“Remember me, when the truth
becomes alone. Alone and sad.”
—Hussain Ibn Ali (A.S.)
Some fourteen hundred years ago, in 61 AH (680 AD), a group of seventy-two souls, faced an army of thirty thousand well-equipped fighters, sent by Yazid-Ibn-Muawiyah (LA), in the desert of Nainawa, at the banks of the Euphrates. Leading the seventy-two was the (grand)son of the Prophet (SAWW), Hussain Ibn Ali (A.S.), Shabab-e-Ahl-e-Jannah, the Prince of Paradise.
The confrontation lasted ten days, with the final day (10th of Muharram) resulting in the martyrdom of (almost the entire) family of the Prophet (SAWW). Let me rephrase that: on that day, in the battlefield of Karbala, the proclaimed Muslims in the army of Yazid (LA), martyred those who share in the Durood of the Prophet SAWW. A Durood that we, humans, are commanded to recite alongside the Angles and God Himself. “Lo! Allah and His angels shower blessings on the Prophet. O ye who believe! Ask blessings on him and salute him with a worthy salutation.” (Quran 33:56).
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Why should we remember Karbala, fourteen hundred years after the martyrdom of Hussain (A.S.) and his companions (A.S.)? Why should we remember Hussain (A.S.)? What makes people gather, in thousands of processions, across the world, to mourn Hussain (A.S.)? What makes them weep, inconsolably, in the pain of an event that they never witnessed? What makes them brave against the threat of life—on the streets of Quetta, in Parachinar, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen—to be counted amongst the followers of Hussain (A.S.)? What makes them proclaim ‘Labbaik Ya Hussain (A.S.)’, in places where it is a sin to do so?
The answer is simple, yet powerful.
According to eye-witness accounts of history, on the day of Ashura, when all (save one) male companions of Hussain (A.S.) had been martyred by the Yazidis (L.A.), Maula Hussain (A.S.) looked around at the barren expanse, and said, “Hal Min Nasir-un Yansurna?” It translates to “Is there anyone who will come for my help?”
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None (of the humans) came forth.
We were not there that day. We could not respond to the call of the Imam (A.S), or rush to His (A.S.) aide. But we are here now. And those of us who can still hear the echo of ‘Hal Min Nasir-un Yansurna’ in our souls, flock to Karbala, and to all the other Imam Bargahs across the globe, with one answer:
Labbaik Ya Hussain (A.S.)!
I am here, O Hussain (A.S.)!! I am here at your service.
But transhistorical theology aside, why did Hussain (A.S.) command us to “remember” Him? Because in Hussain (A.S.), and his companions, is the complete embodiment of living. Of valor and honor. Of truth and justice. Of solitude and helplessness. Of humility and elevation. Of patience and virtue. Of steadfastness and sacrifice. Of persecution and resistance. In Hussain (A.S.) is the complete way of life, of death, of forgiveness and remembrance.
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The events of Karbala, along with other facets of Ahl-e-Bayt (family of the Prophet (SAWW)) has, for malevolent reasons, been expunged from our account of Islamic history and theology. We are not taught the fazail or masaib of Ahl-e-Bayt (A.S.), in any formal educational curriculum. We are not exposed to them in the mainstream narrative of Mullah and the Masjid. On the contrary, those who persecuted the Ahl-e-Bayt (A.S.), and went on to become the rulers of their time, are venerated in our religio-cultural traditions.
As a matter of historical fact, this malicious campaign began soon after the worldly demise of Prophet Muhammad (SAWW), when political ambitions trumped religious imperatives. Not that political power matters in the context of faith, but almost instantaneously, the Ahl-e-Bayt (A.S.) were viewed as a threat to the legitimacy of those in seats of worldly power. And, as a result, fourteen hundred years of Islamic history—written in the tainted ink of the Umayyad, Abbasid, and other dynasties—has purposefully tried to conceal the barbarism committed against the House of the Prophet (SAWW).
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This is not about being Shia or Sunni. It is not about believing or denying wilayat-e-Ali (AS), or about participating in or opposing gham-e-Hussain (A.S.), or even about accepting or rejecting azmat-e-Sadaat (A.S.). It is simply a question of stating facts for what they are, and allowing each individual, according to his or her personal conscience, to make a choice.
It is time to revise our view of history to be neither Sunni nor Shia—just to be factual.
It is time to reveal the fact (which is neither Shia nor Sunni) that after the Hajj, as part of the sermon at Ghadeer-e-Khum, the Prophet (SAWW) gathered all the Muslims, raised Maula Ali’s (A.S.) hand and proclaimed “Mann Kunto Maula, Haaza Ali’un Maula”. And upon such proclamation, the Quranic ayat that “This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you…” (Quran 5:3) was revealed. It is time to disclose, as narrated in all religious books of authority, that during his last moments, the Prophet (SAWW) asked for a pen and paper (to dictate that ‘after which you will never be astray’), which was denied to him by some of the people present at the time. That his burial was attended by only a handful of his family members, while all others were electing the new Khalifa.
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Also, in the spirit of factual honesty, it is important to narrate that the Prophet’s (SAWW) daughter (whom the Quran testifies as being among the truthful, Sadiqeen) stood before the Muslim Khalifa of the time, to ask for her share in her father’s inheritance, but was returned empty-handed. That over the course of the following three hundred years, every single Imam of Ahl-e-Bayt (A.S.), was martyred—not one of them died a natural death. That the Prophet’s (SAWW) grandson, Maula Hussain (A.S.), along with every single male relative and companion (except one), was martyred by those who recited the Kalima of Maula Hussain’s (AS) grandfather (SAWW). That, in the aftermath, the Prophet’s (SAWW) granddaughter was forced to stand, barefooted and without a veil, as the Muslim Khalifa of the time sentenced her to prison. That successive Khalifas thereafter, persecuted, mercilessly, those who dared to swear allegiance to the Prophet’s Durood-worthy progeny. That at countless instances, throughout history, Muslim leaders (venerated in our history books) tore, limb from limb, anyone who stood with the Ahl-e-Bayt (A.S.). And fourteen hundred years later, today, such atrocities still continue to stain the conscience of our nation.
Let historical veils be lifted, and let the facts be recounted for what they are.
Acknowledging these events is not about being Shia or Sunni. It is simply about being truthful to that unspoken oath that each believer has sworn to the omnipresent God, and His everlasting Prophet (SAWW).
Don’t raise a black Alam, if you do not want to; don’t attend a majlis, if it makes you uncomfortable; don’t participate in the processions, if it offends your faith; don’t beat your chest, if it seems unholy. But, in some personal way, during these days of Muharram—when the family of the Prophet (SAWW), including women and children were denied food and water, a stone’s throw away from a flowing river, and a ‘Prince of Paradise’ (along with his family and companions) was mercilessly martyred by those who claimed to be followers of the Prophet (SAWW)—it is essential that each of us take some time out from our uselessly busy lives, to grieve with the Prophet (SAWW), in whatever way we deem appropriate.
And maybe, just maybe, the scar of our shared pain with the Prophet (SAWW) will be enough to tip the scales of our sinful existence.