Home » History » Misrepresenting Karbala: A Response to Dr. Yasir Qadhi

Misrepresenting Karbala: A Response to Dr. Yasir Qadhi

On November 10th 2013 (6th of Muharram 1435), Dr. Yasir Qadhi—a prominent Muslim cleric and public intellectual—gave a speech in which he sought to explore the historical dimensions of the massacre at Karbala in 680 A.D., in which Imām al-Ḥusayn ibn ‘Alī—the beloved grandson of the Prophet Muḥammad—was brutally and ruthlessly murdered, along with 80 of his family members and companions, by the Umayyads (listen to the speech here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nm7mKOTZ0qQ). I have a great deal of respect for Yasir Qadhi for his role as a community leader and an important force for good within the US Muslim community, but I must fundamentally disagree with several aspects of his framing of the events at Karbala. In this relatively short review, I want to shed some light on some of the assertions and omissions in his talk which were problematic.

Before moving on to my critique, I think it is important to point out that the fact that Dr. Qadhi is even talking about the events at Karbala is progress in itself. For too long, the Sunni Muslim community has been suffering from collective amnesia with regard to the martyrdom of Imām al-Ḥusayn. For too long, many in the Muslim community have not only failed to engage with, but have even failed to acknowledge, the historical reality of the massacre of an entire branch of the Prophet’s family by those who claimed to be leaders of the Muslim community. ‘Ashūrā’ is often a time marked by fasting and prayers, but rarely do we find a reflection upon the tragic events of the 10th of Muḥarram of the year 61 A.H, the day when one of the lights of the Ahl al-Bayt was permanently extinguished. Another major benefit of Dr. Qadhi’s speech was that he placed a great deal of emphasis upon the centrality of the Ahl al-Bayt in the estimation of Ahl al-Sunnah wal Jamā‘ah and the love of the major Companions for the Ahl al-Bayt. He presented important Qur’ānic and textual proofs for the superiority of the family of the Prophet over the other Companions of the Prophet. As he mentions, it is from among the fundamentals of Sunni Islam to love the Ahl al-Bayt. Moreover, he explained the tragedy of the fact that one of the most beloved of the Ahl al-Bayt was brutally and treacherously massacred at Karbala. He makes it absolutely clear that the Ahl al-Bayt were on the side of righteousness and were martyred in the cause of God. This certainly deserves to be commended and I hope other scholars and public figures in the Muslim community renew the emphasis on Ahl al-Bayt which was such a defining feature of Muslim identity in the classical period.

That being said, there were several key problems with Dr. Qadhi’s talk:

1)    His treatment of the sources is inconsistent and unscholarly. From the outset, Dr. Qadhi declares that he purposely ignores the accounts of Abū Mikhnaf (d. 774)* and al-Ṭabarī (d. 923) and chooses to focus instead on the narrative provided by Ibn Kathīr (d. 1375), al-Dhahabī (d. 1348) and Ibn Ḥajar al-Asqalānī (d. 1448). I understand the need to make critical decisions about which sources to rely upon due to constraints of time. However, I think that it was a mistake to rely heavily on sources such as Ibn Kathīr for the events of Karbala. Putting aside the fact that the later narratives were written more than 700 years (!!) after the events they describe, they are also imbued with a strong sense of doctrinal commitment and polemical bias of a Sunnism which was hardly existent centuries earlier. In other words, the narrative provided by both Ibn Kathīr and Ibn Ḥajar cannot be considered as reliable sources for the actual history of Karbala, since they are later Sunni reflections on the event. Abū Mikhnaf and al-Ṭabarī, on the other hand, were writing much closer in time to the event itself and long before there were any substantial doctrinal (Sunnī vs. Shī‘i) formulations; the usefulness of these early chronicles is also reinforced by the fact that they both list chains of transmission and the sources being relied on. Moreover, many historians have recognized that the value of these sources far exceeds that of Ibn Kathīr’s chronicle (which itself makes heavy use of Abū Mikhnaf!), Ibn Ḥajar’s writings, and—most certainly—Ibn Taymīyya’s perspective, which Dr. Qadhi relies upon a little too heavily throughout his lecture. There is much more that can be said about his problematic use of sources, a problem which may stem from the fact that Dr. Qadhi is not a historian, but a theologian, but it should be sufficient to conclude by saying that the primary problem of the lecture was its failure to base itself upon reliable historical sources on one hand and its overreliance upon later medieval Sunni doctrinal texts on the other. He also massively misrepresents the nuanced and complex perspectives of Ahl al-Sunnah wal Jamā’ah by claiming that the positions he puts forth in his talk are representative of Sunni Islam as a whole.

*An English translation of Abū Mikhnaf’s account can be found here: http://www.sicm.org.uk/knowledge/Kitab%20Maqtal%20al-Husayn.pdf

2)     Dominance of Ibn Taymīyya’s views. The second problem relates to an overemphasis of the opinions of one particular figure: Ibn Taymīyya (d. 1328). This would have been fine if the premise of the lecture had been “Ibn Taymīyya’s Views on Karbala,” but as even Dr. Qadhi himself asserted his lecture was intended to be an actual historical exploration of the events of Karbala, not his summary of one medieval Muslim theologian’s views of them. The problem is compounded by the fact that the work by Ibn Taymīyya on which Dr. Qadhi relies upon the most during the analytical portions of the talk was Minhāj al-Sunnah al-Nabawīyya*, a virulently anti-Shī‘ī polemic which is hardly representative of the Sunni perspective on the events that transpired at Karbala; in fact, Ibn Taymīyya himself—in his later works—would nuance or reverse several of the views presented in this work. The audience would have been surprised to learn that Ibn Taymīyya was also NOT a historian, but a theologian so it was a very strange decision by Dr. Qadhi to privilege the views of this one thinker over the perspective provided by the classical Muslim historians (Tabarī, Abū Mikhnaf, al-Ya‘qūbī, al-Mas‘ūdī, Ibn Miskawayh, Ibn al-Jawzi etc.). This decision, I think, was one rooted more in theological concerns than a genuine desire to understand the historical reality of Karbala.

*[Minhāj al-Sunnah was a comprehensive refutation of Shī‘ism written in response to a major, anti-Sunnī polemical work entitled Minhāj al-Karāmah by a prominent Twelver Shī‘ī scholar named Ibn Muṭahhar al-Ḥillī (d. 1325). The arguments and statements put forth about Karbala by Ibn Taymīyya are therefore framed in a deliberately polemical and heavily ideological context in which the objective is to utilize history in order to prove the theological supremacy of one school of thought over another. On the other hand, if one looks to Ibn Taymīyya’s writings about Karbala found within the Majmū‘ al-Fatāwa, a collection of his writings and epistles, one can attain a far more nuanced perspective. Curiously, in one of his statements about Karbala found within the Fatāwa Ibn Taymīyya says: “The murder of al-Ḥusayn was one of the greatest catastrophes in history. His murder—like the assassination of ‘Uthmān —was one of the central causes for the strife and bloodshed in the Muslim community. Verily, his killers are the worst of creation in the eyes of God” (Majmū‘ al-Fatāwa 3: 411). Elsewhere in the same collection, Ibn Taymīyya exclaims: “As to those who killed al-Ḥusayn or assisted in that act or was pleased with it, may the curse (la’n) of God, the angels, and all the people be upon them. No deed will be accepted from these people from God as compensation for their heinous crime” (Majmū‘ al-Fatāwa 4: 487). It was quite unfortunate that Dr. Qadhi did not include these two quotations within the body of his lecture, since I think it would have shown the audience the degree of significance which Ibn Taymīyya attached to the murder of al-Ḥusayn. The cursing of the murderers of al-Ḥusayn would have been particularly illustrative in demonstrating that this was not merely a later Shi’ite practice. https://ballandalus.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/ibn-taymiyya-d-1328-on-the-martyrdom-of-imam-husayn-d-680/]

3)     Glorification of Mu‘āwiyah ibn Abī Sufyān. There is a very problematic discussion of the reign of Mu‘āwiyah ibn Abī Sufyān (r. 661–680). Dr. Qadhi completely passes over the fact that it was none other than Mu‘āwiyah who was one of the central antagonists during the First Civil War (656–661) and played a very negative role in the fragmentation of the Muslim community in his bid for power during his rebellious actions against Imām ‘Alī. Rather, Dr. Qadhi seeks to provide us with a flowery—and inaccurate—picture of Mu‘āwiyah as a just, peaceful ruler whose only intention was the preservation of the Muslim community. Such an assessment does not stand up to actual historical inquiry and is more a reflection of Dr. Qadhi’s doctrinal commitments. Quite conveniently, Dr. Qadhi fails to mention that Mu‘āwiyah secured the oath of allegiance to his son Yazīd by the sword, through compulsion and the use of violence. It was not a simple case, as Dr. Qadhi says, of most people accepting the appointment of Yazīd. He even uses the term “Imāmat al-Mafḍūl” (a largely Zaydi Shi’ite concept which affirms the permissibility for an individual of lesser stature to become caliph even though more qualified candidates exist) for Yazīd in order to provide a legitimizing framework for his reign (I hope he elaborates on what he meant by this concept, because I didn’t understand its use in this context). The attempt to misrepresent and justify these actions of Mu‘āwiyah which caused so much suffering to the Muslim community are among the most problematic aspects of the entire lecture.

