By Raja G Mujtaba
Karbala is an event that changed the course of history and created two unparallel records in the same event. It’s an event that had far reaching impact on the future of Islam and its polity. Therefore this event of such historical importance needs a constant and comprehensive study.
Going into its genesis, the narration with this Hadis is very appropriate and important. According to the Hadis compiled by Al-Tabarani, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) told his wife Umm Salama Hind bint Abi Umayya:
“Hazrat Gabriel informed me that my grandson Hussain-ibne-Ali (R.A.) will be killed after me in the land of al-Taff and brought me this Turbah (mudd/soil) and informed me that this is the soil of the place he will be martyred.” So this was something that was destined to happen.
The event of Karbala displayed two dimension that the history would always remember; one was that there is no bigger tragedy inflicted on mankind in such a brutal manner where even small children and women of the Prophet’s family were subjected to the butchery and brutalities of Yazid’s army and the other hand it was Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and son of Hazrat Ali and Bibi Fatima who sacrificed his life but did not budge from the principled stand and the legacy of Islam set by Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
Islam has set some clear instructions and directions in its prayers, beliefs, rituals and political thinking. The one that affects and regulates the society is the political thinking or the ‘Islamic Political Thought.’ Today it’s “The Islamic Political Thought” this is the subject that is being ignored, mutilated, humiliated and confused by the West so that it loses its roots and rightful place in the political doctrines of the Muslim World where they are left with no option but to adopt the alien political thinking and ideologies in their body politic. What Imam Hussain stood for was the Deen that encompasses the rituals and the practical application of the principles of Islam in the shape of its Political Thought. This is evident from the dialogue that took place between Imam Hussain and Waalid, the Governor of Madina as narrated below.
On receipt of the letter from Yazid, ‘Al-Walid son of Utbah son of Abu Sufyan’ the Governor of Madina immediately called his servant (Abdullah son of Omer son of Uthman) and sent word inviting Imam Hussain (pbuh) and Abdullah son of Al-Zubayr, to visit him. Imam Hussain (pbuh) and son of Al-Zubayr were in the Mosque at night time, when Walid’s servant came to them with the message inviting them to the Governor House. The moment Imam Hussain (pbuh) heard the call from the Governor; he suddenly exclaimed that Muawiya had died.The next day Imam Hussain (pbuh) accompanying around thirty (30) Hashimites courageous youths visited the Governor, but reaching the entrance of the Governor’s house, he told the Hashimites to stay at the door and be watchful; if they hear Imam Hussain (pbuh) talking unusually aloud they may get in to him.
Walid received Holy Imam (pbuh) with all respect and regard. Offered him the seat beside him and read out the letter that he had received from Yazid. When he reached the matter asking him if Imam Hussain refuses pay allegiance, then to send the severed head of Hussain. Imam Hussain (pbuh) smiled and said:
“O Walid! Pledge of allegiance cannot be given secretly. Invite the Muslims of Madina tomorrow and ask them if they say that I should pay allegiance to Yazid, let us then decide.”
Walid readily accepted the Holy Imam’s reply but ‘Marwan son of Al-Hakam’ the old enemy of Islam who was expelled by the Holy Prophet (pbuh) out of Madina, seated there, addressing Walid said:
“Let not Hussain go out of the grip now, lest the fox is out of the four walls of the court you will not approach the dust behind it. Cut off his head now and let not this unique opportunity go, for you will never get it again.”
Imam Hussain (pbuh) stood up to depart from the Governor and hearing the insulting words of Marwan, Imam Hussain (pbuh) the son of Caliph Ali the Lion of God got angry and retorted aloud: “Woe to you, O son of a foreign women, will you cut my head off? By God, you have told a lie and showed your base origin.” Then he turned to al-Walid and said to him:
“O Walid! We are the household of the Prophet (pbuh). We surely are the centre of the message, and to our house the angels descend from heaven. By us God sent his first Apostle and by us He sent the seal of the Prophets. Yazid, on the other hand, is a corrupt man, who imbibes wine, puts to death the soul which God forbids to be destroyed and declares his debauchery in public. A man like me would never give a vow of loyalty to him. But we will see about that in the morning, so will you. We will see and so will you, who is more entitled to the office of Caliphate and to receive the pledge of allegiance.”
Marwan immediately got up and ran away, the Hashimite youth who stood restless and anxious, hearing the voice of the Holy Imam (pbuh), rushed into the court with drawn swords. Imam Hussain (pbuh) immediately commanded restraint; had not Imam Hussain (pbuh) controlled the situation, the matter would have been settled then and there. The meeting came to an end. Imam Hussain (pbuh) returned home.
Islam rejects hereditary leadership and kingships. It keeps its doors open for the best suited for the job by their superior conduct, character and abilities. In hereditary politics, these principles have suffered and the rot was set in. Today it’s evident from the political culture all over the Muslim World, where Pakistan is one of the worst examples.
Every year, the Muslims reenact and rejuvenate the scenes of Karbala with zeal and fervor but remains so in a very ritual state; it’s only for those ten days of Muharram and likewise the birth of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is again celebrated with lots of illuminations, processions, Naats etc. but none are translated to be adopted in our daily life as the lessons that we learn from these events. This is a major factor of the failure of the Muslims all around the globe.
There is also a school of thought though very limited in number within the Muslims who want to hold Yazid in high esteem but the great majority has rejected him as a fascist and a man of evil who went against the golden teachings of Islam. To strengthen his hold on power wanted the allegiance of Imam Hussain who refused to do so simply by saying that as a grandson of the Prophet of Islam (SAW), a complete responsibility fell upon him to uphold the principles of Islam; if he failed to do so then the very foundation of Islam that stands on justice, piety, self-negation etc. would be pulled down and Islam would lose its true face.
