SHAFAQNA -“Allah is the Guardian of the believers. He takes them out of darkness into light.” – Surah al-Baqarah, 2:257
Ashura … Ashura today is remembered for great many reasons; it has also been used to serve and assert the narrative of great many people – each to their own, each to achieve for distinct goals.
But what is Ashura if not a universal call for Liberation from the shackles of Falsehood? What is Ashura if not a grand declaration of allegiance to God, the Master of all world? Whether Muslims care to remember Ashura through the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the grandson of the last prophet of God, son of Ali and Lady Fatema, or for Moses’ victory over Pharaoh matters very little for Ashura has always spoken of the Word enacted through the righteous deeds of men of God.
Allow me now to speak to you of my Ashura, the mourning and grief I share with that of my kin.
For all the reverence I hold towards Moses and those who follow in his journey out of Egypt, Ashura for me will forever echo of Imam Hussain, martyrs among all martyrs, son to the Holy House of the Prophet, God’s righteous commander, the one soul which darkness could never touch, not even for a fleeting moment.
Songs and poems have risen in his name across ages of men, it is Hussain ibn Ali generations’ of men and women have called out in eternal sorrow, for none could bear the manner in which he was stolen from us.
It is not that we expected the son of Ali, the First Imam of Islam, and appointed Commander of the Faithful to be blessed with eternal life – death touches us all, it is that his life was claimed by the tyranny of a man, whose name will forever ring of ignominy. Yazid ibn Mu’awiyah took away our light, so his darkness would suffer no contentious.
It is treachery we cry; it is the passing of our Imam we mourn – for he took with us a piece of our soul.
Hussain stood where none dared or could have. Born in the holy household of the Prophet Muhammad, the very pride of his grand-father, the courage of his father, the piety and grace of his mother, Hussain was, and remain to this day the best of us.
I say he is our compounded strength, and all of our prayers. And while it is death he tasted on the plain of Karbala, he is in fact alive. It was Imam Ali who once told the Quraish: “Our dead are in fact alive.”
Ashura you must understand is our Imam’s testament. Alone against the multitude he rose a revolution in the face of injustice – not because victory was promised to him, but because acting otherwise would have meant legitimising falsehood against God himself.
Where he fought for all, only 72 brave souls mastered the courage to stay and defend their claim against Yazid. Out of the tens of thousands of Muslims, and loyal subjects of the Caliphate only 72 felt compelled to push back against Tyranny and offer Liberation to an enslaved people.
Imam Hussain it needs to be said did not fight so that his claim on power would be recognised – his legitimacy as Keeper of Islam was never in question; his lineage was never a matter of contentious, rather one man’s ability to impose oppression by the tip of his sword.
Our Imam cared little for power … and why would he have troubled himself with such temporary pleasures when it is eternity his soul contemplated. Why yearn for fleeting ambitions when one’s calling rest in the Divine?
Do not believe our Imam to have been in a state of rebellion, when from his first breath it is perfected piety he enacted. It is grace which moved in him, and through him became a guidance for those who see.
It is Islam, and submission to which is greater, Imam Hussain came to claim in the plain of Karbala. It is salvation our Imam offered, and by the strength of his arm proclaimed as his legacy.
His banner we hold on to until life lives us. His name we will cry, until all breath has lived our chest, his martyrdom we will remember so that when weakness besiege us, his light we will follow.
There is no day like Ashura, no greater tragedy but the martyrdom of our Hussain.
And still we have failed to learn from his sacrifice … still Islam stands divided in its recollection of Ashura for many cannot bear the mirror it holds to us all.
How many times will we see replay the tragedy of Karbala, before we realise that if betrayal there has been it is against ourselves?
How can we not look upon the sacrifice of our Imam and not recognise today that the sons of Abu Sufyan: the Mu’awiyah and Yazid of our times are still very much holding us ransom?
There is no Hussain ibn Ali today to lead the charge … all of our Imams were martyred by tyrants … who will stand today and speak truth as our Lady Zaynab did in the court of Yazid? Who will bear our Imams’ flag and face the wrath of tyranny, and not relent when the multitude claims holy what has been forbidden?
How many times will we see replay the martyrdom of the House and not stand witness to the many crimes tyrants still enact against the Holy House so that its memory could be erased?
I see the hand of treachery behind Saudi Arabia’s erosion of Islam holy sites, I see perversion in Wahhabism’s attempt to sanctify heresy, and beatified Evil. I see Darkness in the fascism of Daesh, al-Qaeda, the Taliban and its sisters in infamy.
I see Yazid in the faces of al-Saud, and al-Khalifa, who from their thrones argue bloodshed to assert their hold on power.
Imam Hussain’s sacrifice opened up a way through the darkest of darkness if only we are to follow.
But if Evil think itself clever, if Evil even comes naturally to us for it appears easier, Hussain still has followers to his cause. Imam Hussain’s legacy lives now with us and the deeds we offer in his name.
Hear the sounds of our promise to Hussain ibn Ali as we beat our chest and cry his name, hear the vows we long made to our prophet to “hold on to the rope of Allah and never disunite.” Hear the sound of our revolution for as long as Yazid will rise, so will the Shia of Hussain. Never will we allow for our Imam to stand alone before the Darkness for he is Light and we are his people.
It is love which unites us to our Imam – love for our prophet, love for our Imam Ali, love for the House, love for God, love for all the righteous souls who seek salvation in the Divine Light. It is in the name of such love that our Hussain was struck down in Karbala.
There, our heart will lie forever a vigil to his name.
By Catherine Shakdam – Director of Programs for the Shafaqna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies. This article was published first in the Huffington Post