4)    Ambiguous position on Yazīd. At various points throughout the talk there are attempts where Dr. Qadhi seems to not only defend, but even praise, Yazīd ibn Mu‘āwiyah (esp. in the reference to Yazīd’ participation in a raid against Constantinople) . Despite all the historical evidence to the contrary, Dr. Qadhi insists that Yazīd was largely innocent from the murder of al-Ḥusayn; we are informed that the bulk of the blame rests with the Kufans, Ibn Ziyad, Shimr, and ‘Umar ibn Sa’d. He even suggests that Yazīd  was upset by the fact that al-Ḥusayn was murdered, yet admits that absolutely no action was taken to punish those responsible. Strangely, Dr. Qadhi does not even mention how the women and children of the Ahl al-Bayt were massively mistreated and paraded like slaves in the streets of Damascus and in the court of Yazīd…even though this is a major part of the tragedy of Karbala and is recorded by a vast majority of the chronicles. To those well-versed in history, it is quite clear that Yazīd did in fact play a central role in the murder of al-Ḥusayn, whose refusal to pledge allegiance to him as caliph threatened his very legitimacy. Any denial of Yazīd’s major responsibility is a massive distortion of history and anyone who wishes to learn the truth of these matters can easily learn the truth through a very cursory glance at the historical texts, which are quite unambiguous about Yazīd’s culpability; medieval Sunni, Shi’i, and even Christian sources written in Arabic all make this fact very clear. Although, to be fair, Dr. Qadhi does not claim that Yazīd is a positive role model—which is clear from his showing how no less a figure than Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal exclaimed “How can anyone with true belief claim to love Yazīd?!”—he fails to show the full extent of his tyranny and depravity (again, these are facts of history). Nowhere does he discuss how Yazīd was a sadist and debauched individual (even though these points are underscored by Ibn Taymīyya and Ibn Kathīr, Qadhi’s main sources) nor does he even mention how Yazīd was responsible for the sack of Medina (in which thousands of the Companions of the Prophet were killed) and the bombardment of Mecca, a siege which led to the destruction of the Ka‘ba. Yet, throughout the lecture we are led to believe that such an individual was unwilling to kill one political opponent…

5)     Theme of “Treacherous Shi’ites”. The overemphasis on the betrayal by the Kufans–identified as the primary culprits–also requires some commentary. It is undoubtedly true that the Kufan supporters of al-Ḥusayn massively betrayed him and refused to come to his assistance, despite being the ones who initially urged him to come to their city. As Dr. Qadhi pointed out, there are numerous indications which show how contemporary Muslims (Umm Salama, Ibn ‘Umar, even the Ahl al-Bayt themselves) blamed and cursed the Iraqis for their actions which played a huge role in the chain of events culminating in the massacre at Karbala. However, this betrayal was only one element of the broader story. The blame for the actual massacre rests squarely on the shoulders of the Umayyads. Time and again, Dr. Qadhi seeks to draw a connection between the treacherous Kufans and modern-day Shī‘ī Muslims who, he tells us, “beat themselves up every year for their betrayal of al-Ḥusayn.” It becomes clear that the overemphasis on the Kufans is intended to conform to a long-standing Sunni polemic in which the Shī‘is (past and present) are transformed from the supporters of the Ahl al-Bayt into their murderers; by contrast, he asserts that Sunni Muslims “are the true Shi’ites (supporters) of Ahl al-Bayt”. He reinforces this connection between modern Shi’ites and the Kufans further by tracing the theological origins of Shī‘ism to the Tawwabūn movement in the 680s. Rather than explaining that the development of theological Shi’ism was a long and complicated process which would require a much more detailed exposition, Dr. Qadhi chose to put forth these misleading statements to an audience which is already suffering from massive misconceptions of Shī‘ī Islam. Aside from being inaccurate in their own right, these claims are very unhelpful in the current climate of sectarianism, of which the demonization of Shī‘ī Muslims by the overwhelming majority of Muslims is one of the root causes.

6)     Factual errors. Throughout the lecture, there were several historical errors which demonstrate that Dr. Qadhi’s strengths lie in his being a theologian, not a historian. These errors could easily have been avoided by carefully reading through the texts and consulting secondary sources. The most significant of these errors was his statement that Zayd ibn ‘Alī (d. 740)—who was actually Imām Ḥusayn’s grandson—was killed not by the Umayyads, but by the Abbasids! Given that Zayd was killed ten years before the Abbasids became a dominant political force, this is a particularly grievous error. Every single narration about the revolt of Zayd mentions quite explicitly that he was rebelling against the Umayyads. Errors like this are unacceptable given the subject matter being covered here. Also, with regard to Zayd, Dr. Qadhi again places all the blame on the shoulders of the Kufans (“the Shi’ites”) and does not emphasize that it was in fact the Umayyads which murdered him, before having him decapitated…just as they did with al-Ḥusayn.

7)     Unflattering and unacceptable representation of Imām Ḥusayn. Despite claiming over and over that “we love and adore al-Ḥusayn,” Dr. Qadhi paints a very unflattering picture of him throughout his talk. Al-Ḥusayn is represented as an impulsive, naïve, and emotionally-driven individual whose only guiding force is his illogical drive for power and an attempt to reclaim his rights. Rather than commending his attempt to restore his rights (which Dr. Qadhi does acknowledge), he is critiqued for not having the wisdom of his brother al-Ḥasan ibn ‘Alī and conceding these rights to the Umayyad family. Nowhere is it mentioned that al-Ḥusayn was driven by a desire for justice and a strong awareness of the oppression wrought by the Umayyads against the Muslim community. Yazīd’s oppressive rule is barely mentioned. Nowhere do we have a sense of the Ḥusayn who is the son of Gate of Knowledge (‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib) whose wisdom was sought out by others and who was among the most knowledgeable men of the age. Rather, he is depicted as rejecting the wise advice of “more knowledgeable and wiser men” such as Ibn ‘Abbās and Ibn ‘Umar (regarding the point that Ibn ‘Umar was superior to al-Ḥusayn, see: https://ballandalus.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/the-love-and-respect-of-umar-ibn-al-khattab-d-644-for-ahl-al-bayt/) .  Al-Ḥusayn’s decision to set out for Kufa is represented as flawed in every way and Dr. Qadhi seems to imply that his death was one that could have been easily avoided if only he had heeded the advice of his peers. This depiction is very unflattering and completely ignores that al-Ḥusayn knew perfectly well what he was doing. Indeed, he stated his objective in unambiguous terms in one of his final sermons in Mecca:

O People! The Prophet of Islam has said that if a believer sees a tyrannical ruler transgressing against God and his Messenger and oppressing people, but does nothing by word or action to change the situation, then it will be just for God to place him (the witness to tyranny) where he deservingly belongs. Do you not see to what low level the affairs [of this nation] have come to.., do you not observe that truth has been deviated from and falsehood has no limits. And as for me, I look upon death but a means of attaining martyrdom. I consider life among the transgressors an agony and an affliction!

(Abū Nu‘aym al-Iṣfahānī, Ḥilyat al-Awliyā’ ).

Since the Umayyads eventually did attack Mecca, it seems that in the long-run al-Ḥusayn’s sense of urgency in setting out to rectify the injustice which had occurred with the accession of Yazīd was justified after all, despite the “wise advice” of Ibn ‘Umar and Ibn ‘Abbas. Unfortunately, however, this is not acknowledged by Dr. Qadhi anywhere in the lecture.


This speech, despite the apparent good intentions of Dr. Qadhi, cannot be considered to be an accurate or even-handed representation of Karbala and the martyrdom of Imam Husayn. Rather, it is a sobering reminder of the problems which ensue when history is exploited in order to conform to the narrow objectives of theological polemic.

(For an excellent and straightforward exposition of the events surrounding Karbala and the civil wars in early Islam, please see the link below. Dr. Khalid Yahya Blankinship is not only a prominent Muslim academic, but is also an expert on the history of the Umayyads [see his book here:http://www.amazon.com/The-End-Jihad-State-Al-Malik/dp/0791418286/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1384633713&sr=8-1&keywords=khalid+yahya+blankinship]. Well worth a listen.)

