By Dr. Haider Mehdi
Insan Ko Bedaar Tau Ho Lene Doh
Har Qaum Pukare Gee Humaray Hain Hussain
– Josh Malih Abadi
(Let humanity awaken its consciousness
Each and every nation will claim Hussain is ours)
A staunch Hindu associate, with impeccable personal integrity and genuine intensions, has been trying with humble modesty for years to grasp the moral, spiritual and worldly significance of the tragedy of Karbala. But he has failed in understanding the entire sociology and religious-cultural conceptualization of the over 1300 year old historical episode. When the subject came up again for an intellectual discourse at the start of the month of Muharram ten days ago, I put it straight to him: Hinduism is a religious doctrine that is based on a strict caste system. Religiously, philosophically and culturally, there is no space for even a minor dissention from its fundamental premise and it promotes a stringent resignation and absolute submission to the laws of its deities. Invariably, this socio-religious structure leads to permanent repression in a society. In spite of Hinduism’s valuable contributions to human history, it remains essentially a repressive socio-cultural religious doctrine.
My matter of fact proposition drew several hours of intense discussion. However, I was able to convince all the participants of this discourse, both Hindus and Muslims, that an “individual” in Islam is responsible for his/her own actions, judgments and behaviors, and adherence to God’s commandments is based purely on a comprehensive notion of “morality” defined as a sum total of human behavior that includes every aspect of human life from birth to mortality and in between.
Submission to divine commands and social structures is voluntary human behavior. Docility, passivity and capitulation to socio-cultural-political injustice and repression of any kind is considered moral surrender incompatible with the fundamental behavioral responsibilities of a righteous Muslim society.
Understandably, rebellion against socio-cultural repression cannot be fully appreciated by staunch Hinduism of a metaphysical orientation or, for that matter, any other religious doctrine locked into unquestioned acceptance of its ritualistic determinants. Let me point out here, interestingly enough, that even within Brahmans, the elite Hindu class, a dissident group called Hussaini Brahmans still exist today; their forefathers fought in Karbala in support of a righteous struggle against Yazeed’s religious-political oppression. Even today, the Hussaini Brahmins carry “a line of cutting” on their throats as a sign of their forefathers’ fight against Yazeediat, and the Brahmins’ ritual of “Moondan” performed at a child’s birth is performed in the name of Imam Hussain. It may be of interest to readers that Sunil Dutt, an icon of the Indian film industry, was a Hussaini Brahman and so was the father of Nargis (the legendary princess of the Indian film screen).
Karbala is all about the fight against injustice and repression. It is here that Karbala, or to use a much more intellectually appropriate term “Hussainiat,” becomes vitally relevant and important universally for its historical struggle spanning over 1300 years and in the context of our present day existence. Injustice and suppression are all around us. What we need to do is to cultivate the conduct of human socio-cultural-political behavior and focus its moral fury against the prevalent structures of socio-political oppression. Hussainiat has been and continues to be a spiritually-contextualized political discourse, an exemplary historical phenomenon, and a struggle for the emancipation of the Muslim Ummah faced with endless eras of political repression, both by indigenous and external forces.
Politics, being the major domain of power in a society, invariably determines the socio-cultural economic dimensions and controls the fundamental dynamics of a social system and its evolving structure. Yazeediat, in retrospect, clearly stands for absolute oppression: power dictating rules of political engagement, coercion, omnipotent oligarchy, despotism, use of lethal force, murder and mayhem, cruelty, injustice, intolerance, compulsion and indifference to human conditions. Hussainiat (or Karbala) is Yazeediat’s ultimate nemesis: it stands for God’s moral laws in human engagements, justice, struggle against oppression, personal sacrifices in the face of omnipotent coercion, and above all, a determined steadfastness against an onslaught on human fortitude, its spirituality, its depth, its moral consciousness, and its resilience, strength, confidence and endurance. It is precisely for all these reasons that “Hussain Hum Sab Ka Hai.”
Above and beyond the ritual and religious significance, Hussainiat is a cultural triumph: it is a community development process that year-round brings families, businesses, partners, scholars and orators together; it has given birth to a monumental culture of generosity that promotes sharing, year-round distribution of meals as “tabarruk” in the name of the Imam, laid foundations of fellowships in the development of educational institutions, community hospitals, charity organizations and world-wide cooperation in the dissemination of Islamic values and teachings. Hussainiat is not a hierarchical entity dependent upon a centralized religious organization; it is a voluntarily participated union – wherever the “Hussaini Muslims” go, they freely join to carry out the task of the Imam’s message and promote community development in organizing “Majlises,” building mosques and extending their cultural reach in every corner of the world.
Hussainiat is a universal creed against all sorts of oppression that has been inflicted upon the human condition. As a religious-ritual movement, spanning over several centuries, it has introduced new genres in poetry, marsiya-nigare, literature, architectural masterpieces in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt and all over the world – now extending beyond the borders of the Islamic domain.
Hussainiat is the mother of saints, sufis, poets – it has transformed human conditions and touched people’s lives in so many ways. It has provided hope in its religious solemnity, dignified rites and given endurance to the human spirit and spirituality. Hussainiat has been a leading voice now, for nearly 14 centuries, in protesting against injustice, cruelty, murder, human maiming, and cultural genocide. Indeed, by now Iraq would have become a part of the US empire if it would not have been for the struggle of Hussainiat and its forces against US-Western occupation. Lebanon would have been turned into an Israeli colony and the Shah of Iran would have swallowed the entire Middle East with the implicit backing of its imperial masters in Washington and Tel Aviv, had it not been the resilient Hussainiat of Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iranian people.
It is an intellectually unfathomable phenomenon that the sectarian violence going on in Pakistan and other Muslim countries is the work of any Muslim – Hussaini Muslim or from any other sect. How is it possible that a Muslim would attack a mosque and blow away the faithful in a blaze of lethal fire? Is that much personal hatred possible? I think not.
The answer lies in the cognizance and understanding of global-political realities: the entire script of this violence has the footprints of the imperialists, the colonizers and the crusaders who are preying on the deprivations of our masses, the hunger that turns a decent person into a beggar, the poverty that gives birth to violence, and the mighty dollar that is producing bombers against the faithfuls, the Hussaini and non-Hussaini brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, old, young and children and breeds an indigenous political elite that does not nor cannot understand the essence of the message of Hussainiat.
My late father used to tell me stories of the golden past era of Lahore when on the occasion of “ashura”, Shias, Sunnis, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians all used to line up on Zul-Jinnah’s route, set up” Sabils” and offer beverages, “tabarruk” and medical care to mourners.
We must remember !!!
Hussain Aaj Bi Hum Sub Ka Ha!!
Because Hussainiat offers what we all – all Muslim sects and every religion – share in common .
The writer: a professor, political analyst, published author and conflict –resolution expert.