Courageous Decisions in Karbala: Hussain Ibn Ali’s Gift of Freedom of Decision Making

Hussain Ibn Ali, the grandson of Holy Prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H, stands out as a remarkable leader who bestowed upon his companians a legacy of choice and respect. He remains a source of inspiration for people globally, as one of his extraordinary qualities was his firm belief in the freedom of his companions. Prior to the Battle of Karbala, he displayed immense courage and compassion by entrusting them to make their own decisions, rather than imposing his will upon them. This act of empowerment exemplifies the essence of true leadership, where caring for others means granting them the autonomy to follow their beliefs and paths.

He came to Karbala in response to an invitation from the people of Iraq. They had sent letters to him, inviting him to come and lead them against the oppressive rule of Yazid, the Umayyad caliph.

The events leading to the Battle of Karbala happened because of the political and religious tensions of the time. He, a prominent figure in Islam, was seen as a potential leader and symbol of resistance to the corrupt and unjust rule of Yazid. The Umayyad dynasty deviated from the principles of Islam, leading to dissatisfaction and unrest among the people.

Upon reaching Karbala, Hussain Ibn Ali, and his small group of companians were confronted by a large army under the command of Umar bin Sad, sent by Yazid. Despite the overwhelming odds, Imam Hussain refused to pledge allegiance to Yazid, standing firm on his principles and refusing to accept tyranny. This refusal led to the tragic events of the Battle of Karbala, culminating in the martyrdom of Imam Hussain and many of his companions on the 10th of Muharram, also known as Ashura. The battle became a symbol of resistance against injustice and oppression in Islamic history and is commemorated annually by his followers during the month of Muharram.

The Night of Ashura Sermon:

On the eve of the momentous Battle of Karbala, Hussain Ibn Ali, delivered a momentous sermon that continues to echo through the annals of history.

The Imam commenced his speech thus: “I thank Allah to the best of my ability and praise Him during the time of weal and woe. A Lord! I thank You because You have honored us by means of Prophethood taught us the Qur’an, made us comprehend the religion and its commandments, granted us eyes, ears, and hearts; kept us free from the pollution of polytheism, and then enabled us to thank You for Your blessings. It is a fact that I am not aware of any companions more faithful and honest than my companions and any relatives more righteous and kind than my relatives. May Allah grant all of you a good reward. I think that the day of our fighting with this army has arrived. I permit all of you to go away. You are free to depart without any restriction and should take advantage of the darkness of night”.

This speech has been quoted by Shaykh Mufid, Tabari, Abul Faraj, and Ibn Athir. In the face of impending adversity, Hussain’s sermon carried a powerful message of empowerment, touching the hearts of his companions and inspiring generations to come. Let us explore the key themes of his sermon under these headings:

  1. Empowerment in Adversity: Hussain Ibn Ali’s sermon displayed remarkable courage and strength as he faced the daunting challenges ahead. Instead of imposing his will on his companions, he chose to empower them by giving them the freedom to decide their own paths. This act of empowerment during times of adversity showcased his true leadership, rooted in compassion and respect for his soldiers’ autonomy.
  2. The Freedom to Choose Their Destiny: In granting his companions the freedom to choose their destinies, Hussain demonstrated a deep respect for their dignity and worth. This noble act of respecting their autonomy forged a bond of trust and mutual respect between the leader and his warriors.
  3. Leading with Liberation: Hussain Ibn Ali’s empowering sermon exemplified liberation in leadership. He liberated the hearts and minds of his companions by encouraging them to think and decide for themselves. This liberation-oriented approach fostered an atmosphere of mutual understanding and cooperation, transcending traditional hierarchies.
  4. A choice that change History: The choices made by Hussain Ibn Ali and his companions on that pivotal night reverberated throughout history. Their unwavering commitment to justice and empowerment created a lasting legacy of courage and sacrifice. Their choices inspired countless individuals, serving as a beacon of hope in the pursuit of justice and freedom.
  5. Relevance in Modern Times: The legacy of Hussain Ibn Ali’s freedom of decision-making continues to resonate in the modern world. In an era of rapidly evolving social, political, and ethical landscapes, individual autonomy and courageous decision-making are paramount. It empowers individuals to stand against injustice, pursue truth, and actively shape a more equitable and compassionate society.
  6. Inspiring Social Progress: At a societal level, the importance of freedom of decision-making cannot be overstated. It serves as a driving force behind social progress, allowing individuals to challenge oppressive systems, advocate for change, and contribute to the betterment of their communities.

Significance of Decision Making:

In granting freedom of decision-making, Hussain Ibn Ali acknowledged that every individual possesses the power to shape their own destiny. By doing so, he instilled in his companions a deep sense of introspection, prompting them to contemplate the weight of their decisions.

This act of inspiring individual responsibility resonates through the ages, inviting us to examine our own lives and the choices we make. It calls upon us to embrace the freedom to make decisions, while also acknowledging the responsibility that comes with that freedom.


Hussain Ibn Ali’s remarkable legacy as a leader ahead of his time shines brightly, guiding us towards a more enlightened approach to leadership. Embracing the freedom of decision-making, he demonstrated the true essence of compassionate and visionary leadership. As leaders today grapple with the complexities of guiding diverse and dynamic societies, Hussain’s unwavering commitment to respect and empowerment offers invaluable lessons. By entrusting his companions with the power to make their own decisions, he elevated them to active participants in pursuing justice and truth. Today, we need leaders who draw strength from Hussain Ibn Ali’s noble example, leading with empathy, wisdom, and a profound respect for individual autonomy.

About the Author:

Humera Ambareen is an independent Author and a Ph.D. scholar in International Relations with extensive research expertise in addressing critical social issues.
She could be reached directly at

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