The night before Ashura, was the last night of Imam al-Hussayn (peace be upon him), his family and companions who were martyred with him. And it was the last night for the women and children who on Ashura became captives walking chained from city to the other.
Imam Ali Zayn al-' Abideen (peace be upon him) says that on the night preceding the martyrdom of my father, I was awake while my aunt Lady Zaynab (peace be upon her) was attending to me. My father was alone in his tent, while John, the retainer of Abu Dhar Ghifari, was with him and was preparing his sword and putting it right. My father was reciting the following couplets:
“Time, shame on you as a friend, at the day’s dawning and the sun’s setting, how many a companion or seeker will be a corpse, time will not be satisfied with any substitute, the matter will rest with the Mighty One, and every living creature will have to journey along my path.”
He repeated it twice or thrice and I understood what he meant and sorrow befell me but I bore it silently and realized that a calamity had befallen us. My aunt Zaynab (peace be upon her) heard it too, sensitiveness and anxiety being the qualities of women, she could not control herself and tearing her clothes ran bareheaded towards my father and said, “Woe unto this tragedy! I wish death overtakes me. Today my mother Fatima (peace be upon her), my father Ali (peace be upon him) and my brother al-Hassan (peace be upon him) have departed from me. O successor of the departed ones! O source of hope for the alive ones!”
His eyes became full of tears and then he said,
“If a sand grouse (a type of a bird) is freed at night, it will sleep in peace.”
Then she said, “Woe! Then will you be violently and helplessly killed? While this hurts my heart and is severe upon my life.” Then she started beating her face and tore off her collar and fell unconscious. Then Imam arose and sprinkled water over her face and said,
“O dear sister! Control yourself and desire consolation from Allah alone. And know that everyone upon the earth shall die, while the dwellers of the heavens too shall perish, except the Face (Self) of Allah. Allah who has created with His power, and will make them alive again, and they shall all return to Him, while Allah is Unique. My grandfather was better than me, my father was better than me, and my mother was better than me. It is obligatory upon me and all Muslims to follow the example of the Prophet of Allah (Allah’s prayers be upon him and upon his holy Household).”
Then he consoled her with similar words and Then, he said to his sister and his daughters and the women of the camp, “When I die, do not tear your clothes, do not harm your faces, or speak any nonsense.” And he told them to follow ′Ali al‑Sajjad as their leader.
Then, he ordered all of his followers to attach their tents to each other, so they can face the enemy in only one direction. He also said to dig a trench behind the tents and ordered to make a fire in it when the attack starts, so the horses of the enemy cannot attack from behind.
Later that night, Nafi' b. Hilal noticed that Imam al-Hussayn (peace be upon him) went out of his camp, on his own, to inspect the hills around. Nafi' followed Imam (peace be upon him). When Imam (a) noticed the presence of Nafi', he told him "Why did you come out of your camp?" Nafi' replied: "O' the son of the Prophet (Allah’s prayers be upon him and upon his holy Household)! I am worried about your life especially when you show up to this cruel army. Imam (peace be upon him) said: "I have come out to inspect the ups and downs of this field before tomorrow's war breaks", said Imam al-Hussayn (peace be upon him). When the inspection was all done, Imam al-Hussayn (peace be upon him) told Nafi': "Do you not want to disappear in this dark night to save your life?" Nafi' fell on Imam al-Hussayn (peace be upon him)'s feet and replied: "I have a sword that is worth one thousand dirhams and I have a horse that is worth about one thousand dirhams. I swear to God that I would never leave you alone so long as my sword can cut". The Imam (peace be upon him) took Nafi's hand and walked back to the camps telling him: "It is, by Allah, the promise of Allah does not fail."
Then, the Imam went to the tent of Zaynab. Nafi’ followed him and overheard the conversation between them. Zaynab asked him, “Have you talked to your followers? Are you sure they are going to remain loyal to you?”
Imam Al-Hussayn (peace be upon him) said, “I have tested them, I found no one among them but the bravest of their tribes. Each of them wants to die for this cause like an infant who wants milk from his mother. When Nafi’ heard that, he cried and went and told Habib what he heard.
Habib said, “Indeed, by God, we do not want to do anything without his permission. If we did not need his permission I would have been the first to die!”
Nafi’ said, “I see all of the women are in one voice with him.”
Habib called all of the men together and told them what Nafi’ told him. All replied in the same way, that each of them wants to be first to be killed, but they do not want to act without the Imam’s permission, and they assured Habib that they would not do anything contrary to the Imam’s decision. Habib suggested that they all go to the women and express their attitude. When all went to the tent and expressed themselves, all of the women started to wail and cry.
Just before dawn, the Imam started to get sleepy. When he woke up, he said, “I saw my grandfather in my dream and he said: You are the martyr of this nation and tomorrow you will be with me.”
Therefore, millions of believers of the lovers and followers of Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them) commemorate this night with reverence in Karbala.