Learning from Karbala


Asad Tahir Jappa

It is a sad reality to see that the colossal crimes and atrocious acts of absolute tyranny that took place in the times of Imam-e-Hussein (A.S.) continue to haunt humanity even today.

Character is grace under pressure. When going gets tough, it is tough which gets going. The toughest takes the road least traveled and fights against odds heroically with his back to the wall while the weak and timid choose to tread the path most trodden. The brave stand out and apart to uphold their values for they strongly believe that no price is ever too high to guard their ideals. Come what may! On the other hand, the weaker souls join the crowd of ignominy and inglorious shame. The tragedy of Karbala illustrates this fact in far louder and clearer words. The onset of Muharram-ul-Haraam comes to remind us every year of the heart-wrenching tragedy of colossal proportions which is commemorated by Muslims across the globe. The pain of the travails that Imam-e-Hussain (A.S.) and his kith and kins had endured, cannot be even assuaged from the hearts and souls of the followers. They were the grandchildren of our beloved Prophet (PBUH), how can we afford to be complacent about the fateful day of Ashura and the unparalleled pain attached to these sorrowful days? The terror that was unleashed on 72 courageous companions and members of Imam-e-Hussain (A.S.) is unmatched in human history. Karbala is a soul-shaking tragedy of epical magnitude. The Supreme sacrifices made by Imam-e-Hussain (A.S.) and his small contingent are not only praiseworthy and have an inherent lesson for those who are determined to live a dignified life with grace. We are largely familiar with the historical facts that led to the battle of Karbala. We should inquisitively ponder upon the reasons for which Imam-e-Hussain (A.S) sacrificed everything including his 6-month-old son Ali Asghar (A.S.). It was only for the sake of Allah and His divine pleasure. It was the battle between the forces of good and those of evil. Rather, it was the decisive battle between righteousness and wickedness. It was a clarion call to distinguish between ‘Haq’ and ‘Batil’. Imam-e-Hussain (A.S.) didn’t sanctify his allegiance to the tyrant ruler, Yazeed. He staunchly stood firm against the oppression and atrocities. Hussain’s (A.S) defiance was against the flagrant errors of the despot ruler who was changing the fundamentals of the Islamic order. Yazeed was trying to rule and run the system by his whims and fantasies which could never be acceptable to and abiding on those who were the torch bearers of Islam.
Therefore, Imam-e-Hussain (A.S.) stood firm against oppression, injustice, and tyranny. He revived the true spirit of Islam through his blood and the sacrifices of his beloved ones. He defeated the malicious intentions of Yazeed who was trying to pollute the sanctity of Islam. Imam-e-Hussain (A.S.) won the battle of Karbala with his unruffled courage and an indomitable will not to surrender before the oppressor. Certainly, his fight was not for the pelf and power. He fought so as to awaken and aware the people of their rights and duties as they hugely suffered from moral decay. He condemned and challenged the political regime which lacked legitimacy. He had the courage to call a spade a spade. He and his chosen companions fought the brutal regime with unflinching faith and fortitude. They didn’t let down the flag of Islam. They would be holding and raising it high till eternity. Imam-e-Hussain (A.S.) achieved eminent victory through his martyrdom. Driven by his vanity, Yazeed got vanquished but Imam-e-Hussain (A.S.) still lives in our hearts. He is a metaphor for honor and hope for the oppressed. He is the guiding star. His companions are the role models whose character we must admire and aspire to replicate in our lives. We have a lot in common with the sad story of Karbala and so much to relate to it. The multitude of our sufferings is always compared with the latter. The pressing need of the hour is to change within, only then we can think and talk about other ‘core’ issues. There will be no peace and prosperity unless we don’t transform ourselves from within. The tragedy of Karbala is replete with multiple lessons and it can definitely serve as a road map for us to manage our daily struggles and sufferings.
Imam-e-Hussain (A.S.) and his companions had unconditional love for Allah SWT. They sacrificed everything for His sake. It is this feeling which helped them to achieve oneness with their Lord-Allah SWT. They drank the cup of martyrdom with flashes of smiles. They were free, firm, and fearless. All those things which are permissible and pleasing to Allah can get us closer to Him. When we sincerely pursue them, we attain freedom from the materialistic and mundane world. When we fight for Allah’s cause, we set ourselves free from fear of death. We least bother about consequences. Without His love, we can never experience divine powers within ourselves nor can truly unleash their potential. Without His love, we can never have the moral courage to challenge what is going wrong around us. Love for Allah bestows great spiritual strength to stand and strive for righteousness. Likewise, it was the unquestionable loyalty of the 71 companions which gave Imam-e-Hussain (A.S.) impetus to challenge Yazeed and his standing army of thousands. They didn’t run for their lives but fought like Knights till the last drop of their blood. Thus loyalty is a great human virtue and without it, we can never enjoy amicable relationships. Even in the middle of the desert when the sun was blazing over them, Imam-e-Hussain (A.S.) offered water not only to the enemy forces but also helped them to quench the thirst of their animals. In the battle of Karbala, Imam-e-Hussain (A.S.) treated his companions with utmost reverence and equality. He treated John who was dark skinned African slave like his own brother. In the face of tragedy, we look at the Karbala and find our afflictions are very trivial. Karbala inspires us to be courageous. Imam-e-Hussain (A.S.) and his brave companions are ideal examples of patience and character. Their relatives, companions, and children were slaughtered before their eyes but still, they remained composed and expressed their gratitude to Allah SWT. It is also pertinent to mention that Hurr was the enemy commander who prevented water access to Hussaini’s camp. The night before Ashura, he was so much moved by the nobility and principals of Imam e Hussain (A.S) that he joined him without bothering about his rank, or repercussions. Imam-e-Hussain (A.S.) treated him with utmost love and respect. He was one of the first martyrs. Compassion is the key.

The tragedy of Karbala has not only influenced Muslims but has equally inspired non-Muslims too. It was not a battle for gaining power or to conquer a territory. Instead, it was a clash between monarchy and Khilafat, a confrontation between justice and oppression. It was a struggle where the noble family members of the Prophet (PBUH) under the leadership of the holy Prophet’s (PBUH) grandson Imam-e-Hussein (A.S.) preferred to lay down their lives rather than compromise on their just stance. They, literally, watered and rejuvenated the field of Islam with their pious and pure blood to maintain its pristine liveliness. Khawaja Moin-ud-Din Chishti rightly remarked, ‘Haqa ke Binaye Lailla ast Hussein. Hussein is the foundation of ‘There is no God but Allah’- the fundamental of Islam. The unprecedented sacrifice offered by Imam-e-Hussain (A.S.) and his kith and kin at Karbala is the shared heritage of entire humanity, of all times and climes. Mahatma Gandhi paid his rich tributes, “My faith is that the progress of Islam does not depend on the use of sword by its believers, but the result of the supreme sacrifice of Hussain, the great saint.” Similarly, Charles Dickens remarked, “If Imam-e-Hussain (A.S.) fought to quench his worldly desires, then I do not understand why his sisters, wives, and children accompanied him. It stands to reason, therefore, that he sacrificed purely for Islam.” Rabindranath Tagore didn’t leave behind either, as he said, “In order to keep alive justice and truth, instead of an army or weapons, success can be achieved by sacrificing lives, exactly what Imam Hussain did.” Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru also paid his sincere homage, “Imam-e-Hussain’s (A.S.) sacrifice is for all groups and communities, an example of the path of righteousness.” Such is the universality of his message and the magnitude of its appeal.