Who is the Chief of Martyrs (Sayyid al-Shohadaa)?

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Some so-called Muslims, true to their disposition, are quick to refute just about every virtue of the Ahle Bait (a.s.), even the most evident and widely reported ones. When they cannot conclusively reject a particular virtue they resort to their strategy of, “If you cannot convince, confuse.”

One such virtue relates to Imam Husain b. Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.), whom they address merely as a martyr (al-Shaheed), rather than the Chief of Martyrs (Sayyid al-Shohadaa).

These so-called Muslims do not like to see, Imam Husain b. Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) remembered as Sayyid al-Shohadaa, so they have resorted to diversionary tactics by looking for other personalities who are remembered with the same title of Sayyid al-Shohadaa, in order to reject or at the very least, dilute Imam Husain b. Ali b. Abi Taalib’s (a.s.) excellence, merit and martyrdom.

One personality they have picked from history to counter Imam Husain b. Ali (a.s.) is Hazrat Hamzah b. Abdil Muttalib (a.s.) – the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) uncle.

Position of Hazrat Hamzah b. Abdil Muttalib (a.s.) in Islam

There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever about Hazrat Hamzah’s (a.s.) bravery and his exemplary service and sacrifice in the way of Islam. He was given the title of Sayyid al-Shohadaa for making the ultimate sacrifice in the way of Allah and His Messenger (s.a.w.a.) in the battle of Ohod. His martyrdom evoked extreme emotions in the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.), the like of which was never seen before by the Muslims. He was even more upset by the fact that the Muslims were mourning their dead ones martyred in Ohod, but none was mourning Hamzah (a.s.) which prompted the ladies of Bani Hashim led by the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) daughter – Hazrat Fatima (s.a.) to make regular visitations (ziyaaraat) to Hazrat Hamzah’s (a.s.) grave.
(Tarikh-e-Tabari, vol. 7, p. 137 (English); Madaarij al-Nobuwwah by Shaikh Abdul Haqq Muhaddith-e-Dahlawi vol. 2 p. 179 (Urdu))

However, it is clear for even the most uninformed reader of history that in this instance, Hazrat Hamzah (a.s.) has been advanced only to dilute Imam Husain Ibn Ali’s (a.s.) position. Otherwise, how can one explain the aversion of these very Muslims to name the killers of Hamzah (a.s.), and their background and their long-standing animosity towards Islam and the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). It is unanimously reported by all historians that Hamzah was killed by Wahshi – a slave of Hind the mother of Muawiyah and wife of Abu Sufyan. Not satisfied at seeing Hamzah (a.s.) killed, she gave more evidence of her vicious animal nature and pathological hatred for the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Bani Hashim, by chewing Hamzah’s (a.s.) liver. Thus, she gained the title of – Hind the liver eater – and is always remembered along with Hamzah, the Chief of Martyrs, as the reason for his martyrdom. Of late, such Muslims have even gone to state that Muawiyah was proud of being the son of Hind!!! Take lesson, O people of wisdom!

Or how do these Muslims explain the aversion and restriction to visitation and mourning over Hamzah’s (a.s.) grave at Ohod, which has been leveled by the rulers of Hejaz, while there was a structure raised over it earlier when he was likewise considered as the Chief of Martyrs by some earlier Muslims.

Clearly, these Muslims only pay lip service to Hamzah’s (a.s.) sacrifice and have no special respect and love for him and consider him just like any other companion who was fortunate enough to see the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).

Position of Jafar b. Abi Taalib (a.s.) in Islam

Any discussion on sacrificing one’s life in the way of Islam and the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) would be incomplete without mentioning Jafar b. Abi Talib (a.s.) – another warrior who was remembered as the Chief of Martyrs.

Jafar b. Abi Talib (a.s.) was martyred in the Battle of Mootah where the Muslims were heavily outnumbered. He was the standard bearer and gave his life for Allah the Glorious and His Messenger (s.a.w.a.) but not before he lost both his arms in the battle. Allah the High rewarded him by replacing his arms with wings, with which he soars along with the angels in the heavens. Jafar (a.s.) is living proof of the following verse:

‘And reckon not those who are killed in Allah’s way as dead; nay, they are alive (and) are provided sustenance from their Lord…’ (Surah Ale Imran (3): Verse 169)

And those who believe the dead being lifeless are of no use to the living, are only belittling the efforts of martyrs like Hamzah (a.s.) and Jafar (a.s.) and their claims of love and respect for these individuals sound as hollow as their slogans of Divine Monotheism (Tauheed).

How Imam Husain (a.s.) remembers Hamzah (a.s.) and Jafar (a.s.)

If these Muslims claim to be the true lovers of Hamzah (a.s.) and venerate him as the Chief of Martyrs, it would interest them to know that Imam Husain (a.s.) himself remembered him as such on the Day of Ashoora.
But that did not stop Yazid’s forces from attacking Imam Husain (a.s.) and killing him and his companions and imprisoning his family in a manner that grieved the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) even more than on Hamzah’s (a.s.) martyrdom.

If these Muslims consider Hamzah (a.s.), so highly can they explain why Imam Husain’s (a.s.) relation with Hamzah (a.s.) was not sufficient to spare his life. In the very least, what stops them from condemning Yazid and praising Imam Husain (a.s.) today? Their high regard for Yazid is an insult to Hamzah (a.s.), especially since it was Yazid’s grandmother – Hind – who had Hamzah (a.s.) martyred.

How Yazid remembers Hamzah (a.s.)

Equally pertinent is to draw the reader’s attention to Yazid’s opinion on Hamzah (a.s.) and other members of Bani Hashim killed in the battles of Badr and Ohod.

