Imam Hussain bin Ali, the martyr of Karbala, forever demarcated the truth from falsehood. Before heading to Karbala for a decisive battle against Omayyid tyrant Yazid bin Muawiya, Imam Hussain said, “Surely the aim of my stand is not inspired by vain exultation and it is also not for the quest of kingdom, neither is it to cause dissension and corruption nor is it to wrong anybody unjustly.” These words of Imam are enough in themselves to prove that his stand was neither for the lust of power nor for any personal gain. It was to safeguard the religion of his grandfather from the clutches of Yazid, who was hell-bent on distorting the real picture of the religion.
As far as the real motive behind his uprising against Yazid is concerned, it can never be defined in a better way than the words of Imam himself when he said, “The purpose of my stand is the reformation of my grandfather’s nation. I intend to enjoin goodness and forbid evil. I want to emulate my grandfather, the Holy Prophet and my father Ali bin Abi Talib.”
Before heading for Karbala, Imam Hussain said, “A person of my type can never accept the allegiance of a person like Yazid.” These words of Imam Hussain also present the real purpose of his stand against the tyranny of Yazid. He presented before us a lesson to differentiate between a just and an unjust system. Imam Hussain’s message is a message of peace and justice. His stand was to safeguard the real Islam, the Islam of the Prophet, the Islam which teaches us to remain peaceful in our approach to the problems of life, but he also gave us a lesson regarding how not to remain just mute spectators the face of tyranny. His message “I prefer death with dignity to a life full of humiliation’’ also teaches us how to speak out against the mighty and powerful despite our material powerlessness.
When we talk about Imam Hussain’s commitment to justice, equality and liberation, we must think of ending all forms of oppression, tyranny and injustice, be it racism, classism or regionalism, because there can never be a just society unless such ills are rooted out forever. The duty of Imam Hussain’s followers is not only mourning and talking about him but also to follow him and his path to seek justice.
What Imam Hussain did is something that is unmatchable as far as the fight for upholding justice and equality is concerned. It was his way of delivering justice when despite knowing that Hur, the brave commander of Yazid’s army, was there to round him up to Karbala, he offered his platoon with water by going thirsty himself. It was his way of delivering justice when he gave a slave named Juan an equal place with his other companions, along with himself, before the battle of Karbala. The real meaning of justice is to give a person or a thing a place it deserves most and Imam did exactly the same. If seen seriously, each and every event of Karbala teaches us how to seek and stand for justice in extremely unfavourable and life-threatening circumstances.
Those who will forget Karbala and the martyrdom of Hussain will cause compromises in their mission. The so-called custodians of Islam or the radicals who are killing innocents in the name of Islam have forgotten Imam Hussain and the basic tenets of Islam.
Imam fought the battle with Yazid on the spiritual plane; he opposed Yazid’s might with his nobility of character, confronted power with powerlessness, met multitudes with want of material support and defied oppression with suffering and martyrdom.
In India, Imam Hussain is revered not only by Shias or for that matter by Muslims, but rather the followers of each and every religion, especially the Hindus, remember and mourn over his sufferings. They remember and mourn Hussain for his uprightness, they remember him because of the lesson which he gave to the whole of humanity how to stand to seek justice and how to make rulers accountable for their actions. The famous poet Firaq Gorakhpuri, who was a Hindu, said, “Kaam aa gayi Firaq Mohabbat Hussain ki/ Kalma padhe baghair Musalman ho gaya”. (Firaq it’s the love of Imam Hussain which is enough in itself to take me to heaven as I have become a Muslim without offering the Kalma).
While I was at my home in eastern India during Aashura, I met a security officer who was offering flowers at the Karbala there. On being asked the reason behind his attachment with Imam Hussain’s cause, he replied, “Please do not think that remembering the sacrifice of Imam Hussain is a copyright of Muslims. Imam Hussain’s martyrdom has given voices to the voiceless. His sacrifice was the ultimate level of tolerance and non-violence in which after losing every one of his companions and his family members he stood firm on the path of righteousness. We remember him because he is worth remembering. We remember him because it’s the way of Imam Husain only through which long lasting justice can be achieved. It’s the path of Hussain only which can be a harbinger of a just society.”
It’s most important today to tell the people about the sacrifice of Imam Hussain and his mission which will let them realize that the people who every now and then commit barbaric acts of terrorism and call themselves Muslims are just terrorists and the majority of world’s Muslims think these acts as going against all the ideals and principles of Islam.
While addressing the enemy in Karbala, the Imam said, “If you do not have religion, at least be a free man in your life of this world.” It’s a wonderful saying because a free man can differentiate between good and evil more easily than a biased one.
About 1200 years later, Abraham Lincoln echoed Imam Hussain when he said: “To suffer in solace while they should protest makes cowards of men.” Nearly each and every revolution of the world got inspiration from the martyrdom of Imam Hussain.
Imam Hussain’s life was an inspiration for Indian greats like Gandhi and Tagore. Mahatma Gandhi said, “I learned from Hussain how to achieve victory while being oppressed”. Rabindranath Tagore wrote: “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.”
For a world engulfed with continuous violence and bloodshed, the message of Imam Hussain acts as a beacon of hope.