Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) and the Qurʾān

Imam Husayn 

بِسْمِ ٱللَّٰهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Salāmun ʿalaykum, may Allah bless you, your families, and all the communities around the world.

The 9th night of Muḥarram, Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) had asked for one more night to offer ṣalāh, make duʿāʾ, ask for forgiveness, and recite Qurʾān. On this night, the Imām (ʿa) and everyone around him spent their last night gathering as much thawāb and reward as they could. They say that when someone would go near their tents, they could hear the sound of munajāt (whispering) and duʿāʾ to Allah (swt), and it sounded like bees buzzing near a hive. Let's talk about Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) and his connection with the Qurʾān.

We know that Allah (swt) sent down the Qurʾān which is in the the form of a book. We also know that the Imāms are the living Qurʾān. They interpret, explain, and live according to the Qurʾān. The Qurʾān is a guidebook for us. It’s not to use just for weddings or when someone dies; it’s a book we should use regularly to help guide us. We have the famous ḥadīth of Thaqalayn where the Prophet (ṣ) said: 

I leave behind the two things of value with you. If you cling to them you will never go wrong: the Qurʾān and my family. They will never be separated until they come to me at the pond of Kawthar (in Jannah).

In many ways, the Qurʾān has characteristics similar to the Imāms (ʿa). The Qurʾān is هُىدًى لِلْمُتَّقِين (hudan lil muttaqīn) — it is a guide for those who are pious. The Imāms (ʿa) are miṣbāḥ al hudah — lanterns of guidance. Also, both the Qurʾān and Imāms (ʿa) are always alive. The Qurʾān is a living text that hasn’t been changed and won’t be changed until the Day of Judgment. Similarly, today, the Imām of our time (ʿaj) is alive and guides us, even though we can’t see him. Today, the Qurʾān is alive amongst us, and through his remembrance and sacrifice, even Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) is alive and with us.

Another characteristic of the Qurʾān is that no matter how much you read it and understand it, you never get tired of learning from it. It’s the same with our Imāms (ʿa) . The companions would sit around them learning, basking in the pleasure of being in their company.

Now, let’s look at the relationship Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) had with the Qurʾān. On the night of ʿĀshūrāʾ, he said, “I love ṣalāh and I love reading Allah’s book.” Throughout his journey to Karbala, he spoke using the Qurʾān. We can do that in our lives, too! If someone asks you how are you doing, you can say “Alḥamdulillāhi rabbil ʿālamīn.” Which āyah did we just recite? The 2nd āyah of Sūrah al-Fātiḥah. The Qurʾān is living, and we can use it as a daily guide.

In the ziyārah of Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa), we say, “We bear witness that you used to read the Qurʾān in your life and you used to live with it.” In one of his other ziyārah, we say, “Salām and peace be on the one who is partnered with the Qurʾān.”

Even in his daily life, when people would ask him questions or make comments, Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) would use the Qurʾān to reply.

One day, when Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) was walking past the masjid, he saw ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʾUmar ibn al-ʿĀṣ. This man had fought against Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) in the battle of Siffīn. He looked at Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) and said, “Dear friends, anyone who wants to see the light in the skies and the heavens, look at the face of this Imām.”

Another man, Abū Saʿīd, who was sitting by him, asked him, “If you believe that, why did you fight against his father, Imām ʿAlī, in the battle of Siffīn?”

He replied, “It’s not my fault. The Qurʾān tells us وَبِالْوَالَِيْنِ إِحْسَانًا - and be good to your parents (17:23). So, I listened to my father who ordered me to fight against ʿAlī.”

Abū Saʿīd grabbed his hand and took him to Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) and said, “O the grandson of Rasūlullāh, this is what this man said.”

Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) then replied with verse 15 of Sūrah Luqmān:

وَإِن جَٰهَدَاكَ عَلَىٰٓ أَن تُشْرِكَ بِى مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِۦ عِلْمٌ فَلَا تُطِعْهُمَا وَصَاحِبْهُمَا فِى ٱلدُّنْيَا مَعْرُوفًا وَٱتَّبِعْ سَبِيلَ مَنْ أَنَابَ إِلَىَّ ثُمَّ إِلَىَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ
But if they urge you to ascribe to Me a partner that of which you have no knowledge, then do not obey them. (31:15)

It is important to understand that if your mother and father command you to do something that is against the will of Allah (swt), it is shirk and you should not accept it. We can obey our parents only as long as what they say doesn’t go against Islam.

It’s so important for our connection to the Qurʾān to be through someone who can understand the Qurʾān. There are things we can do to learn the correct understanding of the Qurʾān. We can read books from qualified scholars, attend their lectures or watch them online, or we can look at the commentary of the Qurʾān of scholars like Allamah Ṭabāṭabāʾī.

Then, Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) continued by quoting a tradition from Rasūlullāh (ṣ), “There is no obedience towards the creations of Allah in something that is going to be a sin towards the Creator, Allah.” This is very important. When you’re with good, trustworthy friends, it’s good to keep company with them only when it doesn’t cross the line with Allah (swt). This is how Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) would use the Qurʾān to explain to people the rules of Allah (swt) and Islam.

The second way Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) was connected through the Qurʾān is visible all throughout the journey through Karbala. Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) would read the Qurʾān and do tafsīr of the Qurʾān. When Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) left Madina on the 28th of Rajab, about 4 months before Muḥarram, he went to the grave of the Prophet in Madina to say goodbye. There, he recited this verse:

فَخَرَجَ مِنْهَا خَآئِفًا يَتَرَقَّبُ قَالَ رَبِّ نَجِّنِى مِنَ ٱلْقَوْمِ ٱلظَّٰلِمِينَ
So he left the city, fearful and alert. He said, “My Lord! Deliver me from the wrongdoing lot.” (28:21)

This verse is about Prophet Mūsā (ʿa) and Pharaoh. When Prophet Mūsā (ʿa) left Egypt to get away from the Pharoah at night, he made this duʿāʾ. He said, “O my Lord, save me from this group of people that is so oppressive.”

