As we enter into the months of Muharram and Safar, each one of us begins to experience a state of gloom that engulfs our hearts. Leaving aside their busy schedules and routines our children, youth and elders come together to mourn the oppression that befell on the martyrs of Karbala. Each Muharram as we seek to explore the spirit of Karbala we must ask ourselves: how exactly do we perceive Karbala? Do we imagine Karbala as a distant tragedy of the past or do we let ourselves explore into the spirit of Karbala that extends to this day?
More importantly, we must analyze if our perceptions of Karbala are synonymous with those of the Ahlulbayt (as). In the Ziyarat of Arbaeen, Imam al-Sadiq (as) clearly states the purpose of Karbala which was to “to liberate the people from the yoke of ignorance.” This makes it very evident that as long as we see any form of ignorance and oppression (a subset of ignorance) surrounding us, the battle of Karbala is not over!
In the book Greater Sins, Ayatullah Dastaghaib Shirazi explains the ‘types of oppressors’ from which one can understand that oppression is simply defined as breaking the laws defined by the All-Wise, Almighty Creator. The Holy Quran proclaims, “…and whoever exceeds the limits of Allah these it is that are the unjust.”(2:229) . It becomes clear that oppression extends to all levels of disobedience to Allah: whether it’s global, societal or personal.
Oppression at Global Level: Afghanistan, Burma, Bahrain, Iraq, Palestine, Malaysia: these are only few examples of countries facing oppression at the hand of tyrants. People are being driven out of their homes, merciless killings done regardless of age, and denial of basic human rights are constantly seen in these countries. Are we making any efforts to relieve distressed people in these countries? Are we refraining from giving any kind of financial, social or psychological support to the oppressors in these regions?
Oppression at Social level: We all must have certainly witnessed oppression in our communities in some form or the other: backbiting, fault-finding, favoritism, publicly insulting etc. These behaviors are primarily responsible for fragmenting our communities and creating ill-feelings. Do we play our role to minimize these societal ills?
Oppression at Personal Level: Basically any sin we commit damages our relationship with our Creator. Can there be anything worse than distancing ourselves from our Caretaker, our Nourisher and Provider who is closer to us than our jugular vein?
As long as we see oppression surrounding us let us be sure that the battle of Karbala is still alive and justice for those great martyrs has yet to be sought! Indeed, Mukhtar al-Thaqafi rose up to seek revenge for the martyrs of Karbala yet how interesting it is that in Dua Nudbah we read “Where is the investigator of the blood of the martyrs of Karbala?” The one who will seek justice for the martyrs of Karbala is none other than the Imam of our time (atf) and he will do so through uprooting injustice and ignorance from this world forever. We have a choice here: to stand by our Imam (atf) through fighting every source of oppression or to stay passively indifferent. Needless to say, when it comes to defending truth, being neutral is not recognized as an option in the school of thought of Ahlulbayt (as). In Nahjul Balagha, Imam Ali (as) is quoted to have said about certain believers who wanted to remain neutral and not side with either him or his enemies as follows: “They have forsaken religion and are of no use to infidelity also.”
With our mourning hearts let us promise ourselves to participate in the Karbala of the Imam of our time (atf): the fight against ignorance and oppression! Are we anxious to seek justice for the blood of the martyrs of Karbala? If yes, now is the time to act!
By: Rabab Jaffery