Sources consulted

Abu Mikhnaf, Maqtal al-Ḥusayn (preserved in al-Ṭabarī)

Abū Ja‘far Muḥammad ibn Jarīr al-Tabari, Tārīkh al-Rusul wal Mulūk

Aḥmad ibn Yaḥya al-Balādhurī, Ansāb al-Ashrāf

Aḥmad Ya‘qūbī, Tārikh al-Ya‘qūbī

Abū al-Ḥasan Alī ibn al-Ḥusayn al-Mas‘ūdī, Murūj al-Dhahab

Abū al-Faraj ibn al-Jawzī, al-Muntaẓam fi Tārīkh al-Mulūk wal Umam

Abū Faraj al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil al-Ṭālibiyyīn

Abū Nu’aym al-Iṣfahānī, Ḥilyat al-Awliyā’

Shaykh al-Mufīd, Kitāb al-Irshād

Bar Hebraeus, Tārīkh Mukhtasar al-Duwwal

Lisān al-Dīn ibn al-Khatīb al-Salmānī, A’māl al-A’lām

Ismā‘īl ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāyah wal Nihāyah

Shams al-Dīn al-Dhahabi, Siyar A’lām al-Nubalā’

Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyuti, Tārīkh al-Khulafā’



    • Sabrije says:

      I really enjoyed reading your review on the Karbala massacre and I have to agree with you on almost everything. Dr. Yasir left out lots of facts and faults. Couldn’t understand why he was comparing Hasan and Hussein may peace and blessings of God be upon both of them and how could any Muslim find evil Yazid to be righteous after what was done to both nephews of prophet s.a.v.s by Yazid and his father, as a matter of fact how can any Muslim not know those were Yazids orders and he was the khalifa at that time, nothing was done without his authorization, for him to say he didn’t know is b.s. well, I hope Allah will punish all involved in the massacre of our prophets p.bu.h nephew and humiliation of his family for which evil Yazid is responsible as well. He’s the one that ordered for the family to be dragged from Iraq to Syria sick, tired, hungry, thirsty humiliated, abused….you name it. And For anyone to say Yazid didn’t know ? Vallahi it’s a sin

    • Abdulrahman says:

      I was a revert Muslim by the so called sunni .after my long study and search of knowledge , I found so many grudges in the community.
      After in search of truth,especially the family of the beloved prophet
      ( saw ),I was totally& shock and surprise.
      My intent only is that hope insha Allah,people will realize & make depth study about our religion.because in the noble Quran,there is no such sunni,shia,wahabi,Sufi,etc.
      Now,we are in the laughing stock because we did not follow our prophet(saw) just before he left. To fulfill Quran and. Follow/love his
      So many articles/hadith which is full of corruption,hope everyone will discover just I and many found out.
      My salaam to all.

  1. JJ says:

    Great read, an academic analysis of the Skeikh’s positives and negatives of his speech was quite necessary. Nicely written and a very well done breakdown.

  2. mezba says:


    Let me share my thoughts on Dr Qadhi’s lecture and then on your criticism.

    Here’s my thoughts on Dr Qadhi’s lecture.

    1) I don’t agree that Hazrat Muawiyah thought his own son could unify the Ummah (specifically breaking his treaty with Hassan (r.a.) in the process). Dr Qadhi brushed over some of the wrongs that Muawiyah did. As a Sunni I accept he was a Sahabi and I accept that his affairs rest with Allah, but historically speaking he converted the Caliphate into a dynasty.

    2) I also think a few information wasn’t in the lecture (perhaps due to time) that could have provided some context. The character of Yazid wasn’t discussed a lot (his alleged drinking, womanizing etc.) which may make him unsuitable for Caliph, as well as the corruption of the Caliphate in Damascus. So I think Hussain (r.a.) is not just making a grab for power, he is making a stand against who he sees as a tyrant, unjust, un-Islamic, unsuitable, oppressive regime. So just saying Abdullah ibn Umar was right to be apolitical and Hussain was wrong to be action oriented is not correct, in my opinion. Both had their viewpoints and they were each right in their own way and you need both types of view points. Hussain (r.a.) was standing up against tyranny while Ibm Umar was thinking of the Ummah as a whole.

    Now here’s my thoughts on your article.

    1) You say “for so long sunnis have ignored Karbala”. I know we have been taught about it ever since I can remember. I was brought up in UAE where Shia-ism has its limits. Even then we were taught everything about Karbala, who the villain was (Yazid, his generals etc.) and what his sacrifice meant. No Sunni trivializes Karbala or the martydom of Hussain (ra).

    2) I thought Dr Qadhi did blame Yazid fair and square and did not say he was blameless. In fact, the buck stopped with Yazid. So he was not making excuses for him unlike a famous preacher from India.

    3) Not sure how much Dr Qadhi blames present day Shias for the massacre. But he did blame the Kufans of the time.


  3. Szn says:

    Thanks for writing this. There is something really off about Qadhi when it comes to polemic. Refreshing to see the bias laid out so clearly.

  4. Imraan says:

    Incidentally a couple of years ago, an important scholar and theologian Dr Tim Winter gave an interesting analysis on the tragedy of Karbala which seems to have completely missed the point at the end.

    He turns it into an issue of akhlaq – that it is the duty of the umma to practise patience because this is a religion of sabr, as he puts it. But he glosses over way too much, and the theological content of Karbala seems to have been missed (though I grant him the argument that perhaps much of the content may have been subverted, or some instrumental revolutionary theology could have been read into the hermeneutic post 1979), but it is such a shame indeed.

    But I suppose it’s a good start.

    • Sameel says:

      Salam, just curious, what is the theological takeaway from the tragedy of Karbala, that was new and not already present in the deen? I thought his evidence from the seera denouncing the whaling and cursing was pretty irrefutable. Did you not agree with that? Honest questions…

  5. Masoud says:

    Saalam on Alaykom
    I couldn’t find the name of person who has written the article. I think we should not think if someone is prophet Muhammad’s Sahaba is a good person or v.s. We must think logically and see who was in the path of Allah and who was not. Who was trying to preach good deeds and the real Islam and who wasn’t.
    We can see in the history Prophet Muhammad’s progeny was in a place that they have responsibility to preach the reality of Islam.

  6. racho says:


    I did not hear the speech but the points you make about the way Ashura seems to be covered are very accurate, and unfortunately they seem very familiar i.e. it’s the typical sunni perspective of ashoura.

    • Awaken says:

      Salam, you may not want to be so quick to judge what is the typical Sunni perspective of Ashura without consulting the historical sources. And even contemporarily, there are many regions in the world and cases of Sunnis participating in Ashura, as well as more traditional, Sufi/mystical, or less Salafi Sunnis who have a very different perspective than what you may be familiar with. Unfortunately, some of the more unfortunate and erroneous perspectives are magnified and louder, thus misleadingly making it seem that it is the only or “typical” Sunni narrative.

  7. Riza Illahi says:


    Husain is Shah (spiritual leader), Husain is Badshah (the administrative leader or the king) of this world. Husain is himself “religion” and also the one who gave shelter to the religion. He preferred to give his head but not his hand to Yazeed. The fact is …Husain is the foundation of The Religion, the foundation of la ilah ilallah!!

    • Sameel says:

      You can think whatever you want, but personally, I find many of the things your saying as problematic. “He is the foundation of our religion”???? That title is reserved only for Mohammad s.a.w.

    • Taiqan says:

      I think What Riza wants to say is that Hussein(ra) is the saviour of Islam. He upheld his beliefs for was it not for him then our Deen would have been compromised, early on, still in its infancy. Where would that leave us? With less Alims, with less hafiz’s , with less followers who truely believed in la ilaah ha…. and we would just be dressed outwardly in Islam with Yazid in our hearts. The Yazidis are all around us but there are many of us with Hussein in our hearts, too.

      • Sameel says:

        His statements are typical over exaggerations that I hear from my Shia friends all the time. I know they probably don’t mean literally what they say, but it’s said nonetheless, which I have a lot of issues with. As far as yazzidis(????) and people with Hussain (ra) in our hearts. I hate to break it to you, but Yazid takes up approximately 0 percent of my time, thinking, or theology. I follow the Quran and the prophet, period. My theology and beliefs come from those two sources alone.

  8. Sameel says:

    I heard the lecture and read this article as well. I like the tone of both viewpoints and this tone is missing in our current sectarian climate. But I agree with Yasir Qadhi, in that it was a historical event, not a religious event. Obviously I think such becuase I am a Sunni. For Shias, the event was much more than history, it is an event that somewhat defines who they are. That fundamental divide will never be bridged unless one becomes the other. After all, for all the history talk, history is subjective, not objective. Sources differ. And as long as the sources differ, the meaning of events can never be agreed upon.

    • Awaken says:

      Please see the response to your post below. I agree that the tone of the conversation is one that is promising, and this academic, respectful approach should be adhered to much more in the future. Yet, I disagree fundamentally with some of your other points such as this not being a religious event or not being of religious significance, as well as the idea that it is such an ambiguous event when historically the sources indicate otherwise.

    • Hysam says:

      Perfectly said!

  9. Awaken says:

    Sameel, you have a point, sources often do differ greatly. But it appears that there has historically been such a level of agreement and overwhelming historical evidence about the corruption of Yazid and the justness, knowledge, status, and piety of Husayn– with Muslims of various sects, whether Shi’i or Sunni seeing this as a pivotal and tragic event– that to dispute some of these basic elements is either dishonest, ignorant, or rather poor method. There are not many events in Islamic history where there has been such a similarity of Muslim viewpoints. It seems like largely a modern phenomenon that certain scholars, often Salafi in orientation (or influenced by such views), that attempt to lessen the culpability of Yazid or cast doubts about Husayn’s character or imply “rashness” or other nonsense to the grandson of the Prophet.
    Moreover, the leadership of the Muslims can easily be considered a religious issue, particularly when the leader is a drunken tyrant responsible for the murder of thousands of innocents, in Medina, the city of the Prophet, no less. Islam is a religion of justice, so this manifest incident of injustice against the Prophet’s grandson, family, and ummah is a clear demonstration of religious transgression.
    Dr. Qadhi also cited the hadith in which the Prophet cries over the killing of Husayn (clearly accepting it as authentic)- if an event causing the Prophet to grieve and become distraught isn’t religious evidence (that those responsible for his death were sinful and religiously in the wrong) then it’s hard to say what is.

