Imam Hussain And The Battle Of Karbala
Syed Abdullah Hussaini from Iran has mailed me 186 poems written by poets in English language. The Islamic Literary Group is holding an international poetry contest on the unprecedented and unparalleled sacrifice of Imam Hussain. I was one of the judges who evaluated the poems on pure merit based comprehension. For the last fourteen hundred years numerous Muslim and non-Muslim poets have paid immaculate homage and tributes to the Chief of Martyrs Hazrat Imam Hussain. This contest is a commendable step to introduce the martyrdom of Imam Hussain through literature to the English speaking world. This literary group intends to publish the book of these poems.
I have read these poems and found them very devotional, inspiring and insightful. These poems depict the sad saga of the tragic event of Karbala in very heart touching words and also unfold the real, reformatory and revolutionary message of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain. The diction, form and content of the poems are superb. Some of the poems are very touchy and torrid tears flow from the eyes of the reader while some poems infuse the spirit of revolt and revenge against the oppressors and predators who shed the blood of the house hold of the Holy Prophet of Islam in 61 Hijra.
Karbala teaches us the lesson of sacrifice, fortitude, valour, commitment and steadfastness for a divine mission. The world needs to know more about this event. Karbala is the replica of the true Islamic code, norms and values. It condemns monarchic, autocratic and dictatorial regimes and stands for human freedom, virtuosity and justice. After reading these poems, I thought to write briefly on the event of Karbala that mirrors the true Islamic political system.
The Quran ordains to counsel in the worldly matters. In Surah Shura, it says:
“And their rule is to take counsel among themselves.”
Then in Surah Ale Imran, the Quran says:
“And take counsel with them in the Affairs.”
In my book titled “The Message of Islam”, in the chapter captioned “The Political System of Islam” on page 42, I have written:
“In Islamic political system right is might while in an un-Islamic society might is right. The Holy Quran time and again emphatically announces that the main purpose of the advent of prophets is to establish justice and uproot tyranny and injustice.”
In the 47th verse of Surah Maida, the Holy Quran says:
“And whoever did not judge by what Allah has revealed, they are the transgressors.”
Yazid was unjust ruler who was made successor by his father violating the Quranic political principle of counselling. He was the first king who laid the foundation of kingship till today in the Arab world. Monarchy is the offshoot and inheritance of Yazid. This is the reason that the Arab monarchs and their cronies do not permit the event of Karbala to come into limelight.
The regimes of the Umayyads and Abbasids were the enemies of the progeny of the Prophet (PBUH) on political grounds and even the present Arab monarchies are antagonistic to the mission of Imam Hussain which was the rejection of monarchy and establishment of Islamic caliphate. In our modern times it is called Islamic democracy. According to the Quranic injunctions, it was the duty of Imam Hussain to refuse to take the oath of allegiance to Yazid who was nominated heir by his father Amir Muawiyah. The hereditary rulership is not permissible in Islam. The caliph/ ruler must be elected by people.
A great modern Muslim scholar Maulana Maududi in his book titled “Caliphate and Monarchy”, eulogizes the grand character and sacrifice of Imam Hussain and rejects monarchy and supports Islamic democracy. Similarly, Imam Khomeini in his book titled “Islamic Government” condemns all kinds of autocratic and monarchic regimes. Yazid was a man with vile and vicious character. Dr Philip Hitti in his book titled “The History of Arabs”, has written about the malicious character of Yazid and the rulers of Umayyads.
Yazid was an unscrupulous devil-incarnate. He was a debauchee, apostate, infidel, drunkard, lecherous, savage, tyrant, brute, and a renegade. He was the personification of decay, decadence, deceit, deception, damnation, villainy and disgrace.
On the other hand, Imam Hussain was a semblance and quintessence of purity, piety, bravery, sagacity, morality, spirituality, integrity and virtuosity. When the governor of Medina Walid bin Utbah demanded the oath of allegiance from Imam Hussain for Yazid, the answer of Imam Hussain is on record in all history books. Mullah Baqir Majlisi has written in detail the dialogue between Imam Hussain and Walid. Imam Hussain abruptly retorted to the devilish demand of the governor of Medina in these words:
“How can a person like me pledge allegiance to a person like Yazid?”
This reply speaks volumes. Governor Walid said:
“I am asked by Yazid to get your hand or your head”.
The dishonest historians and writers like Abul Kalam Azad in his book titled “Al-Hussain” and Mehmood Ahmed Abbasi in his book titled “Caliphate of Muawiyah and Yazid”, do not consider Yazid responsible of the tragedy of Karbala. They have soft corner for Yazid. Can they deny the historical facts? When the head of Imam Hussain was presented before Yazid, he hit his stick on the teeth of Imam Hussain time and again in the presence of Imam’s family and read blasphemous poetry eulogizing his forefathers who were killed in the battles of Badr and Uhud and he cursed the family of Prophet Muhammad!
The tragedy of Karbala is mentioned in the Quran (Surah Saffat). When a lamb was sacrificed as random instead of Prophet Ishmael, the Quran says:
“And we changed it in place of a grand sacrifice and spared it for the last Ummah.”
