Today is the day of Ashura, the 10th of Muharram, the day of triumph for Islam. Al Muharram is a blessed month, of which the 10th day is the one that holds exceptional significance in the Islamic history. The day of Ashura is remembered by Muslims throughout the world as a day of mourning for the martyrdom of Imam Husain (as), the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (saw) at the battle of Karbala. It is especially remembered on the first ten days of Al Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, although the mourning continues through the whole month and well into Safar till the eighth of Rabi-al-Awwal, the third month in the Islamic calendar.
Imam Husain (as) was the son of Imam Ali (as). His mother was Fatima Zehra (ra), the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (saw). Imam Husain (as) is also called Seyyed ush-Shuhada (Master of the Martyrs).
The prophet (saw loved his two grandsons, Imam Hassan (as) and Imam Husain (as), tremendously. He used to say: “Allah has ordered me to love and cherish these two for God supports those who befriends them”.
History has recorded that the years during the reign of Yazid were years of angry protest against him because he had altered the laws of Islam according to his perverse whims. The will of God and His Message were not respected.
The regime of Yazid seized every opportunity to weaken the position of the prophet’s family and to undermine their status and destroy their supporters. Seyyed-ush-Shuhada forbore this difficult period with patience, exposing Yazid's hypocrisy before he died.
The governor of Medina informed Seyyed ush-Shuhada (as) of Yazid’s order either to obtain his allegiance or to kill him if he refused to endorse of Yazid as caliph. Husain (as) was certain that to bow to Yazid’s caliphate would be disastrous for Islam. Therefore, he migrated to Mecca.
The news of the whole affair of Yazid’s order and Husain’s migration from Medina spread throughout the various cities of the Muslim world. The people of Iraq, especially those in Kufa, greatly dissatisfied with the government of Yazid, sent letters inviting Husain to Iraq.
Imam Hussain (as) knew that Yazid, like his father, was determined to destroy Islam and would not stop short of any atrocity to consolidate his own power and authority. Yazid ruled as caliphs in the name of Islam and called himself successors of the prophet (saw). The danger for Islam was real and imminent. Now the regime had asked him to ratify its claim to legitimacy in order to justify its actions by obtaining Husain’s (as) allegiance.
After hearing of the migration of Husain (as) to Mecca, Yazid appointed a few men to capture or assassinate him during the hajj pilgrimage. Husain (as) decided to leave Mecca, not only in line with his plan to fight the oppressive regime of Yazid to safeguard the foundations of Islam, but also to prevent the House of God from being defiled if he were to be assassinated there. He then started on his journey toward Kufa which was the center of his supporters who had promised to assist him in his struggle.
This offered the hope that an effective struggle could be waged against the forces of oppression. But the forces sent by Yazid surrounded him in Karbala, near Kufa, preventing him from proceeding toward the city.
Yazid issued orders to capture Imam Husain (as), and if he agreed to declare allegiance to Yazid’s caliphate, to bring him to Damascus so that the caliph could decide about him, or if he refused, to fight and kill him and his supporters. The grandson of prophet (saw) refused to surrender to this disgrace and did not come to terms with Yazid.
Husain (as) preferred to accept the challenge of an unequal battle and to fight with a small group of seventy-odd followers and relatives against Yazid’s army of several thousand.
They all fought with marvelous courage and preferred martyrdom to serve their purpose, the revival of Islam. Their bodies were buried at Karbala, the scene of their heroic battle. Husain (as), the master of the martyrs, lived for 57 years before he was martyred on the 10th of Muharram 61 AH.
There is no doubt that they kept the spirit of sacrifice alive in the hearts of Muslims by glorifying martyrdom. To defend the faith and to fight against injustice and oppression were the aims of Husain (as), a sacred ideal that will never be forgotten.
In fact, Imam Husain (as) adamantly refused to yield to might and wrongdoing and refused to accept any action ruining the image of Islam. He taught the lesson of self-sacrifice to Muslims to save true religious teachings and prevent them from falling into oblivion.
The son of Ali (AS) was martyred but not defeated. He reached the heights of human nobility and set a great example of the struggle against injustice and oppression to defend Islam. His martyrdom exposed the evil nature of the regime of Muawiyah and Yazid, who ruled over Muslims in the name of Islam and as successors of Prophet Muhammad (saw).
By choosing martyrdom, Seyyed-ush-Shuhada (as) deprived the evil regime of its false legitimacy. Indeed, he shook the foundations of the Umayyad dynasty and thwarted their perverse designs.
Imam Hussain’s martyrdom at Karbala provides evidence of the moral victory of right over wrong, of principle over compromise, of the oppressed over the oppressor, of the denied over the denier. Karbala teaches humankind through the inscription of blood on the scrolls of human history how Hussain (as) explained to the world by his death, through martyrdom, the meaning of life; that living is truly of value that offers itself for a cause greater than itself, that to die with honor is better than living in subjugation to injustice.
The martyrdom of Imam Hussain (as) has unique effects on the mankind of all the word. This martyrdom urges the people not only to struggle but also to sacrifice for the cause of right path and the rights of the depressed people.
The true followers of Hazrat Imam Hussain (as) are always ready to struggle and to sacrifice for the cause of right.
(The views expressed by the author are his own and don't represent any institution.)