    • Sameel says:

      I am in no way defending Yazeed, and I wouldn’t be a Muslim if I didn’t love Husain (ra). However, i do not define myself over what he did or did not do. I just don’t get how what happened over 1,000 years ago affects me. (I’m not talking about the Shia/Sunni theological split) Neither me nor anyone else had anything to do with what took place. All the people involved will be judged by THE judge. We will be judged by what we do in our life, not by what other people did to other people. What’s the issue?

      Husain (ra) is in heaven. Therefore, he did what he needed to do in this world. Is that a reason for sadness? If only we all are so lucky. It’s ok to reflect on the event. But the crying, whaling, and beating is all uncalled for. Especially for someone who has unanimously attained the highest success of this world.

      • Bilal says:

        What makes the event of Kerbala and the actions of Imam Hussain a religious event comes with perspective of the origin of Islam as being both, a government and faith from the onset of revelation. When the Holy Prophet passed away he left behind the faith and a empire requiring governance.
        With the passage of time culminating with Yazid we found that the governmental authority had overcome the voice of the religious authority where people were looking to the ruler for both political and spiritual leadership their was no more basis of authority for spiritual leadership.
        Had Imam Hussain not acted to show the separation of government and faith Islam would have been nothing more than an empire made up of dynasties the first starting with a person known as Muhammad. This action for the sake of religion to ensure authority is not given by the pious to the dubious to be the voice of faith, not just government , is why Imam Hussains war is a religious war and worthy of comemoration by all. Without him we would have seen the voice of faith stifled and all that is good that we have inherited as lost.

      • Sameel says:

        What your saying is implying that the event is worthy of reflection. I get that, and have no issue with it. But he wasn’t alone. Many had issue with Yazeed and I don’t think his death established anything, other than solidifying him as a martyr of the highest order. But again, to me that makes him successful, not something to continuously mourn over. I think that is wrong, and has no precedent in the teachings of the prophet s.a.w.

      • Umm Yusuf says:

        I’m with Sameel on this.

        As a historical event why is this one marked over and above any other where you had leaders standing against injustice?

        It was a horrific crime but hundreds of years on does it really make any difference to my relationship with God, my religion, my position in the after life whether I abhor Yazid’s role or venerate Hussain (r) to the extent that is done by some.

        I’m afraid it just doesnt make sense to me.

        Interesting article though.

  10. Reblogged this on mechacontext and commented:
    Started a war with this one, Mohamed! Very insightful article with some good points debunking the current Sunni-Shia conception of the tragic events at Karbala.

  11. Abu-Suleiman says:

    as salaamu alaykum, wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu
    may Allah reward you for your analysis ahki, i would enjoy reading a blog of your interpretation about why some of the so called Shia regard sahaba like Abu Bakr, Umar and Aisha (may Allah be pleased with them all) – in a negative way and how this view plays in to the so called Sunni and the so called Shia dynamic – and whether the grounds for the negative feelings are justified, fabricated – or maybe just misplaced emotion. barakAllahu feekum

  12. This is a great piece, Mohamad. Would you mind either updating in bold or just linking some of the material that Ibn Taymiyyah rescinded later in his life that Sh. Yasir mentions in his work? That would be a great resource to people that aren’t familiar with his views.

    Also, perhaps a little info on how the Minhaj as-Sunnah wa-Nabawiyyah is polemical at its core? I find that many people use that work as a guiding light and it’s very problematic.

  13. Asad says:

    One correction to your article is that Sh Yasir Qadhi did in fact mention that the blessed head of Husayn (ra) was sent to Damascus, then returned to Ah-lal Bayt, and buried next to Husan (ra) in Madinah.

  14. […] Another related read here: Misrepresenting Karbala: A Response to Dr. Yasir Qadhi […]

  15. facetofloor says:

    Yassir Qadhi is a Wahhabi. He does not represent the Sunnis

    • Sameel says:

      He is not a “wahhabi”. That term is so played out by Shias, just like the term Shia is played out by Sunnis. He is not even salafi anymore. He has changed tremendously over the years. Get up to speed.

      • I’m going to agree with you on this one. I do think he is doing great work. Mohamad’s article simply notes the historical inaccuracies in his speech. The speech itself is no cause for alarm and name-calling. If you look at it in the context of the audience he’s catering to, it’s a big step in what I believe is the right direction.

  16. Salman says:


    Excellent analysis brother. I am a shia muslim and I believe karbala doesn’t belong to any particular sect but rather it belongs to all Muslims. Indeed karbala can become rallying point to unite Shias and Sunnis together.

  17. Being Sunni (or at least Sunni-ish) myself, I don’t believe the tragedy at Karbala has any theological significance. However, looking at the event as a) historically, and b) coming from a family with generally Sufi tendencies, I see the event as having political and emotional significance.

    Also, I do not believe it is apt to ‘curse’ or ‘hate’ anyone. Hate being a force of ignorance and evil, even using it against the Devil himself is problematic. I do not advocate for a collective rage against Yazid, and definitely not his father, though I feel it is necessary to identify Yazid as a perpetrator and an oppressor who gained power in an illegal manner, as well as to understand that his father was brash and mistaken in some respects about governorship and politics.

    About Imam Hussain, I do believe it is important to support his decision to rebel, but also to understand the nuance in his political (and not heedlessly emotional) move. A specific lesson to be gained from the event is that rebellion is necessary in a system that claims Islam but does not give Islam. And a general one is that an attitude of Action and Justice is important for all believers.

  18. GA says:

    Do you mind explaining what the “proper” way to represent Karbala is? This is an event that is very emotional to me and I commemorate every year with love and honor for Imam Husayn. The community makes a great big deal about it, and no one dares to question the absolute sacredness of Imam Husayn and his family, and no one dares forget to express grief or shed a tear on Ashura for the blood and mutilations in Karbala. However, this year my mind is confused and has become uncertain. I no longer feel that I understand who and what Imam Husayn was. Therefore, I want clarification and understanding about why Muslims treat Imam Husayn and Ahlul Bayt vs. Yazid and Umayyads as an extreme dichotomy, exact opposites. It seems like this story-line is quite lacking in nuance – black and white – but things really, truly never happen in those terms, do they? Since you are so dedicated to a historical analysis, maybe you can help give nuanced, academic, historical explanations for what happened.

    Instead of only focusing on the bloody horrors of the actual day of Ashura, which I think has become the ultimate mournful symbol of Muslim (esp. Shi’a) religious passion, I’m interested in understanding the the bigger picture. So let’s begin:

    Why do you say Imam Husayn knew exactly what he was doing? What was it that he knew? Did he know he was trying to cause a political revolution? Did he know he was trying to purify the Islamic state? Did he know his “supporters” would betray him? Did he know his female and children relatives would be slaughtered and purposely allow them to be sacrificed? Were his actions revolutionary? Was he indeed trying to gather an army and establish his own power? Weren’t the letters sent to him precisely about allegiance for khilafat? Could this whole thing be predicated on the perspective that the lineage of the Prophet deserves khilafat and no one else, and therefore essentially be a battle for political power? It seems that when the opportunity finally arose, i.e. when he thought he finally had enough support to overthrow whoever was trying to “usurp” the “right” of Ahlul Bayt to khilafat, Imam Husayn took it.

    I always hear the situation completely polarized – Husayn was entirely oppressed and totally pure. Thus, his revolt was out of the desire to re-establish justice toward Ahlul Bayt by opposing the oppression of Yazid. What I don’t hear is exactly what that oppression was and why it warranted travelling to gather an army, essentially declaring war. The brief mention usually made about the events leading up to Karbala are that Yazid breached a pact stating that Muawiyah wouldn’t be able to appoint his successor, and that Yazid demanded Imam Husayn’s allegiance. What else? There must have been more to this devastating oppression than a breached contract and coercion for allegiance. And if there was, then why isn’t that part of the story explained to us in lectures, passion plays, articles, commemoration ceremonies, etc…. why are the events leading up to Ashura only briefly mentioned? Why doesn’t anyone talk about the specifics qualifications for Husayn’s actions that lead up to Karbala, rather than only focus on the bloodshed and brutality at Karbala? In other words, where is the substance about the reason for and purpose of Imam Husayn’s mission? The talk is always so general and vague (Husayn was oppressed, Yazid was a tyrant, Yazid wasn’t established as a leader yet, Yazid drank wine and gambled, Husayn wanted to establish Islam and justice…). What does oppressed mean? What does tyrant mean? And how long did that oppression last before Husayn gathered supporters for his own Islamic state and opposition to the Umayyads? What does drinking wine and gambling have to do with whether or not an entire revolution should be planned against him? So then, it starts to sound like Imam Husayn was trying to establish a “cleansed” Islamic state because he was disappointed that correct Islam wasn’t being practiced by the ruler and some of the people. Go back to proper Sharia in public and private spheres, was his demand. Today we have individuals and groups like this, but we tend to call them the fundamentalist fanatics (who happen to often be labeled “nasibi”-leaning) and we blame them for wanting to impose their own religious ways upon government, and for monopolizing religion, and for creating a culture of uprising and conflict in order to re-establish what they see as fit Islamic rule. What would Husayn do today? Would he rebel against the not-Islamic-enough Muslim leaders around the world? With these simplistic ideas and explanations of Karbala given to the public, doubting makes it begins to sound like maybe the two groups weren’t entirely different after all. Maybe they were both after similar things – after the “correct” or “right to” power, except one was more in-line with a strictly orthodox, theocratic, fundamentalist type of power and establishment while the other was strict and coercive but rather religiously loose. Was Imam Husayn about fighting oppression or was he about establishing his own pure, orthodox theocracy? Was he both? Was he neither? WHY did Imam Husayn rebel and what exatly happened, historically, to lead up to his rebellion? And, what makes it/how is/why is it all justified?

