To understand the sermon of Imam Husain (a.s) and to unravel the secrets and mysteries hidden in it, to experience its excellence, to be influenced by it and then convey it in our own words is a task of mammoth proportions. Leave alone the lay man, even scholars, intellectuals and the litterateurs whose entire lives have been spent in teaching, reading and writing are powerless and ineffective in elucidating and interpreting certain portions of the sermon and writing its exegesis. This statement is not an exaggeration but it is an indisputable fact.
For instance, once Janabe Abdullah b. Jafar-e-Tayyar – the husband of Janabe Zainab (s.a) was with Imam Husain (a.s) at the time when he (a.s) had left Mecca. Along with Janabe Abdullah was Yahya b. Saeed – the brother of Umar b. Saeed. Janabe Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) was carrying along with him a letter from Umar b. Saeed that granted safety and protection to Imam Husain (a.s). Yazid had deposed Waleed b. Utbah and had made Umar b. Saeed as the governor of Madina. Janabe Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) was among those respected personalities who tried to dissuade Imam Husain (a.s) from undertaking the journey to Karbala. He even brought Yahya b. Saeed and the letter that granted asylum to Imam Husain (a.s) in Madina. To him Imam Husain (a.s) said ‘I saw my grandfather (s.a.w.s.) in my dream. Now it is impossible that I turn back. And I have not mentioned this dream to anyone else.’
Imam Husain (a.s) said
‘The one who responds to Allah’s and His Messenger’s (s.a.w.s.) invitation, performs good actions and complies with the laws of Islam has not opposed Allah and His Messenger (s.a.w.s.). He (Umar b. Saeed) sends a letter of amnesty and at the same time prepares the grounds for war! But know that the greatest security and shelter lies with Allah. And the one who does not fear Allah in his religion, then he will be deprived of Allah’s sanctuary on the Day of Resurrection. I beseech Allah that His fear remains in me in this world and He grants me refuge in the hereafter. If this letter of amnesty is really based on goodness and sincere intentions then he will get its reward in this world as well as the hereafter.’
Through this brief exhortation, the curtain is raised and some secrets are unfolded. The first is a subtle advice to Umar b. Saeed that the one who does not fear Allah in this world and revolts against the truth cannot expect His pardon in the hereafter. This disobedience will be unacceptable and would be unforgivable. Secondly, Imam (a.s.) was heeding the invitation of Allah and His Messenger (s.a.w.s.) and therefore a letter of amnesty from Umar b. Saeed does not have any significance. It also shows the character, greatness, magnanimity, courage and independence of Imam Husain (a.s).
But what about that dream? What plan does Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) have in his mind? As events progress, numerous advises and exhortations, as well as the highest forms of guidance, the method of enjoining goodness and prohibiting evil in a practical form, emerge from the sermons of Imam (a.s.). Over the years, Imam’s (a.s.) enlightening sermons have been minutely analysed and many pearls of wisdom have emanated from them. And this process continues till date.
The words and advises of Imam Husain (a.s) in the course of his journey from Medina to Mecca and then from Mecca to Karbala – till the time he attained martyrdom, were collected and compiled in a book. Only after intense reflection and deliberation on his enlightening sermons and speeches, did the deep and incisive secrets concealed in them and their universal effects were manifest to the people. Topics like Tauheed, Prophethood, Wilayat (Vicegerency), Qiyamat, Divine Justice (Adl), the proofs and evidences of the existence of God, the difference between the Divine existence and the existence of the creatures and then finally ‘meeting with the Lord’ have all been dealt with in his sermons. Topics that are so profound that even past prophets and messengers appear to be like divers in the sea of amazement and astonishment. These discussions open the doors of ‘True Recognition’ (marefat) of Allah. The greatness of Prophethood, the majesty of Imam, belief in the Day of Accounting, characteristics of the prophets and their successors – as if his sermons are a key to the entire aim and objective of Prophethood.
History is a witness that Imam Husain (a.s) had given so many speeches and sermons to the army of Yazid that finally they were compelled to say ‘O Husain! We have heard all that you have said. Now pick up your sword and start fighting’.
