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

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

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

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

From Islamic Digest (www.islamicdigest.org)

Al-Imam al-Husayn (a.s) and his followers were martyred, but they did not submit to injustice and oppression. They defended Islam and the Muslims. With their blood they saved Islam and the Qur'an from the danger of annihilation at the hands of Yazid. Al-imam al-Husayn (a.s) fought against oppression and defended the religion of Islam, and by doing so, he taught the world the greatest lesson on freedom and righteousness. For this reason we call al-Imam al-Husayn (a.s) "Sayyid al-Shuhada" which means lord of the martyrs. Now the turn has come for us to safeguard and defend Islam. We must shoulder this magnificent resposibility.

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