All commentators of the Quran have agreed on this point that this “Grand Sacrifice” means the sacrifice of Imam Hussain. Dr Allama Iqbal in a Persian poem has also acknowledged this prophesy and said:
“Oh, Great God; the B of Bismillah is father (Ali) and the meaning of Grand Sacrifice is the son (Hussain).”
On the birth of Imam Hussain, Angel Gabriel descended and told the Holy Prophet (PBUH) about the sacrifice of Imam Hussain at the arid plains of Karbala. On hearing this, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) bitterly wept. This sacrifice was destined to save the “Real Islam” from the “Monarchic Islam”. About Imam Hussain, the Holy Prophet had said:
“Hussain is from me and I am from Hussain.”
In another Hadith, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said:
“Hassan and Hussain are the masters of the youth of heaven.”
In the “Ayat-e-Tathir” (The Verse of Purity), in the “Ayat-e-Ajar” (Verse of Reward) and in the “Ayat-e- Mubahila” (Verse of Spiritual Contest), the sanctity and sublimity of Imam Hussain is mentioned. How such a man could accept Yazid as the ruler of the Muslim ummah? His acceptance of Yazid as a Muslim caliph would have meant the acknowledgment of monarchy as an Islamic political system. The Battle of Karbala was not a battle between two princes. It was a battle between two principles. Imam Hussain was the embodiment of Islam, beacon of guidance, ark of salvation, pinnacle of valiance, and epitome of piety and patience. He valiantly along with his kith and kin laid down his life. He knew that he will be killed, but he willingly accepted death over life, only for Islam and did not succumb to falsity. He said:
“The death with honour is better than the life of humiliation.”
He preferred dignity over indignity. He stood resolute and valiant amidst piercing spears and swords. He bore the intense pangs of the death of his friends like Habib Ibne Muzahir, Hurr Reyahi, Muslim bin Ouseja, John and others. His heart bled and was torn into pieces on the death of his sons Ali Akbar, and Ali Asghar, and his brother Abbas and nephew Qasim. But he stood like unshakable rock in front of tempests. While addressing the army of Yazid he said:
“O people, I am the grandson of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). On what fault you are thirsty of my blood? What wrong I gave done? If you have deserted Islam, at least, you are humans. Listen to me. I am out for the revival of Islamic norms. I see the sword of tyranny hanging over your heads. I see the government exchequer being distributed as booty among the cronies of Yazid and bread denied to the poor people. I am out for reformation. I stand for freedom and justice.”
Alas; his exhortation was like a cry in wilderness that fell on deaf ears. This was the message and mission of his denial of the fascist regime of Yazid. But he was mercilessly murdered with his family and friends and their bodies were tattered, pierced and torn to pieces at the barren and scorching plains of Karbala. He was assassinated and beheaded by brute Shimar while he prostrated in prayer. His head was raised on the point of a spear. But, his words even today resound everywhere. He had said:
“If Islam cannot be established without my murder, then let the swords mangle my body into pieces.”
The people who martyred him were the lowest of the low. These savages even did not spare his lip parched son Ali Asghar who was only six months old. They even raised his head on the peak of spear. What a callous and cruel generation? Were they Muslims? On the heart wrenching death of eighteen years old son Ali Akbar he said:
“Dust be upon the world after you. Your estrangement and parting has turned me old and hoary.”
Imam Hussain accomplished his grand mission by his blood. Karbala is the saga of trials and tribulations. The callous kings did their best to erase this incident from the pages of history but to no avail. The name of Imam Hussain is shining of the firmament and till doomsday it will shine while the name of Yazid is accursed and doomed till doomsday.
Today, we need to revive the spirit of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain. We need to fight sectarianism, terrorism, fascism, monarchy, and extremism. We have to promote democracy, moderation, tolerance, fraternity, peace, humanity and virtuosity. We have to uproot the evil forces. We have to support the oppressed nations whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims as Islam teaches us to end oppression wherever it rules or pervades. We must show our serious concern on the atrocities being perpetrated on defenceless Palestinians and Kashmiris.
In the end, I would like to quote two couplets, one of Imam Hussain and one of Yazid as the book on which I comment is a poetry book. Imam Hussain at Karbala while addressing Almighty Allah said:
“O my Lord, I have sacrificed my kith and kin in your love and have happily accepted the orphanage of my sons for you.”
And now read the couplet of brute Yazid who read it while hitting the teeth of Imam Hussain in front of his worn and withered family, sitting on the throne:
“Muhammad (PBUH) beguiled and deceived to attain worldly power; neither he received any revelation nor any angel descended.”
Let the men of sanity themselves decide the cause of the Battle of Karbala. In the end, I think it imperative and pertinent that we must avoid sectarian approach to religion and act as Imam Hussain acted against tyranny, oppression, monarchy, injustice, and savagery. Islam and Hussain are inseparable. The Muslim Holy Prophet had aptly announced at Ghadeer-e-Khum:
“O; people, I am leaving two heavy/ mighty things for you. The Quran and my Ahlulbayt (Household), if you adhere to it, you will never stray till you meet me at the fountain of Kausar.”