This shows that Imam Husain (a.s) put forth all his proofs and arguments and had ensured that his voice and message was heard by each and everyone. He did this so that no wrongdoer could advance the excuse of ‘ignorance’ on the Day of Judgement. Keeping in view the numerous sermons of Imam Husain (a.s) it is impossible to unveil all their secrets across a short treatise of a few pages. In fact it is difficult to throw light even upon a select few of his sermons. However, if the esteemed readers were to bestow their attention on the books that have been written on the speeches of Imam Husain (a.s) in the vernacular languages, if only to stimulate their interest, and try to comprehend their meanings and significance, then it is possible to make some progress. They will realise that the defense of twenty three years of propagation of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) began in the month of Rajab and it was secured on the day of Ashoora through his sermons. When the Shias acquire the maturity to understand the phrases that emanated from the blessed tongue of Imam Husain (a.s) and their hearts are stirred with an inclination to act upon them, then the advises of the Quran will become evident to them. The mind will then start accepting and comprehending the effects of the sayings of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). By reading and hearing about the attributes of our blessed Imams (a.s), the heart finds contentment and we can grasp that even while living in this world we should strive to adorn our hereafter. Writers have concentrated on four aspects in their efforts to unveil the secrets concealed within the speeches of Imam Husain (a.s).
The four aspects are:
(a) One particular Quranic verse, the exegesis (tafseer) of which is from Umar b. Khattab.
(b) The debate on the issue of allegiance, a controversy over which began right after the demise of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and the advises of the people exhorting Imam Husain (a.s) not to go to Iraq.
(c) Some crucial turn of events during the journey to Karbala.
(d) Those illegitimate ones who were the fruits of the ‘Accursed Tree’. Obviously this short article cannot delve on all these topics in detail. But as the tradition says, “If you cannot take everything, then also don’t leave everything.’
1. The narration of the Holy Quran that is related to the event of Karbala and is a prelude to understanding the sermons of Imam Husain (a.s) is found in Surah Hajj, verse 78 . This verse throws light among other things, upon the personalities that appointed Yazid as the caliph and the successor of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). In reality, these personalities were the true architects of his evil reign. In this verse Allah exhorts:
‘And strive hard in (the way of) Allah, (such) a striving a is due to Him.’ (Hajj : 78)
Over here, the struggle (Jehad) that Allah has emphasised refers to the Jehad of Imam Husain (a.s) and the opposing group against whom the battle will be waged is Mughairah (according to Baihakee ). The exegesis (tafseer) of this verse is that Ibn Mardiyah narrates from Abdur Rahman b. Awf that Umar b. Khattab told us, ‘Have you not read the Quranic verse in which Allah declares – ‘Just as you did jehad in the early days you should be prepared for jehad in the last days.’ I affirmed, ‘Certainly, I have read this verse. But which era is referred to by the phrase “last days”?’ To this Umar replied ‘The days when the Bani Umayyah will be rulers and the sons of Mughairah will be the ministers.’ Baihakee has also narrated this same incident. (Durre Mansoor, vol. 4 pg. 371, Cairo edition).
The sons of Mughairah were given ministerial portfolios during the reign of Yazid. Moaviyah was unhappy with Mughairah. But it was Mughairah b. Shoba who had suggested to Moaviyah that he should appoint Yazid as his successor. (Vali-e-Ahad). And in order to prove his (Mughaira) loyalty, he sent his son to Moaviyah – along with forty men – to give the oath of allegiance to Yazid as the ‘heir apparent’. After all of them had sworn allegiance to Yazid, Moaviyah took the son of Mughairah in one corner and asked him ‘In how much money did your father purchase their faith?’ Mughairah’s son said ‘In four hundred dinars’. To which Moaviyah replied ‘Even then it has turned cheap!’
