The night following the ninth day of Muharram presented a unique spectacle which has no parallel in the history of the world. A detailed description of the scene of that night in Karbala, requires at least a separate chapter. However, only a few important events of the dreadful night are briefly related here. Since his arrival at Karbala on the 2nd Muharram, the Holy Imam used to gather all those who had accompanied him from Makkah, and address them after every night prayer, advising them to leave him to his own fate and to return to their homes, giving them every assurance that the consequences of his journey would be quite a different one from what had been imagined by them to be.
The final shifting:
Imam Hussain (pbuh) had to offer the sacrifice which had been termed by God Himself as 'Zibh-e-Azeem' the Great Sacrifice (37:104-108). The purity of his body and the divinity of his soul were unquestionable, but those whom he had to offer along with himself in the way of the Lord, had to be of some purity worthy to be blessed with the martyrdom. There were the good and the bad ones, mixed up, in his camp but what he needed was only a pure and clean stuff to be presented to God along with himself. Many who had accompanied him with selfish intentions, had deserted him, and of those still left, the Holy Imam wanted to effect a final shifting so that only those who desired nothing but the pleasure of the Lord, might remain to accompany him in his resignation to the Divine will, to resist against the onslaught of the falsehood of the Devil. At last on the 9th Muharram, soon after the enemy's consent to wait till the following morning, the Holy Imam, after the 'Isha' or the night prayers summoned the remaining people and addressed them thus: I am most pleased with you. I know no companions more loyal or better than my companions and no household more reverent or pious than my household, so may God bless you for my sake because you have been good and cooperative. I do not think that the enemies will give us a day more than tomorrow.
"You are all free, my companions, members of my family, my sons, and my nephews - everyone - to leave without being liable to anything. I release you from the oath and excused you all and you may go free from my obligation. They (i.e. the enemy forces) have nothing against anyone except me. Do not feel guilty; the night is dark. Take advantage of the darkness of the night and depart, let each one of you take the hand of one of my household. Leave me to my fate and save yourselves. They will definitely not stop you."
At the end of his speech, the Holy Imam asked his brother Abbas to put out the lamp in the tent so that people may walk away in the darkness without being ashamed of being seen by him.
It is reported that as soon as the lamp was put out, all those who had accompanied the Holy Imam from Makkah in their vain hopes of making their own fortune, began to desert the Holy Imam (pbuh) in batches and when the lamp was again lit after a while, there were left only a few here and there, and those who remained constituted the Godly band of the Holy Seventy-Two (72) who stood fast by the Holy Imam (pbuh) in the battle for Truth to save the human race against its falling into the abyss of falsehood.
But these remaining Seventy-Two (72) people said unanimously, that such a thing was impossible. Oh son of the Prophet; What will we tell the people, shall we say that we have abandoned our chief and leader, the son of the daughter of our Prophet without lancing an arrow for him or stabbing with a spear for him or striking a sword for him; by God no, oh son of the Prophet we will not leave you until we die before you and let us share your fate with you for life after you is meaningless. What answer we will give to the Prophet on the Day of Resurrection? What will happen to loyalty, to humanity, to love and attachment? Their ardent responses and their words said on that occasion melt a heart of stone and are most moving.
Abbas the brave said: "Is one life worth enough to be sacrificed for someone like you? I wish that I were brought to life seventy (70) times to die seventy (70) times for your sake." Another says, "I would lay down a thousand (1000) lives for your sake if I had them."
Another companion Saad son of Abdullah Al-Hanafi who raised saying:
By God no, oh son of the Prophet we will never abandon you so, that God will know that we have kept our word to His Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) regarding you. And if I know that I would die for your sake and then live again then be burnt alive and sprinkled for your sake and that is done to me seventy (70) times. I will never leave you until I meet my destiny with you. And why would I not do this when I know that it is only one death and then I will get the everlasting reward?
And then the Imam changed the subject and told them about the events of the next day, informing them that they all would be killed. I tell you openly now that I will be mercilessly butchered. My Brother Abbas will lose both his hands and die on the banks of the river. My eighteen (18) year old son Ali Akbar will die by the lance pierced through his chest. And similarly, every one of my companions who will remain with me here, whether he be a relative or a friend of mine, will be rolling in his own blood and ultimately be slain. Only my son Ali (Imam Sajjad), who is sick, will survive to suffer the worst of tortures along with the people of my family. All of them receive it as great good news.
But the young thirteen (13) year old Qasim son of Imam Hassan (pbuh) wondered if he too would be one of them. He thought to himself, after all I am only a boy. Perhaps the Imam means that only the elderly would be martyred. I am just a minor. Therefore, he turned to the Imam and asked him: Will I be among those who will be killed?
