INDIAN FESTIVALS : Aashuraa, the tenth day of Muharram
By Shakeel Ahmad

'Aashuraa’ commemorates the martyrdom of Husain (Prophet Muhammad’s grandson) in AH 61 (680 CE). This muslim festival of Aashuraa falls on the day that is the equivalent to the 10th of Muharram, first month of Muslim calendar. The war between Al-Husain and Yazid was fought in the battle of Karbala. The events of Karbala reflect the collision of the good versus the evil, the virtuous versus the wicked, the collision of Imam Husain (the head of virtue) versus Yazid (the head of impiety). Al-Husain was a revolutionary person, a righteous man, the religious authority, the Imam of Muslim Ummah. As the representative of his grandfather Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Imam Husain’s main concern was to safeguard and protect Islam and guide fellow Muslims. On the other hand, the staying in power of the rulers (Mu’awiya and his son Yazid) depended solely on the might of the sword. They used brute force to rule over the Muslim empire even by all possible illicit means.

Imam Husain as head of Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) never recognized Mu’awiya nor his followers. Before him Imam Ali (a.s.) had fought battles against Mu’awiya because Mu’awiya continuously violated the Islamic principles. Imam Al-Hasan (a.s.) had to swallow the bitter pill of making a peace agreement with Mu’awiya, in order to safeguard the security of the Ummah which was at stake. When Yazid, son of Mu’awiya declared himself as a ruler over the Ummah, he demanded Imam Al-Husain’s (a.s.) allegiance of loyalty. Imam Husain on his part flatly rejected Yazid’s rule and behavior, for there was no way Yazid could represent Islam, it would be blasphemy. But Yazid, the tyrant ruler over the Ummah, was adamant in his demand, and tension between the two parties increased day by day.

Imam Husain was quick to realize that giving allegiance of loyalty to Yazid would serve no purpose but to jeopardize the survival of Islam. To safeguard and protect Islam, therefore, the Imam had no choice but to confront and collide with Yazid’s rulership irrespective of consequences.

Karbala proved to be a clash involving Islamic truths versus falsehood, right versus wrong, belief versus disbelief, the oppressed versus the oppressor, faith against brute force. Karbala was about standing in the face of oppression, regardless the cost. Thus, in Karbala, Al-Husain the 57 year old grandson of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), sacrificed his totality and all he had, for one goal. This goal was to let the truth triumph over falsehood. His goal was to foil the plan that Mu’awiya had expertly developed. for his son, Yazid, which was to establish a permanent Benu Umayya rulership over the Muslim Ummah (even by sacrificing the Islamic principles), but doing it in the name of Islam. Brilliantly, Imam Husain succeeded in foiling this plan and he exposed the disreputable nature of Benu Umayya though this was at the expense of his life.

When Husain (a.s.) was designated as the 3rd Imam he was 46 years old. Imam Husain (a.s.) carried on with his mission of teaching Islam as before. Upon Mu’awiya’s death, Yazid, 30 years old, managed to impose himself on the people and become the Khalifa. At first people refused to accept him as a representative of the Prophet (pbuh) and Islamic Ummah, but Yazid approached people in mosques for their favors. Like his father Mu’awiya, Yazid used all possible means like bribery, coercion, pressure, threats, and force to receive the people’s acceptance of him as the legitimate ruler. Many people were worried, threats to their lives and livelihood was too menacing, so they grudgingly and reluctantly gave in. But, Imam Husain (a.s.) and his family (who practiced Islam in its true sense), did not give in. As the true representative of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Al-Husain flatly refused accepting Yazid either as a Khalifa or a leader of Islam.

Despite Yazid’s intimidating military power the Imam stood firm in his resolve and chose to challenge Benu Umayya’s authorities.Yazid commissioned Waleed Ibn Ut’ba, his Governor over Medina, to ask for Imam Husain’s allegiance of loyalty or else upon refusal, his head. Waleed invited Al-Husain to a meeting for the purpose. Imam Husain did not give his word at the meeting and decided to leave Medina along with his family to proceed to Mecca.

