The Brahmins who fought for Imam Hussain at Karbala

THE HUSSAINI Brahmins is a community that has an intertwined link with Hinduism and Islam. It is said that their ancestor, Rahab Sidh Dutt had sacrificed his seven sons for Imam Hussain in 680 AD. The community that came alive hence, came to be known as Hussaini Brahmins. They are now spread across Sindh in Pakistan, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Delhi and other parts of India, Pakistan and Arabia.

This dynasty has ruled in Afghanistan for 120 years, from 830 AD to 950 AD. The dynasty was founded by Somanand  who himself ruled for 48 years. The Datts led a maverick life. They observed Hindu religious customs, including worship of Shiva.

The birth of the Hussaini Brahmin community has many versions. Sisir Kumar Mitra, in his book ‘The Vision of India’, talks about the presence of a large population of Hindus in Arabia before the Battle of Karbala.   

A large number of Hindu traders were living in Arabia chief among them one Rahab Sidh Datt. Dutt was closely associated with Prophet Mohammad’s family as his wish for a son had materialized after he first met Imam Hussain. 

Legend has it that childless Dutt went to Imam expressing his wish to have a child. 

Imam in response said it was not in his (Dutts) destiny to have a child. Dutt broke down and cried insolently. Upon this Imam Hussain pacified him saying he will have one soon. 

An elderly person present questioned Imam saying he has challenged Allah’s will. Upon hearing this Imam told Dutt he will have one more child. This continued till Imam gave him Basharat of seven children. 

Did the Hindus help Imam Hussain in Karbala?

A ballad (Kabitt) from folklore describes in poetic form the presence of  Brahmin’s of Dutt clan also called Mohiyals, in Arabia and their subsequent role in the battle of Karbala. 

It is said about fourteen hundred Brahmins lived in Baghdad alone at the time.

Source: History of The Muhiyals:The militant Brahmin clan of India, T.P. Rusell Stracey (1911)

After the poisoning of Imam Hassan by the Omayyad’s his younger brother Hussain refused to give allegiance to Yazid ibn Muawjyah (the new caliph). 

He left his home Medina for Mecca and from there to Kufa (Iraq) to avoid confrontation.

When he reached Karbala near city of Kufa, the army of Yazid surrounded his force consisting of his family and a small group of followers.

The entourage consisted of 200 men and women, including 72 members of Hussain’s family (40 on foot and 32 on horseback).

On the 7th day of Muharram some 30,000 strong army sent by the tyrant Yazid from Damascus and other places laid siege of Imam’s camp. 6,000 soldiers guarded the river bank to ensure that not a drop of water reached the Hussain’s thirsty family which was camping in the scorching desert. 

By sunset of 10th (Ashura), a Friday, all male members, barring Hussain’s sick child Sajjad, who later succeeded Imam Hussain, had been slain. They included Imam’s son Ali Akbar (22), his step brother and flag bearer Abbas (32) and 6 months old infant Ali Asghar who was killed by an arrow while perched in his lap. Imam Hussain himself was slain with thirty three strokes of lances and swords by Shimr, the hatchet man of ignominious Yazid. Hussain was slaughtered in the scorching desert in the afternoon of Ashura along with his band of disciples all without food and water for three days.

One version says Dutt had already set off looking for Imam along with his sons and tribe when he heard of his migration from Mecca.

But  by the time he arrived in Karbala the Imam had been slain.

Dutt and his seven sons, now fully grown up, chased the murderers as they ran with the severed head of Imam Hussein, up to Kufa. He retrieved the holy man’s head, washed it reverentially and then carried it to Damascus.

According to legend, Rahab was overtaken by Yazid’s men during his overnight shelter on the way. They demanded Hussain’s head from him: Rahab beheaded one of his sons and offered his severed head to them instead. They shouted that it was not Hussain’s, then he beheaded his second son and they again yelled that it was not his. In this way Rahab beheaded all his seven sons but did not part with the head of Imam Hussain. Later, after one year, the head was carried to Damascus for final burial.

The valiant Dutts and disciples of Imam Hussein did not lay down their arms till they saw the end of Yazid who could rule longer after the Karbala tragedy.

The intrepid Dutts rallied round Ameer Mukhtar Saqafi, the chief of the partisans of Imam Hussain, fought with extraordinary heroism and captured and razed the fort of Kufa, seat of Yazid’s governor, Obaidullah Ibn Zyad, the butcher. After scoring a resounding victory on the battlefield, they beat the drums and yelled out that they had avenged the innocent blood of Hussain shed at Karbala.

While Rahab Dutt, distraught with loss of Imam said goodbye to Arabia remaining Brahmins, under the leadership of one Bhurya Dutt stayed behind in Kufa (present day Iraq). Here  Ameer Mukhtar  arranged for them to stay in a special part of the town, which even today is  known by the name of Dair-i-Hindiya or ‘the Indian quarter’.

It is also significant to note that even before the Karbala incident, Imam Hussain's father Hazrat Ali had entrusted the public exchequer to the regiment of the valiant Dutts, at the time of the Battle of Jamal (Camel) fought near Basra between Ali and Omayad Caliph Muawiya, the father of Yazeed. 

This provides impeccable evidence about the pragmatic role played by the Dutt Mohyals in the history of Karbala.

Later on, when Omayad’s let loose an orgy of vendetta on the disciples  of Imam Hussain, the remaining Duttss migrated to India along with many Sayeds (descendents of holy Prophet) in 778 AD. The Dutts settled at Dina Nagar, District Sialkot and some drifted to as far as  Pushkar in Rajasthan. Here they built up a community of their own, calling themselves Hussaini Brahmins, keeping alive the memory of their links with the Imam.

(Bandobast Report of Gujarat by Mirza Azam Beg page 422 and folk songs) 

The supporters of Prophets family treated Hussaini Brahmins with great reverence for the supreme sacrifices that they made in Karbala. 

It is said that these Dutt Brahmins carry a slit mark on their throat even to this day as a symbol of the sacrifice their ancestors made in Karbala for the Imam.

The Hussaini Brahmins believe that in the Bhagwadgita Krishna had foretold the event of the Imam's death at Karbala. According to them, the Kalanki Purana, the last of eighteen Puranas, as well as the Atharva Veda, the fourth Veda, refer to Imam Hussain as the divine incarnation or avatar of the Kali Yug, the present age. They hold Imam Ali, Imam Hussain's father, and son-in-law and cousin of the Prophet Muhammad, in particular reverence, referring to him with the honorific title of 'Om Murti'.

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