    Thanks! Excuse me for deviating from the normal means of asking/addressing Imam Husayn and Karbala, which I suppose is to most Muslims awfully blasphemous of me, but I think it’s my right as a curious human being to have questions and thoughts and desire comparative and historical understanding. I don’t mean harm at all, so I apologize if my thoughts are offensive to anyone. I, just like others, shed tears on this day and feel lowered before its sacredness.
    Jazakallah khair.

    • ballandalus says:

      Thank you very much for your comment. I think all your questions are very important to consider and many groups and individuals have struggled with answering them for centuries. I wish I could provide an answer to them, but as a historian I am not equipped to do so since, in many ways, our concerns about Imam Husayn (A.S.) will always be based on our own contemporary reality and seeking to view his revolt through that lens. Then there are the various historical understandings, some of which insist on a theological framing and others which look at Karbala merely as a significant historical event. There is certainly no single way in which to discuss Karbala, but there are important historical facts about which there is a virtual consensus; it is those facts which I have sought to highlight in this piece. You have given me a lot to think about and I honestly appreciate you taking the time to write out those questions. I think these are exactly the type of questions which are missing from the discourse. If you are interested, Abu Mikhnaf’s chronicle has been translated into English: http://www.sicm.org.uk/knowledge/Kitab%20Maqtal%20al-Husayn.pdf. It may provide some insight into at least some of your questions and concerns. I hope some others reading this will also engage you in the same, genuine spirit in which you asked your questions.

      On one point however–why do I say Imam Husayn (A.S.) knew what he was doing–I can say the following: I think al-Husayn recognized the urgency of the situation; he realized that the Umayyads were intent on transforming the Islamic community into an empire and reversing the social/egalitarian revolution inaugurated by the rise of Islam. In this, he was absolutely right; the Umayyads were an imperial state which was intent on upholding Arab privilege. Imam Husayn also recognized that regardless of whether or not he set out for Kufa, the Umayyads would seek to force him to pledge allegiance, even if they had to invade the holy city of Mecca itself (which they did…and destroyed the Ka’ba in the process). I think he insisted on having control over his own destiny, refused to compromise his principles and set out for Kufa, where he had every reason to expect a strong support base. Indeed, if it was not for the brutal, Machiavellian policies of Ibn Ziyad it would have been very likely that the Kufans would have remained loyal and the revolt would have had a reasonable chance of succeeding. I do think that Imam Husayn (A.S.) had a very strong sense that he was far more entitled to rule the Muslim community than Yazid ibn Mu’awiyah–who, by any standards was unfit to govern; moreover, a sense that the Family of the Prophet was most entitled to govern the Muslim community is a theme which dominates the early sources in connection with Karbala (see, for example, al-Tabari’s chronicle). Many Muslims, ofcourse, even doubt whether he had a political goal in mind at all since they insist that he was destined to die at Karbala (as per the prophetic tradition) and met that destiny willingly. I think many of your questions and comments underscore exactly why it is absolutely essential to revisit the earliest historical sources (which are imbued with all sorts of problems ofcourse) in order to discern exactly what was happening.

      However, the question remains: is it even possible to look at Imam Husayn’s revolt without imposing a theological (and, thus, ahistorical) reading? I think the answer is no, since our concern with al-Husayn in the first place is deeply rooted in theology. There is absolutely no way for a believing Muslim to profess belief in the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), while ignoring the brutal murder of his beloved grandson (the same grandson indicated, along with four other individuals, in Qur’anic verse 33:33). For those historians trained in the secular, western tradition therefore the entire Muslim narrative about Karbala is entirely rooted in the theological. I think Dr. Qadhi’s theological biases came out clearly during his lecture, as do mine in this response (my absolute belief in the righteousness of Ahl al-Bayt cannot be concealed). However, I chose to attempt as best I could to focus on some problems with source usage and representation in this article rather than in promoting my own vision of how Karbala should be represented. By looking at those things about which there is some degree of certainty (the reality of Yazid’s tyranny; the doctrinal bias of the later sources; a-Husayn’s political wisdom), we can perhaps achieve a more balanced analysis of the events of Karbala. This article had no pretensions to being an analysis of Karbala or Imam Husayn’s revolt; rather, it was a very brief attempt to indicate some of the issues I had with Dr. Qadhi’s speech as a way of underscoring some of the broader problems with the way that the larger Muslim community approaches the events of Karbala; that is, when the event is even discussed at all.

      I probably did not answer any of your questions, but I hope I have given you some more to think about. JazakAllah khayr once again for your comment.

      • ballandalus says:

        I would also add one final question: why is it that Imam Husayn’s struggle and story has been so strongly emphasized, both in the Shi’i and the Sunni tradition? There must be something about it which has allowed it to remain a potent symbol and resonate with hundreds of millions of Muslims (and countless non-Muslims).

      • Sameel says:

        Verse 33:33 has nothing to do with Hussai, its about his wives. That is clear, honestly you lost me after that statement and clear distortion.

      • Sameel says:

        Prophets wives that is…

      • Sultan Mirza says:

        Ballandalus. I agree with many points made in your response to Dr Yasir Qadhi, however Sunnis tend to reject Abu Mikhnaf’s version because of his Shia beliefs which make him susceptible to bias. How do we view this incident from a neutral perspective?

      • GA says:

        As-salmu alaykum.
        Firstly, I want to very genuinely thank you for your kind and warm response to my comment. I was terrified of posting it and wasn’t expecting such respectful manners. I have high and positive regards for you because of your courtesy and understanding. (… maybe you can imagine what I’ve faced elsewhere!)

        I must say, if there is no way to discuss the events without theological bias or without theological lenses, then why emphasize so strongly the need for historical accuracy and proper sourcing, reprimanding other approaches rather firmly? Wouldn’t your response to Sh. Qadhi, then, be a theological response (to a theological approach on Karbala), wrapping the whole thing in theology rather than in proper sourcing and historical narrative? I don’t think that we have to stubbornly hold on to unshakable biases, but we choose to. (But I don’t believe that in order to be historically concerned with Imam Husayn, one has to forget all about theology.)

        I also wonder whether there is more information/clarity available about the knowledge that Imam Husayn is claimed to have had regarding the Umayyads (and their intentions/future deeds) and what he was himself doing in response. I’m wondering whether specific information exists to show this knowledge and strategy or whether the narrative(s) and claims are potentially pious retrospection…. Also, about Tabari — is it true, as I’ve read about, that he doesn’t include narrations about a broken agreement and tends to include narrations that favor dismissing Yazid of much responsibility? Exactly who Yazid was and why he was so strongly reacted against gets quite fuzzy sometimes, as I tried expressing in my earlier comment.

        How established is it in Sunni narrative and understanding that Imam Husayn knew of his destined martyrdom and therefore willingly embraced it without other (politico-religious) motives? I think it’s rather firmly established among the Shi’a, right? It’s fascinating! Also, why would knowing of his future martyrdom necessarily undermine the possibility of political motives? And what else other than his martyrdom might he have known beforehand? (For instance, about his relatives, about the Kufans, and so on).

        The majority of my first comment above was trying to express my concern for understanding the historical background of Karbala – what lead to it, why was it lead to, and what was Imam Husayn trying to do and why? I see, clearly, it’s a difficult topic! I truly hope future discussion, in both academia and the religious community, reengages the topic in a better, more detailed and holistic way. Yes, you have given me more to think about and read about, hopefully for the better.

        I experienced a very strange Ashura and Muharram this year. Very strange… I cried and deeply loved while also confused and troubled. I don’t think anything can reverse my love and care for Imam Husayn, even though I don’t understand him (or Muslims, really. Hahaha!), but my original and increasing concerns and curiosities still stand.

        Thank you for reminding readers how important it is to carefully look back at early sources. I am impressed by your interesting blog. Please continue and live well, insha’Allah.

  19. Imraan says:

    What an excellent response, dear brother/sister. The issue of the framing of the questions which either serve or undermine the narrative(s) of varying stripes is so fundamental to the progression of the discourse and also to gain greater understanding of this awful and tragic event.

    Thanks for posting the link to the maqtal – I attended SICM a couple of years ago when Dr Mavani have his talks and I found him very insightful.

    If you’re interested, there’s a talk on YouTube by a Shaykh Muhammad Amin-Evans given at SICM (it’s on their YouTube channel) on the topic of: “Historiography Clouding Unity: Discussion of the Other in a Shia-Sunni Paradigm” – though he’s a religious studies scholar I thought his insights on historiology were excellent.

