News had reached Damascus that Imam Hussain (pbuh) had left Madina for Makkah. Yazid became so worried that he decided to send 'Amr son of Saad son of Al-Ass' as delegate of the Caliph to the Hajj pilgrims and that among his duties was to kill Imam Hussain (pbuh) wherever they found him and whatever the costs. Yazid hired thirty (30) men to guide themselves as pilgrims (Hajjis) with daggers hidden in their pilgrim garbs to murder the Holy Imam (pbuh) even while performing the pilgrimage rites, be he even in the very precincts of the Great Sanctuary of the Holy Kaaba.
Imam Hussain (pbuh) had received the letter from his Deputy Muslim son of Aqeel in Kufa to proceed towards Kufa without any delay, the letter which Muslim son of Aqeel had written before what befell him later. Imam Hussain (pbuh) only waited for the pilgrimage to start, so that he can proceed towards Kufa thereafter. But he got intelligence about the plot to kill him even in the Holy Sanctuary.
Imam Hussain's Sermon at Mina:
Imam Hussain saves the Sanctity of the Great Sanctuary:
The Holy Kaaba, a Sanctuary, the Holiest of the Holy Places of Islam, a Sanctuary wherein no creature animate or inanimate could be disturbed wherein even a confirmed convict could not be killed, nor even a plant be plucked out. If the sanctity of the Holiest Shrine of Islam be violated by the shedding of the blood of the Holy Imam (pbuh) which was the very blood of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) himself, no security for anyone else would be left thereafter; the Holy Kaaba would cease to be a Sanctuary.
The next day was the day of the pilgrimage and Imam Hussain (pbuh) in the interest of the sanctity of the place could remain there no more. The Holy Imam (pbuh) decided to leave the place with his whole caravan, performing the briefer pilgrimage 'Umra' instead of the full pilgrimage 'Hajj', which could be done only the next day, when every Muslim rushes to the place and covets to be there.
Imam Hussain left Makkah on the 8th of Dhul-Hijjah, 60 of Hijrah preceded towards Kufa. His cousin Abdullah son of Abbas asked him to wait, and warned him, "You might be killed, and the people of Iraq are not reliable. At least go some other place, such as Yemen, where your father had followers."
The Holy Imam (pbuh) replied, "O my cousin! I know that you are sincere, but I have decided on this journey." Son of Abbas said, "Then, do not take your children and your family, I am afraid if you take them, they may see you die." Imam Hussain (pbuh) replied, "By God, they are not going to leave me. If they leave me, they are going to be victims of someone who would not have mercy on them."
He (pbuh) wanted the family to be united, and whatever happens would happen to them together. And, if he leaves them, they would not be under anyone's protection. Although he knew before hand the ultimate destiny he was to face. But he believed that the true victory of God's message would be realized through his martyrdom, since there was no one else to stand up for the oppression. He knew that the nation would not wake up except by such a great shock. Therefore, let this shock be his martyrdom, along with his family who went all the way with him.
The Prophesied Desert of Karbala:
At a place near the Euphrates, the Holy Imam's steed suddenly stopped and in spite of the unusual spurring, the animal did not move; but raised its head towards heaven, as if to say that it was helpless and could not step forward any more. Imam Hussain (pbuh) changed six (6) horses one after another but none of the animals moved from the spot.
Gathering the people in the neighborhood, the Holy Imam (pbuh) enquired the name of the place. Some said 'Maria' some said 'Nainawa' and some said 'Shattul Furat' but the Holy Imam (pbuh) was not satisfied and continued his enquiry asking if there was any other name for the place. An old man stepped forward and said "O' Son of the Apostle of God! I have heard from my ancestors this plain being called also as 'Karbala'." The moment the Holy Imam (pbuh) heard the name of Karbala, he smiled, thanked God and said:
"Surely this is the plain I was in quest of. This is the place where my holy Grandfather had prophesied that I, with all my faithful companions, will lay slain after suffering three day's hunger and thirst. Here will the Garden of Fatima be cut and destroyed. I cannot and I will not move an inch from this place, I have reached the destined destination."
Saying this, the Holy Imam (pbuh) ordered the caravan to be stopped and declared that the journey had ended as he had arrived at the desired destination. Tents were ordered to be pitched but Bibi Zainab (pbuh), Hussain's sister, hearing of the Imam's decision to camp there, wept and sent for Hussain and requested him saying:
"Brother dear! Do not camp here! Some how my heart is restless and does not consent. Brother dear! Since our arrival on this plain, I distinctly hear the lamenting voice of our dear mother, wailing somewhere nearby in this desert."
Imam Hussain (pbuh), hearing his mother's name, shed tears and said: "Zainab! We need not fear when God is with us. It is immaterial, sister, where we camp. This is the place, sister dear, I was in quest of, and thanks to God I am at it and now sister dear, I cannot move from here." Imam Hussain, set up camp by the banks of the river Euphrates known as the Al-Qama. That day was 2nd of Muharram, Hijri 61.
Imam Hussain (pbuh) entered Karbala on the second of Moharram 61 A.H. Then he turned towards his companions and said,
"People are the slaves of this world and Religion is only a lip-service for them, and they will take care of it until it is pleasurable, and when the crucible of trials approaches, only a few religious ones remain."
Imam Hussain (pbuh) purchases the site for the Graves:
The Holy Imam (pbuh) gathered the people of the surrounding places, the owners of the plain of Karbala, and purchasing the land from them gifted the same to the people of Banu Asad.
Addressing the males among them he said: "On the Tenth day (Ashura) of this month (Muharram) you shall see us lying here slain, our bodies lying on the plain with our heads severed and taken away. I request you to kindly bury us, and when our devotees come to visit our graves, hold them in honor as your guests and point out to them the places of our burial."
He then addressed the ladies:
"O virtuous ladies! If your husbands, fearing the wrath of Yazid do not bury us, you kindly encourage them to do it or do it yourselves."
The Holy Imam then turned to the young children in the gathering and addressing them said:
"O innocent ones! If your parents, out of fear of the wrath of the Ruler, do not bury us, you may, by way of playing bring some mud in your laps and throw it upon our bodies and hide them."
The appeal was so touching that the whole gathering wept.