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Husayn ibn Ali

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The Oxford Dictionary of Islam What is This? Covers the religious, political, and social spheres of global Islam in the modern world

    Husayn ibn Ali

    (d. 680 )

    Third Shii imam, son of Ali ibn Abi Talib and Fatimah , and grandson of the Prophet Muhammad . After the assassination of his father and the abdication of his older brother, Hasan , Husayn recognized Muawiyah as caliph, although he refused to pledge allegiance to him. Muawiyah's appointment of his own son, Yazid , as successor led the Shiis of Kufa, Iraq, to invite Husayn to claim his rightful position as caliph and lead an insurrection against Yazid. Husayn accepted the invitation and set out for Kufa with his family and a small group of followers. Intercepted by Yazid's troops in Karbala, Husayn and his followers were killed or taken prisoner on 10 Muharram 680 C.E. (the event is commemorated by the Shii mourning observance of Ashura). The martyrdom of Husayn gave Shiis the ethos of suffering and martyrdom. In the twentieth century, Husayn has become a symbol of political resistance, revolution, and eschatological hope, since the expected Mahdi (messiah) is supposed to avenge his blood and vindicate him and all others who have suffered at the hands of tyrannical rulers. Shiis consider pilgrimage to his tomb in Karbala second in importance only to the hajj. The interpretation of Husayn as a revolutionary fighting for social justice has inspired Shii resistance movements in Lebanon and Iran.

    See also Shii Islam

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