The Martyrs of Karbala

By Sadia Dehlvi

We are in the beginning of Muharram, the first month of the lunar Muslim Hijrah Calendar. According to authentic prophetic traditions, Muharram is one of the four sanctified months mentioned in the Quran, the others believed to be Dhul-Qa’dah, Dhul-Hijjah and Rajab. Muharram literally means, ‘one that is sacred’. This does not mean that other month has no sanctity, because the month of Ramadan is admittedly the most sanctified month in the year. However, these four months were specifically termed as sacred months; their sanctity accepted even by the pagans of Makkah.

Muharram is a time for prayer, obligatory fastingand seeking blessings from God for it is associated with many events in Islam. The tenth of Muharram is said to be the day when Adam was forgiven after he fell into error and weeping in repentance for three hundred years saying, “Oh Lord, we have wronged ourselves and if you do not have mercy upon us, surely we will be the losers”.

Noah’s Ark came to restsuccessfully on the shores of Mount Judi after six months on the sea on the 10th of Muharram. On this day, Abraham is believed to have been saved by the fire of Nimrod. Centuries later, on the same date the Red Sea parted for Moses and his followers, saving them and drowning the oppressive Pharaoh along with his army.

However, for the followers of Prophet Muhammad, the tenth of Muharram marks martyrdom of his beloved grandson Imam Hussain. Love for the ahl e bait, Those from the House of Prophet Muhammad is one of the requirements of Islam.Ofhis family members including Imam Ali, Bibi Fatima and their sons Hasan and Hussain,the Messenger had proclaimed,  “I am at war with those who fight with them, at peace with those who remain in peace with them.” About his beloved grandson Hussain, Muhammad said, “Hussain is from me and I am from Hussain. Allah loves him who loves Hussain, a descendant of my progeny.”

There is no bigger tragedy in Islamic history than the martyrdom Imam Hussain, members of his family and companions at the battleground of Karbala in Iraq. The tragedy that took place in 680 AD remains fresh in the minds of Muslims. Of this revolt, Imam Hussain said, “To reform the nation of my grandfather, the Prophet Muhammad.” This implied putting an end to all forms of corruption and deviation from the path of righteousness. Prophet Muhammad said: “My followers will not unite in supporting corruption.”

Gathering his family and companions at Karbala, Imam Hussain told them they were free to go for the enemy wanted him alone. But they stayed on with him, willing to die fighting for him. All night the companions prayed and read the Quran. In the morning Imam Hussain along with seventy-two of his followers bravely fought the army of the oppressive ruler Yazid till they were all martyred.

The death of Imam Hussain symbolizes struggling with courage; upholding the values of truth and justice in the way of Allah. Undoubtedly, Islam survives because of Imam Hussain’s supreme sacrifice at Karbala.

Ali ibn Usman Hujwiri known as Datta Ganj Baksh, the eleventh century Sufi scholar writes, “As long as truth prevailed, Imam Hussain remained a loyal and obedient citizen but when truth vanished he took out his sword and did not rest until he had sacrificed his life, wealth, relatives and friends for the establishment of truth.”

Khwaja Moin ud din Chishti of Ajmer wrote the famous couplet:

Shah ast Hussain, Badshah ast Hussain,

Deen ast Hussain, Deen e Panah ast Hussain,

Sar dad, na dad dast, dar dast e yazeed,

Haq ke binae la ilaast Hussain

King is Hussain,King of Kings is Hussain
Faith is Hussian,Protector of Faith is Hussain
He gave his Head,but not his hand in the hand of Yazid                                                                                                                                           Verily, Truth is none else but Hussain

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