The characters that are unveiled and identified in the entire episode are
(a) Umar b. Khattab, (b) Abdur Rahman b. Awf (c) Mughairah, (d) the son of Mughairah, (e) Moaviyah, (f) Yazid, (g) those forty Kufans who swore allegiance to Yazid for four hundred dinars. The era of these individuals is seen in three paces – the rule of Umar, the reign of Moaviyah and the predictions leading to the reign of Yazid. It is the miracle of Quran that in one single verse, it has exposed the true character of these individuals who are sailing in the same boat and who were instrumental in the appointment of Yazid as a caliph. And standing against these characters is the group that represents the truth and who also embraced three eras and who were introduced by Imam Husain (a.s) most fittingly. It was nighttime when Walid b. Utbah announced the proclamation of Yazid. It was at the governor’s residence where Imam Husain (a.s) declared:
In this short address, Imam Husain (a.s) draws Walid b. Utbah’s attention to the following points:
(a) “We are the people of the (last) messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.)” :
The reason for saying this is that after a few days the despicable people would argue about the progeny of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.).The fifth member of the progeny of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) (i.e. Imam Husain (a.s)) has firmly presented irrevocable evidence in the annals of history and has shown that the attributes of the Ahle Bait (a.s.) are divine and heavenly. Infallibility and chastity are the prime requisites to conform to these characteristics and its proof would have to be brought from none other than Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) himself. It means that that not only are they exceptional but they are also unparalleled in their attributes and they strive hard in the way of Allah with a striving a is due to Him.
(b) “We are the treasures of the prophets knowledge” :
We are well versed with divine secrets. We appear like you but are not like you. We are leaders and masters of (past) prophets and the successors. We are the ‘Path’ of Allah and the inheritors of the past prophets. We are the Proofs of Allah and we bestow the teachings of the Book and Wisdom. Just as our grandfather (s.a.w.s.) persevered in his mission of propagating Islam and just as he purified the ‘self’ of the people by means of the verses of the Quran – awakening and shaking their intellect, intelligence and mentality – and at the same time was steadfast, we too are like him (s.a.w.s.). It is our responsibility to smash the majesty and power of the kings of Rome, Damascus and Arabia and replace them with divine splendour and grandeur. And even with a handful of followers we shall achieve our aim. Otherwise there would not be any distinction between the light of guidance and the darkness of deviation.
(c) “We are the place of descent of angels” :
We are that place where angels are constantly arriving and departing. Our silence has given an opportunity to the plunderers of Islam to gather their strength. But it should not happen that at the time of their death they should have any regrets. Angels are our messengers. They constantly bring for us the news of the universe – in which corner of the earth, the weak and the oppressed are preparing for a confrontation. We are the people who can give a fitting reply to the hypocrites and the polytheists within the realm of religion. And we will give a suitable reply. Ibrahim (a.s.) shall declare that He (Imam Husain (a.s.)) is my son. Moosa (a.s) shall announce He is my inheritor. Isa (a.s) shall proclaim that He is my trustee. While the last messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) – the pride of all prophets shall declare proudly: ‘I am from Husain’.
(d) “We are the place of descent of mercy” :
I am the son of that Prophet (s.a.w.s.) who was a mercy for the worlds. I am the centre of mercy. At the time when the accused Shimr was about to behead Imam Husain (a.s) at the time of Asr on the day of Ashoora, he saw that the lips of Imam Husain (a.s) moving. He thought that probably Imam Husain (a.s) was cursing him. He bent forward to hear what Imam Husain (a.s) was murmuring. He heard Imam Husain (a.s) saying, ‘O my Lord! The nation of my grandfather (s.a.w.s.) is ignorant of my great status. Please forgive them.’ This can only be expected from the grandson of that prophet who was a source of compassion for both the worlds. On his way to Karbala when Imam (a.s) met Abdullah b. Jaufi, he (a.s) advised him, ‘You go very far away from here so that my cries for help (on the Day of Ashoora) do not fall upon your ears. Otherwise you will be destroyed.’ (This is just a small glimpse of his benevolence)
(e) “The religion of Islam was initiated through us” :
And we are the ones who will put the seal of finalisation upon it. If only man – who is endowed with wisdom and who discerns everything – were to fulfill the demands of his robust intellect! He should have asked, ‘O son of the prophet! How is it possible that you will put the final seal on the history of Islam. The phrase (ARABIC) is actually pointing towards the ‘Glorious Kingdom’, the ‘Divine Rule’ – the reign for which the entire universe is awaiting and he is the one who will take revenge.
