SHAFAQNA Kashmir | by Dr Khairunnisa Aga: Karbala is resilience, the struggle that started from Medina and passed through Mecca, the Iraqi desert of Karbala, to the seat of the Ummayad power, Damascus and made its appearance back in Medina, spread towards the mountains of Khurasan, reached to the plains of the Indian sub-continent and today we see its footprints all over the world.
The 1400 years old uneven, non-provocative and illogical war imposed in Karbala is usually not the subject of contemporary mainstream Muslim discourse. However, we still see people on the roads chanting Ya Hussain, raising banners and flags every year worldwide. The lunar month of Muharram represents a strange protest for this 1400-year-old atrocity against the household of the Prophet of Islam (PBUH).
I maintain that the event is a paradigm. The tragedy of Karbala is permeated with diverse messages, ethics, and worldview; it is so all-encompassing that whoever looks at this event finds their statement in it. It has esoteric and as well as exoteric manifestations. Everyone identifies with it; its pain raptures one’s heart, it is solace to broken and hopes for the deprived, and it is emancipation for the oppressed. In this issue, I will attempt to focus on resilience is synonymous with Imam Hussain’s (AS) struggle.
Resilience is the ability to withstand, and it is a sense of confidence and control. In Karbala, Imam Hussain (AS) resisted and declined to bow before the oppressor. Even though the oppressors stopped the Imam’s way and refused access to the water of Euphrates to the camp that included small children, women and others, the Imam communicated with them. In such a fatal situation, pacifying the family members was difficult, but the Imam offered hope for the righteous, and the closer family ties made the sacrifices more glorious.
The Resistance that appeared on the day of Ashura was not self-defence but the defence of the principles and values that Islam brought about. It was a battle of righteousness with evil and a struggle for human dignity against corrupt power. It was not just Imam Hussain, peace be upon him, resisting the oppressor, but the entire force of the upright, from the prophets to the faithful, who had amalgamated into the Imam.
On the other side were the people representing arrogant pharaohs who did not regard the rights of the people and the sovereignty of the Almighty and suppressed everything that challenged them. Imam Hussain (AS) said that he is in this struggle not for a mutiny but to reform the faith that his grandfather taught and purify the divine message revealed to him. The governor of Medina asked Imam Hussain to obey Yazid and be saved. Imam Hussain declined the offer and said that a person like Hussain would never follow someone like Yazid. Imam Hussain chose to resist and not succumb to evil and thus gave meaning to resilience. In the physical occurrence, the throat of the Imam was slit, and his pious head was raised over spears. Their strength was such that Imam Hussain (AS) still reforms an individual, society and inspires nations.
Resilience occurred in multiple forms in Karbala and after. Many devotees of Imam Hussain (AS) feel maximum pain in Imam Hussain’s (AS) communication with the merciless infantry of Yazid. Communication is an essential form of resilience as Imam Hussain (AS) is reported to have said that maybe this folk is kept unaware by the generals of Yazid about the reality of Karbala; perhaps they don’t know that I am the grandson of the Prophet of Islam (PBUH). Therefore the Imam (AS) opened communication at various points and attempted to make the enemy understand that they supported evil.
This communication brought the enemy’s general, Noble Hur, to the right path. Several times the devotees of the Imam find something beneath the dignity of the Imam, like asking for water to drink. Still, scholars interpret this asking as Imam’s communication so the deviated could see. On the night of Ashura, the Imam (AS) sends his messenger, his most able commander, confidant and his dearest brother, Abul Fazal Abbas (AS), to the oppressive infantry to demand one night delay in the battle. The delay itself was to give a chance to the infantry to acknowledge the reality, and it was a door opened by the Imam towards the right path and opened the eyes that material gain was not a gain but faith was. Imam Hussain’s (AS) communication is a beacon of light even today.
The pillar of this resilience was devoted family members and companions of the Imam (AS). Though Imam Hussain (AS) repeatedly told his folk that the oppressors were alone after his life, the ways were open, and anyone who wanted to leave could leave. The Imam (AS) reportedly said that the oppressor was thirsty for his blood and anyone who aided him would also face a brutal death. But none went because the Imam had given them optimism by providing meaning and purpose of the faith and hereafter.
The Imam had told them that life is not eternal and it has to end one day, but what is eternal is faith and steadfastness. Substantial evidence is present in Dua-arfa, the prayer Imam Hussain (AS) said before reaching Karbala. The pray is very lengthy and starts with praising the Lord and ends with the praise after going through gratitude. The folk of the Imam were trained in such a way that they made a fatal battle victorious for eternity and changed the meaning of victory, life, and sovereignty forever with their steadfastness. They practised their faith in optimism to see what the others were not. All of them, the 72, sacrificed their lives. They were slaughtered in a state of thirst. In such brutality, they found life in death. They coloured it red but upheld the principles of Islam.
Karbala is so much more, and the more one explores it, it opens up the newest doors. The culture of Muharram mourning has lasted uninterrupted for many centuries and looks afresh every year. The ideas and belongingness that every person receives from this mourning is a revival of the Muslims’ vows with their Prophet (PBUH). I conclude my write-up with the Quranic verse that says, “(O’ Prophet) tell (people) I don’t ask you any wage (in return for my Prophethood) except to love my near kin. And if anyone earns any good, we shall give him an increase of good (in return of love for it)” (Quran: 42:43). Imam Hussain (AS) stands for the pure message of Islam, and Karbala practises it and gives humanity the ethics and life its higher meaning and purpose that is eternal.