Much of Shii Islam's culture, history and narrative revolves around themartyrdom of Husayn, the grandson of the prophet Muhammed. The followingpassage, describing the depth of passion and sorrow Husayn's death inspired,is typical of Shii folk literature (taken from Islam: The Straight Path, byJohn Esposito):

In spite of his admonition, all women wept bitter tears, and so did thechildren. Even the angels in heaven cried sadly, and the animals in thewilderness and the birds in the sky lamented in mournful songs; even thefish in the ocean wept. ...

...Seventy arrows hit his tender body and pierced the skin and spilled hisprecious blood. He knew that he did not have long to live. Just enough timeto say: There is no god but God and Muhammed is His prophet. His soul flewup into the cloudless sky, where it was met by those who loved him most: Hisparents and his brother and his sons. ...

... Here ends the sad account of Prince Husayn, who lived and died a witnessfor the faith. A ransom for his people, for mankind.

From Islamic Digest (

Al-Imam al-Husayn (a.s) and his followers were martyred, but they did notsubmit to injustice and oppression. They defended Islam and the Muslims.With their blood they saved Islam and the Qur'an from the danger of annihilationat the hands of Yazid. Al-imam al-Husayn (a.s) fought against oppression anddefended the religion of Islam, and by doing so, he taught the world thegreatest lesson on freedom and righteousness.

For this reason we callal-Imam al-Husayn (a.s) "Sayyid al-Shuhada" which means lord of the martyrs. Now theturn has come for us to safeguard and defend Islam. We must shoulder thismagnificent resposibility.