Today is the 10th day of Muharram (Ashura), the first month in the Islamic calendar. It was on this day in 680 AD that Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad PBUH, was murdered in Karbala, Iraq. His story is one that anyone inspired by justice should study. On this fateful day, an army of thousands, under the command of the illegitimate caliph of Damascus, Yazid Ibn Mu’awiya, murdered Hussain and 72 of his companions in an onslaught that will forever remind us of the ruthlessness of humanity when arrogance, a hunger for power, and fearlessness of God dominate the conscience. It should also remind us of the divine beauty in humility, emphatically exemplified by Hussain, his family, and his companions as they were held hostage and subsequently massacred in Karbala simply for not pledging allegiance to the brutal governance of Yazid and his cronies.
We mourn the tragedy of Ashura every year, and rightly so. What happened in Karbala was the mother of worldly calamities and a crime of epic proportions. But some of us have become comfortable with simply commemorating this holy month by attending majalis (sermons, assemblies) and shedding tears over the brutality, betrayal, and torture that was inflicted upon the progeny of the Prophet. Yet, what are we doing to keep Hussain’s legacy and message alive? What are we, the followers of Rasool Allah SAW and the Ahlul Bayt, doing to fight against the injustices, oppression, and suffering of our time? Tears are not enough. Remembering is not enough. We must continue the battle that Hussain started over 1,300 years ago. We have to speak out and campaign on behalf of the detainees of Guantanamo, who have been imprisoned for years with no trial and no mercy. We have to speak out against our bankrupt political system that rewards corrupt businesses and banks whilst punishing society’s poor and vulnerable. We have to lend as many hands as possible to victims of domestic abuse, of rape, of depression. We must support the victims of natural disasters like those in the Philippines who have survived Typhoon Haiyan but are now left with no food and no family. We have to exercise compassion through all possible outlets of our existence and allow it to permeate every action we take, every job we sign up for, and every word that leaves our lips.
These are duties that are incumbent upon us if we were to seriously ponder upon the martyrdom of Imam Hussain and his companions. They fought, and died fighting, so that we can fight too. They battled the enemies of humanity in front of their women and children so that we can comprehend Islam. They died so that we can understand what it means to be a Muslim. To submit. To relinquish all illusions of self-grandeur and sacrificing the self by professing the power of the One, to whom we all belong.
When we return to our Lord, will we be ready to face the consequences of His perfect Justice? Will our book of deeds testify, with sincerity, with conviction, and without ambiguity, that we were willing to give up everything we were ever endowed with by virtue of His supreme generosity to make this world more bearable, more just? Because thats what Hussain did. And the most pivotal means of honouring our courageous Imam is to live as he did. With no fear of death, and with an undying yearning for Justice, at all costs. That is the ultimate submission. That is the unadulterated message of Karbala.
“Verily, unto God do we belong and, verily, unto Him we shall return” (2:156)