SHAFAQNA – The majales, or Hussaini congregations, have been going on for as long as we can remember. However, the themes, methods of narrations and stories have not developed yet. The concept of Ashoura is one that has untimely significances and connotations. Thus, it must be constantly subjected to innovation and development. This notion has been further developed in an interview conducted with His Eminence, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah.
Q: Hussaini preaching in the West, as well as in the other arenas, suffers from repetition and the non-selective transfer of the tradition, while those addressed are the educated Muslim youth who have been brought up under circumstances that are different to those in the East. How can we extrapolate from the experiences and significance of the Hussaini revolution in light to the reality of emigrants in the West?
A: I imagine – and I do not know to what extent this view can move dynamically in reality – that intellectuals should memorize some poems that conform to the line of awareness, including dialect poems, especially the mature ones. Also they should work to formulate the Hussaini history in a way that can inspire enthusiasm.
Therefore, my call to the intellectuals is to proceed and transform the traditional form into a modern form in content. Also, we have to work on the basis that the sermon-giver (al-khatib) is not everything, but (he) should be preceded by lectures given by aware intellectuals who speak about the Hussaini issue in a way that the sermon-giver might not be able to do – a way which takes into consideration that arena and culture and in a style that the people understand and which chimes with their lives.
If the intellectuals proceed in this direction, we might be able to dispense with a lot of those who do not have even the knowledge of the Hussaini history, and produce a (new) generation of Hussaini sermon-givers, who are aware of the pulpit’s responsibilities and mission.
Q: There is a big group of people who want to make the Hussaini issue a mere historical event, and do not want to reflect it in our reality. Yazid finished in his era and there is no other Yazid, but how numerous are the Yazids now!
A: When we read the Hadith narrated from Imam As-Sadiq (a.s.): ‘Bring to life (call the people) our cause; may Allah bestow mercy to whoever brings to life (calls the people to) our cause’, we find that this word summarizes all that can be presented in the arena of Hussaini pulpit, for it provides a wide horizon that you can move in, for ‘their cause’ is not limited by time, since Ahl El-Beit (a.s.) did not have anything except Islam – all their lives were about it and for it, and they were even martyred for it.
Therefore, we have to bring the people out of this traditional prison in which they have incarcerated themselves on the basis that the Hussaini issue is one that happened in the year 61 H. Instead, we have to clarify that it is proceeded from its Islamic roots, in all the dynamic movement of the prophets (a.s.), and happened to stretch this movement in the direction of the future. We may understand this from the Warith visit when we address Al-Hussein (a.s.) as the warith (inheritor) of all the prophets (a.s.), so we understand that he proceeded from all the history which he inherited, then stood up to combine all the elements that exist in the history of the Messages. This is why we say to him: ‘I bear witness that you have performed the prayer, and have given the religious tax (zakat), and have enjoined what is right and forbidden what is wrong (evil), and that you have worshipped Allah faithfully until you achieved absolute belief’ i.e., we say to him: You combine all the fundamental junctions in the relations of the message-bearing person with Allah and people, and in the struggle against evil, and in being faithful to Allah the Most High in every activity.
In light of this, we have to open peoples’ minds to the line of awareness so that they are able to request the sermon-giver to go beyond the historical event to the present and future, instead of imprisoning it in the cell of the past.
Q: How can the Hussaini rituals present a civilized image of Islam that we can show to the non-Shiites and non-Muslims?
A: That ‘Ashoura’ is Islamic! There is no Hussaini idiosyncrasy that stands outside the Islamic circle: Al-Hussein (a.s.) was, in his totality, (a complete representation of) Islam, in all his movement, sermons, fighting and struggle. If we examine the words which the Imam (a.s.) said, we find that they are Islamic words in the general Islamic horizon, and not sectarian words from a narrow circle. When you read: “O men! Verily the Messenger of Allah has said: ‘Anyone who sees an unjust ruler who permits those things which have been forbidden by Allah, who disregards his duty, who opposes the way of the Messenger of Allah, and acts amongst the servants of Allah sinfully and aggressively, and that person does not do anything, in action or speech, to change the situation, then Allah shall certainly place him along with the tyrant ruler (on the Day of Judgment)… Verily, these people have abided by the obedience of Satan and abandoned the obedience of the Merciful, and have made the forbidden or Allah allowable and His allowable forbidden, and kept the income (from war and other sources) to themselves, and stopped carrying out Islamic punishments; and I am more obliged than anyone else to change (the situation)’”, you see that Al-Hussein (a.s.) has proceeded from the Messenger of Allah to move dynamically in the line of reality.
And when we read his words: “I have not risen (against Yazid) disrespectfully or recklessly (without a reason), or to de injustice, or to do corruption, but I have risen to seek to reform the nation of my grandfather. I wish to enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong (evil)… So, whosoever accepts me in truth then Allah is more worthy of the truth”; or his words: “Verily the illegitimate (person) (i.e. ‘Ubaidullah bin Ziad), son of the illegitimate (person) (i.e. Ziad bin Abih), has given me only two choices: fighting or humiliation and subservience; humiliation and subservience is certainly far from us!”, we find that these Hussaini words are all Islamic.
It is up to us to acquire the capability of opening up the awareness of other Muslims that Yazid did not represent the Islamic line, that those who fought Imam Al-Hussein (a.s.) did not represent this line whatsoever, and that the issue is not an issue of a Sunni party and a Shiite party, but it is a question of staying on the straight path of Islam (as opposed to) deviating from the path of Islam, and that Yazid does not have any sanctity.
We have to distance ourselves, as far as possible, from the negative issues that may harm Muslim unity, as we find in some experiences. We will never benefit from this since these issues, when they develop in an emotional, agitated way, push the others (non-Shiites) away from us and make them hate these gatherings, and so we lose a big audience and big opportunities to guide the people and present Ahl El-Beit (a.s.) in the way which can enter into the depth of their consciousness, hearts and minds.