Ashura and the Struggle against Injustice

Think not of those who are slain in Allah's way as dead. Nay, they live, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord; They rejoice in the bounty provided by Allah. And with regard to those left behind, who have not yet joined them, they are comforted in the fact that on them is no fear, nor have they (cause to) grieve. [Qur'an 3:169]

Muharram in History Before the Prophet:  The tenth of Muharram marks a significant day in the Muslim calendar; it is the day on which, according to some reports, Allah saved Prophet Moses/Musa from the tyrannical Pharaoh, that prototype despotic authority. The are many pharaoh-like authorities who have appeared through history and there were those incorrigible standard-bearers of justice who opposed them. In the Time of the Prophet:
1.    Imams Tirmizi & Haakim have narrated from Anas bin Malik that the following verse: "Allah may forgive thee of thy errors that which is past and that which is to come" [Surah al-Fath (48) verse 1] was revealed on the 10th of Muharram.
2.    The Muslim forces under Prophet Muhammed defeated Bani Muhaarin and Bani Tha'laba (Tribes of Bani Gatfan) in the year 4 A.H.
After the Prophet:  Imam Husayn took on the corruption of Yazid and laid down his life on Muharram 10th in 61 AH, an event that serves as a milestone in the history of the faithful; the martyrdom of the beloved grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, Imam Husayn, at Karbala, Iraq Imam Husayn was martyred at the hands of those who claimed to act in the name of Islam yet unremorsefully and shamelessly were prepared to obliterate its true exponent; those who (like so many who proclaim faith) are prepared to kill for Islam yet are unable to live by it Āshūrā, then and now. The tenth of Muharram is the day on which it is aid that Allah saved Prophet Moses/Musa (pbuh) from the tyrannical Pharaoh, that prototype of despotic authority. There are many pharaoh-like authorities who have appeared through history and there were those incorrigible standard-bearers of justice who opposed them. In the post-Prophetic period, one such person was Imam Husayn who took on the corruption of  despotic Yazid and laid down his life on tenth Muharram in 61 AH (680 CE); an event that serves as a milestone in the history of the faithful; the martyrdom of the beloved grandson of the Prophet Muhammad at Karbala in Iraq.

Moses & Pharoah, Husayn & Yazid

The valiant Prophet Moses did not fight Pharaoh to become king, neither did the righteous Imam Husayn take on the army of the corrupt Yazid merely to become caliph.  Their effort was in fulfillment of moral obligation which serves as a universal message which has left a lasting legacy of struggle and resistance against corruption and injustice. The lesson is not only in that they were prepared to fight for what is right, but were also willing to die for it; selflessness not selfishness, humility not ego, principle not power. Such Musawi and Husayni struggle has always raged on in a corrupted world.

As 'Allama Iqbal said;

Musa-o Fira'un  Shabbīr-o Yazīd In do quwwat az hayat āmad padīd.

“Ever since the beginning, two opposing forces have been at war - virtue and vice. Thus, Prophet Musa rose against Pharoah and Shabbir (Imam Husayn) rose against Yazid”

Tragic Event

So cowardly and gruesome was the killing of Imam Husayn that the renowned Arab historian al-Fakhri wrote: "This is a catastrophe, whereof I care not to speak at length, deeming it alike too grievous and too horrible. For it was indeed a catastrophe so odious that a more shameful incident has not occurred in Muslim history. There occurred such a foul massacre as to cause any person's flesh to creep with horror. Again I have dispensed with my long description of this horrific incident because of its notoriety, for it is the most lamented of all catastrophes. "

Western historian, Dr Edward Browne in his 'A Literary History of Persia' writes: “As a reminder, the blood-stained field of Karbala where the grandson of the Apostle of God fell at length, tortured by thirst and surrounded by the bodies of his murdered family; has been at any time since then been sufficient to evoke, even in the most lukewarm and heedless, the deepest emotion, the most frantic grief and the exaltation of spirit before which pain, danger, and death shrink to unconsidered trifles.” Professor E. Gibbon writes , “In a distant age and clime the tragic scene of the death of Husayn will awaken the sympathy of the coldest reader.” [Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire] Tragedy Compounded To compound the tragedy, it was the grandson of the final Messenger (and his close relatives) who were brutally killed. That Husayn of whom the Prophet said, Husayn Minnie wa ina min Husayn; Ahabballah man ahabba Husayna “Husayn is from me and I am from Husayn. Allah loves whoever loves Husayn.”   [Sunan al-Tirmidhi]