In this way, in a few words, Imam Husain (a.s) has expressed the status of Imamat – a position that is only obtained by divine appointment. – and has elucidated the spirit and purport behind its context and meaning. He did all this in order to complete his arguments and make the people aware of the secrets of the status of Imamat. He did this so that no one would have any excuse on the Day of Accounting. Not only this, but Imam Husain (a.s) has pulled down the facade of power and leadership from the face of Yazid and exposed his true colours. Imam Husain (a.s) said, ‘Yazid is a drunkard. He boldly kills those people whose killing is prohibited. He is openly involved in all sorts of indecencies and obscenities.’ And when he (a.s) demanded from the officials of Yazid, ‘Tell me, how can a person like me give allegiance to a person like him? Be patient and wait till morning. The truth shall be apparent in broad daylight.’ And when Marwan b. Hakam, who was the fiercest enemy of the Ahle Bait (a.s.) advised Walid to kill Imam Husain (a.s), he (a.s) told him sternly, ‘O son of a degraded woman! You shall be the one who will kill me.’
The reign of Yazid – the caliph of the Muslim nation – encompassed the entire Arabian Peninsula. It is that evil era when the corruptions of Damascus have cast their shadows on the Islamic Empire. After describing the malicious character of Yazid and his immoral personality, the persona of Imam Husain (a.s) and his infallible character are as dazzling as the first rays of the rising sun. These phrases (that Imam Husain (a.s) addressed to Marwan) highlight the courage of Imam Husain (a.s) and through them the universal strength of falsehood is raised to dust. The arrows are an indication of the onslaught of war – a war as it ought to be waged. A war of patience, a crusade of steadfastness, a battle against the self and a war against relations.
Imam Husain (a.s) said ‘A person like me will never swear allegiance to a person like him’ . This meant that if the heir to Hazrat Adam (a.s.), Hazrat Nuh (a.s.), Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.), Hazrat Moosa (a.s.) and the grandson of the last Prophet (s.a.w.s.) were to sell himself to Yazid, an illiterate and a drunkard and the most tyrannical of all creatures, there would be no difference left between (ARABIC) (those who have been bestowed with Allah bounties) and (ARABIC) (those upon whom there is the wrath of Allah). Consequently, not only mankind would be devoid of the noble values and morals as propounded by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) but there would also remain no sign of divine justice (Adl), belief in the unseen and the Hereafter. Everything would have been lost in the darkness of the disastrous deeds of the progeny of Abu Sufyan. It was a taunt of Imam Husain (a.s) when he said, “Wait until morning. Everything shall be clear.’
O from what an infinite personality did Yazid decide to obtain an allegiance! (No doubt, the only Infinite Being is Allah. Over here we mean that the personality and character of Imam Husain (a.s) is beyond the comprehension of ordinary mortals). In this way Imam Husain (a.s) has mentioned the string of allegiances that were purchased from time to time – right from Saqifah till the last allegiance that was purchased for a mere ten dinars (about which we have discussed earlier). All these acts will humiliate the people till the Day of Judgement. Here we would like to mention yet another shameful and disgraceful event of history that is connected to this allegiance (that Yazid sought from Imam Husain (a.s)) and it is related to that very era. The son of the leader of mankind was already determined not to give allegiance to Yazid. But Abdullah b. Umar b. Khattab did give his allegiance to a disgraceful creature. After Yazid, he kissed the feet of Hajjaj b. Yusuf and offered his allegiance to him. And this incident is recorded in the pages of history. After Yazid, Abdul Malik b. Marwan became the caliph and he appointed Hajjaj b. Yusuf as the governor of Madina. Abdullah b. Umar went to visit Hajjaj b. Yusuf in the middle of the night and told him, ‘Please advance your hand so that I may swear allegiance to the caliph of the time (i.e. Abdul Malik b. Marwan)’ Hajjaj b. Yusuf asked him, ‘What is the haste? Why don’t you wait till the morning?’ At this Abdullah b. Umar replied, ‘I have heard the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) say ‘One who dies without paying allegiance to the ruler of his time, dies a death of ignorance’. Immediately, Hajjaj b. Yusuf asked him, ‘Then why did you flee from paying allegiance to Ali when he was the caliph?’ After saying this, he removed his foot from below the quilt and asked Abdullah b. Umar to kiss it, saying that he was fit only for this kind of an allegiance. And Abdullah b. Umar did that. (Sharh-e-Nahjil Balagha by Ibn Abil Hadeed) . And the irony is that Ahmed b. Hanbal (one of the greatest Ahle Sunnah scholars) has narrated 1,700 traditions from Abdullah b. Umar while he has recorded only 22 traditions from Imam Hasan (a.s) and Imam Husain (a.s) – yes only 22 traditions. (Sukhnan-e-Husain b. Ali (a.s.))
