protects from deviation and committing mistakes. Therefore, the nation should search for a trustworthy leadership in every stage of its life, since it carries the thought of the nation, the belief and the line it adopts. It is the leadership that can stay put on the nation's goals on the levels of thought and practice.
Imam Ali (a.s.) said: "The rule of God cannot be established except by those who do not compliment… or follow their ambitions" those who do not think leadership is a privilege to boast about, but a responsibility understood in the same way the Imam did when he said to Ibn Abbas that this shoe should by Allah have been “more valuable than ruling over you but for the fact that through it I can establish the right and do away with the wrong".
Leadership is a responsibility and not a privileg
Therefore, to lead a nation is to make it reach its goals in both worlds. It is the movement of the nation in life. Therefore, we believe that the true leadership is for the religious scholars and the jurists who acquired the knowledge of the Message and who live the sufferings of the nation and are well aware of its causes and problems.