Though my writings are gratis, time, I remind you, is furling fast and there is an urgent necessity to travel promptly to this topic.This piece deals with the visibility of women through the role of Abbas, a character in the battle of Karbala.
Before I underscore my urgency, I must share with you a saying of the Prophet Muhammad that a beloved shared with me in May. This saying alone , I believe, establishes my interest in amicable dialogue :
“There is nothing worse for human beings than to see the faults of others while ignoring their own flaws.”
In previous pieces, I took aim at anyone who speaks about the Hijab while being ignorant of Karbala. I sense that, by now, this character has fuelled its intellectual engines and is prepared to discuss Karbala. This guttural voice, one that proclaims knowledge of Karbala, is an achievement for me. Knowledge, after all, is the gathering of ignorance. For both of us.
Now, let me underscore my urgency.
Because I conveniently transitioned from the battlefield to the court of yazid, I could be accused of being a pilferer. That women were not “seen” in the scene of battle could bring some to suggest that they are “hidden” and “veiled”, by males I must add, from certain domains of discourse.
Perhaps this seclusion, Hijab to be more acute, is oppressive to females? It is, perhaps, inimical to the belief that females can do what males can do.
Again, I am guilty as charged.
But, AGAIN, I refuse to be contained within someone else’s notion of where the line should be drawn. I refuse to submit my writings as a bungled intellectual resistance, as a resistance that somehow sullied my intentions.
Certainly, at Karbala, females, as per the guidance of Hussain, were advised to remain within their shelters. Haniyeh, for example, who is reported to have hurried to the battlefield to come to the aid of her husband Vahb, was hastily escorted back to her tent. Eventually, froth with emotions, she did arrive at her husband’s side and suffered a gruesome death. Similarly, Sayyedah Zaynab is reported to have attended to her wounded brother on numerous occasions only to be advised to return to her tent.
By these two examples alone I have magnified the Islamic ruling on a battlefield being a male space : females, by these examples and many more, are advised to support the battle through logistical means.
But does this “hiding” suggest that females cannot do what males can do? Is it advertising a notion that, in Islam, males are the protectors and females are the protected? And that, as such, males “hide” their females in a bid to protect?
Absolutely not. This is not a scion of Karbala.
Given that I am ensconced in Karbala, I find it necessary to explain my negation through a character in Karbala. Thus, I have chosen the character of Abbas.I do not intend to canvass Abbas in great detail. However, for the purpose of this flight, let it suffice that Abbas, the son of Ali, was intended for Karbala.
Anyone who is fluent in the parlance of Karbala will tell you that the meaning of Abbas is incomplete without the female characters of Sayyedah Zaynab and Sakinah. Females complete this male hero. Let it burn bright that just as the name of Islam cannot be uttered without the name of Muhammad, the name of Muhammad cannot be uttered without the name of Sayyeda Khadijah and the names of Abbas and Hussain cannot be uttered without the names of Sayyedah Zaynab and Sakinah.
Perhaps, I have transgressed. Let us return to the supposed (in)visibility.
Let me welcome you to the numinous work of the Punjabi poet Adil Hussain. I will greet you with one line, accompanied with a broken English translation, from his poem on Abbas :
“ Sajda wafa pai kardi Abbas bawafa nu, Nad-e-Ali nun parda raiya teer da chipawan, kat gaiyan bin jung day Abbas diyan bawan, kaar yaad Ghazi roya Zainab teri rida nun,
Loyalty bows down before the most loyal Abbas, Reciting Nad-e-Ali ( a prayer for strength ) he accepts the arrows, his hands were lost in this acceptance & upon this Abbas remembered Zaynab’s veil and wept”.
Now, upon hearing this poem, for the first time, in December 2009 during my visit to Dubai, I immediately wondered of why such a gruesome death was needed in order for females to be “liberated”, “unveiled” and “unhidden”? The nature of Abbas’ death tells me that this unarmed being was a “threat” because he stood against the eventual rape and assault that would hit his household. If anything, Abbas is that male who explains to us that the rights of females must be upheld at all costs, lest there be a situation that females demand their rights and not a single male or female responds.
Tell me, does it even matter that Abbas is a “male’? And, if it does, who is the stronger one? The male for dying or the female for watching this death?
Sayyedah Zaynab is the spokesperson of Islam. And to speak without seeing is often seen as hypocritical. I ask you to imagine her strength and the males’ realization of her capacity.
I am an affront to anyone who thinks that by opposing Sayyedah Zaynab they have, in any way, librated females. I am reminded of her words to the Kufans :
“ …instead of defending the truth and justice, you simply stood by at a distance, as spectators; now you dare to shed hypocritical tears on our behalf!”.
Indeed, you can downplay the Hijab from a distance. But that is how you look at the lives around you. And life, after all, is how you look at it.
If only you would look at it from the eyes of Abbas. The image of Abbas, trembling besides the Euphrates, speaks to us, “The River Before My Eyes Was Once A Drop In My Eyes.”
Indeed, Abbas’ tears for women’s rights remain until this day. Perhaps this is why the flags of Abbas continue to hold on to the flask of Sayyedah Sakina. One day, the thirst for these rights will be quenched.