    Worth a look if you have the time in sha Allah. He also stressed the sense of urgency al-Husayn (AS) felt and thus appeared to have no choice but to challenge the paradigms of his day; at the end he makes some interesting comparisons and insights as to the crises we’re facing, too. Can’t recommend it highly enough. But as an historian perhaps you’ll find much to disagree with! (I’m still stuck at undergraduate level in the subject so I find everything people say very insightful!!)

  20. qasim says:

    Assalamalaikum. Alhamdulillah, I am glad that there is some positive intellectual dialog between Sunni and Shia. For the survival of this Ummah, we need to work out our differences and face the world as one Ummah. A historical discussion relating to the incident of Karbalah is indeed very significant and a great first step towards resolving differences between these two great communities, but what is more important in my opinion is a discussion on aqueedah. Once we are all on the same page in regards to aqueedah, everything else by Allah’s will, can easily settle itself.

  21. Points to Ponder says:

    All Muslim Brothers and Sisters,
    Why you all are fighting with each other on the historical events based on the sects, if u are really true believer then read following verses from The Holy Quran:

    ‘As for those who divide their religion and break up into sects, thou hast no part in them in the least: their affair is with Allah: He will in the end tell them the truth of all that they did.’ Quran: 6:159

    Be not like those who are divided amongst themselves and fall into disputations after receiving Clear signs; for them is a dreadful penalty.’ Quran: 3:105

    May be I don’t have full knowledge about history , but still history is history and Allah knows well, but one thing I know sects are forbidden In islam, so we should follow Quran and Islamic teachings rather than arguing on the historical events (Those events stories have been transferred through many hands) to create hate between muslim ummah. So please don’t fight with each other on events based on sectarian matters.

    take care
    Points to Ponder

    • Sameel says:

      I think your expectations are genuine and sincere but not realistic. Shia and Sunni will NEVER unite. We are not the same. Sunnis will NEVER, and should never accept the blaspheming of sacred sahaba or the wives of the holy prophet. You want to talk blood, how about the blood of the countless sahabas that died for us to have Islam today.

      Having said that, we just have to learn to agree to disgaree and coexist. That is very different than the unrealistic unity people talk of. We should repect one another, and never resort to violence, if we do that, it will be incredible.

      And as far as Qur’an, isn’t 10% of anything a sect?

      • Revivalist says:

        Salam Brothre Sameel, i liked they way you addressed the issue. I am sure you are using facebook, can i have your facebook id? Jzk

      • Sameel says:

        Wasalam, no I don’t have facebook. And honestly I am nobody. I have nowhere near the knowledge of the guy who did this blog. I also have very dear Shia friends, who I would die for. When I talk of unity, I’m talking theological and more at the macro level, not individual. But I strongly disgaree with there beliefs, as I find them all based on conspiracies and ambiguous verses. But thats just me, and I am nobody. And I’m not being humble.

      • Revivalist says:

        Thank you for the reply. Jzk

  22. mzaalam says:

    I read the really long ‘reconstruction’ of abu mikhnaf’s account linked here. To be honest – not much is different from Yasir Qadi’s account. The only real differences are that yazid consciously plays a part in the events and there’s much more detail about the martyrdoms of each of the entourage of Imam Husayn.

    In fact Yasir Qadi’s talk shows much more love and reverence of imam Husayn than even Abu Mikhnaf’s account does – that account almost makes him seem thirsty for death and confused in his decisions…

    The only thing that doesn’t add up is this blog post by ballandalus – it seems to try to insinuate things that aren’t present in YQ’s speech. Well worth a listen and the abu mikhnaf piece is well worth a read.


    • ballandalus says:

      Before making accusations about how this blogpost doesn’t add up (according to you), can you please provide evidence where I insinuate things that “aren’t present in YQ’s speech”? I can perhaps clarify any misunderstandings which you have. Thanks. There is a difference between asserting that you agree more with Dr. Qadhi’s perspective about Karbala than mine, but it is another matter entirely to make baseless accusations. Awaiting your reply.

      And I have absolutely no doubt that Yasir Qadhi has a strong admiration for Ahl al-Bayt. That has absolutely nothing to do with the argument being made in this piece. In fact, I even praise Dr. Qadhi for his confirming the centrality of the status of the Ahl al-Bayt; perhaps you missed that part.

    • ballandalus says:

      The reason that Dr. Qadhi’s account appears so similar to that provided in Abu Mikhnaf is because YQ relies very heavily upon the “Bidayah wal Nihayah” of Ibn Kathir, who bases his own account on that of Abu Mikhnaf (but tempers it with a Sunni doctrinal bias).

      I’m glad you enjoyed reading the Abu Mikhnaf piece and listening to Dr. Qadhi’s lecture. If the only benefit of this entire blogpost is that it encourages people to go and investigate these sources for themselves (alongside Dr. Qadhi’s speech), then this blogpost will more than have accomplished its objective. I assure you, I think very highly of Dr. Qadhi, which is what makes the errors/framing of some of the issues of his lecture all the more problematic from my perspective.

  23. TruthSeeker says:

    May Allah bless you. It is very reassuring that we have people like you who can represent our views with such clarity.

  24. Revivalist says:

    Salam, If both Sunnis and shias are condemning this brutal act of Yazid then how could this be the bases of difference? I think this should be used as a unifying incident and not a divisive one.

  25. Abdullah says:

    I’ve listened to the lecture before and after coming across this blog post, and my impression is that this response is pretty hyper-critical. I feel like Yasir Qadhi did the best he could considering it being such a vast and emotionally-charged subject, and he did a lot of explaining of his biases and sources. The tone of this response is really emotional, in the sense of it largely being discontent with YQ’s not vilifying the bad guys enough or flattering the good guys enough. But YQ likes to speak in his academic sort of way.

  26. Rahat.5 says:

    The tragedy of Karbala was an historical event, but it has now manifested to a theological debate. With a loose observation, one can identify three responses to Karbala, and each response has theological implications.

    1) The Shi’i Response; Karbala was a tragedy, and the Ashura is commemorated by light tapping/beating oneself. Adorning black clothes and insulting the Sahabah (in particular Hazrat Mu’awiyah (may Allah be pleased with him).

    This approach clearly has a theological implications, and anyone commemorating Ashura in this manner would be classified as a Shi’i.

    2) The Salafi/Wahhabi/Deobandi/Jamate Islami response; We respect Hussain however he was politically wrong, Yazid is a good man (often mentioning ‘May Allah be pleased with him’). The aforementioned groups clearly take the extreme nasibi approach in which they eulogise Yazid and give no regard to Karbalah and the sacrifices made by the great Imam. Often labelled as ‘Yazidis’ this group often misinterprets Hadith to uphold the honour of Yazid. The elders of Deoband like Mufti Shafi clearly supported Yazid. Yasir Qadhi falls in this group as well as Zakir Naik. One can see Qadhi’s previous videos to understand his stance. Qadhi is a staunch Wahabi (and has taught the book of Tawhid by Ibn Abdul Wahhab many times). His latest video is a shift from this Nasibi position to a more moderate position, albeit it is still Nasibi influenced. The Deobandis are slowly moving to the no (3) response.

    3) Traditional Sunni/Sufi/Ashari/Maturdi/Barelwi response; Hussain was on the right, his Grandfather (Peace be upon him) had predicted this noble martyrdom. Sayyiduna Hussain and his family’s martyrdom is labelled as the greatest sacrifice in Islam. In addition, Yazid was on the wrong and their is a discussion if one can send La’ant (curse) on Yazid and the majority agree to cursing Yazid. Taftazani clearly illustrates this opinion in Sharh Aqaid Nasafiyya. Ghazzali and other Ashari scholars discussed this. The position of the Sunni Sufi’s such as Moinudding Chisti Ajmeri, Shaykh Abdul Qadir, Abul Hassan Shadhili, Data Ali Hujweri is also clear on this matter.However this group upholds the honour of Hazrat Mu’awiyah, as he was a Sahabi. (A minority exists which disrespect Hazrat Mu’awiyah, however this is rejected by Mainstream Sunnism.

    Now when a response is given by an individual to Karbala, they will naturally fall into one of the three groups, thus implying to their theological creed. So Qadhi’s notion of Karbala being a mere historical event, is true to a certain extent but the response to Karbalah certain holds theological implications.

    • Sameel says:

      Just to point some horrible points you raised…1) Deobandis are sufi. 2) “light tapping” lol 3) i have never met anyone praise yazeed, and I don’t claim they don’t exist, I’m saying they are no way the mainstream view of your second category 4) Labeling qadhi a wahhabi based on older lectures is rediculous. He only 40, I would be horrified if people heard what I said when i was young and stupid. Which leads me back to point 4. Based on what you wrote, I’m assuming your young and stupid.

  27. Khan saab says:

    Indeed the unfortunate Massacre of Karbala took place 1400 years ago, its a huge event none of us would want to have it occur. Allah SWT is the best judge of all and leave all the complex scenario’s to Allah SWT to judge why do we get into arguments from the past history. We should definitely learn from it and try to get better.. the events could differ from the narrations of various scholars which is fine.
    Our current goal is to follow Quran and Sunnah and stick together as one Ummah, rather than branching out into various segments based on Post Prophet’s events. This is something our beloved Prophet (PBUH) would not want right.

    • shoukath says:

      BRO KHAN SALAM, Brother as for your current goal let me remind you that you can claim to be on the path of guidance only if you follow Ahl Al Bayt.

