How did Imam Hussain (as) react to the martyrdom of his African warrior?
Imam Hussain (as)--the man who resisted, on his own, a world of opposition and a large population of wolf-likes and feared not a bit--was so moved in the face of emotional issues in a manner that would amaze us.
For instance, when John, the Ethiopian companion of Imam Hussain (as) was wounded during the battle and collapsed, Imam rushed to him. This brave African man was one of the sincerest adherents of the Ahlul Bayt, so he joined the companions of Imam Hussain (as). He might have been considered a very typical person in terms of his financial and social status, particularly among Arabs of that time, and not one of these well-known individuals.
Imam (as) rushed to him and sat by his side, in his time of need. John had no acquaintances, no children. No one was awaiting him, he had no one to weep and mourn over him. Hussain Ibn Ali (as) was so moved by John’s martyrdom, in the same manner he was moved by the martyrdom of his son, Ali Akbar. He sat by him. Imam held John’s head—covered in blood—on his lap, but his heart wouldn’t sooth. Then everyone saw Imam Hussain (as) holding John’s face to his own face.
During the battle of Karbala many warriors were martyred. Great figures of Kufa like Habib Ibn Madhahir, Zuhair Ib Yaqin, others who were among the noble and well-known men of Kufa were martyred while supporting Imam Hussain (as). However, Imam Hussain (as) did not react to the martyrdom of these outstanding figures of Kufa, not even Habib Ibn Madhahir or Moslim Ibn Awsaja, the way he reacted to the martyrdom of his courageous African companion, John.
~Ayatollah Khamenei, October 12, 1984