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 the Message Continues ... 11/187


Newsletter for June 2017


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The Day of Ashura: A Microcosm of the Human Condition

by Marryam Naqvi  Article 2 of 3


Although Zuhair tried to avoid meeting the responsibility of joining Imam Hussain, he was eventually left to make a decision and could no longer turn a blind eye. It is further narrated that the companions of Zuhair “disliked this message so much that [they] put down [their] morsels.” 

Zuhair did not immediately oblige to join the Imam. Instead, his true duty and the reality of the situation was shaken into him by his wife, Lady Dulham who reminded him, “‘The son of the Holy Prophet of Allah has sent someone to you and called you; are you not prepared to go to him? Allah be praised! What is the harm if you go and see him, hear what he has to say and then return!’” 

It was when Zuhair remembered that this world is not permanent and that he had to, one day, face Allah (swt) in the next world even if he turned his face from Imam Hussain in this world. And so, Zuhair decided to leave behind his wife and comfortable life and began his journey to be one of the greatest martyrs in history. 

Dr. Ibrahim Ayati, A Probe into the History of Ashura' Accessed November 20, 2016. 

Imam Hussain, recognizes the difficulty of this choice, and comforts Zuhair, “Do not be worried on account of what has happened...”26 Zuhair “offered to stand in from of Imam to protect him” during Zuhr prayers on the Day of Ashura, and would “smile as he intercepted an arrow shot at Hussain by receiving it in his chest. Imam concluded the prayers and Zuhair fell dead.” 

Zuhair died while standing on the side of righteousness. It was his moral conscience that transformed his will from turning away to facing the army. Imam Hussain tells him, “'God will not destroy you, Zuhair. May He curse your killers and may He curse those who turned themselves into baboons and pigs.'”28 It is not only Zuhair’s bravery that makes him a memorable martyr in the eyes of so many, but that he chose to protect Imam Hussain instead of turning away and protecting himself. As stated by Imam Hussain, the killers of Zuhair are the animals who have killed the man who chose the side of angels. Zuhair could have easily joined the side of the oppressors through indifference, but he chose to protect truth, thus embodying the courage to leave one’s comfort for the sake of protecting what is right. Another renowned martyr is a man by the name of Hurr ibn Yazid al-Riyahi. Like Zuhair, he was a man who made the right choice by joining Imam Hussain. Unlike Zuhair, Hurr had already belonged to the opposing army. It is said that Hurr did not join Yazid’s army out of hatred towards Imam Husain but that he, like Zuhair, was indifferent to “political issues.”   

Mulla Bashir Rahim, The History and Philosophy of Aza’ of Imam Hussain (a). Accessed November 20, 2016.

Shaykh Muhammad Mahdi Shams Ad-Din Al-Amili, The Revolution of Imam Al-Hussain (a). Muhammadi Trust of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Accessed November 20, 2016. 

Mulla Bashir Rahim, The History and Philosophy of Aza’ of Imam Hussain (a). Accessed November 20, 2016. 

Instead, “his duty, he felt, was to execute the order of his superiors.”But Hurr did not turn off his conscience completely. He began to question such orders on the night before Ashura. It is narrated that “Hurr was very restless. He could hear the children in Imam Hussain's camp cry because of thirst. His conscience whispered to him: ‘What have you done Hurr? Why did you put the son of Fatimah in this position? Will Allah ever forgive?’ This was the rising of his dormant Islamic conscience. This career soldier could not sleep the whole night. Within him there was a struggle between his duty as a soldier and his Islamic conscience.”It was through questioning and self-reflection that he was able to join Imam Hussain. Through the contemplation of his intellect, Hurr remembered his eventual return to Allah, the magnitude of fighting against the family of the Prophet, and the responsibility of his deeds. It was through such contemplation that his conscience was brought out of the cloud of worldly duty, and was basked in the sunlight of a far greater duty a duty of justice towards others and towards one’s soul. 