      Narrated ‘Umar bin Abi Salamah – the step-son of the Prophet ():
      Narrated Zaid bin Arqam, may Allah be pleased with both of them:
      that the Messenger of Allah () said:”Indeed, I am leaving among you, that which if you hold fast to them, you shall not be misguided after me. One of them is greater than the other: The Book of Allah is a rope extended from the sky to the earth, and my family – the people of my house – and they shall not split until they meet at the Hawd, so look at how you deal with them after me.”
      حَدَّثَنَا عَلِيُّ بْنُ الْمُنْذِرِ، – كُوفِيٌّ – حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ فُضَيْلٍ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا الأَعْمَشُ، عَنْ عَطِيَّةَ، عَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ، وَالأَعْمَشُ، عَنْ حَبِيبِ بْنِ أَبِي ثَابِتٍ، عَنْ زَيْدِ بْنِ أَرْقَمَ، رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا قَالاَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ إِنِّي تَارِكٌ فِيكُمْ مَا إِنْ تَمَسَّكْتُمْ بِهِ لَنْ تَضِلُّوا بَعْدِي أَحَدُهُمَا أَعْظَمُ مِنَ الآخَرِ كِتَابُ اللَّهِ حَبْلٌ مَمْدُودٌ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ إِلَى الأَرْضِ وَعِتْرَتِي أَهْلُ بَيْتِي وَلَنْ يَتَفَرَّقَا حَتَّى يَرِدَا عَلَىَّ الْحَوْضَ فَانْظُرُوا كَيْفَ تَخْلُفُونِي فِيهِمَا ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ هَذَا حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ غَرِيبٌ ‏.‏
      Grade : Sahih (Darussalam)
      English reference : Vol. 1, Book 46, Hadith 3788
      Arabic reference : Book 49, Hadith 4157

  28. Muhammad says:

    In this lecture he was more interesting in defending Yazizd and his family

    He even miss qoated hadith from sahih al bukhari to defend Yazizd

    If we are a true muslim you must love the prophet and his family

    Anybody who hurts them hurts us all (Muslims)

    I am beginning to suspect this Imam is a hypocrite

    Allah knows Best

  29. shoukath says:

    salam, kudos to brother andalus.
    “And stop them, for they shall be questioned (Qur’an, 37:24),” IBN HAJAR MAKKI, based on authentic hadith, asserts that people shall be questioned about their love of Ahl Al Bayt.( Al Sawa`iq al-Muhriqa, Section One, Chapter 11, at the conclusion of page 89). Therefore we must exhibit our love towards the Ahl Al Bayt so as to satisfactorily answer when questioned about it.
    Ibn Kathir avers: “Saeed ibn Al Musayyab RA narrated : “The Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam), in his dream, saw members of Banu Ummayya on his pulpit and he was saddened by that… This is an interpretation of Allah’s statement:”
    “And We made not the vision which We showed you but a trial for mankind. Al Quran 17:60”.
    The vision disturbed Our Prophet Sal so much that he was not seen smiling until his wisal ( Ibn katheer, Miracles and Merits of Allah’s Messenger (Sal) taken from Al Bidayah Wan Nihayah, Translated and Researched By Research department of Darussalam, Riyadh, 2010 , page 421).
    This Vision is the revelation of the unjust martyrdom of Hussain RA, Ahl Al bayt and the Asahabs by Yazid laen which even to this day continues to be a trial for mankind as to whether it sides with Al Hussain RA or Yazid laen.
    By the Vision Allah Ta’ala put the Holy Last Messenger (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) on test and trial the way He (Azza wa Jall) put Sayyidina Ibrahim (alayhis sallam) on test and trial regarding Ismail (alayhis sallam) but the sacrifice that was to take place with Ismail was not completed but substituted by Zibh E Azim which the chief of Messengers (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) had to make an actual realistic sacrifice of his beloved son Imam Husain ibn Ali .
    Ibn kathir narrates:”Abdullah ibn Wahb ibn Zamah (RA) related on the authority of Umm Salamah (RAA) who narrated that the Messenger of Allah(Sal) one day slept and then woke up , disturbed. He slept again and woke up but less disturbed . He then slept again and woke up holding a handful of red sand which he twisted in his hand”. I said, “O Messenger of Allah , what is this sand?”. He said,” Angel Gibreel told me: This (meaning Husain, the Prophets’s grandson) would be killed in the land of Iraq. Then I said to Gibreel: Show me the land in which he would be killed and this is the sand”. In the footnotes the Researchers of Darussalam classify this hadith recorded by Al Hakim as Sahih and also that Ad Dhahabi in the book Talkis agreed with Hakim(Ibn katheer, Miracles and Merits of Allah’s Messenger (Sal) taken from Al Bidayah Wan Nihayah, Translated and Researched By Research department of Darussalam, Riyadh, 2010 page 398- 399)…
    Abdullah Ibn Abbas(RA) narrated that Al Hussain RA was sitting in the bosom of the Prophet(Sal). When Gibreel asked him, “Do you love him?”. The Messenger of Allah (Sal) responded , “How should I not love him while he is the fruit of my heart?”. Then Gibreel said,” But your followers will kill him. Should I show you the place of his grave?”. He then took a handful of red dust. (Ibn katheer, Miracles and Merits of Allah’s Messenger (Sal) taken from Al Bidayah Wan Nihayah, Translated and Researched By Research department of Darussalam, Riyadh, 2010 399). In the footnotes, the Researchers of Darussalam classify this hadith recorded by Al Bazzar as authentic on the authority of Haithami.
    Ibn Kathir avers: “Abu Dhar narrated that he heard the Messenger of Allah(SAWA) say:” The first person to change my way is a man from Banu Ummayya”. Al- Baihaqi said: The man being referred to in this hadith is Yazeed ibn Muawiya (Ibn katheer, Miracles and Merits of Allah’s Messenger (Sal) taken from Al Bidayah Wan Nihayah, Translated and Researched By Research department of Darussalam, Riyadh, 2010 at page 397).
    Ibn Kathir avers further: “Imam Ahmad reported on the authority of Abu Saeed Al Khudri that he heard the Messenger Of Allah Sal saying that there will be successors to the Caliphate after 60 years who will stray from prayers and follow lusts and desires ; they will be in error.( Ibn katheer,The Caliphate of Banu Ummayya) taken from Al Bidayah Wan Nihayah, Translated and Researched By Research department of Darussalam, Riyadh, 2012 page 201.
    Imam Abu Ya’ala has recorded a Hadith along with its chain of narration in his Musnad Vol 2, Pg No. 71: “ It has been narrated on the authority of Hadhrat Abu Ubaidah bin Jarrah (RA) that the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said: The affairs of Ummah will be maintained with justice, till a person from Bani Ummayyah will be first to cast a crack in the religion. He will be called Yazid”.
    The Rule of Yazid laen as narrated by Our Beloved Master Mustafa (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) is the rule of error and lusts and the rule to change Islam. Can Husain RA remain silent?
    As narrated above, the Holy Prophet had already informed his Ahl Al Bayt about Zibh E Azim. Further Ibn kathir admits: “Amrah bint Abdur rahman RAA wrote to Al Husain RA : “ I witnessed that Aisha RAA said that she heard the Messenger of Allah Sal say : “Al Hussain RA will be killed in the land of Babel. When Husain RA read the letter, he said:” My destruction is therefore inevitable and will happen ( Ibn katheer,The Caliphate of Banu Ummayya) taken from Al Bidayah Wan Nihayah, Translated and Researched By Research department of Darussalam, Riyadh, 2012 at page 147)”. In the footnotes the Researchers of Darussalam also cite Ibn Asakir, Dahabhi and Al Mizzi as the other scholars who reported this hadith.
    Our beloved Mustafa (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) cried at the tragedy of Karbala. Ibn Kathir narrates: “Abdullah ibn Nujayy narrated that his father said that he was travelling with ‘Ali (ibn Abi Talib) RA on their way to Naynawaa when they saw al Hussain RA heading in the direction of Siffeen , ‘Ali RA called out: “Have patience, O’ Abaa ‘Abdillah (i.e. Hussain)! Have patience, O’ Abaa ‘Abdillah on the banks of the Euphrates (River)!” I said: “What do you mean, O’ Abaa ‘Abdillah?” He (‘Ali) then said: “I went into the room with the Prophet (may peace be upon him) one day and his eyes were flowing with tears.” I (‘Ali) then said: “O Prophet! Has somebody upset you? Are your eyes bothering you?” He (the Prophet) replied: “No. Jibreel was just with me. He informed me that Hussein will be killed on the banks of the Euphrates .” Then He asked me: “Do you want to smell its earth?” I replied in the affirmative and so he stretched out his hand, grabbed a handful of the dust l and then gave it to me , while I could not hold back my tears.” (Ibn katheer,The Caliphate of Banu Ummayya, taken from Al Bidayah Wan Nihayah, Translated and Researched By Research department of Darussalam, Riyadh, 2012 at page 168).
    Ibn Kathir describes: “Ibn Abbas RA narrated that he saw the Messenger Of Allah(Sal) in a dream, dusty and disheveled and holding a bottle of blood. He said , “ May my father and mother be sacrificed on you, O Messenger Of Allah(Sal) “ What is this?”. He said,”This is the blood of Hussain RA and his companions I have been collecting it all day”( Ibn katheer, Miracles and Merits of Allah’s Messenger (Sal) taken from Al Bidayah Wan Nihayah, Translated and Researched By Research department of Darussalam, Riyadh, 2010 at page 400). In the footnotes the Researchers of Darussalam classify this hadith recorded by Ahmed as Authentic.
    Would Our Prophet Sal in such a dusty and disheveled condition be collecting the blood of Hussain RA if he were on the wrong and Yazid laen was on the right as alleged by Yazidis like Bin Baz, Zakir Nayak et al?
    Ibn kathir narrates that Yazid laen was the one who ordered this carnage. Ibn Kathir avers: When Yazid wrote to Ibn Ziyad that he should go to Makkah and besiege Abdullah Ibn Zubayr (RA) he refused to do so and said: By Allah I will not combine two things for a Fasiq (i.e. Yazid). I have already killed the son of Prophet (salallaho alaihi wasalam)’s daughter (on his order) and now (he asks me to) wage war on Bayt ul Harram? (Ibn katheer,The Caliphate of Banu Ummayya, taken from Al Bidayah Wan Nihayah, Translated and Researched By Research department of Darussalam, Riyadh, 2012 at page 187.
    Ibn Kathir chillingly narrates: “It is said that Umar bin Saad commissioned ten horsemen to trample on Al Hussain with their horses on the day of the battle until his body was stuck to the ground while his head was sent to Ibn Ziyad … Al Hassan said:’ When Al Husain’s head was brought , Yazeed started to ridicule it with a stick singing the verses: Summayyah’s descendants are like stones in number while the daughter of the Messenger of Allah is barren. (Ibn katheer,The Caliphate of Banu Ummayya) taken from Al Bidayah Wan Nihayah, Translated and Researched By Research department of Darussalam, Riyadh, 2012 at page 165.)
    Ibn Kathir narrates : Yala bin Murrah reported that the Messenger Of Allah Sal said that Al Hussain is from me and I am from Hussain, therefore whoever loves Allah loves Al Husain; he is sibt among the Asbat(page 172).
    According to this hadith certified by Ibn Kathir, by killing, trampling, insulting Hussain RA , Yazid had infact killed, insulted and trampled the Prophet (Sal) and disbelieved in Allah.