The Imam, his family and companions defiantly resumed their journey and reached a place where another enemy force blocked their move and forced them to stop. When Imam Husain learned that the place was called Karbala, he felt he reached the destination and ordered his camp to be setup.

After few days Ibn Sa’ad laid a blockade around the camp to cut it off from access to the river Euphrates, to deprive it of water in a move to force them to surrender.

AASHURAA:

Finally, the day of Aashuraa dawned upon the soil of Karbala. It was the day when Jihad would be in full bloom, blood would be shed, 72 innocent lives would be sacrificed, and a decisive battle would be won to save Islam and the Ummah.
It had been a few days since the water supply was cut off by the enemy. Children were crying for water, the women were desperate for water, Zainul-Abideen, the son of Imam Husain (a.s.) was sick with fever. The suffering from the thirst was too painful to bear. And despite this, not a single person in the camp made any complaints or even questioned the mission of Imam Husain. Each member supported the Imam wholeheartedly and enthusiastically.

THE BATTLE:

Imam Husain’s supporters insisted on being the first to fight. Therefore, they took the brunt of the enemy attack. The battle was ferocious. Within a short time the Imam’s supporters slay a large number of the enemy fighters, they were on the offensive and the enemy on the defensive. This caused apprehension and confusion in the enemy military, the 72 of Husain’s against the 5,000 of the enemy being on the defensive. So worried and nervous, the enemy commander-in-chief Al- Sa’ad ordered his army not only to set fire to the Imam’s tents (which were occupied mostly by frightened females and children), but at the same time reinforced his fighters with more troops. The heroes began to fall, they were men of valour welcoming martyrdom, they fell one after another, for the enemy was overwhelming in number.
By the afternoon 70 brave persons had sacrificed their lives in Karbala to save Islam. All had fought under nerve racking conditions, severe thirst, dehydration, exhaustion, and agonizing feeling of what would happen to the family of the Prophet (pbuh) afterwards. Husain endured all that and more, for he saw all his beloved ones brutally cut to pieces, including children. Remaining the only one, Imam Husain was to face the enemy head on. Precisely at that moment Imam Husain heard his baby crying incessantly, agonizing because of the thirst.He held the six months old baby, his youngest son (Ali Asghar) in his arms, and appealed to the enemy fighters for some water for the baby. Imam wanted to awaken their conscience and stir their human feelings but the stone-hearted enemy, instead of giving water, zoomed an arrow toward the agonizing baby and killed him instantly. Imam Husain was shocked. He felt an unbearable wave of pain. The sight of the limp baby in his arms was agonizingly painful.

Imam Husain (a.s.) was alone, one man against thousands. He took them on, fighting them bravely, and kept fighting, receiving many wounds in the process. Finally he also received the fatal blow.

Umar Ibn Sa’ad commander in charge of enemy army ordered the horsemen to trample upon the supine bodies of Imam Husain and all others killed, to disfigure them even further, as if the wounds, the bloodied bodies, and the headless forms were not enough.

Lessons From the Tragedy of Karbala:

Karbala is the cruelest tragedy humanity has ever seen. Yet, the startling (though appalling) events in Karbala proved like a powerful volcano that shook the very foundation of Muslims, it stirred their consciousness, ignorant or learned alike. The tragic event became the very beacon of light to always remind Muslims to practice Islam honestly and sincerely, to do what is right irrespective of consequences, and fear no one except Allah (swt).

On the other hand, Yazid never achieved what he and his father had planned to achieve, for within three years, Allah’s wrath fell upon him, causing him to die at the age of 33 years. And within a few decades the rule of Benu Umayya crumbled and came to an end. The tragedy of Karbala taught humanity a lesson that standing for the truth and fighting unto death for it is more honorable and valuable than submitting to the wrongful.

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