'O God, carry us in the ships of Thy deliverance, give us to enjoy the pleasure of whispered prayer to Thee, make us drink at the pools of Thy love, let us taste the sweetness of Thy affection and nearness, allow us to struggle in Thee, preoccupy us with obeying Thee, and purify our intentions in devoting works to Thee, for we exist through Thee and belong to Thee, and we have no one to mediate with Thee but Thee!' Imam Sajjad ('A); Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya

Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Awakener for the Soul

From among the fourteen infallibles, none enjoys as much attention and recognition as the Master of the Martyrs, Imam Husayn b. 'Ali (as) – not only in his own era, but even in today’s day and age. To understand his significance in our modern era, we need to go back in history to the day he was born. An event which is usually marked with happiness and jubilation, his birth was actually a grief-filled occasion in which his grandfather, the final Messenger of Allah (swt), had to break the tragic news of his murder and the massacre of his family to his mother, Fatimah az-Zahra (as). After lamenting on the heart-wrenching agony which his son (The Qur’an, in Surah Ale Imran (3) refers to the two grandsons of Prophet Muhammad (saw) as ‘his sons’.) will have to endure, the Prophet then guaranteed his daughter that a nation would be brought forth that will mark his martyrdom and shed tears over this loss - and they would be the ‘Shi’a’ of Aale Muhammad.

Later on in his life, while living in the precincts of his noble grandfather, he was given many lofty titles such as,“The ark of salvation”; “The leader of the youth of Paradise”; “The torch of perpetual guidance”; and who can forget the Prophetic aphorism that rings true even today, “Indeed within the hearts of the true believers, in respect to the murder of al-Husayn, there resides a burning passion which will never subside.”

From this premonition given by the Prophet (saw) shortly after the birth of his grandson in Madinah, up until the end of the Imam’s life on the scorched plains of Kerbala some 50 years later, all lovers of freedom and justice have focused their hearts on Imam Husayn’s (as) six-sided sarcophagus (dharih) and have directed their energy and love towards him and his sacred mission. The proceedings surrounding his killing which took place on the 10th of Muharram in the year 61 AH set the scene for great displays of lamentation and sorrow – starting one year after his killing, lasting until today - and it is not only Muslims who hold the martyred Imam (as) in high esteem.
Rather, when asked to speak about the character of Imam Husayn (as), Antoine Bara, a Lebanese Christian, writes: “My own description of Imam Husayn (as) is that he is ‘the conscience of religions’. Had it not been for him, all divine religions would not have continued to exist … Kerbala was a turning point. Had Imam Husayn (as) not carried out his revolution, the concept of monotheism would not have continued to exist and the new religion of Islam would have become tied to the practices of the rulers whose societies would have accepted and surrendered to their oppression under any circumstances because they were the rulers … Unfortunately, even though Imam Husayn (as) is a holy character to you Muslims and Shi'a, you do not recognize his value and you have neglected his heritage and revolution. Today you must know how to support this great Im{m by saying the truth, helping the oppressed, reforming society and achieving justice and freedom. You are supposed to be absolutely honest in delivering his scream on the day of Ashura to the world. This task requires you to study thoroughly the dimensions of his revolution. It is not enough to narrate and describe the outward aspect of the tragedy to the world.”
Since the massacre of the Imam, his family and friends over 1,350 years ago, the visitation to his grave in the city of Kerbala, Iraq was severely estricted under previous empires, governments and regimes and making the journey meant a severe danger if not loss to one’s life and property. However with the invasion and “liberation” of Iraq in 2003, every year on the day of 'Ashura (the 10th of MuÎarram), over 5,000,000 men, women and children from all over the world converge on this small city – with several thousand walking hundreds of kilometers in a month-long journey, from as far away as Ba‚ra in the south of Iraq to grieve, lament and hear the tragic saga of Kerbala recounted once again – as if it had occurred just yesterday!

The Prophet of Islam (saw) and the other Infallibles who make up the Ahlul Bayt have emphasized to their followers to make the trek to Kerbala to pay their respects to Imam Husayn b. 'Ali (as) and for this special journey, numerous forms of ‘greetings’ have been related through reliable chains of narrators. However from all of the methods of greetings for the Master of the Martyrs, without a doubt, the most powerful and potent for awaking the soul and stirring the emotions and enacting a change both internally and externally is that of Ziyarat 'Ashura - and it is for this reason that despotic governments always tried their best to prevent mass gatherings at the shrine of Abi 'Abdillah al-Husayn (as).
A passionate discourse between The Creator and His servants with terms of endearment addressed to the infallible Imam (as), this intimate conversation holds a special ranking within the corpus of supplications and visitation literature being that this specific ziyarat is a Hadith al-Qudsi’ or sacred tradition taught by Allah (swt) to His Arch-Angel Gabriel who conveyed it to the Noble Prophet (saw) who continued the chain of purity, being taught to us through the great Shi'a scholars until today.


Shaykh Saleem Bhimji