On every Ashura, the 10th day of the Muslim calendar month of Muharram, many Muslims all across the world commemorate Imam Hussain's great sacrifice, but tragically the central message of Karbala appears to have no influence over the large population of Muslim world.
The tragedy of Karbala is often viewed through the lens of certain Shi'a rituals practiced on and around the world. One lecture or the culture or what a person practices cannot be generalized what they are doing. It needs proper literature, theology, history and understanding by which proper conclusions can be made. It is critical to understand why terrorists groups and extremists attack the Ashura-related gatherings in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and what is at the core of their scorn of all the things that Imam Hussain stood for. A historical reliable evidence is required to understand the context of Ashura.
After the battle of Karbala the living wives of some companions of imam Hussain narrated the story of Karbala also the whole tragedy at Karbala would have remained unheard of without the tireless struggle of Hussain's sister Zainab bint Ali, who as an eyewitness of the tragedy propagated details of the event far and wide among Muslims. While in chains, she courageously challenged Yazid's policies to his face in his court in Damascus soon after the battle at Karbala. Many Muslims — some out of ignorance and others out of bigotry — avoid appreciating the crucial role of a woman in this grand struggle. Zainab's contribution to fighting for the essence of the Muslim faith was as critical as that of Hussain.
This was the time when the Islamic influence was escalating throughout the world and the expansion of Islam became a global phenomenon. One wonders why is that after the death of prophet Mohammad (SAW) the man who brought this beautiful religion and revelation but his family members were butchered on the plains of Karbala by the Yazid’s henchmen. The idea of defiance against tyranny and oppression owes a great deal to Hussain ibne Ali, the hero of the battle of Karbala in 680 AD. With just 72 valiant followers and family members, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad faced the military might of the Muslim empire ruled then by a oppressive, Yazid bin Mu‘awiya. Hussain refused to sanctify Yazid's reign through baya'a (allegiance) and consequently, he and his small contingent were martyred in the most brutal of fashions. The accompanying women and children were imprisoned for months in the dark alleys of Damascus.
Imam Hussain, the spiritual leader of Islam at the time, strongly stood against the falsehood regime, and his sacrifice was intended to shake the Muslim moral sense and expose the misleading path introduced in the name of Islam. It was a matter of principle for him — one of human dignity and honor. Challenging the newly introduced monarchical system of government was another important feature of this struggle. In his last sermon before departing from Madina on his journey towards Karbala, Iraq, he made clear his mission: "I seek to reform the Ummah of my grandfather."
An armed struggle for that purpose was never his intended route. He believed in conveying the message through love and compassion. It was a message motivated truly by humanity. The great Indian leader Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi says: "I learned from Hussain how to achieve victory while being oppressed."
This was not a political battle, though some Muslim historians try to portray it that way so as to cover up not only Yazid's atrocities, but indirectly to defend his school of thought as well. The mainstream view, however, both among Sunni and Shi'a Muslims, is very common towards Imam Hussain. It would be an absolute absurd of Muslim history to call this a Sunni-Shi'a battle. Some writers still do that, either out of lack of in depth understanding, or in a flawed effort to simplify things for any unaware person. On the Muslim side, only a minor handful of controversial clerics project this version. Still, most Muslims shy away from digging too deep into the matter, and carefully avoid questioning the historical developments leading to the rise of Yazid.
The legacy which Imam Hussain left is the reflection to every human and the hundreds of lessons which we can learn from the sacrifice of hussain, the lesson which teaches us to live with character, with pride of our religion, and most importantly, a lesson which makes us realize that we have a duty. We are not here to eat, drink, sleep, and party. We are not here to only make money, get married, and have kids. By all means, do those things in the right way as prescribed, but learn a lesson from the lady who told the story to the world. Realize that no matter what calamities happen to us, no matter we lose our children, our father, or a baby nephew – from God we come, and to God we return. Lady Zainab taught us exactly that. No matter what will happen to us, stand tall, and be strong. As a woman – who are considered more emotional of the two genders – she held back from mourning the deaths of her family members so that she could take care of business. How many of us, when struck with shortage of money, become depressed? When going through a “break-up” or relationship problems, become angered and crude? How many of us today become embarrassed to be Muslim when shown the possible outcomes of showing it? How many Muslims women and girls have removed their Hijab from fear of post-9/11 actions? Lady Zainab had so much self-respect that she covered her face with her hair when she had no choice, and here we are today, so easily loosening our scarves, wearing figure-revealing clothes, and showing arm and even bangs just so we can “fit in”.
A lesson of forgiveness the same man who came to Imam and basically took him to the battlefield to begin the war came begging for forgiveness when he realized his mistake, and not only was he forgiven, he was also accepted and granted heaven. Why do we claim to be followers of Imam Hussain when we cannot even forgive our brothers and sisters for minor mistakes? We hold anger, cut off relations, and cause tension. Rather than holding that anger, why do we not emulate our Imam’s actions and forgive and let go of small issues? the man who took Imam Hussain and his family to their mournful day, was forgiven! Yet we hold grudges to the point where we stop saying Salam to our own community members. I can only imagine how much more happy and peaceful our communities would be if we took a lesson on how to forgive others from our Imam! These are the character lessons and stories to every age group.
In one of his speeches, Imam Hussein a.s. said that the authorities in Kufa had given him only two options – humiliation or death. He carried on to say, ‘And we do not accept humiliation’, and a wider understanding of death : Few people desire death. The Holy Qur’an challenges the Jews for not welcoming death in view of their alleged special relationship with Allah s.w.t. Imam Hussein a.s. extended our comprehension of death by drawing attention to the three points below:
Death is written for everyone and no soul may escape it. He said: “Death is an adornment of life as a necklace is an adornment of a beautiful woman.”
Death with dignity is preferable to a life lived in humiliation.
Dying for the cause of Islam is martyrdom and a great honour. In his farewell to relatives in Madina, Imam Hussein a.s. said: “Whoever joins us will be martyred, those who remain behind will miss the victory.”
Sir Muhammad Iqbal the National Poet of Pakistan says:
Imam Hussain(A.S) uprooted despotism forever till the Day of Resurrection. He watered the dry garden of freedom with the surging wave of his blood, and indeed he awakened the sleeping Muslim nation. If Imam Husayn had aimed at acquiring a worldly empire, he would not have traveled the way he did (from Medina to Karbala). Hussain(A.S) weltered in blood and dust for the sake of truth. Verily he, therefore, became the bed-rock (foundation) of the Muslim creed; la ilaha illa Allah (There is no god but Allah).
Ronay wala hoon Shaheed-e-Kerbala key gham men main,
Kya durey maqsad na dengey Saqiye Kausar mujhey
I am one who weeps at the plight of the Martyr of Kerbala
Won't the reward be given to me by the Keeper of Kauser .
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.