By Javeed Ali
The tragedy of Karbala that occurred fifty years after the death of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is a unique event of Islamic history—many dimensional and multi leveled. Just when the Muslim empire had reached almost its peak of glory, Imam Hussain (A.S.) the grandson of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) challenged not only the legitimacy of Yazid, the ruler of the Muslim empire but even the validity of that imperialist tyranny which was masquerading as Islamic State. And Hussain sealed his protest with his blood and the blood of the small number of his companions who fell fighting, under heaviest odds, against hordes of state mercenaries. He willingly suffered all those tyranny and persecution. The battle of Karbala was a clash not between personalities but between two principles; love of truth against lust for power; passion for justice against perversity of tyranny.
The movement of Imam Hussain (A.S.) was for the establishment of the truth and justice.
Imam Hussain (A.S.) said, “Indeed, I have risen up solely to seek the reform of the Ummah of my grandfather (PBUH). I want to command what is good and stop what is wrong”.
This sentence highlights the basic position of ‘enjoining the good and forbidding the evil’. Imam Hussain (A.S.) through this sentence expresses the pivotal role of ‘enjoining good and forbidding evil’ and conveys it as the final target of his uprising. The essence of enjoining good and forbidding evil is existing in all the religions of Abrahamic lineage and it has been an obligation for all the prophets and messengers, Imams and believers. It is not merely a matter of jurisprudential obligation, but in fact a standard and philosophy for sending divinely prophets; all this is because the material world is the place where vice and virtue, truth and falsehood, good and bad, darkness and light, excellence and lowliness get intermingled. Sometimes all this is intermixed in such a way that it becomes difficult to get them identified. , then follow, and act upon it. The divine religions are providing us an understanding about enjoining and forbidding, and in fact, (it provides understanding about) good and bad, truth and falsehood, darkness and light, excellence and lowliness, command us to perform the good, avoid bad and thus bestow us divine guidance towards the right path. For the importance of enjoining good and forbidding wrong, the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) says, “One who enjoins good and forbids wrong is vicegerent of Allah, Book of Allah and the Messenger of Allah on the earth”.
Accordingly, the basic of enjoining good and forbidding evil is not particular to Imam Hussain (A.S.). Instead, it is an obligation for all prophets and messengers, pious people and believers. Since during the time of the Doyen of Martyrs Imam Hussain (A.S.), the good and evil were severely intermingled and the evil had attained currency in all the affairs. Goodness had been consigned to the oblivion and this was causing forgetfulness and negligence towards religion of Islam, the prophetic traditions. Therefore, Imam Hussain (A.S.) saw the possibility of revival and revitalization of traditions of Prophet of Allah (PBUH) and the religion of Islam and its defense in staging protest against the prevailing situation and in enjoining the good and forbidding evil. For this reason, he stated that by way of enjoining good and forbidding wrong he is going to rectify the Islamic society.
“Indeed, I have not risen to do mischief, neither as an adventurer, nor to cause corruption and tyranny. I have risen up solely to seek the reform of the Ummah of my grandfather (PBUH). I want to command what is good and stop what is wrong, and (in this) I follow the conduct of my grandfather and my father, Ali Ibn Ab Talib (A.S.).
While analyzing the event of Karbala and Ashura, different kinds of outcomes and results as well as lessons can be deduced. Among these teachings we can have the lessons of sacrifice, religiosity, valour, equality and equity, uprising for God, love and affection.
In every way the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (A.S.) is the Great Sacrifice for the humankind. The greatness of the sacrifice is judged by the gravity of the situation or the uniqueness of the circumstances in which it occurs and the extent to which it serves the purpose of Allah, that is, how far it carries the message in the forthcoming generations and its popularity with them. The sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim (A.S.) and Prophet Ismail (A.S.) was only a trial and the reason why Allah willed it was to prove the great perseverance, strength of character and magnanimity of the Apostleships of Ibrahim (A.S.) and Ismail (A.S.) . Having fulfilled the command of Allah they proved to have the incredible virtues of piety to be the forefathers of the ones destined to offer the ‘GREAT SACRIFICE’. Besides, Allah wanted to ransom the sacrifice of Prophet Ismail (A.S.) and predict the imminent ‘GREAT SACRIFICE’.
