MUHARRAM SERIES – The Imam’s sermon on the Night of Ashura

SHAFAQNA – I will not attempt here to offer my analysis as our Imam’s words far exceed whatever thoughts, I may have on the matter.

It was the night before the Day of Ashura and Imam Hussain was breathing his last evening …

“I thank Allah to the best of my ability and praise Him during the time of weal and woe. A Lord! I thank You because You have honoured us by means of Prophet hood taught us the Quran, made us comprehend the religion and its commandments, granted us eyes, ears and hearts; kept us free from the pollution of polytheism and then enabled us to thank You for Your blessings. It is a fact that I am not aware of any companions more faithful and honest than my companions and any relatives more righteous and kind than my relatives. May Allah grant all of you a good reward. I think that the day of our fighting with this army has arrived. I permit all of you to go away. You are free to depart without any restriction and should take advantage of the darkness of night.”

On the eve of battle our Imam, the grand-son of our prophet offered release to his companions … he offered a way out of death, he offered salvation for those who would life at whatever cost – without rancour, without animosity or reproach.

None of course would leave. Of the 72 brave none would desert their Imam – not even for the promise of freedom.

Historians have recorded that after this last speech Imam Hussain’s brothers, sons, nephews and the sons of Abdullah ibn Ja’far led by Abbas ibn Ali said with one voice: “Should we go away to live after you? We pray to Allah that the time may not come when you may be killed and we may remain alive.”

The Imam then turned to the descendants of Aqil and said: “O children of Aqil! It is sufficient that Muslim has been killed. You are now free to go away”. They replied: “Allah be praised! If we leave our chief and the best of our cousins and go away and do not fight along with him with arrows, spears and swords and do not know how he and his friends have fared with the enemy, what will the people say? We swear by Allah that we shall do no such thing. On the contrary we shall sacrifice the lives and property of our family in the path of Allah and render you assistance, and shall fight along with you so that we may also acquire the honour of martyrdom. What a shame to live the life which is without you!”

Then, Muslim ibn Awsaja got on his feet and said: “If we withdraw our support from you and leave you alone what excuse shall we put forward before Allah? I swear by Allah that I shall not go away and shall not leave you. I shall thrust my spear in the chest of your enemies and shall quench the thirst of my sword with their blood as far as possible. And when there are no arms left in my hand to fight with, I shall shower stones upon them. By Allah we shall not leave you, so that Allah may see that in the absence of His Prophet we have honoured the rights of his son.

By Allah, even if I come to know that I shall be killed and then burnt in fire and shall be brought to life again and eventually my ashes will be scattered in the air and I die and become alive in this way seventy times, even then I shall not leave you till I lay down my life for your sake. Then why should I not do so when I am going to be killed only once and will thereafter be honoured, happy and exalted, forever”.

When the speech of Muslim ibn Awsaja came to an end, Zuhayr ibn Qayn Bajali stood up. Not too long ago Zuhayr had campaigned against Ima Hussain in a bid to prevent his arrival to Iraq. Reformed he stood now with his Imam on the eve of martyrdom, eager to offer support to the House no matter the sacrifices.

Zuhayr stood and said: “By Allah, I wish that I am killed and then brought to life and then killed once again and this act should be repeated a thousand times and this becomes the means of Allah protecting you and the young men of your family, and all of you remain alive”.

Imam Sajjad has narrated: “During the night preceding the day on which my father was martyred I was ill and my aunt Zaynab was nursing me. My father had at that time retired into his own tent and only Jaun ibn Jaun, the former slave of Abuzar Ghifari was with him. Jaun was setting my father’s sword right and my father was reciting some couplets. He repeated these poetic verses twice or thrice and I understood what he was saying and what he meant by it. By reciting these verses, he referred to the inconstancy and unkindness of the world, which at times smiles like a kind friend, and enchants the people with its pleasing countenance and one feels that the circumstances will always be favourable.

However, it suddenly changes its attitude and becomes unkind and unfaithful. It makes bitter with its poison the life which had once been sweet like honey. It drives away the friends, about whom one thinks that they would remain friendly forever and boasts of their friendship and devotion when the circumstances are favourable; rather it makes most of those friends stand before one in the shape of blood-thirsty and war-like enemies. No one knows what is going to happen tomorrow, and when he is going to be deprived of the glory, strength and security which has been bestowed upon him. Who is the person, who has not lost the game during his life, and where is the powerful man, whose strength has not been damaged by the vicissitudes of events?”

The fourth Imam also noted: “I understood that my father meant to inform us of his martyrdom, and tears almost choked me, but I controlled myself. I realized that a calamity was about to fall. However, my aunt Zaynab also heard what I had heard, and as she was a woman, and the women are tender-hearted by nature, and lose patience, she could not control herself. She got up suddenly and went before her brother without wearing a veil and said: “Oh! That I should become brotherless! I wish that I had died earlier. O successor of the deceased and O the refuge of the survivors! It is today that I am going to be left without mother, father and brother”. On seeing his sister in a distressed condition Imam Hussain said: “Sister! Be patient lest Satan should make you lose your self-control.”

It may be said that these words of the Imam were a lesson for his sister, which prepared her to face the difficult situations in Kufa and later Damascus later. It was Zaynab who had to assume leadership following the martyrdom of her brother. It fell upon her to guide the faithful and offer grace in the face of absolute villainy.

What a guidance she offered, what patience she presented … so great indeed that she made the treacherous recede in fear. Alone in the dark she held to our Imams’ light and shun forth a hope which today resides in her name.

“Dear sister, be tranquil and patient. It is not that only the inhabitants of the world die. Those in the heavens do not also continue to live. Everything dies except the Almighty, Who has created the people with His power, and will one day bring them to life again, whereas He Himself is Unique. Dear sister! My grandfather was better than me. My father was better than me. My mother and brother were better than me. It is necessary for every Muslim to follow the Prophet of Allah”. After these consolatory remarks the Imam said: “Dear sister! I administer an oath to you that you will follow my advice. Do not tear your dress on account of my suffering, do not scratch your face and do not lament” – Imam Hussain ibn Ali.

By Catherine Shakdam for Shafaqna


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