SHAFAQNA – “No battle in the modern and past history of mankind has earned more sympathy and admiration as well as provided more lessons than the martyrdom of Hussain in the battle of Karbala.”
These are the words of Christian author Antoine Bara whose book “Hussain in Christian Ideology” had evoked both praise and provocation after its publication. Especially his remarks that Jesus Christ had predicted about appearance of Imam Hussain had dropped a bombshell in the Christian world and Bara had defended his contention in these words:
“Before I explain what it means I would like to confirm that the Bible mentions Prophet Muhammad (saww) as well as Imam Hussein (as). This prophesies come in the context of talking about the one true religion which, in my view, is Islam. Christ (as) spoke of the appearance of Imam Hussein (as) in the gospel of John by saying: “But now I go My way to Him that sent Me, and none of you asketh Me, `Whither goest Thou?’ But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is expedient for you that I go away, for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you. And when He is come, He will reprove the world concerning sin, and concerning righteousness, and concerning judgment” (John, 16:5-8).Some Christians have explained the word ‘Comforter’ as the Holy Spirit. But having researched its meaning, I do not think this meaning applies to it at all. So, I looked at the other two explanations; that this is either referring to Prophet Muhammad (saww) or referring to Imam Hussein (as). After more research, I realized that Christ (as) could not have sent a prophet like himself but it was possible that he sent a martyr to humanity which means that it is definitely Imam Hussein (as) who is being referred to in the above quote from the Bible”.
Bara was not much aware of about Imam Hussain and Karbala. However, he used to visit Great Islamic Scholar Imam Al-Shirazi in Kuwait with his friend Azhar Al Khafagi in 70s.. Upon coming to know that Bara had prepared some notes on Imam Hussain, Al-Shirazi suggested him to write a book based on these notes. The idea fermented in his mind. He collected the notes but even after preliminary research, he did not intend to write the book. But he felt a special moral inspiration that pushed him to continue researching, editing and writing.
In an interview, he himself reveals “In the beginning, I did not know about the brutal incident of Karbala…… This is because during our education, this incident was referred to without any detail. When I met Imam Al-Shirazi , he gave me some books about Imam I read these books and discovered they contained a unique heroic story. I was also surprised that such a story did not generate much interest from Muslim scholars. This motivated me to note down remarks about this revolution and the character of Imam Hussain.”
While working on the book, Bara tried to find answers to questions related to the revolution and character of Imam Hussain. He took more than five years to finish his task. Bara sent the manuscript to Al-Shirazi who appreciated the book and asked for its immediate publication. Al Shirazi wrote introduction of the book. With the help of Mr. Baqir Khureibit, Editor of ‘Sawt Al-Khaleej’ magazine where Bara worked, the book was published. It evoked instant reactions. Imamis and pro-Ahle-Bait Muslims considered it to be the best written on Imam Hussain but some Christians objected on the ground “he is Christian, how can he be a supporter of the Prophet’s family? In Beirut, a Muslim writer published a book and tried to prove that Karbala was only a historic incident and Imam Hussain ‘struggled’ for power. On the other hand, a doctoral thesis was written on the book and submitted to a Lebanese university. A Pakistani Scholar Mushtaq Ahmad from Lahore University sought permission to translate the book into Urdu.. An Iraqi doctor, Ridha Rasheed wanted to translate the book into Austrian and Russian. All got consent without any clause of royalty, for Bara his work was an interpretation of a special feeling he developed for Imam during his scholarly research.
He remarks “In the beginning, writing the book had a scholarly purpose but as I got deeper and expanded on the historicity of the topic, a feeling of the greatness of Imam Hussein grew in me. This character sacrificed himself for religion and principles and to preserve Muslims from deviating from the path of Islam to ensure the continuity of the message and passing it over from one generation to the other. Had he not sacrificed himself in this highly emotional way, this strong effect on people could not have been felt. The proof is what happened when the prisoners of war returned to Damascus; Sunnis, Shia and Christians threw stones at the soldiers because they were emotionally affected. The same also happened in Homs where people beat up the soldiers and deprived them of water because they deprived the pure family of the Prophet of water.”
He further adds “Indeed human principles were generated by the Ashura revolution. This is what pushed me to continue writing the book. The effort only gave me fatigue and troubles without any benefits except for the blessing of Imam. By blessing I mean the fact that the book was printed more than twenty times, only three of them by me…. I do not consider the book to be my personal property. It belongs to all humanity.”Bara never mentions Imam without saying peace be upon him after his name. Bara maintains that Imam Hussein is not exclusive to Imamis or Muslims but belongs to the whole world because he is the “conscience of religions”.( References available on request)
Dr.Mazhar Naqvi – The views expressed here are the author’s own