SHAFAQNA – Open Discussions in association with Gulf Cultural Club organized a well attended seminar entitled ” Rise and bear witness- The Historic Resonance of Imam Hussain’s stand for justice and morality” this week at Abrar House in London.
In a world that is becoming increasingly intolerant, corrupt, unsafe and unstable, a revolution of the human conscience is much needed. In 680 AD Imam Hussain, Prophet Mohammad’s grandson made history when he stood against tyranny, extremism and tribal political culture. He challenged the Umayyad ruler, Yazid, declaring it both illegitimate and corrupt. He paid the ultimate price. Together with 72 of his relatives and supporters they were slaughtered in most sadistic way. His women and children were paraded for forty days before being allowed to return to Medina; the home of their ancestors. It was a significant revolt intended to re-enliven the morality of the community and end the tribal tyranny.
The Speakers at the even included Dr Yafa Shanneik, Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Birmingham, specialising in Islam and Christianity. She is particularly researching Sunni and Shia women in Europe and their transnational networks to the Middle East.
She was joined by Amir De Martino, an Italian-born revert Muslim, holding an MA in Islamic Studies from The Islamic College and a combined BA degree in Persian Language and Studies of Religion from SOAS –University of London. His Master dissertation was on: The development of ʿĀshūrāʾ rituals in Shiʿa Islam.
The panel was completed by Father Frank Gelli, obtained a BA in Philosophy from Birkbeck College, London, an MA in Christian Ethics . Three years ago he obtained an MA in Islamic Studies from the Muslim College, London. In 1986 he was ordained as Anglican priest and from 1999, Father Frank has devoted himself to writing and to interfaith dialogue.
Amir Di Martino said ” there is a lot that can be said of a society by looking at their heroes and role models.We could almost say tell me who your role model is and I’ll tell you who you are’.With society having pushed out from its heart and intellect belief in a divine dimension, the heroes of today are worldly individuals valued for their economic success.In short they sre secularised like the society that has produced them.”
Amir concludes that Imam Hussain (as) offers us an alternative hero asserting that ” true heroes are an effusion of the sacred that is why they really truely exist in the sacred dimension.Their task is to remind us of our real purpose in life and as such operate in the domain of faith and belief”
He further argued that Imam Hussain’s story is in fact one which has a cosmic significance perhaps transcending even time and space itself as even the world of djinn and angels are subsumed by it.Yet its enduring impact on humanity today is both local and global – at once capable of penetrating individual human emotion and tearing down global tyranny. Amir Di Martino says that today the true followers of Imam Hussain (a) “are occupying the front lines of the struggle against selfishness and utilitarianism” and that “today there is much confusion within the world of Islam and outside it too. What is right? What is wrong? Who is just or unjust? Who is oppressed and who is the oppressor?”
It is for this reason that it becomes necessary to study Imam Hussain in detail for his virtue ethics clarifies the answers to these questions for eternity. Amir Di Martino stressed that Hussain said ‘a person like me can never give allegiance to someone like Yazid ( the immoral oppressive King)’ and this signified ” that the two perdonalities represent two opposing realities, two parallel dimensions, one carnal and soulessrepresented by Yazid, and the other spiritual, soul-edifying, hope- giving, dispair- removing and heroic represented by Imam Hussain (a)”
Father Frank Gelli as a Christian relates Imam Hussain’s passion for Allah (swt) with the passion of the Christ and asserts that freedom “is a beautiful word. Virtue is freedom and vice is slavery. Freedom can be used to either save lives or to destroy them.To love or to hate.” In Father ranks view Imam Hussain undoubtedly fought against vice and battled for humanity’s freedom to be virtuous, and to remind mankind, for eternity, of his grandfather’s dream – the Divinely-inspired virtuous society.
The events convenor Shabbir Razavi concluded that “the Hussaini struggle for a more ethical moral world is as relevant today as it was in the 7th Century”. The livers of Hussain believe “every day is Ashura and every land is Karbala” and that the jihad of Imam Hussain will, as prophecied by Muhammad (pbuh), continue until the return of Al Mahdi (atf),the grandson of Imam Hussain, and the Messiah (Jesus son of Mary) both return to finally establish the Divine rule. A sobering thought for all tyranical Yazeed-like oppressors today and for the future.