Seyyed Ali Shahbaz
“And think not of those who are slain in Allah’s way as dead, nay they are alive (and) by their Lord well provided.” (Holy Qur’an 3:169)
This Divine description of those who achieve immortality by defeating death through courting martyrdom in the way of the Almighty Creator and in defence of humanitarian values, although a frequent occurrence in history, was brilliantly displayed only once in the long life of this world.
It was in the year 61 AH (680 AD) on the plain of Karbala, in Iraq, besides the fresh flowing waters of the River Euphrates that Imam Husain (AS) and his thirsty group which included a 6-month infant, preferred immortal martyrdom in an equal combat rather than pay allegiance to the libertine rule of a tyrant.
The grandson of the Almighty’s Last and Greatest Messenger thus taught humanity how to live a life of dignity and how to overcome death in order to strengthen personal faith and to salvage the faith of the people and the society.
“I do not wish a death for myself other than martyrdom, while life among the unjust would be unbearable.”
These words of the Immortal Martyr of Karbala continue to inspire us, reaching climax in the month of Muharram, the anniversary of his martyrdom, which we commemorate with fervour every year, irrespective of the circumstances, including the current spread of the Coronavirus pandemic worldwide – of course with due precautions and in full accordance with the advice of the medical and religious experts.
Today starts the month of Muharram with its memories of the greatest tragedy that the world has ever seen, and will never see the like of it in future.
It is the month when blood, including that of a 6-month old boy, triumphed over sharpened swords. It is the month which each year, jolts human conscience and reminds mankind of its duties towards religion and society.
The First of Muharram is thus not a day of celebration, as is unfortunately done in some Arab states, which seem oblivious to the great sacrifice of the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
These frivolities are nothing but plots to distance Muslims from the essence of Islam, as preached by the Prophet’s Blessed Household, the Ahl al-Bayt, and guarded by their sacred blood.
Such celebrations on the pretext of the start of the so-called New Year are nothing but practices of the pre-Islamic days of Jahiliyya, in view of the fact that the Prophet’s auspicious migration from Mecca to Medina was not on the eve of Muharram as the ignorant assume, but on the eve of Rabi al-Awwal.
It is an undeniable historical fact that a decade after the passing away of the Prophet when the Islamic calendar was fixed on the basis of his migration, instead of the 1st of Rabi al-Awwal, the 1st of Muharram (or beginning of the pre-Islamic Jahiliyya year), was unfortunately chosen by the second caliph.
Islam means adherence to the letter and spirit of the holy Qur’an, coupled with love, affection and obedience to the Prophet’s Ahl al-Bayt. Islam means resistance against oppressors and readiness to court martyrdom for the defence of humanitarian values as taught by Imam Husain (AS).
This is the message of Imam Husain (AS). This is what the grandson of the Prophet of Islam stood for and drank the cup of martyrdom so that humanity could have a worthy model to follow in every age and clime against the forces of oppression and exploitation.
With the start of Muharram the blood of Imam Husain (AS) becomes fresh, as the hearts of the faithful turn towards Karbala in Iraq, the rendezvous of martyrs, where the hypocrisy of the Godless Omayyads was unmasked to show them in their true pagan Arab colours.
In short, Muharram is a time for reflection for Muslims, and the best way of pondering on facts are the mourning ceremonies for Imam Husain (AS) and the martyrs of Karbala that could indeed be called part of the Prophet’s “Sunnah wa Seerah” – (Practice and Behaviour).
This is the message of the Muharram, the month of the life-inspiring mourning ceremonies.