SCENE 1: KUFA -- Street, Masjid al Kufa

 

Click here to listen to the background sounds for the beginning of Scene 1

 

A large crowd (Kufans 1-2, Guard, and Son of Taw'ah) is gathered outside the main mosque in Kufa. It is evening. Muslim ibn 'Aqil enters.

 

Kufan 1: (pointing) Look! It's Muslim!

 

Kufan 2: Which Muslim?

 

Kufan 1: Muslim ibn 'Aqeel! (Goes towards him) Assalaamu 'alaikum Muslim. Welcome again to Kufa!

 

Muslim: Wa 'alaikum assalaam. Thank you again for your hospitality in these difficult times.

 

Kufan 1: It's nothing; we need your help.

 

Muslim: As soon as I send word back, the Imam will come, and, insha’allah, he will repay your generosity with the gift of freedom.

 

Kufan 2: We waited so long for you. Now that you're here, things will change. When Imam Husain comes, he'll stand up to those tyrants.

 

Muslim: Then I have your support?

 

Kufan 1: Eighteen thousand men, Muslim. I pledge to you eighteen thousand men. We will fight with you, side by side, and bring back the religion of the Prophet. Yazid will be no more.

 

Kufan 2: Yazid won't even notice what's happening to him; he'll be too busy with his wine and his monkeys.

 

Muslim: His wine and his monkeys, yes, but also with spreading false hadith and destroying the cities of the Muslims.

 

Kufan 1: (nervously) What do you mean, "destroying"? Yazid’s not coming here, is he?

 

Muslim: (seizes Kufan 1 by the shoulders) Look around. He already has your city. (lets go) No, he is planning something worse. Mark my words, Yazid is going to invade the holy city of Madinah before next year. God knows how many people will die then. His soldiers already have shown no restraint, not even in the holy cities. They take what they want, and leave the people to suffer. I fear for our ummah.

 

Kufan 1: We're with you for sure.

 

Muslim: I accept your pledge, and I will convey it to our leader, Imam Husain. He will come with the valor of 'Ali and bring freedom to you and your people.

 

Kufan 2: (Loudly; like someone at a rally) All hail Muslim! Muslim will save us!

 

Kufans 1-2: (A small group of them) All hail Muslim!

 

Kufan 2: All hail Muslim!

 

Kufans 1-2: (a few more)All hail Muslim!

 

Kufan 2: All hail Muslim!

 

Kufans 1-2, Son of Taw'ah: (almost all) All hail--

 

Town Crier enters. All fall silent and begin to shift uneasily.

 

Kufan 2: What does he want?

 

Kufan 1: Bad news. He only comes when the khalifah wants something.

 

Town crier mounts the minbar (or podium) and faces the crowd.

 

Town Crier: Greetings, People of Kufa!

 

Kufan 2: (mumbling) Greetings.

 

Town Crier: People of Kufa, your struggle has ended! Gone are the days of hardship and disunity. Gone are the nights of chaos and argument. Today, you unite under one leader -- a strong leader, a just leader. Be it known that today, the khalifah himself -- yes, Yazid the Glorious himself -- has pitied you and appointed for you a new governor.

 

Son of Taw'ah: Who?

 

Town Crier: Be it known, that, today, your new governor is none other than 'Ubaydallah... Ibn... Ziyad!!!

 

(Several in the crowd gasp)

 

Kufan 2: Ibn Ziyad?!

 

Kufan 1: I wouldn't even let Ibn Ziyad in my house. He's telling us that he's going to be our governor? Muslim (a little louder to get his attention, but still not at full volume) -- Muslim -- stop this!

 

Muslim: Stand strong, brother. Imam Husain does not fear Yazid. He already refused to give allegiance to him once. He left Makkah, rather than bow down to him. And he left during the hajj, too. No one else stood up to him, but he is special. With your support, our Imam will end this disaster.

 

Kufan 1: We're with you.

 

Muslim: Eighteen thousand still?

