Hussein was born on the fifth of Shaban during the third year of Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) migration from Mecca to Medina. His mother Fatima Zahra brought the new born to her father, the Prophet of Islam. He named the child Hussein and a sheep was sacrificed. Now the lap of the Prophet which was the cradle for imparting teachings of Islam became the center for bringing up the two brothers- Hassan and Hussein.
Hassan and Hussein grew up in an environment where they were surrounded by the best examples of human beings. Firstly there was the good example of their maternal grandfather, secondly that of their father Ali, the protector of Islam and thirdly their mother who was a living example of the teachings of the Prophet for women.
In the mosque, Hussein from an early age became accustomed to congregational prayers five times a day and eloquent lectures by the Prophet, and in the house, by day and night discussion on divinity and intonation of prayers, sounds of Takbirs (calling Allah is Great), revelation of Quranic verses, narration of wars, counselling for spreading of Islam or care for the needy, looking after the weak and answering to the call of the oppressed. These were the topics for thoughtful conversations. These were the stories and tales for Hassan and Hussein.
Training was given to Hassan and Hussein by the exalted and magnanimous Prophet whose objective according to the Quran (chapter 2 verses 129 & 151), was to purify individuals, to teach knowledge of the book and give wisdom. In their early years the Prophet made them specimens of morals and virtue. They absorbed the perfection of these virtues as the characteristics of their lives.
Due to the high level of their virtuous characteristics, the Prophet of Islam loved his grandsons so much and this is evidently clear in books of history and traditions. The following is recorded in Sahih Muslim, Vol.2, p.282; “The Prophet said that by Allah he loved them immensely”. He also stressed on others also to love them. In Sunaney Ibne Maja, he (SAW) said whoever loved Hassan and Hussein loved him and one who considered them enemy, he considered him enemy. Moreover, seeing the excellent mannerism of his grandfather, his devotion in handling the responsibilities in respect of Islam, Hussein realised that though the Prophet loved him more than immensely, he had a passion for the faith of Islam, its law and Sharia. Hence, if ever the Islam or the Sharia were faced with adversity the Prophet would sacrifice even Hussein for it.
In the 10th year of Hijra the event of Mubahila took place. There was a controversial dialogue with the Christians of Najran (Yemen) and the Prophet of Islam and it was agreed that both the parties would pray to God to inflict punishment on the liar. Regarding this even Allah in the Quran ( Chapter 3 verse 61) says “ If anyone disputes (your prophesy) after knowledge has come to you, say, “Let each of us bring our children, women, our people, and ourselves to one place and pray to God to condemn the liars among us.” On this occasion the Prophet appeared hand in hand with Ali Ibn Abu Talib, with Hassan and Hussein walking with him and with Fatima Zahra walking behind. When the Christians from Njran saw such a spiritual scene, they were over-awed and instead of the duel they decided to pay tribute (tax) to the Prophet ( Irshad page 87). There are two main reasons as to why the Prophet took Ahle-Bait along with him. Firstly, he wanted to introduce the perfect representatives of Islam to the people and secondly it was an educational style, i.e. responsibilities were being imposed upon the family members of the Prophet, so that in time of need they would protect Islam. The prophet holding the hand of each was telling them that as he was present amongst them he was taking them along, but if at any time he was not available, they should come out as he had come out to protect Islam. From this demonstration it was also made clear that for the support and service of Islam, no man, woman or child was exempt from it. In the Prophets group, the youngest member was Hussein and it appeared as if bringing him out on this occasion was prelude for the future by Allah that Hussein would have an occasion to practically exhibit the same example that was being presented that day.
The Prophet knew how to protect his teachings after he was gone. In many different ways he instructed the people to follow his family. At one time he said to the people that he was leaving behind two precious things; so long as people would remain attached to them, they would be safe from going astray- one is the Quran and the other his Ahle- Bait. Sometimes, he likened his Ahle- Bait to the arc of Noah, whoever was on board would be safe and the one who turned away from it would be drowned in the flood (Moarif, Ibne Qutaiba)
Further, specially referring to his grandsons the Prophet said, “ Hassan and Hussein are leaders of the youth in Paradise” (Sunan Ibn Maja, hadith no.118). The Prophet is pointing out that their character is so superb and will remain so that following their way of life can be a way of pleasing Allah.
Moreover, in one of the traditions it has been said by the Prophet that Hussein was from him and he was from Hussein, which means that his name and work will be kept up by Hussein. Hussein did not live in a kind and loving environment with uninterrupted peace and tranquility for very long as he was not even seven years old during the 11th year of Hijra, when the Holy Prophet of Islam left this world and Hussein was deprived of the shelter of his care