KARBALA: MISSION AND THE MESSAGE
Karbala is the institution where humanity learns how to stand up to the enemy of truth. Karbala gives us hope and courage that howsoever strong and war-equipped the enemy is, it could be defeated not by numbers but by a strong resolve and unwavering belief in Allah and his revelations. IMAM HUSAIN (A.S.), along with his 71 companions which include his six month old infant Ali Asghar on one extreme and 80 yr old Habib ibn Mazahir on the other, defeated the huge army of Yazid. While setting off from Madina Imam made his intentions clear in a will he handed over to his brother Muhammad Hanafiya. It was not to fight Yazid to get the throne of the empire over which the khalifah ruled. Imam mission was to reawaken the spirit of Islam and rekindle the Islamic conscience which was nearing extinction by the conduct of Yazid. Justice and morality were gradually being destroyed by the greed for land and power of those who had become rulers. Qur'an insists that distinction can be accorded by piety alone. Imam wrote, “My mission is to reform the Muslim community which I propose to do by AMR BIL MA'RUF AND NAHYA ANIL MUNKAR, inviting them to the good and advising them against evil. It is not my intention to set myself as an insolent or arrogant tyrant or a mischief maker". The sole cause for which Imam Hussain set out from Madina was to perform his duty to of enjoining good and stopping against evil to the ummah which had not only apathetically accepted the evil that had been flowing from the court in Damascus but, sadly, begun to emulate it. The inevitable consequence of this would have been a total destruction of all Islamic values. Imam offered his blood before he would endorse a person like Yazid to hold the reigns of the Islamic government. Imam couldn’t bear silent witness to Islamic values being swept away by evil, the same value which was the fruit of Prophet Muhammad’s (SAWW) efforts.
Prophet too has said of Husain, “Husainu minni wa Anaa min-al Husain” that Husain belongs to me and I belong to Husain. It must not be taken as just another saying but giving it a thought this statement houses in it a great concept. The cause that Muhammad (SAWW) championed was saved by Husain at Karbala. Question might be asked as to what makes Husain’s sacrifice great? World has seen way bigger combats than Karbala in which hundreds of thousands of innocents were killed. Then why eulogize and that too at such a heightened level the battle of Karbala? The answer is that the cause was great that makes the sacrifice great. There is no greater cause to fight for that offering one’s life for Islam. And Husain did that like no one did, has done or will ever do henceforth. When Hur and his army stopped Imam from going to Kufa, and Hur told Imam that his order from Ibne Ziyad was to ask Imam for Bai'at to (vote for) Yazid, Imam refused to declare Bai'at to someone who was only serving his own ends and not of Islam. Hur said that such an attitude might cost Imam his life. Imam replied: "Are you threatening me with death? Death is many thousands of times better than the dishonor of Bai'at to an enemy of Islam. Do you not see that truth is not being practiced and falsehood is not being prevented? I see death as a blessing and life with tyrants as the most disgusting state one can be in." Zillat ki zindagi se izzat ki maut behtar hai. No wonder that Yazid thought of Imam’s Bai’at important for him to run the government because he very well knew that with Husain alive his evil tactics could not flourish.
Hur has been an eye-opening character in Karbala. He was a commander of Yazid’s army till the morning of Ashura. When Hur set out of his camp for ablution for morning Namaz with some water he heard children from Husain’s camp crying for water. These cries changed the mind of Hur and he started moving to and fro in uncertainty. His nears asked him the cause of disturbance. Hur said, “I find myself dangling between Jannat and Jahannum”. Within moments Hur left for Husain’s camp and offered his life to Imam and Islam. Some historians report him to earn the distinction of being the first martyr of Karbala.
In a letter which he addressed to the people of Kufa Imam wrote: "An Imam is one who judges by the Holy Qur'an, upholds justice, professes the religion of truth and dedicates himself to obeying Allah and His Prophet." At Karbala, facing the army of Yazid, Imam Hussain addressed them as follows:"Remember that when you see a ruler who does what has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, who indulges in sins, who oppresses the people he rules, and you do nothing to stop such a ruler, before Allah you are as guilty as he is." He went on to add:"My parents did not raise me to submit myself to an evil tyrant. I am your Imam and it is my duty to tell you that you have surrendered the freedom of your mind to the evil ways of Yazid. If you do not care for Islam, and do not fear the Day of Judgment, at least do care for that precious gift from Allah, the freedom of your spirit!!” Yazid on becoming Khalifah had declared, “Hashemite played with the throne, but no revelation was revealed, nor was there a true message!". This one statement speaks volumes about his character and unfortunately there are people around in today’s world who side with him and seek respect and forgiveness for him. They overlook the fact that he fought against the grandson of Prophet (pbuh) who he had given the honor of being ‘head of the youth of paradise’.
Karbala mission didn’t end with the martyrdom of Husain on the evening of Ashura but it took on a new beginning from thereon. Husain’s courageous sister Hazrat Zainab and son Imam Ali Ibn Husain along with other ladies of the camp were made captive. But Zainab did the remaining job that was to expose the evil masquerading in Yazid and propagate the true Islamic teachings. When Zainab reached Kufa, she addressed people with fury words: "Praise to Allah and may the blessing of Allah be upon Muhammad and his progeny. O people of Kufa, you are hypocrites and deceitful. You feign to be sorry for the death of my brother and his companions. May you always shed tears. I find nothing in you but flattery, evil acts and thoughts, pride and spite and ill will. By Allah! You deserve lasting sorrow instead of joy. Shames on you, your hands are colored with the blood of the son of the Holy Prophet (SAW), the one who was your sole refuge in case of adversity. By your evil act and disloyalty, you incurred the wrath of Allah against you. No one will intercede with Allah for you." Her furious words provoked people of Kufa to avenge Husain's martyrdom. I fear no one but Allah. Make whatever evil plot you can. Blazes are waiting for you in the hereafter. You'll bee accountable to Allah for your atrocities." Today’s woman can imbibe a wealth of good character from this great lady of Islam. The Muslim women should read more about the hardships which faced the great women of Islam understand and practice the patience that characterized the life of Zainab (s.a.), and teach their children the value of these acts.
Men alone cannot win independence and prosperity, neither can women. Together, and under the banner of Islam, they can achieve success.
We mourn the martyrdom of Husain as Muharram begins. But we must ensure that we do it as per the teachings of Islam. We must not indulge in practices which defame Islam and present it in a despicable way. Islam is not a religion of traditions and customs. We must mourn the way Zainab and Imam’s son Zainul Abidin did after Karbala. The mission was and should be to uphold the message of Islam in letter and spirit as propounded by our Holy Prophet (SAWW). The focus should be on unity in diversity. Heartfelt salute to Karbala martyrs.