End the Silence on Ashura

By Salina Khan

Open Letter to the Silent Majority

It will break my heart if I have to sit through another typical Ashura gathering.

That’s why I’ve decided to write this letter appealing for full disclosure and impartiality from scholars lecturing at most mosques around the world. (Readers, please forward this to a relevant Islamic center near you!)

At many of these commemorations, much time is spent relating how God blessed a string of noble prophets on Ashura, the 10th day of the sacred month of Muharram, as they spread the Divine message on earth. But little to no time is given to discuss the Ashura event that safeguarded this same message from corruption after the era of the prophets came to an end.

This event was the sacrifice of Hussain, the grandson of the final Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and son of Fatima (one of the four perfect women), a courageous soul who stood up against an illegitimate regime to save God’s rule from the clutches of tyranny, corruption and oppression. As poet Allama Iqbal wrote:

“The story of the Kabah is unfortunate, simple and colorful
It began with Ishmael and ended with Hussain.”

So, respected scholars, when you remind us this week that on the 10th of Muharram:

Adam was forgiven after his exile, remember to talk about Hussain as he is chief of the youth of those eternal gardens of Paradise. Noah was rescued on the ark, remember to talk about Hussain as his family was likened to that ship of salvation. Prophet (S): “Whoever embarked on it was saved, and whoever turned away from it perished.” Moses defeated Pharoah, remember to talk about Hussain as he resisted the pharoah of his time with faith, nobility and valor. Hussain: “I have not come out with the intention of violence and rebellion or in obedience to my passions, and it is not my object to create mischief on the earth or to opress anyone. My only object is to reform the affairs of the Muslim nation and to act according to the conduct of my father and grandfather.”

Jacob was reunited with his son Joseph, remember to talk about Hussain as he lost on this day his young sons, including a thirsty baby pierced by an arrow in the neck while being cradled in his arms. Abraham was protected from the fire, remember to talk about Hussain as he was left the last man standing “under the blazing sun, on the parched land and against the stiffing heat of Arabia,” in the words of historian Washington Irving.

Now, don’t stop short. Continue the narrative by reminding us what our own Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did on this fateful day. With dust on his head and dust in his beard, he was the first to propagate the plight of Hussain, the grandchild he once cuddled in his lap and rode on his back.

“I have just been at the slaying of al-Hussain,” he told his wife Umm Salamah in a dream of hers, according to her tearful narration [Tirmidhi].

Respected scholars, I ask you to disseminate the story of Hussain far and wide–not for the sake of historical truth or inclusiveness–but because it is the sunnah (tradition) of the Prophet (pbuh) and exactly what the world needs right now!

People in all corners of the globe are finally wising up to the injustices being committed against them.  It is from Hussain they can learn how a small cadre of people dedicated to truth, peace and justice can undertake a successful struggle against tyrannical regimes with wide-reaching control.

“Let humanity awaken and every tribe will claim Hussain for their own,” predicts poet Josh Malihabadi.

The rest, as they say, will be history.