‘Āshūrā ~ May We Never Forget
The tenth day of the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar marks a significant day in the Muslim calendar. It is, according to some reports, on that day in history that Allah saved Prophet Moses/Musa (pbuh) from the tyrannical Pharaoh, that prototype of despotic authority. There are many pharaoh-like authorities who have appeared through history and there were those incorrigible standard-bearers of justice who opposed them. In the post-Prophetic period, one such person was Imam Husayn who took on the corruption of despotic Yazid and laid down his life on tenth Muharram in 61 AH (680 CE); an event that serves as a milestone in the history of the faithful; the martyrdom of the beloved grandson of the Prophet Muhammad at Karbala in Iraq.
Moses & Pharoah, Husayn & Yazid
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 become caliph. Their effort was in fulfillment of moral obligation which serves as a universal message which has left a lasting legacy of struggle and resistance against corruption and injustice. The lesson is not only in 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 on in a corrupted world. As ‘Allama Iqbal said; Musa-o Fira’un Shabbīr-o Yazīd In do quwwat az hayat āmad padīd. “Ever since the beginning of time, two opposing forces have been at war - virtue and vice. Thus, Prophet Musa rose against Pharoah and Shabbir (Imam Husayn) rose against Yazid”
So cowardly and gruesome was the killing of Imam Husayn that the renowned Arab historian al-Fakhri wrote: "This is a catastrophe, whereof I care not to speak at length, deeming it alike too grievous and too horrible. For it was indeed a catastrophe so odious that a more shameful incident has not occurred in Muslim history. There occurred such a foul massacre as to cause any person’s flesh to creep with horror. Again I have dispensed with my long description of this horrific incident because of its notoriety, for it is the most lamented of all catastrophes. " Western historian, Dr Edward Browne in his ‘A Literary History of Persia’ writes: “As a reminder, the blood-stained field of Karbala where the grandson of the Apostle of God fell at length, tortured by thirst and surrounded by the bodies of his murdered family; has been at any time since then been sufficient to evoke, even in the most lukewarm and heedless, the deepest emotion, the most frantic grief and the exaltation of spirit before which pain, danger, and death shrink to unconsidered trifles.”
Continuing the Abrahamic Tradition
We bade farewell to the old year by celebrating Prophet Ibrahim’s commitment to Allah characterized by his valor against Nimrud, and proven through his willingness to sacrifice his patient son, Prophet Isma’il (pbut). Now we welcome the new year by commemorating the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad’s beloved grandson, Imam Husayn who fought to uphold the principles of his grandfather Prophet Muhammad and his forefather Prophet Ibrahim (pbut). (O Allah, Bless Our Master Muhammad and the family of our Master Muhammad as You blessed our forefather Ibrahim and the family of our forefather Ibrahim.) The Makkan struggle for the manifesting and upholding the values of Islam was founded with love and veracity by the family of Ibrahim and continued with love and patience through the family of Muhammad (pbut), as ‘Allama Iqbal says;
Sidq-e Khalil bhi hay ishq, sabr-e Husayn bhi hay ishq
Ma’rika-e-wujud mayn Badr-o-Hunayn bhi hay ishq
“The veracity of Prophet Ibrahim is love (for Allah, truth and justice), so too the patient perseverance of Imam Husayn is love. Just as Prophet Muhammad’s selfless struggle at Badr and Hunayn too was love.”
Remember Never to Forget
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. 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; as well as those who tried to destroy the family of the Prophet and the noble ideals that the family stood for. 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 who forget.