Yet, Imam Husayn was martyred at the hands of those who considered themselves followers of our beloved Prophet Muhammad, those who claimed to act in the name of Islam yet unremorsefully and shamelessly were prepared to obliterate its true exponent; those who (like so many today) are prepared to kill for Islam yet are unable to live by it.  Yes, Imam Husayn was martyred at the hands of those who would kiss the Black Stone (because the Prophet kissed it), yet cut off the precious head of that dear grandson of the Prophet, a head which the Prophet so often caressed and kissed with affection Continuing the Abrahamic Tradition

We bade farewell to the old year by celebrating Prophet Ibrahim's commitment to Allah characterized by his valor against Nimrud, and proven through his willingness to sacrifice his patient son, Prophet Isma'il (pbut). Now we welcome the new year by commemorating the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad's beloved grandson, Imam Husayn who fought to uphold the principles of his grandfather Prophet Muhammad and his forefather Prophet Ibrahim (pbut). (O Allah, Bless Our Master Muhammad and the family of our Master Muhammad as You blessed our forefather Ibrahim and the family of our forefather Ibrahim.)  The Makkan struggle for the manifesting and upholding the values of Islam was founded with love and veracity  by the family of Ibrahim and continued with love and patience through the family of Muhammad (pbut), as 'Allama Iqbal says;

Sidq-e Khalil bhi hay ishq, sabr-e Husayn bhi hay ishq Ma'rika-e-wujud mayn Badr-o-Hunayn bhi hay ishq

“The veracity of Prophet Ibrahim is love, so too the patient perseverance of Imam Husayn is love. Just as Prophet Muhammad's selfless struggle at Badr and Hunayn too was love (for Allah, truth and justice).”

Everyday and Everywhere

Imam Husayn's martyrdom at Karbala provides evidence of the moral victory of right over wrong, of virtue over vice, of principle over compromise, of the oppressed over the oppressor, of the denied over the denier; the ultimate victory of blood over sword. A lesson teaching humankind through the inscription of blood on the scrolls of human history, how he conveyed to the world, through his struggle, the meaning of life; that that living is truly of value which offers itself for a cause greater than its self; that to die with honor is better than living in subjugation to injustice. 
Perhaps the most fitting of all epithets regarding Imam Husayn was by one of the greatest spiritual luminaries the world has ever known, Khwajah Mo'inuddin Chisti  (may Allah sanctify his status), who said … Shah ast Hussain, badshah ast Hussain,
Deen ast Hussain, deen-e panah ast Hussain,
Sar dad, na dad dast, dar dast-e-yazid,
Haqa key binaey La ilaha ilallah ast Hussain
Husayn is the master, Husayn is the king,
Husayn is the symbol of faith, Husayn is the defender of faith,
He gave his life rather than allegiance to Yazid
Verily the foundation of La'illah illa-Allah is Husayn.
For those conscious of their moral obligations, consistently striving against injustice and oppression; Kullu Yawmin 'Ashura, Kullu ardin Karbala

EVERY DAY IS 'ASHURA AND EVERY PLACE IS KARBALA.

In the words of  Moulana 'Ali Gouhar, Qatle Husayn asl mein marge yazid hay Islam zinda hotahay har Karbala ki ba'd

“The killing of Husayn is in fact the death knell of Yazid, as Islam is revived after every such Karbala”.

Remember Never to Forget

The commemoration of 'Ashura on the 10th of Muharram every year serves to remind us of the sacrifices of the righteous throughout our glorious history. It reconnects us with our spiritual and moral legacy making us aware of the people, then and now, who bravely stood up for what was right; as well as those who tried to destroy the family of the Prophet and the noble ideals that the family stood for. More than that, it exposes those who watched what was happening, knew what was right; and yet did nothing.
How many are there even today who shy away; not only from mentioning the struggle at Karbala, but from the very memory of Imam Husayn. Allah forbid that we ever become of those who forget and may we never be of those who refuse to remember.

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