By Syeda Jafri
Alhamdulillah, we have lived to see the new Islamic year ring in and bring with it its usual and customary cloud of grief and sorrow. Muharram’s “ayyam-e-aza” (days of mourning) are upon us once again and we have been given yet another unique opportunity to commemorate the martyrdom of our beloved Imam Al-Hussain (as) while striving to achieve ma’refah of his noble mission.
As Shi’ah and self-professed followers of the Ahlul-Bayt (as), we have been endowed with great responsibility. We have been chosen to further the message of Karbala through education, struggle and awareness. Sadly, the majority of us have yet to conceptualize and implement the philosophy of Karbala into our lives.
It is almost tragic to see how warped and distorted some of our perceptions are as to what “Hussainiyah” truly is! The purpose of majaalis and azadari is not merely the perpetuation of a cultural tradition or ritual. It should not be defined as a mere social event or gathering. The purpose of azadari is so very much more than this – and if we have reduced or encapsulated Karbala to just this, then we have sadly done a grave injustice to the spilling of our beloved Imam’s (as) holy blood.
The connection we have as human beings to the love of justice is a fitri one – based on natural instinct. Instilled and implemented by our Creator. That is why we feel an instant attraction and a connection of pure love with Imam Al-Hussain (as). We must first establish an emotional bond with our Imam by shedding tears for him – “seena zani” (matam) is another expression of grief and sorrow, which is also important to further develop and nurture that sense of attachment. But just as any relationship must grow and evolve, so must our relationship with our Imam. As it starts off with an emotional base as a strong foundation, it must mature and escalate into the kind of relationship he would want with his Shi’ah – one of emulation. Professing your love for someone is not sufficient; you must want to be like them to justify your claims. Indeed, the highest, purest form of love is imitation and emulation.
Our relationship with him is one of stages, which begins with tears, but cannot peak here. Sadly, many of us are still embedded and cemented in this phase, which frankly speaking, is an idle one. Our beloved Imam doesn’t need our idle tears; that’s not what his sacrifice was for. By mobilizing their tears and implementing the concept of Karbala in a practical sense is exactly what helped great leaders like Imam Khomeini (r) and Sayyid Hasan Nasrullah (may Allah prolong his life) achieve insurmountable feats.
Yet we wonder why Iraq is bleeding. We turn a blind eye to the sufferings of the Afghans and Pakistanis. We have no clue as to what is happening to the Yemeni Houthis. We continue to naively place blame where it doesn’t belong when it comes to the Palestinian plight. Our beloved Imam (as) offered his divine and holy blood – and that of his companions and family – to shatter the dangerous and toxic concept of apathy. He embraced martyrdom to jolt and awaken this Ummah out of its deep slumber. He put NOTHING, not even his own life and comfort or that of his most precious loved ones, above justice and truth.
Have we learned from him?
His call of “Hal min nasir yansurna (is there anyone to help us?)” on ‘Ashura was NOT a plea for military assistance to help kill the enemy. It was two-fold. He wished to give one last opportunity to the misguided ones to redeem themselves and see the light and error of their corrupted ways before it was too late, just as Hur did; who in turn, saved himself from eternal damnation and ultimately died a dignified and honourable death. Could there be others to be saved? Such was the mercy and kindness of Imam Al-Hussain (as). But it was also a call for support and unity. It was a call for understanding. It was a call out to us: can we help him by keeping his mission alive? Will we be included among his “nasireen” (helpers) on the Day of Qiyamah, or nauzubillah, those that hurt his cause?
We must abandon indifference. We have allowed ourselves to become desensitized to the oppressive, cruel and unjust world around us. Tragically, as the very ones chosen to perpetuate the message of Karbala, WE have developed a resistance and tolerance to zulm, while we continue to swear allegiance and adamantly proclaim loyalty to Imam Al-Hussain (as) – who had refused to tolerate zulm or tyranny for even one day. He thought, “death was much sweeter and dignified than living with humiliation or tyranny.”
The time for idle tears is gone.
Just as I told an elderly Christian gentleman in the doctor’s waiting room when he leaned over and said to me (verbatim), “You know, Jesus loves you. He died for my sins, and yours, too. The day I accepted his sacrifice and let his love enter my heart was the day I got my ticket to Heaven” – and I said to him – “Dying for someone else’s sins is illogical and based on an unjust concept. My religion is based on justice and accountability…..not idleness.” Here, I couldn’t help but realize that perhaps we, as Shi’ah, have been similarly indoctrinated as our Christian brethren. Does anyone see a parallel?
For the sake of our Imam, we should try harder to sincerely conceptualize Karbala as a movement and ideology – not merely a historical event.
Let’s pray that this Muharram we make a heartfelt effort to gain ma’refah (closeness/awareness) of our beloved Imam Al-Hussain (as) and serve his mission as it deserves – exactly as he would have wanted.