Abdullah b. Umar had gone to Mecca for performing Umrah and on his way to Medina, he met Imam Husain (a.s). He cautioned Imam Husain (a.s) about the evil plans and tactics of Yazid and his cronies in order to arrest and assassinate him (a.s). At this Imam Husain (a.s) said:
“O Abu Abdur Rahman! Don’t you know how offensive and wretched is this world that even a great prophet like Janabe Yahya b. Zakariya (a.s.) was not spared. The people beheaded him and his head was gifted to a singing girl who was also a prostitute and a woman of immoral character. The Bani Israel would commence their day only after they had slaughtered 70 prophets. But when “the greatest of avengers” (i.e. Allah) decided that it was enough, He involved them in terrible calamities…” After this Imam Husain (a.s) said “O Abu Abdur Rahman! Fear Allah and do not turn away from my assistance.”
Two important points emerge from this short sermon. The first one is that this world is so depraved that even a great prophet like Janabe Yahya (a.s) was beheaded and his head was presented to a singing girl. And Imam Husain (a.s) has referred to Janabe Yahya b. Zakariya (a.s.) a number of times during his journey. This shows that he was aware of his fate. Because there is a striking similarity between the martyrdom of Janabe Yahya b. Zakariya (a.s.).and his own martyrdom. And nor were the Syrians and Kufans living during the time of Imam Husain (a.s) any less oppressive than the Bani Israel. Thus Imam Husain (a.s) was commencing the journey (from Medina to Karbala) conscious of the consequences of his each and every step. (All this shows that Imams (a.s.) have the knowledge of the unseen and are cognizant of the future course of events. This (information) they receive either through divine inspiration or through the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). Yet this does not mean that the Imams (a.s.) act according to their foreknowledge. They live and behave like ordinary humans)
The second point is that it was imperative to expose the character of Abdullah b. Umar. History has given undue importance to this personality. It is surprising that Ahmed b. Hanbal had the audacity to narrate 1,700 traditions from him. According to Sahih-e-Bukhari (Kitab-ul-Fetan) , Abdullah b. Umar had sworn allegiance to Yazid. (Sukhnan-e-Imam Husain (a.s), pg 69 Mohammed Sadiq Najmi).
This same Abdullah b. Umar – at the time of departing from Mecca – arrived in the presence of Imam Husain (a.s) and requested Imam Husain (a.s) to allow him to kiss that very spot where Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) used to kiss him. Imam Husain (a.s) lifted his cloak and Abdullah b. Umar kissed his chest thrice. And at the time of leaving Mecca, Abdullah b. Umar mentioned to Imam Husain (a.s) that soon he (a.s) would be martyred. Over here, the question that arises is that is it possible that Imam Husain (a.s) would be unaware of his own martyrdom while strangers were conscious of this fact. The “knowledge of the unseen” that Imam Husain (a.s) possessed is a completely different matter. What is evident over here is that even the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) – at every stage of the twenty three years of his propagation, had prophesied the causes and the reasons that would lead to the martyrdom of Imam Husain (a.s). The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) described Imam’s (a.s) distinguished personality, the apostasy that would be prevalent in his nation, those who would oppose the Ahle Bait (a.s.) and would be their staunchest enemies, the rulers who would rule the Muslim empire and who would be more tyrannical than Firaun, the personalities of Bani Umayyah, the journey of Imam Husain (a.s) etc. Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) had prophesied each and everything. In the end, Imam Husain (a.s) fulfilled the responsibility of Imamat and advised Abdullah, ‘O Abdullah! Fear Allah and do not turn away from your duty of helping me.’ But Abdullah b. Umar, with tears in his eyes, turned his back and returned to Medina. In today’s world there are numerous Abdullahs who are sympathetic and sorrowful for Imam Husain (a.s). But to be included with Imam (a.s.) on the Day of Judgement and to be counted among his friends and helpers requires that one be prepared to sacrifice not only one’s life and wealth but also all those things that we cherish and hold dear. And this is not an easy task.
