Karbala & Humanity
(By Ali Khalfan)
When Imam Hussein and his 72 faithful companions were in Kerbala standing up against the soldiers of Yazid, the tyrannical ruler and usurper of the mantle of Khilafah, they were sending powerful messages to mankind. No doubt, the sacrifice offered by Imam Husayn was a divine plan; it was not for the sake of worldly power but to save Islam from the clutches of tyrannical rulers. This was the Imam’s clear and forthright position. Imam Husayn, a man of great piety and learning, openly declared: “A man like me cannot make allegiance to a man like Yazid”.
The event of Kerbala, which has come to assume great religious significance, can be viewed from yet another perspective. When you study and observe the steadfastness and unflinching support of the companions of the Imam; the unselfishness and subjugation of individualism on the part of Abbas, the brother and the ‘backbone’ of the Imam’s contingent; the understanding of death by Qasim, the Imam’s young nephew; the desire to die an honorable and dignified death than to live a humiliating life demonstrated by Imam Husayn and his followers, you will find that Kerbala was and is continuously reminding us of the true meaning and value of humanity.
What are the true dimensions of a human being and the purpose of his existence?
First, The Qur’an tells us that we are not ordinary creatures of Allah; that Allah has honored us:
We have honored the sons of Adam; provided them with transport on land and sea; given them for sustenance things good and pure; and conferred on them special favors, above a great part of our creation.(17:70)
We have indeed created man in the best of moulds (95:4)
Whoever desires honor, then to Allah belongs the honor wholly. To Him do ascend the good words; and the good deeds lift them up, and (as for) those who plan evil deeds, they shall have a severe chastisement; and (as for) their plan, it shall perish. (35:10)
Now look at these verses and the one following it and observe and ponder that the human being was given a new dimension when the soul, which is by the command of Allah, established a special relationship with the lifeless body:
Man We did create from a quintessence (of clay); Then We placed him as (a drop of) sperm in a place of rest, firmly fixed; Then We made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood; then of that clot We made a lump; then we made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then we developed out of it another creature. So blessed be Allah, the best to create! (23:12-14)
But He fashioned him in due proportion, and breathed into him something of His spirit. And He gave you hearing and sight and feeling; little thanks do ye give! (32:9)
In tafseer al-mizan by Allamah Tabataba’I , he explains the verses 23:12-14 as follows:
“The verses show that man, in the beginning was but a material body, changing into various forms; then Allah made that body into another creation – a creation that has got perception and feeling; now he perceives and wills, thinks and acts according to his thoughts and ideas; he manages and manipulates the things around him as he likes. These activities and authority are beyond the power of body and matter. Obviously, neither of these activities emanates from body and matter nor does their doer. In short, the soul, in the beginning was the body itself, then it grows into another creation, and lastly it becomes completely independent and separate from the body on death.”
These verses show that man has been created with dignity and that honor and prestige belongs to Allah and Allah bestows it to us under certain conditions. Therefore, human beings should not succumb to negative peer pressure – the pressure to conform to a certain group to achieve recognition and honor and the pressure of the low desires – the pressure of Shaytan’s plot. Our trial is to conform to the commandments of Allah and therefore we should seek prestige from the Absolute perfect Creator!
Then the Qur’an reminds us that Shaytan who was condemned by Allah because of his pride, arrogance and disbelief, has no authority or power over the human beings; that we have the power and authority to say NO to the evil suggestions and plot of Shaytan:
And Satan will say when the matter is decided: “It was Allah Who gave you a promise of Truth: I too promised, but I failed in my promise to you. I had no authority over you except to call you but ye listened to me: then reproach not me, but reproach your own souls. I cannot listen to your cries, nor can ye listen to mine. I reject your former act in associating me with Allah. For wrong-doers there must be a grievous penalty.” (14:22)
Verily Satan is an enemy to you: so treat him as an enemy. He only invites his adherents that they may become Companions of the Blazing Fire. (35:6)
Now when we shift our focus to Kerbala, you will find that Imam Husayn and his companions rose against Yazid’s illegitimate rule in order to protect the Godly values on the earth; to show us the true value of a human being and the true meaning of humanity; to explain us the need to maintain our dignity as human beings and the need to return to Allah with dignity and honor and not having done injustice to our soul. This dimension of the events of Kerbala is truly reflected in this cry of Imam Husayn:
“I would rather die a death of dignity than live a life of humiliation”.