SCENE 1 MADINAH AL-MUNAWWARAH

 

Waleed ibn Utbah, the governor of Madinah, is reading a letter by candlelight. He is visibly disturbed and shaking. A servant is attending him.

 

Waleed: He's dead!

 

Servant: Sir!

 

Waleed: What a disaster! Bring me Marwan.

 

Servant: At this hour, sir?

 

Waleed: Do what I say!

 

Servant: Yes, sir! (Runs off to fetch Marwan)

 

Waleed: (to self) How can I expect Marwan to help, after how I've treated him the past two years.

 

Servant reaches Marwan, on other area of stage.

 

Servant: Sir! Sir!

 

Marwan: (very sleepily) What in God's name do you want?

 

Servant: (to Marwan) His Eminence Waleed ibn Utbah, the Governor of Madinah, requests your presence.

 

Marwan: (still sleepily) Now?

 

Servant: Yes, sir!

 

Marwan: (with a noticeable lack of sincerity) I look forward to meeting with His Eminence.

 

(Marwan yawns, straightens himself up, and enters into Waleed's presence)

 

Marwan: (not too kindly) Peace be upon you, Governor of Madinah.

 

Waleed: Peace be upon you too, Marwan. Sit down. There is no need for formality. You held this position much better than I only a couple years ago.

 

Marwan: I never noticed that you were so fond of me that you sent for me in the middle of the night.

 

Waleed: Drop it, Marwan. You haven't heard? We got news from Syria. We're in trouble. Amir Al-Mu'mineen has-- has--

 

Marwan: Has what? What in God's name could he do that could be so important that you have to tell me now?

 

Waleed: (whispering) He's dead.

 

Marwan: He's dead?

 

Waleed: Yes, the Commander of the Faithful, Mu'awiyah, the son of Abu Sufyan, has left this world.

 

Marwan: (not too sincerely; remember this is an evil self-serving character) Inna lillah wa inna ilayhi raji'oun. (pause) No one else knows?

 

Waleed: Not in Madinah. The Commander of the Faithful left us his will.

 

Marwan: Namely, that he is going to be succeded by his son, Yazid. (Waleed looks at him in surprise) What, did you expect him to appoint someone else? (laughs wryly) (statement of fact; not with excitement or dismay) Soon the treasuries will be full, and the streets of Madinah will be flowing with wine. (examines Waleed) Someone in your position is worried?

 

Waleed: The Commander of the Faithful left us a warning. He told us about a man who thinks he can challenge Yazid. If we don't get him on our side right now, he's going to revolt, and he'll bring the people with him.

 

Marwan: You mean the grandson of Rasul Allah.

 

Waleed: Yes, he said Husain, the son of Ali.

 

Marwan: The one the Commander of the Faithful and his court curse on the minbar. Do what your leader said. Tell no one what has happened. Bring Husain here at once, and encourage him to take the oath of allegience to Yazid.

 

Waleed: You know he will refuse.

 

Marwan: Then deal with him.

 

Waleed: But--

 

Marwan: You're the governor now, Waleed, not me. This is your problem.

 

Waleed: (sighs a heavy sigh) (to Servant) Come here!

 

Servant: Yes sir!

 

Waleed: Bring me Husain the son of Ali the son of Abu Talib. Do not rest until you bring him to me.

 

Servant: Yes sir! (leaves area) (to self) Something serious has happened, I can feel it. What am I going to tell Husain at this hour?

 

(Servant approaches the silhouette of a man in dua. The light slowly brightens upon him. The servant hangs back, hestitant to disturb the man)

 

Imam Husain: (in tears; in dua) O Most Hearing of those who hear! O Most seeing of those who see! O swiftest of reckoners! O most Merciful of the Merciful! Salli 'alaa Muhammadin wa aali-Muhammad as-saadat-il-mayameen. And I ask You, O Lord, my request. If you grant it to me, then could have held back from me would never have harmed me. And if you hold it back from me, then what you could have given me would never have helped me. I ask You to save us from the Fire. There is no God but You. You have no partner. Yours is the dominion, and Yours is the praise, and You have power over all things. (voice dies out) Ya rabbu, ya rabbu, ya rabb...