When the day of Ashura dawned the situation was very critical for the religion of Islam. Imam Hussain (A.S.) stood as the successor and the representative of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)-the Seal of all Prophets, while Yazid was asking him to swear allegiance of the pure Apostleships of all the 1,24,000 Prophets who had strived for the religion of Allah, to submit to him and his evil ways.
Imam Hussain (A.S.) was the testamentary trustee and the inheritor of the virtues of all the Prophets; while Yazid wanted to annihilate Islam by pressurizing such a personality like Imam Hussain (A.S.) to swear allegiance to an evil man like himself. It was the question of the life and death of the faith, Islam; while the efforts and strivings of all the Prophets depended on Imam Hussain (A.S.).
Thus in his valiant, undaunted stance Imam Hussain (A.S.) fearlessly gave away his brothers, sons, friends and companions and then his own life, but saved the religion of Islam and the strivings, hardships, work, labours and exertions of all the Prophets, thus reviving and rekindling the extinguishing embers of Islam and qualifying as ‘THE GREAT SACRIFICE’.
The Holy Quran says: “And the camels of sacrifice We have made for you among the Signs of Allah, for you in them is good, so mention the name of Allah on them….” (Al-Hajj:36)
In the above verse Allah says that the camels which are to be sacrificed in His name as an obligatory rite of Hajj are among His Signs to mankind, and for this reason they should be given due regard and respect. Relative to this fact, and more intense in its pinnacle of virtue and holiness is the regard to the Prophetic and Apostolic people who being the Signs of Allah sacrificed their all in the way of the Beneficent Lord to support and endorse His cause. Similar is the case of Imam Hussain (A.S.) and his faithful companions who sacrificed themselves in such a manner on the hot sands of Karbala to save Islam that their example has no parallel in the history of the world. Therefore, by the justice of the Book of Allah, they have every right and reason to be eulogized, remembered and their strivings respected and commemorated.
Imam Hussain (A.S.) is the benefactor of Humanity. The favours of Imam Hussain (A.S.) are not just limited to Muslims, Shias or Sunnis; in fact His (A.S.) favours are on the entire humanity. This is because if Imam Hussain (A.S.) would not have given these sacrifices, then there would have been no religion, no faith, no Islam. Hence there would have been neither Sunni nor Shia, everyone would have been non-religious, and there would be no such thing as religion left because the accursed beings of that era were not just planning to eradicate the Shia or Sunni values, they wanted to eradicate human values. If today we see a human (means a human with humanity) somewhere then that is the outcome of this great sacrifice of Imam Hussain (A.S.). It is all because of the sacrifices of the companions of Imam Hussain (A.S.) and Bani Hashim.
The important lesson that we need to imbibe from the event of Karbala was propagated by Syeda Zainab (S.A.), the granddaughter of Prophet Mohamamd (PBUH) and was beautifully summed up by revolutionary thinker Dr Ali Shariati. The role of Syeda Zainab (S.A.) in the aftermath of Karbala is equally important, and that’s why Dr Ali Shariati calls Zainab ‘the saviour of humanity’. “Those who died committed a Hussaini act. Those who remain must perform a Zainabi act. Otherwise, they are Yazids,” says Shariati. One has to choose either blood or the message, to be a martyr like Hussain or messenger like Zainab. Every revolution has two visages: blood and the message. Imam Hussain (A.S.) and his companions undertook the first mission, that of blood. The second mission is to carry the message of blood to the future generations, to be the eloquent tongue of this flowing blood. Commemorating Azadari (mourning) is to spread and propagate the message of Imam Hussain (A.S.) as was done by Syeda Zainab (S.A.). Imam Khomeini (R.A.) has said: These tears terrify the enemies of Islam; because to cry for the oppressed is to speak up against the oppressor.