 

Kufan 1: Eighteen thousand still.

 

Town Crier: Rejoice, People of Kufa! Rejoice! (long pause - no response) People of Kufa, another serious matter demands your attention. Your new governor Ibn Ziyad warns you of a dire threat.

 

Kufan 2: Nothing could be worse than this.

 

Town Crier: Yes, people of Kufa, it is true. Among you lies -- a traitor.

 

Kufan 1: (loudly) What traitor?

 

Town Crier: A criminal, a fugitive, an enemy of the State. Yes! Word has reached His Eminence Ibn Ziyad that one of you is hiding the treacherous criminal Muslim... Ibn... 'Aqil.

 

(Crowd gasps, and Son looks at Muslim sidelong)

 

Town Crier: Muslim is to be considered armed and dangerous, and a fugitive of the State. Anyone who aids him will be punished with... death.

 

Kufan 1: Death!

 

Town Crier: Swift death, People of Kufa, and the worst kind. Anyone who shelters him will be hanged. (Motions to guard who holds up rope) Yes, hanged! (Demonstrates with his hands) We will not stop with you. We will execute your families and seize your property. In expiation for your sins, of course.

Kufan 1: (quietly; sarcastically) Justice.

 

(Guards turn towards Kufan 1 and rattle their swords)

 

Town Crier: Peace and strong rule for Kufa! Long live Kufa! Long live Ibn Ziyad!

 

Guard, Son of Taw'ah: (a few, wanly) Long live Ibn Ziyad.

 

Town Crier: Long live Ibn Ziyad!

 

Kufan 1, Son of Taw'ah, Guard: (a few more, still wanly) Long live Ibn Ziyad.

 

Town Crier: Long live Ibn Ziyad!

 

Kufans 1-2, Son of Taw'ah, Guard: (a few more, not very enthusiastically) Long live Ibn Ziyad.

 

Town Crier: Long live ibn Ziyad!

 

Kufans 1-2, Son of Taw'ah, Guard: (a few more, not very enthusiastically) Long live--

 

Muadhdhin: (Offstage) Allahu akbar, allahu akbar

 

Town Crier: The time for evening prayer has come. Remember your khalifah Yazid in your prayers. Remember your leader, Ibn Ziyad, in your prayers. (Dismounts and walks offstage. Several Kufans follow and gradually start trickling out as he talks. Guard leaves and goes to palace. Son of Taw'ah goes to Taw'ah's house.)

 

Kufan 2: Sorry, I have to go. (Looks away guiltily and edges away offstage)

 

Muslim: (to Kufan 1) Eighteen thousand strong, right?

 

Kufan 1: Sure... I mean...

 

Muslim: Are you with us or not?

 

Kufan 1: You heard what he said.

 

Muslim: Are you with the grandson of the Prophet of Allah, or aren't you?

 

Kufan 1: Our hearts are with you, Muslim. Believe me, they are. But we have to think of our families. We can't sacrifice them. You heard what he said. They'll be killed.

 

Muslim: In other words, your hearts are with us, but your swords are against us.

 

Kufan 1: I'm sorry. I mean, I never realized it would be this bad. If I had known --

 

Muslim: The grandson of the Prophet should never have agreed to come here. How many do you think will be left to stand with him when he comes? A thousand? A hundred? Fifty? (Looks around)

 

Kufan 1: (Uneasily) It's getting late. Take my advice, Muslim. Save yourself. You can't do anything now. God be with you (Leaves hastily).

 

Muslim: (calling after him; more like a soliloquy) God be with you too, People of Kufa. You were the ones who called my Imam here. Eighteen thousand letters you sent him begging him to save you, and now not even one of you will risk your life to stand up for him. (raises hands in du'a) God, I have only one request of you now. Send this message to my Imam. Send this message to Imam Husain. Tell him Kufa is no longer safe. Tell him to turn back. God, if I have ever asked you for anything, grant me this. (ends du'a. looks around the empty area) So much for loyalty.