Ashura: Lessons from the life of Imam Hussain

Ashura procession

On this day of Ashura, Shia Muslim Nazim Ali reflects on the life and death of Imam Hussain. 

The famous ” Hadith Thaqalayn” narrated in all the books of Hadith in which the Prophet (pbuh) states that: “I leave you two weighty things after me, the Quran… and my family (Ahlul bayt), both of which will not be separated …,” was barely 50 years old when the family of the Prophet was butchered and massacred in the sands of Karbala, in Iraq in 61 AH on the 10th of Muharram known as Ashura.

The Leader of the Ahlul bayt and Imam at the time was none other than Imam Hussain (as), who we refer to as the prince of youth in paradise in all our Jumma Khutbas. Such scant regard was given to the Ahlul Bayt by Yazeed ibn Muawiyyah ibn Abu sufyan, and his followers. Yazeed was the imposed caliph of the time, selected by his father Muawiyyah before he died, contrary to the agreement made with Imam Hassan (as).

This grandson of the Holy Prophet(as) and of Hz. Abu Talib (as), was without doubt the embodiment of absolute truth, and the custodian of his grandfather’s religion, Islam. No wonder then that we find the Prophet weeping and crying loudly when he was told by Angel Jibreel of how Hussain would be killed, whilst he held him in his arms as a child, as the religion would require his sacrifice in order to survive.

Yazeed embodied absolute evil, and when absolute evil demands allegiance from absolute truth then there is only one victor, as God has assured us. Hence why Imam Hussain said: “How can a man like me pay allegiance to a man like him?”

No wonder then that Yazeed is held in derision by the whole of humanity and it is extremely unfortunate that a small band of Muslims are determined to use the term “May God be pleased with him” after his name.

No other creed within humanity can find in their hearts an ounce of sympathy for Yazeed ibn Muwaiyah. Theologically, Yazeed at best can be described as a “Fasik,” and in reality as someone who didn’t believe in Islam any way, as by his own admission after the martyrdom of Imam Hussain when he said: “Had my predecessors lived they would have seen how I took revenge from the family of the Prophet (saw) and Bani Hashim. The couplet which Yazeed made had this in the end: “I will avenge Ahmed (i.e. Prophet)for whatever he did with my predecessors in Badr.”

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Imam Hussain was killed in Karbala
Imam Hussain was killed in Karbala

Had Imam Hussain given bayah to Yazeed and got on with his life we can see that from the above statement that Islam would’ve been little more than a footnote in history. Historians would have said things like “a man called Muhammad came and set up a religion in Arabia, and declared himself as a Prophet, but after 50 or so years the person who ruled in his name with the acceptance of the so-called prophets’ family described the man as a charlatan who had no divine text or any connection to God.”

As soon as Hussain would have given bayah then Yazeedd would have declared that Muhammad was an imposter and nothing more.

Hence Islam is only with us today because Imam Hussain took a political and theological viewpoint which is probably what lead Maulana Tariq Jameel, the head of the Deobandi Tableeghi Jamaat, declaring in a public gathering recently “The Zib e Azeem that Allah talks of in the Quran is none other than the sacrifice of Imam Hussain.”

In fact the list is endless of Muslim luminaries and non Muslims who have recognised the embodiment of truth in Imam Hussain, from Iqbal to Dickens and from Gandhi to Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar (pioneer of the Khilafat Movement and a dauntless fighter in the struggle of independence) who said in the murder of Hussain lies the death of Yazid, for Islam resurrects after every Karbala.

Ashura is a day to remember the sacrifice of Imam Hussain and his family and companions. In this remembrance we must renew our allegiance to the Prophet’s family as we do with the Quran in Ramadhan, and at the same time renew our opposition to all the forces who act against them.

Today that would mean the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam, which both love the Prophet’s family, unifying and standing shoulder to shoulder against those who are representing the forces of Yazeed, such as the takfeeris of ISIS.

It is also a day for us not to shy away from crying over the suffering of the Prophet’s family, as both Shias and Sunnis do when they attend Majalis to commemorate Ashura.

Just as important, it is a time to use those tears to give us the inner strength to stand against oppression and protect the truth, for this is one of the multitude of political and theological messages of Karbala, be it in Palestine or on the streets of London.

I cannot articulate the importance of remembering Ashura better than my Sunni brother, Imam Khalid Latif from Brooklyn , NY. Please watch this video.

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