As expected, the exchange of dialogue with the Governor of Madina, Imam Hussain sensing problem, migrated to Makkah to be in safety. When this news spread, the people of Kufa who were tired of the rule of Yazid established communications with Imam Hussain. Many of the Kufians invited Imam Hussain to Kufa.
While in Makkah, sensing danger to his life, he converted his Hajj into Umrah and set out for Madina two days prior to Hajj. Now he was receiving letter from the people of Kufa to visit them and they would take care of him. To check on that, he had sent his cousin, Muslim bin Aqeel to Kufa. He was accorded a very warm reception there. This was a message that convinced Imam Hussain to change his direction and set course for Kuffa to find security for himself and his family in Kufa.
When he left for Kuffa, a few thousand people accompanied him but when he arrived at Karbala, there were few hundred who stood with him.
As narrated, Imam Hussein and his followers were two days away from Kufa when they were intercepted by the vanguard of Yazid’s army; about 1,000 men led by Hurr ibn Riahy. Imam Hussein asked the army, “With us or against us?” They replied: “Of course against you, oh Aba Abd Allah!” Husain ibn Ali said: “If you are different from what I received from your letters and from your messengers then I will return to where I came from.” Their leader, Hurr, refused Hussein’s request to let him return to Medina. The caravan of Muhammad’s family arrived at Karbala on Muharram 2, 61AH (October 2, 680 CE). They were forced to pitch a camp on the dry, bare land and Hurr stationed his army nearby.
Hurr was a man of principles and chivalry, when he realized that Imam Hussain is on the right, he took no time in joining him. Along with him, his followers also followed suite.
Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad appointed Umar ibn Sa’ad to command the battle against Imam Hussein. At first Umar ibn Sa’ad rejected the leadership of the army but accepted after Ibn Ziyad threatened to take away the governorship of Rey city and put Shimr ibn Thil-Jawshan in his place. Ibn Ziyad also urged Umar ibn Sa’ad to initiate the battle on the sixth day of Muharram. Umar ibn Sa’ad moved towards the battlefield with an 80,000-strong army and arrived at Karbala on Muharram 2, 61 AH (October 3, 680 CE). Although this figure of the army varies between 30000 to over a 100.000 but popular figure is between 30 to 40000.
Ibn Ziyad sent a brief letter to Umar ibn Sa’d that commanded, “Prevent Husain and his followers from accessing water and do not allow them to drink a drop [of water]. Ibn Sa’ad followed the orders, and 5,000 horsemen blockaded the Euphrates. One of Hussein’s followers met Umar ibn Sa’ad and tried to negotiate some sort of access to water, but was denied. The water blockade continued up to the end of the battle on Muharram 10th (October 10, 680 CE).
Umar ibn Sa’ad received an order from Ibn Ziyad to start the battle immediately and not to postpone it further. The army started advancing toward Hussein’s camp on the afternoon of Muharram 9th. At this point Hussein sent Al-Abbas ibn Ali to ask Ibn Sa’ad to wait until the next morning, so that he and his men could spend the night praying. Ibn Sa’ad agreed to the respite.
On the night before the battle, Imam Hussein gathered his men and told them that they were all free to leave the camp in the middle of the night, under cover of darkness, rather than face certain death if they stayed with him. None of Hussein’s men defected and they all remained with him. Imam Hussein and his followers held a vigil and prayed all night.
“I went to visit Prohpet Muhammad’s (SAW) wife ,Umm Salamah and found her weeping. I asked her what was making her weep and she replied that she had seen Allah’s Messenger (meaning in a dream) with dust on his head and beard. She asked him what was the matter and he replied, `I have just been present at the slaying of al-Hussain.”
Different scholars of Islam have derived lessons from this great historical event that would remain afresh in the minds of all the coming generations. But deducing the lessons and not applying them in our everyday life be at individual, collective and political level would not serve any purpose.
The lessons that we learn from this great sacrifice in human history are as under but these are not the only lessons to be deduced:
– Never bow before a tyrant, even at the peril of one’s life.
– When convinced to be on the right, one must stand to uphold the principle. But one’s convictions must be supported by Quran and Sunnah and not on personal whims.
– Those people who present themselves for any public office are in fact ineligible to hold any office. They must never be allowed to hold any office.
– People with failings in character or moral weaknesses must never be offered any public office.
– Hereditary political structures are to be resisted as this leads to corruption and exploitation of the weak.
Today Pakistan is going through a worst political turmoil. Primarily it’s because successive leaderships after Mr. Jinnah broke off from the pledge to make Pakistan an Islamic Welfare State. This brought a sharp divide in the political thinking that has now taken deep roots at individual levels.
Today Muslims are fighting and killing Muslims, the whole country gives the look of Karbala,what greater tragedy could be than this, all doing in the name of Islam. Islam has no brands or versions, it’ only what has been taught to us through Quran and Sunnah. We have lost tolerance, patience and acceptance. This is primarily the fault of the leadership who behaves like aliens and carry a life style that widens the gulf between the rulers and the ruled.
The failure of logic and reasoning leads to arrogance that gets translated into militancy and violence. We as Muslims are taught to be patient but we have lost patience at all levels.
We do not need rulers but governors, people are not to be ruled but governed where they feel part of the society and not as pariahs.
Our soldiers are facing both external and external sponsored internal threats. They need our support to go past these troubled times and we must stand as one nation. The problems that we face on the intellectual level in the spheres of the religious thinking, must be talked in an atmosphere of brotherhood and friendship and not through bullets and bombs.