Imam Husayn was martyred at the hands of those who considered themselves followers of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW), writes SHAIKH SA’DULLAH KHAN.
THE tenth of Muharram is the day on which, according to some reports, Allah saved Prophet Musa (AS) from the tyrannical and despotic Pharaoh.
There are many pharaoh-like authorities who have appeared through history, and there were also those incorruptible standard-bearers of justice who had the courage of conviction to oppose them.
In the post-Prophetic period, one such courageous person was Imam Husayn. He took on the corruption of the despotic Yazid and laid down his life on the tenth of Muharram, in 61 AH (680 CE).
That event serves as a milestone in the history of the faithful: the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) beloved grandson, at Karbala, in Iraq.
It must be remembered that 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 replace the caliph.
The efforts of Prophet Musa and Imam Husayn were in fulfilment of a moral obligation which serves as a universal message that has left a lasting legacy of struggle and resistance against corruption and injustice.
The lesson in their struggle is not only 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 in a corrupted world. As Allama Iqbal said, ‘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.’
The tragedy at Karbala was compounded as it was the massacre of the progeny of the final prophet of Allah; that family of the prophet of whom Allah invokes us through the Quran: ‘Say (to the people, O Muhammad)! I ask of you no reward except that you love my family.’ (Quran 42:23)
It was regarding this Quranic verse that Imam Shaafi’i wrote in his poetry; ‘O Family of the Prophet! Allah has made it obligatory on us in the Quran to love you.
‘It is a matter of pride for you that without saluting you our salutations (salawaat) are invalid.’
Karbala witnessed the killing of that Husayn of whom the Prophet said, ‘Husayn is from me and I am from Husayn. Allah loves whoever loves Husayn.’ (Sunanal-Tirmidhi)
Yet, Imam Husayn was martyred at the hands of those who considered themselves followers of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW), 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 they mercilessly cut off the precious head of that dear grandson of the Prophet, a head which the Prophet so often caressed and kissed with affection.
We must reflect on that poignant moment, on the 10th day of Muharram 61 AH (680 CE) just before Asr prayer, when Imam Husayn stood on a sand dune at Karbala, blood flowing all over his body, having lost virtually everything and burying his dear infant child. Turning in every direction calling out to? Surely he was not expecting anyone there to come to his aid since those whom he had relied upon had already betrayed him?
Perhaps it was a call to people of conscience of every period, every generation in every land. It was a call for help against corruption, which everywhere, in every age, rears its ugly head to suppress justice and undermine the truth.
We bade farewell in Dhil-Hijjah to the old year by celebrating Prophet Ibrahim’s (AS) commitment to Allah, characterised by his valour against Nimrud, and proven through his willingness to sacrifice his patient son, Prophet Ismail (AS).
Now we welcome the new year through Muharram by commemorating the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad’s beloved grandson, Imam Husayn, who fought to uphold the principles of his grandfather, Prophet Muhammad (SAW), and his great forefather, Prophet Ibrahim (AS).
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 – from Prophet Musa (AS) through Imam Husayn (RA).
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. 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? God forbid that we ever become of those shameful ones who dare to forget.
- Shaikh Sa’dullah Khan is the CEO of Islamia College.
This article was first published in the August 2021 print edition of Muslim Views.