Qaazi Sanaaullah Panipati (exp. 1225 AH) was a Sunni scholar of the thirteenth century, who studied under Shah Waliullah Muhaddith-e-Dehlavi (exp. 1176 AH) while his son Shah Abdul Aziz Muhaddith-e-Dehlavi (exp. 1239 AH) would call Qaazi Sanaaullah the ‘Baihaqi of his time’. He was also the caliph of Mirza MazharJaan-e-Jaanaan (exp. 1195 AH) who would refer to Qaazi Sanaaullah as ‘Alam al-Huda’ (the standard of guidance).

His commentary of the Holy Quran, Tafseer-e-Mazhari, is very popular among these Muslims. Hence, his views about Yazid are extremely pertinent.

Under the commentary of Surah Noor (24): Verse 55, (“…and whoever is ungrateful after this, these it is who are the transgressors…”) he records:

It is possible that this verse refers to Yazid b. Muawiyah who martyred the grandson of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his companions; companions who were actually the members of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) family.
(Tafseer-e-Mazhari (Urdu), vol.8 p. 268)

He also writes:
Yazid and his associates disbelieved in the bounties of Allah. They deemed it as their aim to have a grudge against the progeny of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), murdered Husain (a.s.) unjustly. Yazid disbelieved in the religion of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) to the extent that Yazid recited the following couplets over the killing of Husain (r.a.):

‘Where are my ancestors, they should come and see that I have taken revenge from the progeny of the Prophet and Bani Hashim’.

And the last verse was:

‘I would not be from the progeny of Jandab had I not taken revenge from the progeny of Ahmad for whatever they had done.’
Tafseer-e-Mazhari (Urdu), vol.5 p. 271, commentary of Surah Ibrahim (14):29

Apparently, Yazid does not seem to have the same respect for Hamzah (a.s.) the Chief of Martyrs. Rather he only has contempt for Hamzah (a.s.) and considers himself as the redeemer of Bani Umayyah’s honour by killing Imam Husain (a.s.) and avenging the loss inflicted by Hamzah (a.s.) on his family in Badr.

And these so-called Muslims who proudly call Hamzah (a.s.) as the Chief of Martyrs consider Yazid as their caliph, idol and insert ‘may Allah be pleased with him’ after his name (as they do with all companions, good as well as bad).

How Imam Husain (a.s.) and Hamzah (a.s.) are both Chiefs of Martyrs

To answer the objection of these Muslims on how Imam Husain (a.s.) can be the Chief of Martyrs we draw their attention to the following verse from the Holy Quran:

‘And when the angels said: O Maryam! Surely, Allah has chosen you, purified you and chosen you above the women of the world.’ (Surah Aale Imran (3): Verse 42)

Allah the High has selected Janab-e-Maryam (s.a.) as the Chief of all Women. Yet, we find several traditions that declare Janab-e-Fatima Zahra (s.a.), the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) beloved daughter, as the Chief of all Women. How does one reconcile the two positions?

Let us refer to the tradition of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) on the subject:

One day the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was seated along with Hazrat Ali (a.s.), Hazrat Fatima (s.a.), Imam Hasan (a.s.) and Imam Husain (a.s.), when he was informed (regarding Hazrat Fatima (s.a.)) – ‘…(Fatima) is the chief of the women of the worlds…’. The Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was asked – Is she the chief of the women of her era (only)? He (s.a.w.a.) replied, ‘That is for Maryam the daughter of Imran. As for my daughter Fatima, she is the chief of women of all eras from the beginning till the end…’
(Behaar al-Anwaar v 43, p 24-25 from al-Amaali Shaikh al-Saduq r.a.)

So while Janab-e-Maryam (s.a.) was the Chief of Women of her era, Janab-e-Fatima (s.a.) is the Chief of all women of all eras.

Likewise, it can be concluded that while Hamzah (a.s.) is the Chief of Martyrs of his era, Imam Husain (a.s.) is the Chief of Martyrs of all eras.

Imam Hasan (a.s.) and Imam Husain (a.s.) are the Chiefs of Youths of Paradise and are superior to all people of all time excepting the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Ameerul Momineen (a.s.). They are therefore the Chief of all who enter Paradise be it the Prophets except the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), Martyrs (Shohadaa), Testifying Ones (Siddiqeen) and Righteous (Saaliheen). Only those bearing animosity with Imam Hasan (a.s.) and Imam Husain (a.s.) will take exception to these titles and raise an objection at every honorific and distinction as if it were some crime.

Just like the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) by virtue of being the Chief of all Mankind is the Chief of Prophets (a.s.) and is worthier of all titles like Kaleemullah, Ruhullah and Khaleelullah. Only the misguided would take exception to this and only the apostate would lower the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) to the position of an ordinary Muslim.


The Holy Quran has declared in not one, but two places, the superiority of the Bani Israel to all mankind. Refer to the verse:

“O Children of Israel! Remember My bounty that I have bestowed upon you and that I have granted you excellence over all the worlds.” (Surah Baqarah (2): Verses 47 and 122)

As any Muslim with a minimum understanding of Arabic will understand that the word ‘Aalameen’ refers to the entire creation as “All praise is for Allah the Lord of the Words (aalameen)”. Now what should the Muslims do? They have no option but to accept the superiority of the Children of Israel and regard them as the best of nations!! Will any Muslim worth his salt ever accept it? Should he reject the Quran? No, rather, he will justify the above verse with some other verses and their established beliefs which we will not discuss here – we leave it to their leaders to advance justifications to satisfy their followers. On our part our only advice to Muslims is to refer to the Ahle Bait (a.s.) for all doubts as commanded by Allah and His Prophet (s.a.w.a.).

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