Karbala: The Battle of Values

On the tenth of Muharram 61 AH, an unparalleled, unforgettable, everlasting event took place on the bank of river Euphrates in Karbala, which saw the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (a.s), grandson of Prophet Muhammad (saw) along with his seventy-two companions besides their households being taken as captives and paraded in towns and villages across Iraq and Syria. At the bloodstained land of Karbala Hussain (as) fell to arrows, spears and swords under the scorching sun of Arabia in the heated furnace like desert of Karbala amid the overpowering hunger and unbearable thirst but evinced that numerical superiority doesn’t count when it comes to truth and falsehood and numerical inferiority doesn’t matter when it comes to faith and steadfastness. Ultimately, He emerged successful in removing aberrations in the image of Islam and reviving and giving eternal life to human values, Covenant and Responsibility, Intolerance to cruelty, Dignity, Emancipation, Patience, Zeal and Honor. The excellence and elevation earned by the event has attracted the attention of great personalities world over. The great Sufi saint Khawaja  Muinuddin Chisti (ra) has aptly described the objectives and causes of rising of Imam (as):

Shah ast Hussain, Badshah ast Hussain
Deen ast Hussain, Deen panah ast Hussain
Sardad na dad dast,dar dast-e-Yazeed
Haqa ke Binaye La-illa ast Hussain

The same perspective is reflected in Iqbal’s (ra) one of the couplets written in “Asrar o Ramooz” that regards Ashura as enduring paradigm of Islamic revivalism as:

Bahre haq dar khak-o-khoon ghaltida ast
Pas bina ey La-illa gardida ast

Iqbal (ra) is such a marvelous poet that he has seldom left any dimension of martyrdom of Imam (as) untouched. It is Imam’s(as) martyrdom, which is referred to as Zibh e Azeem, the greatest sacrifice in the Holy Quran. This is revealed in another couplet from Asrar o Ramooz:

Allah Allah Baey Bismillah Pidar
Ma’nye Zibh-E-Azim Amad Pisar

Hussain’s (as) blood spilled at Karbala still enlivens our hearts and makes us feel that His sacrifice to support the right against wrong was unparalleled in the history of mankind. Indeed, Hussain (as) is the one who has provided ascension to sacrifice at Karbala.  According to Imam Khomeini(ra), Karbala in its true spirit is not a battle limited to space and time but a continuous struggle. It stands as the symbol of struggle against falsehood and oppression. He says,” The Islamic Revolution of Iran is a ray of Ashura, the great divine revolution”. The burning issues in the Islamic world like that of Palestine and Yemen are the manifestation of the fact that we have distanced ourselves from Ashura. The present-day chaotic world can be attributed to depletion of values of Ashura from amongst us.

The love shown and the sacrifice made by Imam Hussain(as) at Karbala should serve as the best lesson for all the people irrespective of the school of thought or religion they belong to. Today, while remembering martyrs of Karbala, by pouring out tears, observing Matam and taking part in processions, it should be our endeavour that these lead us respond to the call of Imam(as):
Is there anyone who will come to assist us?
Is there anyone who will respond to our call for aid?

Of course, this is a call to people of every generation in every land to combat Yazeedism and create a spiritual awakening through Amr Bil Maruf (instructing good) and Nahyi Anal Munkar (prohibiting evil) as to cultivate and nurture Hussaini conscience in each one of us and that our children and their descendants remain committed to the cause of Imam Hussain(as). At the same time, we as azadaar should feel it our duty to make sure that our actions and behavior don’t result in its reduction and presentation to merely observation of rituals which is ironically pathetic.

Justice is said to have been done when this azadaari lead us to inculcate and imbibe values of Ashura that become pivotal and cardinal in shaping our lives and are reflected in our culture. The purpose of observing Muharram has two dimensions. First it acts as a rehearsal for us so that we are able to revive and upheld these values in our lives and resist any force that has the potential to corrode them in our society.

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Second dimension pertains to attracting the attention of those people around us who are unfamiliar with this institution of Karbala and dissemination of the corresponding message to them. Unfortunately, less attention is paid to second one which becomes a casualty on account of our overemphasized approach to the first one resulting in making objectives consequentially insignificant. It is high time that we raise our potential to such a higher level wherefrom transmission of such values to others take place automatically. And higher the peak is achieved, sooner the message is transmitted. The greatest tribute in its truest essence to martyrs of Karbala on this day of commemoration lies in inculcating the values of Ashura and their application in our lives so that spirit of Ashura is imbibed in our souls.


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