Thus various people like Abdullah b. Umar, Abdullah b. Jafar (r.a), Umar-e-Itraf (he was a brother of Imam Husain (a.s)), Muhammad b. Hanafiyyah – all of them tried to dissuade Imam Husain (a.s) from undertaking the journey from Mecca to Iraq, but Imam Husain (a.s) was resolute in his intention. The sermon worth mentioning is the one that he (a.s) delivered to Janabe Muhammad b. Hanafiyyah at the time he was about to leave Mecca. At that time, Janabe Muhammad b. Hanafiyyah was very ill. Yet he arrived in the presence of Imam Husain (a.s) and said, ‘O my beloved brother! You are well aware that the people of Kufa are notorious for violating their pledges. You also know how the Iraqis had behaved with your father. It is better that you stay back in Mecca.’ To this Imam Husain (a.s) replied, ‘If I am martyred in the precincts of Kabaa then it would lower the prestige and the sanctity of this venerable place.’ Janabe Muhammad b. Hanafiyyah then advised Imam Husain (a.s) to go to Yemen where he would remain safe. Imam Husain (a.s) replied, ‘I will think about it’. This discussion between both of them had taken place in the night. Yet when morning arrived, Imam Husain (a.s) began preparing to leave for Iraq. When Janabe Muhammad b. Hanafiyyah reminded him that he would consider going to Yemen, Imam Husain (a.s) said, ‘O my brother! Last night I saw Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) in my dream and he said:
“O Husain, get ready and start moving. Allah wants to see you martyred.’
On, hearing this Janabe Muhammad b. Hanafiyyah recited:
‘Surely we are from Allah and to Him shall we return.’
Then he continued, ‘But is it advisable to take the women and the children along with you when you know that the circumstances are very sensitive and fraught with danger?’ At this Imam Husain (a.s) replied. ‘Allah wants to see them in bondage too.’ ( Sukhnan-e-Imam Husain (a.s) )
In this sermon, Imam Husain (a.s) has discussed those factors that led to his journey to Iraq. Firstly, the vision he had of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) in his dream. Secondly it was Allah’s wish that that he should be martyred and thirdly it was once again Allah’s wish that his children and the ladies of the family should be imprisoned and held in bondage. Imam Husain (a.s) has given similar relies to Janabe Umme Salmah, Janabe Zainab (s.a) and to Janabe Muhammad b. Hanafiyyah. Those who possess only superficial knowledge of religion and are not well versed with it, draw some baseless conclusions after hearing this reply. They claim that Imam Husain (a.s) was forced to undertake the journey to Iraq and his ‘free-will’ was suppressed by Allah. Unfortunately, this is a school of thought that not only comprises of laymen but also includes scholars and intellectuals. These people say
‘Surely Allah desired that He should see Imam Husain (a.s) martyred.’
Then they continue, ‘Hence the account of this particular event of Karbala is distinct from other events of the world. Because this martyrdom and imprisonment is beyond the scope of any individual – however great he might be. Leave alone humans, even angel have a feeling of regret on being deprived of this momentous opportunity.
In view of what these scholars and intellectuals claim, three pertinent points arise:
The first is that the martyrdom of Imam Husain (a.s) has no significance and value (since it was forced upon him and was not a voluntary act). The second is that the one who performs jehad by his free will is superior (to the one who is compelled to do jehad). And the third point is that the armies of Ibn Ziyad and Yazid are absolved of their offense of murdering Imam Husain (a.s) because they were forced to commit this heinous crime. Our reply to all these points and to all those who propound such views is very simple. Those who are familiar with the profound concepts of ‘Masheeyat’, ‘Iradah’ and ‘Destiny’ (Qadr) will understand the reply of Imam Husain (a.s), which these intellectuals have failed to comprehend and have reached the conclusion that martyrdom was forced upon Imam (a.s.). These people have interpreted Imam’s (a.s.) words in another light. While, on the contrary, these words and phrases highlight the excellence of Imam Husain (a.s).
