Prior to his death, the Umayyad ruler Mu’awiya appointed his son Yazid as his successor, contrary to the Hasan-Muawiya treaty. When Muawiya died in 680, Yazid demanded that Husayn pledge allegiance to him. Husayn refused to pledge allegiance to Yazid, even though it meant sacrificing his life. As a consequence, he left Medina, his hometown, to take refuge in Mecca in AH 60 (679 AD). There, the people of Kufa sent letters to him, asking his help and pledging their allegiance to him. So he traveled towards Kufa along with a small caravan of his family, relatives and followers, after getting some favorable indications, but near Karbala his caravan was intercepted by Yazid’s army. He was killed and then beheaded in the Battle of Karbala on 10 October 680 (10 Muharram 61 AH) by Yazid, along with most of his family and companions, including Husayn’s six-month old son, Ali al-Asghar, with the women and children taken as prisoners. Anger at Husayn’s death was turned into a rallying cry that helped undermine the Umayyad caliphate‘s legitimacy, and ultimately its overthrow by the Abbasid Revolution.
The annual commemoration of Husayn and his children, family and companions occurs during Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, and the day he was martyred is known as Ashura. Husayn’s actions at Karbala fueled later Shi’a movementsو and his death was decisive in shaping Islamic and Shi’a history. The timing of Husayn’s life and death were crucial as they were in one of the most challenging periods of the seventh century. During this time, Umayyad oppression was rampant, and the stand that Husayn and his followers took became a symbol of resistance inspiring future uprisings against oppressors and injustice. Throughout history, many notable personalities, such as Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, have cited Husayn’s stand against oppression as an example for their own fights against injustice