THE DAY OF ASHURA: British Muslims offer unequivocal rejection of sectarian-based oppression

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SHAFAQNA – “I came seeking reformation for the Ummah [community] of my grandfather Muhammad. I intend to enjoy good and forbid evil, to act according to the traditions of my grandfather and my father Ali ibn Abi Talib.” Imam Hussain

If the Day of Ashura remains forever clouded by the martyrdom of Imam Hussain – a pain and a loss felt to such a degree and magnitude that 13 centuries on a community’s tears have yet to dry up, it also came to symbolise hope, resilience and trust in the notion that the practice of one’s religious duty supersedes all manners of sacrifice.

An Imam of Islam appointed by God to act together a guardian and a guide to His community, Imam Hussain came out to the plain of Karbala not to fight – although ultimately he had to unsheathed his sword, but to call man back to the truth and away from transgression.

Imam Hussain’s movement was an invitation to return to the teachings of the Quran and the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad in the face of the many and grave distortions a certain elite had architected so that individuals’ ambitions would be served.

Today such transgressions have been compounded into the horror that we call: Islamic radicalism. While one can understand how society came to associate Islam to the aberration that is Wahhabism/Salafism on account its disciples have sold it as such, it remains nevertheless true that that ideology ISIS militants have vociferated across has no rooting in Islam – except for the claims wahhabis have posited.

Claiming a truth does not make it so!

This Terror ISIS has spread is that which Imam Hussain faced in Karbala 13 centuries ago. And though its name then, and the manner of its leadership then may have existed under a different banner, its nature is anchored in the same rejection of humanity, the same desire to corrupt the Scriptures, the same need to oppress on the basis of one’s difference … If yesterday transgressors rallied under the leadership of Yazid ibn Mua’wiyyah, today it is under the black flag of ISIS that tyrants have waged a war against communities.

It is to denounce such hate and attest to their Imam’s sacrifice that Shia Muslims came out in their thousands this Sunday, so all would be reminded that Islam speaks not of violence and oppression.

Several thousands strong the procession took off from Marble Arch towards Holland Park to unequivocally assert Muslims’ rejection of ISIS ideology, an ideology that has claimed tens of thousands of Muslims to its violence, displaced millions and forced a faith to live under the label of terrorism.

In comments to Shafaqna Reza Abbas from North London explained how he felt compelled to attend the procession and thus help dispel society misapprehension towards Islam and Muslims.

“We have a duty as Muslims, as Shia to honour the sacrifice of Imam Hussain by carrying his message. Islam speaks of justice, compassion, and dignity. And so we must expose those who, through their lies and actions have sullied this message.”

He added: “Imam Hussain stood against Tyranny, and so are we today!

Yusra Hussain Elkhafaifi, a student in Islamic Studies from Edinburgh commented: “What a better day than the Day of Ashura to reject tyranny and make our voices heard? While of course as Muslims we resent those who label us as radicals but the onus is on us to act in such a manner that society is made to understand that Islam is not ISIS. Also and I think it is an important message as well to Sunni Muslims … if Shia have been labelled as apostates, they, Sunnis, have been hijacked by extremist clerics. We ought to unite in our rejection of falsehood and end any form of sectarian-based violence.”

Indeed … often ridiculed by Wahhabi-inspired clerics for their reverence of the progeny of the Prophet Muhammad [AhlulBayt] Shia Muslims have suffered persecution and death more than any other religious minority across the Islamic world, and yet, perception has been that somehow they bear responsibility in the Terror wielded against them.

If Terror in fact is very real, we have yet to clearly blame those who fan it, and not  assign blame onto its victims.

“The battle of Karbala, during which Imam Hussein and some members of his family and his companions were brutally massacred is a vivid lesson to how spirituality can be a strong drive for people to stand in face of injustice and tyranny,” noted Zaynab al Youssefi as she held a banner reading: #NotInMyname.

“Imam Hussain came to liberate all people regardless of their faith on account we are all equal in our humanity. That is Islam for me! And that is the message our Imam died for … So yes we are here today to carry his banner and carry on his legacy.”

By Catherine Shakdam – Director Shafaqna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies

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