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The Meaning of the Martyrdom of Imam Hussein

Karbala, a town 100 miles away from Baghdad in modern day Iraq is the killing fields where the grandson of the Prophet and his family was killed by the leader of the Ummayad dynasty and about 15 to 20 percent Muslims all over the world mourn his martyrdom. The incident took place some 61 years after the Hijra of Prophet Muhammad from Makkah to Medina. They beat their chests, flagellate them, hurt them with swords and walk on burning fire to pay their tribute to him to mention a few of actions..

But the grandson of the Prophet did not march to Karbala to inspire his followers to do that. He walked in the den of enemies to boldly declare that life is sacred but there come moments in the life of individuals when the goals of life become more important than life itself.

The followers of Imam Hussain belittle his sacrifice by turning it into a tragedy. Imam Hussain knew that the army of 10,000 would crush him and his family. He knew that the Ummayads were not known to show mercy to those who had challenged them. He knew that if the rulers had no regard to human life they would brutalize anyone they considered their enemy. He knew his end before taking the heroic decision to challenge the despotic regime of Syria. It was not to challenge the sunnis or to show support to the shias. It was to stand for the principles of justice, freedom, and human dignity. It was to challenge the notion that Islam cannot be turned into a political dynasty. It was to stand for the equality of all before the divine law. It was for accountability and decency in public life.

The Ummayads had usurped the political power through force by playing the Machiavelli politics. They had the resources to enlist the support of hundreds of people claiming to be scholars supporting their claim to power in the name of God and his messenger. They had turned the ahadith or the sayings of the Prophet into a political tool to justify each their political actions. They had used the state treasury to win over people to their side by offering them money and in many cases intimidating others who were not falling in line with them.

It was against this tyrannical rule, that Imam Hussain had challenged.

The message of Karbala was to change the status quo, to challenge despotism and dictatorship and all those deviations that diminished the dignity of human beings.

It was not to inspire people to mourn and walk on burning fire in his memory. It was to stand for the neglected and the poor and political marginalized. It was not to curse but to win over the people to the cause of justice and dignity. His sacrifice was not to glorify shia or sunnis. It was to glorify the eternal divine emphasis on justice and freedom.

If Muslims really want to pay tribute to Imam Hussain, they should stand for the values he stood for. Let Aashoora be a day known as an International Day of Justice where Muslims, shias and sunnis together make their stand against all forms of injustices known to the world, not a day of mourning. Because it is a day when Imam Hussein walked to the killing fields bravely knowing fully well his end with the determination to prove that there come moments when the goals of life become more important than life.

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