Karbala and Today’s Testing Times
By Nasim Zehra
August 6, 2022 07:28 PM
Childhood days on Ashura were spent intensely mourning the heart-wrenching devastation of the Prophet’s grandson and his family of seventy-two at Karbala. Yearly reiteration of the tragedy throughout the ten days of Ashura, attending women’s majalis in the afternoon, listening to my father’s rendition of the iconic Mir Anees’s marsias and the post-Isha hours were spent mostly in Mochi gate Imabargah accompanied also by our grandmother. Nasir Jehan’s reading of Ghabra’ain geen Zainab and Aaakhri salaam triggered the ultimate pain one could possibly experience…the narration of Hazrat Ali’s daughter's arrival, with almost all male relatives including Hussayn and Maula Abaas, male children ranging from a six-month-old Hussayn’s son Ali Asghar, 18-year-old Ali Akbar, Aoun and Mohammad, botherless, martyred at Karbala. Sketching with unparallel pain and compassion the Hindu marsiya-go Munshi Chunnoo Lal 'Dilgeer had written the marsiya that formed year after year, as if the climax of an intense weeping solidarity with the beloved but now butchered, tortured, taunted and imprisoned family of Allah’s Last Beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
The tragedy was deeply personalized. Every year Muharram means mourning the death, the martyrdom of as if one’s own family. The attachment in emotion translated in an understanding of what the message of Karbala was, the place it must occupy in her daily consciousness as we live the life, centuries later, so conflicted by the chaos, the callousness, the compromised values and principles, of humanity, if above all as enunciated in the Holy Quran. Karbala became the touchstone of what made ‘the Path’ that we must tread. For upto Karbala and onward the challenge that Imam Hussayn faced was one of opting for the right as opposed to the wrong and the ugly. The ugly was what violated the basic tenets of decency, of dignity, of mutual respect, of kindness, of compassion….all indeed dedicated to promoting the Oneness of Allah and His Command. Hussayn stood for Haq, for right, but within a framework of decency and respect as Commanded by Allah. Clearly, there was no Mission greater than promoting Allah’s Message yet Hussayn, like the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Hazrat Ali and all other Caliphs, knew that not even Allah’s Mission allowed them to declare any act that deviated from the tenets of decency, as kosher. They all had to stay on the path of good values, decent words and action, to follow Allah’s Commands.
Karbala was not a battleground but it was a momentous event that illustrated the best of human race in the most difficult of times. This indeed was the yearly lesson we were to derive from majalis where Allama Rasheed Turabi would emphasize that at Karbala Imam Hussayn was defending the most superior the most advanced form of the UN human Rights charter..only a few centuries ahead of the UN!
The story of Karbala, the event, was passed down through generations, through documentation and through oral history. Yearly living, through the graphic Mir Anees narration, the tragedies, the characters, the dignity, the patience, the integrity of purpose, the commitment to the Commands of Allah, the courage to say no to the bayt of the vile Umayyad ruler Yazid, the leaving of Makkah on the second day of Haj, the presence of men in eighties and a six month old baby, the utter Tehzeeb at display in interaction between Imam Hussayn and not only his own family but with the enemy all ready to martyr the Prophet’s family; Hussayn’s sister, unmatched in courage and bravery, Zainab: the enthusiasm of every member of the Hussayni lashkar to go and battle the numerically superior forces of Yazid…and so it was.
Hussayn’s lashkar of seventy facing thousands unwavering, stayed willingly the path of martyrdom even when the night of Ashura Imam Hussain blew out all the candles in his tent and invited his companions to leave since the morning was definitely going to bring death and destruction. Already from Kufa on Muharram 2nd Imam Hussayn had received a messenger who had informed him that his dear friend Muslim Bin Aqeel and his brother in law, the husband of his half-sister and daughter of Imam Ali, Ruqaya Bibi (buried in Lahore in Bibi Pak Daman) had been martyred by the people of Kufa. Hence no support was in sight. Still none relented on the night of Ashura.
On Ashura, the beloved family, except women and an ill grandson Zain ul Abideen, of Allah’s Beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was physically and tragically decimated. Yazid, the vile Umayyad ruler ‘won.’ But Imam Hussayn, truly in her father Imam Ali’s footsteps, an emblem of courage, knowledge and oration, showed the first signs in the court of Yazid, where she, along with other women and children of Hussayn lashkar had arrived, chained and chided, that Karbala was to live on.
That Hussayn was martyred to keep alive the lesson of the Allah’s Quran as transmitted to his family and to the Muslims. And indeed the lesson lives on. Yazid and his vile ways found almost no sympathizer centuries later.
The message of Hussayn lives on. In a world where global crises is often seen within societies translating into a crisis of the soul and the Spirit. As life moves on into more complex corridors of existence the event of Karbala, all-encompassing where the human soul spirit and the mind come into unison, becomes very relevant.
Karbala is about the cosmic context and content of the human race … of what is Allah’s potentially finest creation, and one that comprehends far more than what lies in the physical realm. Study of Karbala, of its character, of the dynamics and the beliefs and actions, does therefore gives us cosmic wisdom. The great unparalleled event of Karbala encompasses the entire spectrum of being and it emphatically communicates to us the intricate linkages between all aspects of individual and collective being
Indeed Karbala in today’s conflicted world shows us what it takes to find inner peace and external integrity as we engage with the world. The battles of values, of the soul and the Spirit, will only exacerbate with time.
There is something to be imbibed from Karbala for those who seek to understand the conflicts of our times.
Nelson Mandela explained the relevance of Karbala centuries later as he is quoted to have once said "I have spent more than 20 years in prison, then one night I thought of surrendering by signing all the terms and conditions of the government. But suddenly I thought of Imam Hussain and the Karbala movement.”