All the laws and rules of the exalted religion of Islam bear testimony to the fact that Allah expects each and every of His servant to observe them in toto. He expects all His servants without exception to fulfill their obligatory and recommended acts and at the same time refrain from the prohibited and the undesirable acts. He wants to see that every Muslim is subservient to His commands. However the reality is that when it comes to acting upon these laws, then we give preference to our likes and dislikes and disregard the wishes of Allah. Ultimately we act according to our own wishes. Sometimes our desire overpowers us, while at other times, it is our position and status in society that compels us to act according to our cravings. At times, it is our family, environment and wealth that is responsible for our actions. Hence quite a few factors act as an obstacle in the path of complete subservience to Allah’s commands.
But many a times it does happen that we obey the divine commands even though it is a cause of hardship for us. We fast in summer and forsake food and water. Our throats may be parched, yet we don’t even look at water. By doing this we act according to the command of Allah. Allah loves to see us thirsty in the condition of fasting. All these acts we perform out of our own free will and have never felt that someone is compelling us to do them. The desire of Allah does not seize our free will. We act on the laws of Islam on the basis of our free will and intention. It is precisely due to this that we are either praised or condemned for our actions.
Imam Husain (a.s) had heard his grandfather (s.a.w.s.) say in his dream that Allah desires to see you martyred and your family imprisoned. The love of Allah was so firmly rooted in Imam’s (a.s.) entire existence that he was willing to do anything for the happiness of Allah. And nothing could break his determination. Imam Husain (a.s) did not desire martyrdom out of compulsion. But he wanted to attain martyrdom for the satisfaction and contentment of Allah.
Imam Husain (a.s) is the pride of Hazrat Ismail (a.s). Hazrat Ismail (a.s) interpreted the dream of his father (Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s)) as a command from Allah and was willing to be sacrificed for Allah’s pleasure. Then how is it that Imam Husain (a.s) would not interpret the words of his grandfather (s.a.w.s.) as a command from Allah? He (a.s) was willing to have himself sacrificed and have his family and children imprisoned. And this act is matchless in the annals of history. If the sacrifice of Hazrat Ismail (a.s) is a reason for greatness and an example of free will then the sacrifice of Imam Husain (a.s) too is an example of free will and infinite greatness.
The explanation for all this is that ‘Mashiyyat’, ‘Iradah’, ‘Qadr and ‘Qaza’ have different interpretations in “Aalam-e-Takween” (The world of creation) and in “Aalam-e-Tashreei” (The world of actions). “Aalam-e-Takween is related to involuntary acts – the acts in which man has no say and in which Allah’s command is final and will materialize. Birth, death, creation of the heavens and the earth etc are all examples from the world of creation. On the other hand “Aalam-e-Tashreei” refers to that desire of Allah in which He loves to see His creature acting upon the laws of Islam and that too for their own benefit. He loves to see His servants act upon all those things that He has ordered and refrain from all those things that He has prohibited. Hence Allah has given full freedom to man to perform an action or to leave it. As He says in the Holy Quran
‘Surely Allah enjoins the doing of justice and doing good to others and giving (of the dues) to the near ones. And He forbids indecency and rebellion. He cautions you so that you may be mindful.’ (Nahl: 90)
As we see, Allah is inviting the servants towards His commands and prohibitions through advice and counsel means precisely this and nothing else. And these were exactly the circumstances before Imam Husain (a.s). And for the sake of the command of Allah, he is firm and steadfast in his endeavour. (i. e. jehad was inevitable and an obligation for him). As he had said earlier, the reign of Yazid is equivalent to performing the last rites of the religion of Islam. The only alternative was for the friends and helpers of Bani Hashim and the family members to lay down their lives in order to give a new lease of life to Islam. This is the underlying meaning of the phrase
‘Surely Allah wishes that He sees me killed and my family members are imprisoned.’
