What is the significance of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain at Karbala almost 1400 years ago? What is the relevance in the present times of the unthinkable tragedy that befell upon the family of Allah’s Last and most Beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)?
Why is this tragedy both recalled and in places even re-enacted to some degree, 1400 years later? What do Muslims, and in places even non-Muslims, gain from this clearly powerful remembrance as they recall the martyrdom of the Prophet’s beloved grandson Hussain who refused to accept the illegitimate, tyrannical and ruthless Yazid ibn Muawiya as the caliph of Islam? How do they translate the resistance of the Imam at the cost of all that was dear for him in his life including virtually his entire beloved family and genuine life-long supporters into resistance in their lives today?
After all, at Karbala the historic battle was between Yazid’s commander Umar Ibn Saad's numerically stronger and lethally equipped army and the stellar characters of Imam Hussain’s 72-member strong army which was more a group of several dozen companions and family including a six-month-old son and several women too.
At Karbala those who vanquished physically are destined to live on into eternity while those who were ostensibly victorious are destined to be remembered forever as the very antithesis of humanity, decency, Islamic teachings and values that they represented. Hussain and his exceptional group of 72 represented the best of humanity and of Allah’s Creation and are to be destined the iconic lives of those who seek to stay on the Path and not waver in the face of all adversity.
The overpowering significance of the tragedy of Karbala perhaps lies in the story of the human struggle that the Holy Quran recalls with reference to Satan, to the allowance that Satan requests from Allah and is granted – to entice Allah’s prized creation, humans, away from the Path and towards evil.
So what’s a cursory scorecard of the human race today? As human civilization travels on in time, progressing technologically at the speed of sound, enhancing human capacity to comprehend the obvious material world around it and indeed to explore the secrets of Nature by landing on the moon and exploring the depths of the sea, paradoxically there is a nightmare confronting those who care to think and dare to reflect.
We are faced with a crumbling and collapsing Mother Earth, mounting diseases of the body and the soul, and abundance of wastage, obesity and decadence staring down the marginalized, starving and the deprived in an increasingly uncivilized world. While the story of ‘progress’ may be ascendant and widespread across global digital waves, the story of squalor, pain, exploitation, deprivation, hate, violence, and intolerance tells the more lived story of the Earth’s multitudes.
The question of what went wrong, what propels us away from what is more in harmony with peace is a question as old as human existence. We abandon the Path; that’s the easier, simpler way to be. And in the Holy Quran, Allah warns us of this eventuality: that fewer will stay the Path. Equally woven in great detail is the Path that Allah laid out of how the human race could prosper as His prized creation. In the tragedy at Karbala, the Prophet (pbuh)’s illustrious family led by the Beloved Imam, unfurls that best of all aspects of Allah’s Creation – in the unparalleled adversity Islam’s first family demonstrated the noblest of values.
At Kabala the human race – Muslims especially – was shown that in the journey through life the cost of being the best of Allah’s creation and living in the way of Islam and in the way of the best of humanity, the Path's calling was indeed the calling of Karbala: of sacrifice, of resistance and of rising to become the best specimen of a human being when faced with adversity.
Imam Hussain’s sacrifice at Karbala will always be the inspiration for those seeking to remain on the Path that leads us to our Master, our Creator – in the journey towards the Ultimate Reality.
The writer is a senior journalist. She tweets at @nasimzehra and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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