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Peter J. Chelkowski on Imam Husain

Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, New York University.

       "Hussein accepted and set out from Mecca with his family and an entourage of about seventy followers.  But on the plain of Kerbela they were caught in an ambush set by the … caliph, Yazid.  Though defeat was certain, Hussein refused to pay homage to him.  Surrounded by a great enemy force, Hussein and his company existed without water for ten days in the burning desert of Kerbela.  Finally Hussein, the adults and some male children of his family and his companions were cut to bits by the arrows and swords of Yazid's army; his women and remaining children were taken as captives to Yazid in Damascus.  The renowned historian Abu Reyhan al-Biruni states; "… then fire was set to their camp and the bodies were trampled by the hoofs of the horses; nobody in the history of the human kind has seen such atrocities."

[Ta'ziyeh: Ritual and Drama in Iran, New York, 1979, p. 2]