 

(Servant takes a tentative step forward)

 

Imam Husain: (rises) Assalaamu alaikum, brother in faith and servant of Allah.

 

Servant: Wa alaikum assalaam, son of Rasul Allah. Sir.... (hesitates, fidgets)

 

Imam Husain: I presume the leader of the rebels has left this world.

 

Servant: (looks down) Yes sir. His Eminence wants to meet with you.

 

Husain: Bring me some of the young men of my household.

 

Servant: Yes sir. (goes offstage. Some young men come on bearing arms. Servant bypasses them and heads off quickly)

 

(Imam Husain completes dua quietly, with an expression of grave concern)

 

Companion: Assalaamu alaikum, my Imam!

 

Husain: Wa alaikum assalaam, cousin. (Shakes his hand) Unsheath your swords, for our governor Waleed has called us to take the oath of allegience to Yazid, the illegitimate tyrant.

 

Companion: (horrified) We are not going to do that, son of Rasul Allah?

 

Husain: By God, never! We will never swear allegience to a drunkard, an adulterer, and on oppressor. We will uphold the principles of Islam. (begins walking) Stay close to me, but do not follow me inside. When you hear them shout, come and in defend me.

 

Companion: We will do what you say. We would give our lives for you.

 

Husain: Now is not the time for that.

 

(They approach)

 

Husain: Wait here. Do not fear. God is with you.

 

(Enters)

 

Waleed: (Rises out of respect) You have honored us with your presence at this late hour. (Silence. He and Marwan look at each other) We have received grave news from Syria. (hesitates uncertainly) The Commander of the Faithful has passed away, and his heir is to take his place.

 

Husain: You put lies into the mouths of the faithful when you call him the Commander of the Faithful. Who has made him that?

 

Marwan: Whether you like it or not, Husain son of Ali, Yazid is now the Commander of the Faithful.

 

Husain: God help us. You heard my grandfather forbid leadership for the descendants of Abu Sufyan.

 

Marwan: Swear the oath of allegience to Yazid. It will be better for you -- in this life, and in the next.

 

Husain: People like me do not pay allegience to people like you.

 

Marwan: (yelling loudly) Call your executioner, Waleed, and I will take his blood on my hands!

 

(Companions of Husain rush in, and Marwan backs off)

 

Husain: Marwan! You dare kill me? You have lied, and you have sinned. Fear the next world!

 

Waleed: Let him go. (Marwan turns his attention to Waleed) What use would his oath be behind closed doors. (To Husain) We will take allegience from you tomorrow, in public. Be prepared.

 

(Imam Husain and companions leave)

 

Marwan: (extremely angry) You disobeyed me, and now you will never be able to get your hands on him.

 

Waleed: Damn you, Marwan. I have enough on my back as it is. Am I supposed to kill him just because he refused to swear allegience to the Commander of the Faithful in the middle of the night? God, do not let me see the murder of the son of Your prophet, even if Yazid gives me everything in the world in exchange. We will wait until morning. I don't need to add the cold blooded murder of this man to the list of my misdeeds.

 

Marwan: (clearly lying) Of course, if you were worried about your religion, you made the right decision (To Servant) You, come here. Can you write?

 

Servant: Yes, sir.

 

Marwan: Bring us a pen and some paper. (Servant retrieves them from onstage) Write. To Yazid the Commander of the Faithful, from his sincere servant Marwan, the former governor of Madinah. (talks to him quietly, and servant writes) Write this.

 

Waleed: Marwan, what are you doing?

 

Marwan: (ignoring him) Go now. Take that to Syria.

 

Servant: Yes sir. (Leaves)

 

Waleed: The state is in crisis, and all you can think about is your own power?

 

Marwan: Waleed, your days are numbered. You had no use for me or my experience the moment you took this position. I will remember how you treated me when I sit again in my rightful seat.