Early in her marriage, Tahirih moved with her husband to the holy city of Karbila in the hot Mesopotamian plain of Iraq so he could pursue his religious studies. Iraq was a province of the Ottoman Empire in those days but several of its cities were sacred to the Shi'a, the dominant religious group in Persia, so there was a lot of travel between Persia and Iraq for religious purposes.

This city was of great spiritual importance for Muslims because it was associated with the Third Imam, Husayn, who was buried there. Over the centuries, the city grew wealthy and was built up around his golden domed Shrine as generations of pilgrims arrived and elderly people sought to be buried near his remains.

In the Battle of Karbila, In 680 AD, Husayn and seventy of his companions were massacred by troops sent by the caliph whose authority he publicly rejected. He came to be seen in Islam as a figure of great spiritual purity in a corrupt world who had the courage to stand to tyranny and oppression. His martyrdom colored the Shi'a religfious experience with a particular intense fervor. The drama of Husayn's death at Karbila is the centerpiece of Shi'a religious imagination.

His martyrdom is commemorated every year by the Shi’a on the Day of Ashura with public displays of passionate religious feeling. The day is one of mourning for Shi'a and seen by Sunnis as a day of victory to celebrate God's victory over the powers of the world. 

Tahirih and her husband lived for thirteen years in Karbila where she gave birth to her two sons there. When these sons were mentioned in future Shi’a biographies, they were designated by one of her titles ‘al-Qurat ul-Ayn’ not that of her husband—evidence of the great respect in which her learning had been held.

Click below for a documentary on pilgrimage to Karbila today (some scenes of violence)


Click below for an appreciation of Imam Husayn from people of different Faiths: