MUSLIM–BIN–AQEEL: First Martyr of Karbala Caravan!

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Imam Hussein (AS), for his part in the “Journey to Martyrdom”, wrote a letter to the Kufans, calling on them to close ranks and keep their word. Imam Hussein (AS) knew already about the extremely bitter experience in leading and ruling Iraq. He choose his paternal cousin Muslim Bin Aqeel (AS) as his representative to Kufa, to gauge the situation and evaluate the truth in the Kufan’s pledges of loyalty and thus pave the way for their giving the oath of allegiance to him. Thus, it became clear where to begin the journey of uprising. But who is Muslim Bin Aqeel (AS) and how he, with his two sons, were brutally murdered at Kufa which was the initiating point for the actual tragedy of Karbala. Very few historians have penned his life and there is need to understand him and how he is the ‘First Martyr of the Caravan of Karbala’.

Why Muslim Bin Aqeel?

Born and raised in the family of Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (SAW), his father Hazrat Aqeel (AS) was cousin of Prophet and one of the brothers of Hazrat Ali (AS). As historians write different versions about the origin of his mother, one among them is that she had lineage to the ‘Nabti’ group which was a core aboriginal Arabs with the oldest Arabic literature. His eight brothers, two sons and two daughters were part of the Caravan of Karbala.

Imam Hussein (AS) was carefully paving the way for an uprising. He had secured the needed base of support among the Muslims. He choose Muslim Bin Aqeel (AS) because he imbibed prophetic morals and drank deeply the Islamic principals of justice and righteousness. He was also having an acquaintance of Kufa as a city. When Muslim Bin Aqeel (AS) read the letter of Imam Hussein (AS) to the Kufans, they burst into tears wailed loudly, asking him to hasten Imams arrival. With the already enthusiastic responses from the Iraqis, Imam Hussein (AS) decided to move and from there he would announce the establishment of Rightly Guided Islamic State. 

Muslim Bin Aqeel had been immersed in gathering supporters and taking the pledge of allegiance from the Kufans on behalf of Imam Hussein (AS). At Kufa he rigorously explained the objectives of the ‘Husseiny Movement’ and setting forth the motives behind the uprising. The masses of Kufa, its leaders and outstanding citizens, initially were enthusiastically declaring their support for the great leader Imam Hussain (AS). Paradoxically, the majority of them had never seen Hussein (AS), in person. Ubaidullah Bin Ziyad, Governor of Basra rushed to Kufa on the orders of Yazeed before Imams arrival. He addressed the crowds, promising the obedient, abundant rewards and threatening the opponents and dissidents with severe punishment. Then he delegated agents to spy and  report to him the names of the opposition activists. That was the point at which events took another turn. Despair and frustration appeared to have penetrated the souls of the masses of Kufa and its leaders. Ibin Ziyad was busily asserting his authority by ‘brandishing the club in the face of the citizenry’.

Muslim Bin Aqeel’s position began to flounder. He was forced to lie low. He moved from the house of Al- Mukhtar Thaqafi to the house of the prominent Kufan leader, Hani Bin Arwah.  He went into hiding there, outside the reach of the agents of the governor. But unfortunately, the network of agents discovered his hiding place. There were several spies who testified that he was gathering support for the uprising against Umayyad Caliph Yazeed. Kufa was caught in a violent, bloody and armed struggle between the two sides. Rumours were rife about the coming of a great army from Syria to crush the resistance. The calculated result was that weakness and defeatism crept into the ‘Ranks of the revolutionaries’ and fatally sidetracked the opposition movement.

Muslim Bin Aqeel, with undaunted resolve, determined to continue on the path he had chosen as the representative of Imam Hussein (AS). He walked through the streets of Kufa to find the way out of the city before being arrested. Now, he was thinking of Hussein (as). If only he could, reach Hussein and inform him of the latest events and prevent him from coming to Kufa.

Kufa – Haunted City of Betrayals!

The streets and alleys of the city of Kufa appeared virtually abandoned. Terror loomed there. Agents were in pursuit of the deputy of Hussein (AS) – Muslim. Ubaidullah Bin Ziyad could not leave Muslim Bin Aqeel (AS) alive, because he was the one who had come to Kufa to challenge his authority. Ibn Ziyad thundered orders to his bodyguards to take Muslim Bin Aqeel to the roof of the palace. Muslim was, subsequently, taken to the roof of the palace and pushed down to the ground. He was later beheaded to ensure he is dead. His two young sons – Ibrahim and Mohammad – known as ‘Tiflaan e Muslim’ were also murdered.

It was 9th Zil Haj 60 A.H when  body of Muslim bin Aqeel was tied to ropes and dragged through the streets and ‘Bazaars of Kufa’ to send a message to those supporting Imam Hussain. 

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