Why Remember the Master of Martyrs?

One of the great obstacles in man’s reaching perfection is the unquestioned acceptance of traditions passed down through generations. The Qur’ān severely rebukes those who follow the ways of their predecessors and societies blindly. A human being who does not independently reason invites the wrath of the Lord of Existence who informs man that He shall place spiritual filth on those who do not reason [1].

The magnificent remembrance of the Master of Martyrs thirteen centuries after his presence on earth is unexplainable if one only considers the laws of the physical world. From the tyrants of the Accursed Tree [2] to the US imposed oppressors of today, no effort has been spared to eradicate every trace of that man called Hussain. Yet his name rings louder today than it has ever before: the story of his unparalleled stand for justice reaches every corner of the world as more and more hearts are illuminated by his light.

The only explanation is that provided by Divine Revelation:
‘They desire to put out the light of Allāh with their mouths, but Allāh is intent on perfecting His light though the faithless should be averse’ (Qur’ān 9:32)

The oppressors have long realised that there is no way to eradicate the name of that great soul. So their tactic has changed. Instead of destroying his name, they now seek to assassinate his character. What this means is that the tactic is now to prevent people from knowing who Hussain really is… the very same people who take his name and remember him. This is essentially the example of a seemingly beautiful fruit which is hollow from inside.

Why would they do this? Simple: remembering an Imām Al-Hussain who does not cause people to break free from the shackles of their lower selves and rise against the oppressors of today does not harm the tyrants ruling today’s world. In fact it benefits them. Because if people are deceived into believing in a fake Imām Al-Hussain – the one introduced to them by the Yazīd of today – then people will return home after their sessions of mourning, feeling that they have performed their religious obligation and honoured the memory of the Master of Martyrs while in reality they have served his modern enemies!

This is the same tactic used by the likes of `Ubaydullāh b. Ziyād who would use verses of the Qur’ān to deceive people into believing that it was Imām Al-Hussain who had broken the unity of the Ummah and departed from the tradition of the Beloved Messenger.

What we should really cry over is the fact that the enemy has been successful to a great extent. The Imām Al-Hussain commemorated in most of our backward cultural traditions is simply a saintly historical figure who was brutally murdered at the hands of an evil nation. The Epic of Karbalā’ has been reduced to a mere story, commemorated yearly as an inportant tradition. I daresay that many of us have become an example of those same people the Qur’ān severely rebukes for not applying reason.

An interesting point is that while various cultures differ in the way they commemorate, one thing that they have in common is that the characters they remember have no relevance to today. Neither to they invoke change within individual lives and nor do they spark flames of revolution against the unjust system governing the world. This is exactly what the enemy has intended: we’ve walked right into the lion’s den.

So how should the Master of Martyrs be remembered? Moreover, why exactly should he be remembered?

Establishing gatherings of mourning for the Master of the Youth of Paradise and weeping over him is a tradition that was begun by the Household of Revelation. The Beloved of Allāh and his household wept over Abā `Abdillāh and encouraged their followers to weep over him. The Magnificent Souls who occupied the post of Al-Walāyah after the Epic of Karbalā’ established sessions of mourning and encouraged the recitation of poetry in order to make others weep for the Martyr of Karbalā’.

No matter how tragically a loved one may meet their death, insisting on weeping over them, even after generations have elapsed, is not normal human behaviour. Did Imām Al-Ridā who lived five generations after the Master of Martyrs simply weep over him because he was slaughtered in a most awful manner? Such a notion is unreasonable. And to attribute such irrational actions to this household – who are the pinnacle of human intellect – is outrageous.

No, rather the Imāms of this household have a mission. The Epic of Karbalā’ is a crucial part of that mission. The remembrance of the Master of Martyrs is a means to awaken people to the elephant in the room to which many of us are oblivious: the Epic of Karbalā’ is not yet over. It continues until today.

The right of the Household of Heaven has not yet been returned to them. The oppression continues. It it will continue until humanity itself awakens and realises its need for this household, until the hearts of men crave for this household to guide them more than a thirsty man craves for water. And until we realise that we are part of this story. And whether or not we realise it, we are currently playing a role in it. The only question is: which role are we playing?

At the time of Imām Al-Hussain there were those who failed to recognise him. There were those who recognised him yet failed to join him. And there were those who joined him and in doing so, saved themselves and won the pleasure of the Lord of Existence. Yet one thing all these groups had in common is that they had what so many claim to have today: love for the Imām.

Let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that all those who opposed the Imām and fought him didn’t love him the way we do. How many of those who fought him did so out of enmity and spite?

Did `Umar b. Sa`d fight the Imām out of hatred? Till the final moments he was trying to avoid fighting the Imām! For he knew who Al-Hussain was and he knew what fighting him would mean for his Hereafter. What was it that caused him to fight the Son of the Beloved? Nothing except greed. What the Son of Sa`d failed to realise is that Abā `Abdillāh gives his followers both this world and the hereafter. Deceived by the whisperings of the Accursed One, he lost both the world and the hereafter.

We must ask ourselves: what role are we currently playing in the Epic of Karbalā’? Have we joined the camp of the Promised Saviour? Have we recognised who we are to follow during his Ghaybah? Have we given our entire lives and existences to him? Is his pleasure something we consider in every one of our actions… or in any of them?

Do we choose the pleasure of our parents, cultures, societies, friends… over his pleasure? Do we humbly accept criticism by those who seek to help us near him? Or have we deluded ourselves into believing that we are from his sincere followers, the same way that the Ummah had considered itself on righteousness… until the Tragedy of Karbalā’ shocked it into awakening?

[1] Qur’ān 10:100

[2] A reference to verse 17:60 of the Qur’ān. The ‘Accursed Tree’ is a reference to the rulers of Banī Umayyah.

Author: Sayed Haidar Hasanain

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