Abu al-Hasan al-Ash’ari (d. 936) on Karbala

The eponymous founder of perhaps the most important school of Sunni theology, Abū al-Ḥasan ‘Alī ibn Ismā‘īl al-Ash‘arī (d. 936) was one of the most influential scholars in medieval Islamic history. He was very well versed in Mu‘tazalite theology and philosophy, but abandoned that school of thought later in his life. His greatest contribution was the formulation of theological principles that would form the core of Sunni orthodoxy and his school of thought—Ash‘arism—was promoted by some of the most important scholars in the Sunni tradition, including Imām al-Ḥaramayn al-Juwaynī (d. 1086), Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī (d. 1111) and Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 1209) among others. The following section which focuses on the martyrdom of al-Ḥusayn b. ‘Alī (d. 680) is drawn from his main work entitled Maqālāt al-Islāmiyyīn which deals with various historical and theological questions. It reflects the acceptance by a major Sunni scholar in the early tenth century of the key elements of the basic “Karbala narrative” which would be elaborated upon in subsequent centuries by various scholars and historians from all schools of thought.


Al-Ḥusayn ibn ‘Alī (may God be pleased with him) rebelled in defiance of the oppression of Yazīd ibn Mu‘āwiya and was killed at Karbala. May God be pleased with him! His story is very well known. He was killed by ‘Umar ibn Sa‘d, who had been sent to fight [al-Ḥusayn] by ‘Ubayd Allāh ibn Ziyād. The head of al-Ḥusayn was carried to Yazīd ibn Mu‘āwiya, who—upon having the head between his hands—poked the lips—the same lips that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to kiss—with his staff. Al-Ḥusayn’s children, his daughters and the women of his household were also brought to Yazīd. Those from the Prophet’s family who were killed with al-Ḥusayn included his son ‘Alī al-Akbar and the sons of his brother al-Ḥasan: ‘Abd Allāh ibn al-Ḥasan, al-Qāsim ibn al-Ḥasan and Abū Bakr ibn al-Ḥasan. From among his brothers were killed al-‘Abbās ibn ‘Alī, ‘Abd Allāh ibn ‘Alī, Ja‘far ibn ‘Alī, ‘Uthmān ibn ‘Alī, Abū Bakr ibn ‘Alī, Muhammad ibn ‘Alī (also known as Muhammad al-Asghar). From among the descendants of Ja‘far ibn Abī Ṭālib who were killed were Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allāh ibn Ja‘far and ‘Awn ibn ‘Abd Allāh ibn Ja‘far. From the sons of ‘Aqīl ibn Abī Ṭālib who were killed were ‘Abd Allāh ibn ‘Aqīl, Muslim ibn ‘Aqīl who was killed in Kufa, ‘Abd al-Rahmān ibn ‘Aqīl, Ja‘far ibn ‘Aqīl and ‘Abd Allāh ibn Muslim ibn ‘Aqīl. [al-Ash‘arī then includes three Arabic laments for al-Ḥusayn by three poets: Ibn Abī Ramh al-Khuzā‘ī, Manṣūr al-Nimirī, and Di‘bal al-Khuzā‘ī].

[al-Ash‘arī, Maqālat al-Islāmiyyīn (Beirut: al-Maktaba al-‘Asriyya, 2009), 1: 76–78]


1 thought on “Abu al-Hasan al-Ash’ari (d. 936) on Karbala

  1. BismillahirRahmanirRahim,
    Many thanks for this post. If you could perhaps direct us to where we could find a translation of those 3 laments, that’d be most appreciated.

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 )

Connecting to %s