    Commenting on the event of Harrah perpetrated by Yazid laen ibn Kathir says:
    “Regarding the following verse: And if the enemy had entered from all sides (of the city), and they had been exhorted to Al Fitnah (i.e. to renegade from Islam to polytheism) they would surely have committed it and would have hesitated thereupon but little. Quran 33:14
    Ibn Abbas said the interpretation of the verse only came to light exactly 60 years after Hijrah .The cause of the battle of Harrah is that a delegation from Madina went to Damascus to meet Yazid. When they returned, they related Yazid’s habit of drinking and his other bad habit to their families. The worst among his habit was that he missed Salaat because of wine. For this reason, the people of Madina agreed to break their pledge of allegiance. They declared this near the Prophet’s Pulpit in Masjid Nabawi. When Yazid came to know this, he sent an army to Madina Munawwarah. The leader of the army was a person named Muslim bin ‘Uqba-the Pious Elders (Salaf Saliheen) have also addressed this person as Musrif bin ‘Uqba. When he entered Madina, he declared the lives of the Madinians and their property as “Mubah” for 3 days, which meant that for 3 days, the army could do whatever they liked with the lives and the property of the people of Madina. Thus, in those 3 days, he martyred hundreds of people and raped a thousand women’. (Ibn katheer, Miracles and Merits of Allah’s Messenger (Sal) taken from Al Bidayah Wan Nihayah, Translated and Researched By Research department of Darussalam, Riyadh, 2010 at pages 405-406

    Afterwards, Yazid ordered the army to attack the Ka’aba in Makkah. Accordingly, Yazid’s army set up their cannons and stoned the Ka’aba, because of which the curtain of the Ka’aba caught fire.
    It is written by Ibn Atheer in Al Kamil Fi Al Tariq, Vol 3, Pg. No. 464:”To the extent that when 3 days of Rabe’e ul Awwal passed, they stoned the Ka’aba with their cannons, burnt it and started singing thus:”We have tremendous power and courage; we stone this Masjid with cannons.”
    During the siege Allah caused the death of yazid laen. Ibn Kathir says : “Thus the people of sham were defeated and were made to return humiliated”. (Ibn katheer, The Caliphate of Banu Ummayya) taken from Al Bidayah Wan Nihayah, Translated and Researched By Research department of Darussalam, Riyadh, 2012 at page 195).
    Ibn Kathir avers: “It later emerged that those who survived after killing him (Al Hussain RA) were either afflicted with some disease or turmoil in the world while the majority of them lost their senses (Ibn katheer, Miracles and Merits of Allah’s Messenger (Sal) taken from Al Bidayah Wan Nihayah, Translated and Researched By Research department of Darussalam, Riyadh, 2010 at page 169).
    May Allah render the same fate to those who attempt to kill Imam Hussain RA with their filthy tongues and pen. Ameen .

  30. Munaver Yusufali says:

    Here are two points I noted from YQ’s lecture:
    1. He mentioned the hadith of Kissa where the Holy Prophet (saw) identified those under the cloak (Himself, Fatema, Ali, Hasan & Husain pbuta) as the Ahlul Bayt. However, he then goes on to label the Holy Prophet’s wives and other as Ahlul Bayt.

    2. He acknowledges Hasan & Husain as the leaders of the youth of paradise as narrated by the Holy Prophet, but then casts doubt on Husain’s wisdom. Can the leaders of the youths of paradise lack in wisdom?

    • shoukath says:


      Ibn Kathir describes: “Ibn Abbas RA narrated that he saw the Messenger Of Allah(Sal) in a dream, dusty and disheveled and holding a bottle of blood. He said , “ May my father and mother be sacrificed on you, O Messenger Of Allah(Sal) “ What is this?”. He said,”This is the blood of Hussain RA and his companions I have been collecting it all day”( Ibn katheer, Miracles and Merits of Allah’s Messenger (Sal) taken from Al Bidayah Wan Nihayah, Translated and Researched By Research department of Darussalam, Riyadh, 2010 at page 400). In the footnotes the Researchers of Darussalam classify this hadith recorded by Ahmed as Authentic.

      Narrated by Abu Nuaym in “Dalail”[1] , al-Qurtubi in “al-Tazkirat” and al-Baghawi[2] from Anas ibn al-Harith which said: “I heard prophet (sallalahu alaihi wa ala alihi wa sallam) said: “This my son (Husayn ibn Ali) would be killed in the land of al-Iraq, whoever from you would reach him (at that time) let him help him (Husayn)”. Anas (narrator) died with Husayn, alaihi salam. (quoted from “Dalail”).
      Shawkani said in “Darru thahaba” (232): “Narrators of chain are thiqat”.

      [1] Chapter 26, p 554, 493. #474 in shamela version.
      [2] As it was quoted from him by ibn Kathir in “al-Bidayah wa Nihaya” 8/217.

      Would Our Prophet Sal entreat Ummah to aid Hussain if he were on the wrong? Would he be, in such a dusty and disheveled condition, collecting the blood of Hussain RA if he were on the wrong?

  31. Vaqar Ahmed says:


    I like your research about Mawiah.

    My believe is that Abu Sufian and his children never accepted Islam by hearts. They had a grudge against Propet Muhammad (S) and his family. I heard that Mawiah was among the people who followed Prophet Muhammad to ‘Ghar-i-Sur’.

    It is not simply stated as by Yasir Qadhi that it was a political fight rather a theological. I believe that Ummayiah hated Islam and Prophet Muhammad family that is why they killed several great Sahaba and Ahlul Bait. Even a Muslim with weak Iman will never think to harm Ahlul Bait or Sahabi.

    Inshallah, at Akhirah Mawia will be brought as Mujrim.

    Would we consider Abu Lahab’s son who divorced Prophet Muhammad’s daughter and became Muslim after the Prophet’s curse, as Sahabi, when the Prophet refused to see him. Same is the slave of Hinda, who killed Hamza (R), and who later became Muslim, but prophet refused to see him, would we call him Sahabi.
    I believe that at ‘Kauser’ Prophet Muhammad will move away his face from Mawiah.

    Imam Hussain Shahadah was a Suni cause not a Shea cause. If Iraqies and Shea deceived Imam Hussain then they will have trouble in their whole life.

  32. uy says:

    I have read lot about this event from historical accounts to the modern commentary. I could not find any concrete proof of current mourning practices of Shia Muslims up until Allama Majlisi during Safavid Dynasty (1616 AD) (that controlled Khurasan region) and perhaps that is the reason that Ismailis have different mourning practices then the rest of the twelvers. am I right in my understanding?

  33. Isma'il Marshall says:

    He’s quoting a poem from Moinuddin Chishti [1141-1236 A.D.]. Chishti was a Sunni, not a Shi’i.

  34. Can you please start an Islamic History YouTube channel!! With maybe a monthly video.. starting from the beginning. I know I’m asking a lot but many Muslims and Non Muslims will benefit from it . I don’t know of any other Islamic speakers dedicate to History backed with authentic sources.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,014 other followers

%d bloggers like this: