The Impact of the Day of Ashura on the Muslim Ummah

Imam Husain’s (a) uprising was certainly a great one, with unlimited impact and without divergent objectives. It was not confined purely to taking power, though political power was of extreme importance in the view of Imam Husain (a) for positively changing the social conditions and reforming the community. His mission had several short term and long term objectives. He viewed political power as his father Imam Ali (a) did: “O Allah! You know that what we have done wasn’t a contest to take power, or aimed at seeking to possess the remnants of worldly trivia. We wanted, indeed, to restore the lost aspects of Your faith and revive Your laws that were being ignored, so that the oppressed may feel secure.” As soon as Imam Husain (a) stood against the regime, he was sure that his
movement would not succeed militarily, but that it would be the starting point
of a large-scale opposition. The Ummah
began to feel the weight of having abandoned Imam Husain (a) to the hands of the
oppressors.

Imam Husain’s (a) uprising was certainly a great one, with unlimited impact
and without divergent objectives. It was not confined purely to taking power,
though political power was of extreme importance in the view of Imam Husain (a)
for positively changing the social conditions and reforming the community. His
mission had several short term and long term objectives. He viewed political
power as his father Imam Ali (a) did:

“O Allah! You know that what we have done wasn’t a contest to take power, or
aimed at seeking to possess the remnants of worldly trivia. We wanted, indeed,
to restore the lost aspects of Your faith and revive Your laws that were being
ignored, so that the oppressed may feel secure.”

Imam Husain (a) had the following aims in mind when he started his uprising:

1. Changing the political conditions, the ruling system and the way of
administering civil affairs, and treating the Ummah (Muslim community) in
accordance with the Divine standards set forth by Islam.

2. Awakening the political conscience of the Ummah and making a powerful
overseeing body out of it, lest the ruler deviates or neglects Islamic laws (Shariah).

3. Emphasizing the legality of military opposition to the unjust ruler

4. Re-educating the Ummah in line with Islamic laws.

5. Rectifying deviation and putting into practice the Shariah.

6. Breaking down the wall of fear and terror that was imposed on the Ummah and
stirring the spirit of revolution and sacrifice within in it.

As soon as Imam Husain (a) stood against the regime, he was sure that his
movement would not succeed militarily, but that it would be the starting point
of a large-scale opposition. Accordingly, explosions and upheavals commenced and
the regime reached the edge of collapse. The government swayed and lost the last
threads connecting it to the Ummah. It then resorted to oppression and terror
as a means of silencing any opposing voice and suppressing liberties. The Ummah
began to feel the weight of having abandoned Imam Husain (a) to the hands of the
oppressors. A series of armed uprisings sprouted, weakening the Umayyads and
ending in the fall of that regime. Thus Imam Husain’s (a) holy blood was the key
element for the downfall of Umayyad’s regime.

Imam Husain (a) confronted a regime that threatened to destroy Islam and the
Islamic aspect of the Muslim Ummahh. When Yazid succeeded his father, Muawiya
who was known as the ‘Command of the Faithful’ by the tribes and provinces, his
throne was not secure until he received the homage of the four most notable
personalities of Islam, whom Muawiya, in spite of his utmost efforts, could
neither buy nor coerce to recognize his heir apparent. Without their recognition
Yazid’s authority couldn’t be firmly established. They were as follows:

1. Abdullah bin Al-Zubayr

2. Abdullah bin Umar

3. Abdulrahman ibn Abi Bakr

4. Husain bin Ali

These were the sons of the most prominent companions of the Holy Prophet (a). Of
course, Imam Husain (a), being the grandson of the Holy Prophet (SAW), enjoyed
greater esteem than the other three.

It was this insistence on the recognition and this demand for allegiance (bay’at)
on the part of Yazid’s government, and the flat refusal of Imam Husain (a) to
give allegiance to Yazid that finally led to Imam Husain’s (a) martyrdom and
that of his 72 loyal companions and the captivity of the women and children of
his household.

It is an undeniable fact that at no time in history, before or after the Karbala
tragedy, do we find a group of more than 100 men, women, and children so
strongly united in purpose and determination. There wasn’t the slightest
disagreement among them regarding their ultimate goal and the necessity of
self-sacrifice. We know that on several occasions, Imam Husain (a) addressed his
enemies and advised them to reconsider their decision to kill him, but never,
did he speak to his companions for the purpose of raising their spirit of
loyalty and courage. Neither in Medina nor Mecca, nor during his journey towards
Kufa, did he ever try to add to the number of his supporters. On the contrary,
he repeated his advice to them to leave him and save themselves. But despite
this, not a single person left him to join the enemy, while some left the
enemy’s ranks to join him and chose to be martyred along with him. There were no
signs of weakness or regret on the part of his companions throughout this tough
trial. On the contrary, they were all happy and in good spirits at the prospect
of the precious opportunity to be martyred with their Imam (a).

The tragedy of Imam Husain (a)’s martyrdom sent a wave of resentment throughout
the Muslim lands against Yazid’s oppressive regime. The tragedy of Karbala
opened the eyes of the masses and awakened the public mind. The martyrdom of
Imam Husain (a) and the great courage and outspoken criticism of the captives,
particularly Hazrat Zainab (a) [Imam Hussain’s sister], shook the masses out of
their submission to oppression and tyranny.

Imam Husain (a), his family and his companions set a sublime example of human
resistance against oppression and injustice for the Muslim Ummah and all other
mankind. Up to the present day, one hears with a mixture of wonder, sorrow, and
admiration of the tales of indomitable courage, generous self-sacrifice and
unlimited patience in severe hardships for the attainment of a sacred goal. Imam
Husain (a) not only saved Islam from deviation, distortion and corruption by the
forces of apostasy and oppression, but he also revived the institution of
martyrdom in a world of cowardly men who were willing to bear even the utmost
disgrace and indignity for their fear of death and love of the life in this
world. His words echoing through the long distance of centuries.

Imam Husain’s (a) martyrdom gave rise to a series of popular insurrections,
which decades later, ultimately resulted in the collapse of the Umayyad dynasty.
He deprived the caliphate of its dangerous aura of undeserved sanctity that
threatened to obliterate the Divine faith by degenerating into a hereditary
monarchy.

The message of Karbala has preserved its power in spite of the passage of 1,000
years. The endurance of its message is characteristic of all the things
connected with man’s divine attachment and sublime human goals. If the following
Qur’anic Verses have motivated the future generations and aroused our
generation, it is because of the sacrifices of the martyrs of Karbala whose
blood saved the purity of the Divine Message. The Holy Qur’an thus says:

“Certainly We sent Our apostles with clear arguments, and sent down with them
The Book and The balance that men may conduct themselves with equity.”

(57:25)

“And what reason have you that you should not fight in the way of Allah and
of the weak among the men and the women and children, of those who say: Our
Lord! cause us to go forth from this town, whose people are oppressors, and give
us from Thee a guardian and give us from Thee a helper.”
(4:75)

Thus, Imam Husain (a) remains forever a slogan for the revolutionaries, a
lighthouse for freedom, and a source for struggle and liberation.