Among those who were martyred at Karbala’ were sixteen slaves or freed slaves. Most of them were from Abyssinia, the present day Ethiopia. Some of them belonged to Imam
Husayn’s family and others to the companions of Imam who remained with him.
On the night before Ashura Imam and the companions freed all their slaves and urged them to go away and seek their safety, but these sixteen would not leave.
Amongst them was an Abyssinian called John bin Huwai. Hazrat Ali (AS) had given John to Abu Dharr Ghiffari, Abu Dharr freed him, but John stayed on with Abu Dharr as a companion. When Abu Dharr was exiled from Madina John went back to Hazrat Ali (AS) who invited him to stay on as his companion. In the company of Hazrat Ali (AS)he
learnt the tafseer of Quraan and the traditions of the Holy Prophet. He also knew the Holy Quraan by heart. When Hazrat Ali (AS) was martyred John stayed with Imam Hassan (AS)and after Imam Hassan (AS) he moved in with Imam Husayn (AS). When Imam Husayn (AS) left Madina John insisted on accompanying him.
At Karbala’ John could always be seen at the side of Imam Husayn (AS). He was an old man, dark with grey curly hair. Because of his profound knowledge and pleasant manners he was greatly respected by all.
John spent the whole night of Ashura sharpening his sword. On the following day he helped in repelling the first two attacks from Yazid’s army.
At mid-day, after the Zuhr prayers, John came to the Imam, and stood silently with his arms folded. It was his habit never to speak in the presence of Imam until spoken to.
Imam Husayn (AS) looked at John and said, “John, I know you have come for my permission to go to the battle-field. You have been a good and trusted friend. I will not deny you martyrdom for Islam. Go, Allah be with you!”
John smiled happily. He faced the enemy and recited a poem which said “I am a soul willing to die for Allah and have a sword thirsty of the blood of the enemies of Allah. Before I die I shall fight the enemies of Allah with my
sword and my tongue, and thus shall I serve the grand-son of the Holy Prophet.”
John fought courageously, all the time reciting the poem. He received several mortal blows but his recitation of the poem continued. John fell from his horse, he still continued to fight
with his tongue by reciting the poem. And then a few horse men moved to where he lay.
John, the Abyssinian, was silenced.
“Those who are silent when others are oppressed are guilty of oppression themselves”
-The Prince of Martyrs Imam al Husayn (AS)
-Wish you all a mournful Muharram in loving memory of the Martyrs of Karbala!