SHAFAQNA- Mikail Alvarez Ruis is the head of Shia community of Spain. In an interview with Shafaqna, he explains about the culture of Ashura in his community.
Shafaqna: How well Imam Husayn (A.S) and the Ashura event are known among Spanish people, Muslims or non-Muslims?
Mikail Alvarez Ruis: To be honest, I would have to say that neither the figure of Imam Husayn (A.S) nor the events of Ashura are known to the Spanish population. This is not surprising because in this society there is no interest or knowledge even for their own religion or the prominent figures of it, so we should not expect them to have interest and knowledge for other religions, in addition, the case of Islam is special because it is presented as demonized.
The unfortunate thing is not this. The unfortunate thing is that among the Muslims of this land, Imam Husayn (A.S) is not given any importance, and even a good part of them try to hide the events of Karbala by masking them within an endless number of supposed historical events that they associate with that same date, and even justify the murderers of Husayn (A.S) by trying to strike a balance between the arguments of the two sides that faced each other in the desert of Karbala.
Shafaqna: How are Muharram grieving ceremonies carried out in your country and other European states?
Mikail Alvarez Ruis: In Spain there are no large Shias communities; maybe in Barcelona, there would be a number of Shias where there is a larger community composed mainly of Pakistani brothers. In general, the mourning ceremonies in Muharram consist of meetings the days before ‘Ashura for talks or majalis, and a major commemoration on the day of Ashura.
In our case, in Andalusia, in the Husainiya Imam Ridha (A.S) of Seville, we have a program that begins on September 6 and will end on the 10th, the day of Ashura, with the main commemoration ceremony.
In other European countries where there are large communities, mainly composed of immigrants, and where they have bigger centers, larger programs are carried out.
Shafaqna: Have you ever had any interfaith dialogue on the topic of Ashura and Imam Husayn?
Mikail Alvarez Ruis: No, personally not. As I said before, there are no conditions to have true interreligious dialogues on any subject, since Islam in general and Shias in particular, including the natives, are seen as something dangerous to be united and against. We have to fight this opinion. We are not numerous enough and having not possess much resources don’t let us fight in a grand scheme, beyond the small circles around us to which we have access. With other Muslims, we cannot maintain that kind of dialogue, but certainly, with a very specific minority of them, it is even harder to make this dialogue, because in general shiaphobia is embedded in their minds in a visceral way.
Shafaqna: What influence does the message of Ashura have on your personal and social life?
Mikail Alvarez Ruis: Imam Husayn (A.S) and the events of Ashura are true daily teachings for anyone who wants to see in all aspects. The example of imam Husayn (A.S) regarding taqva, self-denial, generosity, detachment of one’s ego, on the one hand, his example of the struggle for freedom and against injustice and tyranny, are beacons of light to direct our personal life and to interpret our social relationships with third parties.
Shafaqna: How could the teachings of Imam Husayn and Culture of Ashura help modern people?
Mikail Alvarez Ruis: The teachings of Imam Husayn (A.S) and the event of Ashura are timeless and transcend religions and cultures. Any person seeking truth, internal and social freedom, every seeker of justice anywhere in the world, every true revolutionary, can find in Imam Husayn (A.S) and in Ashura the teaching, guidance and strength to his own fight.
And in the case of today’s Muslims, the teachings of Imam Husayn (A.S) and Ashura, beyond what was said above, are also an example to follow for our most important particular struggle, the fight against our own ego, against our “nafs”, because whoever manages to overcome their selfishness becomes a free person and no powerful enemy can defeat this person.
Shafaqna: In one sentence, explain your feeling when you hear the name of Husayn and Karbala.
Mikail Alvarez Ruis: Husayn (A.S) and Karbala evoke feelings of love, self-denial, courage, rebellion, and power, because Imam Husayn (A.S) fought in Karbala even though he and all his companions died. But also they evoke a feeling of sadness to see an Ummah today as lost as the one of that time.
However, the phrase known by all “Every day is’ Ashura, the whole earth is Karbala”, it is the one that best summarizes all the meaning of Husayn (A.S) and Karbala, reflecting in these few words the most correct understanding of what it meant the epic of Imam Husayn (A.S), his relatives and companions in the land of Karbala, an epic movement that thirteen centuries later is still alive in millions of Muslims.
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