Hurr is immediately forgiven by Imam Hussain, who also assures him that “[his] grandfather, the Holy Prophet, also forgives [Hurr].

Hurr has travelled from the side of the strong, the well-fed, the many, to the “side of a the few hungry and thirsty men, children and infants who would certainly perish in the burning sands of Karbala.”

It is evident that such decision is made truly out of the love for Islam. After Hurr had valiantly fought against the army, Imam Hussain “addresse[s] al-Hurr when he had been killed: ‘You are a free man (hurr), al-Hurr just like your mother named you. You are free in this world and in the Hereafter.'” 

Hurr embodies the freedom and potential of the human being. He chose to unshackle himself from worldly rulers and embraced his God-given freedom to choose what is right. His freedom and forgiveness is not taken away from him in account for his past. Rather, Hurr is proof that God is the most forgiving, if we but choose to return to Him. 

All human beings can see themselves in men like Zuhair or Hurr. So many humans are walking on a thin bridge between right and wrong, struggling every moment to make the right decision. To see how a single person can make such a drastic change in his or her life provides magnificent hope for change for many. It reinforces that God’s mercy is not far for those who seek it. Both Zuhair and Hurr embody the struggle every person will face at least once in their life. It is not always easy to choose the right side, especially when there is no material reward, and when there are so few walking the straight path. But these great martyrs show that if one allows one’s intellect to govern their interests rather than self-preservation and reward, one can become a human being in the truest, greatest sense. Through their intellect, they governed their decisions with the upright principles of enjoining good and forbidding evil a characteristic that only a true human being can possess and protect. After the Day of Ashura, many believed that the Family of the Prophet had lost everything and would be obliterated from history. In the moment, to those who saw death as an ending, this was true. “Those who were flowing in the current of the events may not have realized the importance of each and every incident, but when we consider those events today we can place each and every incident in a proper perspective.”

To the dismay of the Umayyads, Imam “Hussain...emerged with exemplary fortitude, moral fiber and aplomb, Hussain has emerged as the most revered and meritorious martyr the world has produced, who established the highest standards of excellence which humanity prides itself.”

For those who thought the true Islam of the Prophet had been destroyed, they attempted to record history on their own terms. 

While ripping the pages of Imam Hussain’s mission from history, they did not realize that every drop of a martyr’s blood became the ink with which history would immortalize them. 

Dr. Ibrahim Ayati reminds us that “at the time of the occurrence of the tragedy of Karbala there were a very limited number of Ahlul Bayt and the Shi'ah who could evaluate the importance of this event, speak about the effect which it was likely to have on future history and remove the misunderstanding of the people.”

This being so, the message of Imam Hussain did not begin and end in Karbala. It was the choices of those who survived that spread his message.  

Some of the most important choices were made by those who did not die, who had the choice of either spreading the truth of what had happened against the grandson of the Holy Prophet, or by twisting the facts to suit one’s own agenda. 

One famous historian, and depicter of events of the battle of Karbala, was a woman by the name of Bakr bin Wa’il. It is narrated that “she was with her husband in the army of Ibn Sad.  

However, when she saw that the soldiers of Kufa had made a rush on the tents of the children of

Shaykh Muhammad Mahdi Shams Ad-Din Al-Amili, The Revolution of Imam Al-Hussain (a). Muhammadi Trust of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Accessed November 20, 2016.  Translated by: Dr. I. K. A. Howard 

Allamah Sayyid Sa'eed Akhtar Rizvi, Understanding Karbala. Qom: Ansariyan Publications. Accessed November 20, 2016.  Translated by: Sayyid Athar Hussain S.H. Rizvi 

Ayatullah Murtadha Mutahhari, "The Truth about Al-Hussain’s Revolt." Speech, Tehran. Accessed November 20, 2016.  

Dr. Ibrahim Ayati, A Probe into the History of Ashura' Accessed November 20, 2016.