Once Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) was walking with a companion called Mazahir, he (saw) stopped and sat on the ground. Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) called Mazahir's young son Habib to him and hugged and kissed him. Mazahir asked:
"O Prophet! What good deed has my son done to deserve such affection?"
With tears in his eyes Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) replied:
"O Mazahir! Whilst we were walking I happened to notice at Habib. He was walking behind my grandson Husayn and wherever Husayn stepped he lifted the dust from under Husayn's feet and put it to his eyes in respect." O Mazahir! This Habib will come to my Husayn's aid one day."
Habib Ibne Mazahir was about the same age as Imam Husayn (as). They were childhood friends, when Imam Ali (as) moved the capital from Medina to Kufa, Habib also moved to Kufa. He stayed in Kufa and became a prominent citizen. The first letter which Imam Husayn (as) received inviting him to Kufa was signed by none other than his childhood friend Habib Ibne Mazahir. After Hazrat Muslim ibn Aqeel and Hazrat Hani ibn Urwah were martyred by Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad, Kufa was sealed off. No one could get in or out of the city without the Governor Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad's permission.
Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad also started spreading the rumour that Imam Husayn (as) had gone to Medina and that he was living there happily under the protection of Yazid ibn Mu'awiyah. Even Imam Husayn's messenger Qays ibn Mushir who tried to take a letter to the citizens of Kufa was arrested outside Kufa. He was tied, gagged and thrown from the roof of the palace to the ground three times. Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad succeeded in spreading terror in Kufa and silencing the people.
Habib Ibne Mazahir was heart-broken because he could not join Imam Husayn (as). He did not even know where Imam Husayn (as) was. There were all sorts of rumours but no one knew anything for certain.
Since the day Imam Husayn (as) had reached Karbala, everyday Bibi Zaynab (sa) saw soldiers coming to join the camp of Umar ibn Sa'ad, the Commander of Yazid's Army. On 4th Muharram she came to Imam Husayn (as) and said "Ya Akhi (Oh my brother), why are all these soldiers coming?" Imam Husayn (as) replied "My dear sister, they are gathering to kill me." Bibi Zaynab (sa) said, "Brother, you have hardly seventy-two men with you, while they are in thousands." Bibi Zaynab had tears in her eyes as she added, "Do you not have anyone ready to come to your help?"
"My sister Zaynab, many wanted to join me during the journey from Medina to Karbala. I politely discouraged them because their intention was not truthful. Many joined and have run away during the journey because they were scared of dying."
He continued: "Zaynab! My sister! Falsehood can buy many supporters, but truth has only a few friends. The soldiers on the other side have been bought. They prefer happiness in this world than in the world hereafter. My seventy-two truthful men prefer happiness in the world hereafter and that is why they are with me."
In Karbala Imam Husayn (as) called no one for help except his childhood friend Habib Ibne Mazahir. That very same day Imam Husayn (as) wrote a letter to Habib Ibne Mazahir, his childhood friend, telling him how Yazid ibn Mu'awiyah's vultures were gathering to kill him. The letter was carried by a messenger who entered Kufa in the dark by climbing over the city walls. The messenger reached Habib's house as Habib, his wife and his young son were sitting down for breakfast/meal. Habib read the letter, kissed it and tears began to flow down his cheeks. His wife asked him what was wrong. Habib said "Who would ever have thought that people would be so thirsty for the blood of the grandson of Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw), whose name they utter in every Adhaan and in every Salaah?"
Habib's wife said: "Habib! Your childhood friend has called you. Your master needs your help. What are you waiting for? Go Habib, before it is too late!"
Habib instructed his servant to take his horse to a farm outside the city and wait for him there. If anyone should ask, the servant should say that he was taking the horse for grazing.
At Asr, when most people were in the mosque, Habib slipped out of Kufa to reach the farm where his horse was waiting. He quickly mounted his horse and said to his slave: "Go, my friend, Go! I am freeing you from my services."
"Master! You are not being fair. I have served you faithfully for years. Now, I have a chance to serve the son of Fatimah Zahra (sa), and you are asking me to go. Why are you denying me a place in Heaven?"
Habib was taken aback by the words of his slave. He was pleased to hear that he had recognized the difference between the truth and the wrongful. He wanted to sacrifice his life for truth. Habib asked his slave to mount his horse. Together they galloped towards Karbala. Habib reached Karbala late in the evening.
In Karbala, Imam Husayn (as) was distributing the weapons to all the Mujahids. There was one spear left when someone asked: "O son of Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw)! Who is the last spear for?"
Imam Husayn (as) replied: "This one is for my childhood friend Habib."
Just then Habib could be seen walking towards the camp. Imam Husayn (as) ran forward to greet him with great affection. Bibi Zaynab (sa) would ask Bibi Fizza to find out who had arrived when there was the sound of horses. Every time, Bibi Fizza would announce the arrival of more enemy troops. Suddenly, she said to Bibi Zaynab (sa), our guest has arrived."
Bibi Zaynab (sa) asked Bibi Fizza to convey her Salaams to Habib. When Habib received the message he began to sob saying, "How fortunate are the companions of Imam Husayn (as) that the daughter of Fatimah Zahra (sa) should honour them with greetings."
Days and nights of Moharram passed by and the fateful day of Ashura came.
At dawn, Ali Akber (as) gave Adhaan for the last time. Yazid's soldiers blew the trumpets to start the battle. One-by-one, Imam Husayn's companions went to the battlefield and gave their lives for Islam.
Between Zohr and Asr time, Habib lbne Mazahir came to Imam Husayn (as). He said: "My Master, Husayn, allow me to go to the battlefield. Let me sacrifice my life for Islam."
"Habib, my childhood friend, stay with me. You give comfort to me, my friend."
Habib persisted with his request. Eventually Imam Husayn (as) gave his permission. Imam Husayn (as) mounted his friend, Habib, on the horse. Habib Ibne Mazahir rode into the battlefield. He fought bravely but was finally over-powered. He fell to the ground.
Imam Husayn (as) rushed towards him. Habib looked at Imam and said "O the grandson of Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw), please forgive this humble servant for not being able to give more than his unworthy life for you and Islam." Imam Husayn (as) took Habib in his arms and cried, "O my friend! O my friend!" Habib died resting his head on Imam Husayn's shoulder.
Later an enemy soldier came over and cut off his head. All the martyrs of Karbala had their heads cut off, but Habib's was the first to be cut off by the enemy. Habib's head was not hung on the spearhead like that of the other martyr's. Habib's head was tied to a horse and pulled along the land of Karbala.
When the caravan of the prisoners reached Kufa the soldier from Yazid's army who had the head of Habib round his horse saw that a young boy called Qasim, was following him wherever he went. He asked the young boy what he wanted.
Qasim just looked at the head hanging from the horse's neck. The man asked again: "Why are you staring at the head?"
"This is the head of my father, Habib Ibne Mazahir; please give it to me so that I can bury my father's head." Habib's head seemed to look at his son and say: "My son Qasim, you are thinking of burying my head. What about the head of Imam Husayn (as) on that spearhead?"