We see that in every aspect, if we get closer to the Qurʾān, we can get a better idea of how to connect with the Qurʾān. But one of the rules is that you can’t just take one āyah and understand it. The Qurʾān is a book, but it’s not written like a typical book, with a beginning, middle, and ending. You have to read many different ayāt to understand one āyah properly. For example, if I tell you that the elephant’s nose is big, you might think that the whole elephant is big. You won’t know that his tail is very small, until you hear about that exception.

When Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) reached Mecca, he recited another verse from the Qurʾān:

وَلَمَّا تَوَجَّهَ تِلْقَآءَ مَدْيَنَ قَالَ عَسَىٰ رَبِّىٓ أَن يَهْدِيَنِى سَوَآءَ ٱلسَّبِيلِ
And when he turned his face toward Midian, he said, “Maybe my Lord will show me the right way.” (28:22)

Prophet Mūsā (ʿa) had said this when he reached the city of Midian and felt peaceful. Similarly, this is when Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) also felt peace.

On the day of ʿĀshūrāʾ, Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) read several āyah. When he came to Imām as-Sajjād (ʿa), he recited the following āyah:

ٱسْتَحْوَذَ عَلَيْهِمُ ٱلشَّيْطَٰنُ فَأَنسَىٰهُمْ ذِكْرَ ٱللَّهِ أُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ حِزْبُ ٱلشَّيْطَٰنِ أَلَآ إِنَّ حِزْبَ ٱلشَّيْطَٰنِ هُمُ ٱلْخَٰسِرُونَ
Shayṭān has taken over these people and made them forget the remembrance of Allah. Those are the people of Shayṭān. Without a doubt, the people of Shayṭān will be the losers. (58:19)

By reciting this āyah, he was reminding everyone not to forget Allah (swt) because forgetting HIm will give Shayṭān the opportunity to influence us.

Another place the Imām (ʿa) used the Qurʾān was when his son, ʿAlī al-Akbar (ʿa), came to ask his permission to fight, and he gave permission right away. When other companions would come to him, he would hesitate, but with Ḥaḍrat ʿAlī al-Akbar, Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) gave permission without thinking twice. He looked away and recited this āyah:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ اصْطَفَىٰ آدَمَ وَنُوحًا وَآلَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَآلَ عِمْرَانَ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ
Surely, Allah has chosen Ādam and Nūḥ and the family of Ibrāhīm and the family of ʿImrān over [everyone else] in the world [to be leaders]. (3:33)

This āyah gave him peace:

إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ ٱصْطَفَىٰٓ ءَادَمَ وَنُوحًا وَءَالَ إِبْرَٰهِيمَ وَءَالَ عِمْرَٰنَ عَلَى ٱلْعَٰلَمِينَ
Surely, In the remembrance of Allah, the hearts find peace. (13:28)

Even after his death, when the enemies put the heads on spears, Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) spoke and read the Qurʾān. And this is not something strange. We see that even in the cradle, Prophet ʿĪsā (ʿa) spoke. Prophet Yahya (ʿa) also spoke after he died. There are so many different stories that show that people spoke in what we think are strange situations, where people don’t normally speak. The āyah of the Qurʾān says:

وَلَا تَحْسَبَنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ قُتِلُوا۟ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ أَمْوَٰتًۢا بَلْ أَحْيَآءٌ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ يُرْزَقُونَ
Don’t think that those people who have died in the path of Allah are dead. No, they are alive with Allah. (3:169)

One of the āyah that Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) recited after his shahādah was from Sūrah ash-Shūrā, Verse 227. It states:

إِلَّا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ وَعَمِلُوا۟ ٱلصَّٰلِحَٰتِ وَذَكَرُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ كَثِيرًا وَٱنتَصَرُوا۟ مِنۢ بَعْدِ مَا ظُلِمُوا۟ وَسَيَعْلَمُ ٱلَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوٓا۟ أَىَّ مُنقَلَبٍ يَنقَلِبُونَ
The wrongdoers will soon know at what goal they will end up. (26:227)

This āyah is a reminder about the oppression that has been done in this world and that Allah (swt) will take revenge on the Day of Judgment.

There’s a narration from one of our scholars in which Zayd ibn Arqam says, “I was sitting in my room when the caravan passed by with the heads on the spears and Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) from the spear was reciting Sūrah al-Kahf, Verse 9 — ‘Do you suppose that the Companions of the Cave and the Inscription were among Our strange and wonderful signs?’”

This āyah wasn’t randomly chosen to be recited by Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa). He chose this āyah because he wanted to show that the people of the cave were strong, young people who wanted to defend their faith and stand up against oppression. He wanted to show that his companions were like these people of the cave. And the fact that the head of the grandson of the Prophet (ṣ) was being paraded on the streets was even stranger than the people of the cave falling asleep for hundreds of years.

So, you see, one of the things Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) was teaching us was not just to read the Qurʾān, but to live with the Qurʾān. Spend a little time to read some Qurʾān every day. Read some āyah and reflect on them. If there’s one book we should be trying to understand truly, it’s this book, because it’s our guide and our map to Jannah. The Qurʾān are the words of Allah (swt), so reading the Qurʾān, is like Allah (swt) is talking to us.

Authored under the guidance of Moulana Nabi R. Mir (Abidi)

Download the related Muḥarram Project Booklet with lessons and crafts. 

View the Kisa Kids Crafts for this lesson (on Kisa Kids YouTube Channel)