Coming to the third question that “What is the significance of that martyrdom which has already been predicted in the past?” The reply to this question is that no doubt Allah was well aware that Imam Husain (a.s) would remain steadfast on the divine command – a command whose greatness and excellence is beyond the realm of human intellect. Allah knew that Imam Husain (a.s.) would never disobey Him and would willingly sacrifice all that he possessed – his wealth as well as his family. And knowing this Allah informed His last Messenger (a.s.) about the martyrdom of Imam Husain (a.s). But this news that Allah gave to His Prophet (s.a.w.s.) is in no way the cause of the occurrence of the events of Karbala. Nor can it be said that this divine pre-knowledge usurped the free will of Imam Husain (a.s) and compelled him to attain martyrdom. An example will clearly illustrate this point. Suppose a person performs an obligatory act of faith out of his free will. And suppose Allah informs His prophet about it. Does this information in any way affect the freedom and liberty of that person? The answer is obviously ‘no’. The conclusion is that this martyrdom of Imam Husain (a.s) is a great and illustrious event. As days turned into months and months changed into years, history has recorded this event in its pages. The light that emanated from his sermons and which spread across the horizon dazzled the enemies and opponents of Imam Husain (a.s). Allah has spoken of these sermons in the farthest corners of the universe when He says:
‘And this happened when You had taken a covenant from them that they would adopt perseverance inspite of living in this world and seeing its splendour and adornment. Consequently they adopted this covenant and You were aware of their loyalty and firmness. Hence You welcomed them near You and made them familiar with Your proximity. Till such an extent that You found them distinguished and You selected them for lofty praise.’ (Dua-e-Nudbah)
Dear readers, this is one aspect from the secrets of Imam Husain’s (a.s) sermon. And these pearls become evident only because all sorts of people – acquaintances as well as strangers – met him during his journey and advised him not to go towards Kufa. Imam Husain (a.s) replied to all of them and especially tried to divert their attention towards Allah. Sometimes he narrated the dream in which he saw Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) while at other times he invited the people towards Allah as he was bestowed with the status of Imamat. When Imam Husain (a.s) reached the place known as ‘Khazeemah’ then while consoling his sister Janabe Zainab (s.a) he said
‘O my sister! Whatever has been decreed will happen.’ (Here too, the word ‘decree’ is used in the meaning of ‘command of Allah’. We have discussed this point earlier.) Moving forward in his journey, Imam Husain (a.s) reached “Roor” and then to a place called “Sa’lebeeyah” It was over there that Imam Husain (a.s) came to know about the martyrdom of Janabe Muslim (a.s.), Janabe Haani (r.a.) and Abdullah Yaqtar (r.a.). On hearing about their martydom, he (a.s) declared:
‘There is no goodness in this life after all this (news).’ This implied that such an environment had been created that no one was able to live a life of freedom and liberty. Even before his martyrdom the sermons of Imam Husain (a.s) created a revolution in that gloomy and ignorant society. He dispelled the feeling of hopelessness and despair from among his companions when he announced
(a) ‘Being martyred in the way of Allah is a cause of distinction for a man.’
(b)’I am advancing towards death. A death, which is not shameful for a man.’
(c) ‘Alas! We are carrying the burden of humiliation.’
(d) ‘We will neither submit to them in humiliation nor will we run away from them like slaves.’
Such sermons and exhortations continued and finally the eve of Ashoora arrived. After completing his prayers, Imam Husain (a.s) addressed his companions in which he said:
‘Know that the hour of martyrdom is drawing near. I withdraw my allegiance from you. You are now free and can go back to your respective cities.’ But when the lamp was lighted again, each and every companion was standing in his place. And each one of them gave a short speech in which they stressed and emphasised their love and attachment to Imam Husain (a.s). Thus when Imam Husain (a.s) had tested all his companions and found them trustworthy, he removed from their eyes the curtains of the world and revealed to each one of them their abode in Paradise. These were the secrets of the sermon of Imam Husain (a.s) that he delivered in the night of Ashoora. ( Sukhnane Imam Husain (a.s) )
In the end we would like to conclude this article with a sermon of Imam Husain (a.s), which is not only embellished with radiant words but is also profound in its concepts. And we pray to Allah that the love of Imam Husain (a.s.) remains firmly entrenched in our hearts till our last breath.
‘O son of the noble one! Be patient and forbearing. Death is nothing but a moment in which you leave behind difficulties and afflictions and enter into the valley of Paradise where there are eternal bounties. Who does not want to be freed from a prison and live in the comforts of a palace? But the death of your enemies is like the one who steps out from a large edifice and enters a prison. My father (a.s.) has narrated to me a tradition from my grandfather (s.a.w.s.) in which he (s.a.w.s.) informed – The world is like a prison for a believer while it is like a Paradise for an unbeliever. Death is that instant which transfers a believer from his prison into Paradise while for an unbeliever it sends him to Hell. I was neither lied to nor have I lied.’