The Imam says to him, "Qasim, first let me ask you a question. I will reply after you have answered me." "My nephew, tell me, how do you regard death and what do you think about getting killed?"
"It is sweeter to me than honey!" i.e., "I haven't a desire that should be dearer and sweeter to me!"
After getting this answer, the Imam said to him, "My nephew, you too will be killed. But your death will be different from that of others and (it will be) after you have faced a great ordeal." I tell you now, not even my baby son Ali Asgher will be spared; he will receive an arrow on his tiny neck in my own arms and pass away.
This small band of Godly souls, pure in their spirit and sincere in their desire to fight and fall in the way of the Lord. Spent the night in prayers, reciting the Holy Quran and rejoicing in the hope to drink the fast approaching cup of martyrdom the following morning. Everyone anxiously waited for the break of dawn, to lay down his life in the way of the Lord in supporting the cause of Truth. The ladies were preparing their young children to be sacrificed along with the Holy Imam in upholding the cause of the Lord. The noble mothers of the family of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) were busy advising their young sons to be steadfast in facing the might of the enemy in defense of the right, and to lay down their lives cheerfully and thus to drink the cup of martyrdom in the cause of the correct guidance of the Human Race.
Bibi Zainab said to her sons, "My sons, tomorrow there will be a battle. I cannot ask you to fight because you are young. But if anything happens to Imam Hussain (pbuh), while you are still alive, I will be filled with shame." Both the boys stood up and said: "Mother, we have the blood of Ali and Ja'far in our veins. Our Grandfathers were warriors whose fame will always be remembered. Do you think we can possibly shame them? Moreover we are the pupils of Uncle Abbas. Mother, unless you forbid us and stop us from fighting, we shall go to the battlefield and show the enemies of Islam how bravely the children of Islam can fight. All we want from you is a promise that you will never weep for us. Or souls will never rest in peace if you grieve for us after we are gone." Tears of joy and pride flowed down Zainab's eyes as she embraced her two boys.
When Imam Hussain (pbuh) was passing by Farwa's [the widow of Imam Hassan (pbuh)] tent he heard Qasim say to his mother, "Mother, tomorrow Uncle Abbas, Ali Akbar and I will defend Imam Hussain (pbuh). Mother, if I get killed please do not weep for me." Farwa replied, "My son although I dearly love you, I shall not weep for you. Nothing will make me prouder than to see my son give his life for Islam." When Imam Hussain (pbuh) heard this conversation he prayed to God to bless Qasim and Farwa.
Abbas the Brave, Guard the Camp:
Abbas the dauntless lion stayed beside Imam Hussain (pbuh) ever since they left Medina and was loved by all the members of the Imam's family. He was so devoted to Imam Hussain (pbuh), that when 'Shimr son of Zil Jawshan', the second-in-command of Yazid's army came towards Imam Hussain's camp and called out: "Where are my nephews, Abbas, Abdulla, Ja'far and Uthman?" Abbas (pbuh) refused to reply. It was only after Imam Hussain (pbuh) told him "Answer him, because, despite the fact that he is corrupt he is also one of your relatives" then Abbas asked Shimr what he wanted? Shimr replied: "O, my nephews, I have specially asked 'Ubayd Allah son of Ziyad' for the safety of you all. So why do you wish to kill yourselves with Hussain? Why do you not join the forces of the mighty Yazid?"
Abbas (pbuh) looked at him with contempt and retorted, "May God's wrath fall upon you and upon your proposition, O, enemy of God! How dare you counsel us to desert our Master, Imam Hussain (pbuh) and tie ourselves up with the corrupt and misguided Yazid?" Shimr turned round and went away angrily.
The camp of the Holy Imam (pbuh) contained the ladies and the children of the House of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). Apprehending a surprise attack from the enemy forces which consisted of people who had turned treacherous to the Holy Imam and his family, a ditch was dug around the camp and fire was lighted the whole night and Abbas the Brave, guarded the camp in a vigil the whole night walking around it with his sword in his hand mindful of the safety of the Holy Imam (pbuh) and the inmates of the camp, with a vigilant eye on the ranks of the enemy.
The night in the Yazidian Camp:
While the hungry and thirsty devotees of God in the Holy Imam's camp spent the night in prayers and the devotional supplicate services to God, the soldiers in the Yazidian ranks in the opposite camp spent the whole night in drinking, feasting and making merry in the hope of the promised rewards from Yazid in return for the destruction of the family of the Holy Prophet. God alone knows how many thousands of bowls of wine were emptied on that night. The Yazidian forces anxiously awaited the break of the dawn of the next day to affect the brutal slaughter of the Holy Imam and the small band of his kith and kin and faithful devotees.