If we look at the tragedy of Karbala, there were not just two sides of the event, but more. It was not merely the likes of Yazid versus the likes of Imam Husain and his camp. There is another body of people I feel we should think about very deeply, for their actions and their fates carry potentially urgent and directly applicable lessons for us if we are to improve ourselves. There were many people who claimed to be the lovers of AhlulBayt and the followers of their Imam, with their allegiance to him fully. But after the tragedy took place, they were left with a great burden of their own action or inaction. True progress and reform requires not only desire and hope, but commitment and sacrifice.
One of the primary objectives of commemorating the tragedy of Karbala and
mourning the martyrs and victims has been to educate and inspire movements of
self-reform and societal reform. This is noted in many works. For example,
according to Shaykh Muhammed Mehdi Shams al-Din in his work The Rising of Al-Husayn:
Its Impact on the Consciousness of Muslim Society, the Imams (peace be upon
him) promoted visitation (ziyara) and lamentation of the tragedy of Karbala for
the purpose of putting man into "living and direct contact with the sources of
Islam in thought and ideology, in application and practice," and further, that
when a Shia undertakes these tasks, he or she makes a commitment to "remain
faithful to their [AhlulBayt’s (as)] covenant, their faith and their practice."
It is not enough for the Shia to honor, venerate, and mourn and neglect the
educational and reformational objectives of Muharram commemoration.
In light of this, we have generally achieved high awareness and consistent
education within our communities and selves about the pure, upright aims of Imam
Hussain and those with him, juxtaposed against the horrific cruelty and
debauchery of the Umayyad regime. The message to reform ourselves and our
communities to be aligned against the likes of Yazid is heard loud and clear so
that this message is even somewhat in the consciousness of the larger world
population aside from the Shias. Further, we see efforts increasing to make that
consciousness spread as our communities expand into traditionally non-Muslim
lands. And this is not an unnecessary task. The danger of falling into the path
of utter misguidance or even obstinate opposition to the path put forward by the
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) at the command of Allah is
an ever-present threat and reality.
However, in the interest of reform, this is not sufficient. If we look at the
tragedy of Karbala, there were not just two sides of the event, but more. It was
not merely the likes of Yazid versus the likes of Imam Husain and his camp.
There is another body of people I feel we should think about very deeply, for
their actions and their fates carry potentially urgent and directly applicable
lessons for us if we are to improve ourselves. There were many people who
claimed to be the lovers of AhlulBayt and the followers of their Imam, with
their allegiance to him fully. But after the tragedy took place, they were left
with a great burden of their own action or inaction. Consider the Kufans who
invited Imam Husain and were eager for him and claimed to be ready to support
him, follow him, and have him as their guide and leader. In truth, many of them
were not prepared for their Imam, and when threatened they responded in a way to
seek their safety, essentially abandoning their invited leader and his close
followers to the tragedy. Many of these lived the rest of their lives in intense
One example is the poet ‘Ubayd Allah ibn al-Hurr al-Ju’fi. He was a leader in
Kufa who had refused to help Imam Hussain. When the tragedy occurred, he
realized the gravity of his mistake, but then it was too late. He spent the rest
of his life trying to recover from his error; he proclaimed rebellion against
the Umayyads, he went to Karbala and mourned the victims, and he wrote poetry
blaming himself for his failure to support Hussain, and he struggled with
life-long regret for his failure.
Another example is ‘Awf ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Ahmar al-Azdi, who revolted
against the Umayyads under the leadership of Sulayman ibn Surad al-Khuiza’i. His
surviving writings are said to indicate he reviled himself and others like him
who sent for Husain with false promises but were not with him at the battle to
defend him. He spent the rest of his life wishing he had been there, and all his
actions after tried to make amends for his not being there with his Imam.
These are just two examples of a large number of people. The lessons we must
take from the tragedy of Karbala should include careful reflection about these
people, what led them to make the decisions they made before Karbala, and how
they struggled with it after. For, if the danger of Yazid-like traits existing
in ourselves and our communities is real, then the danger of being like this
regretful number is less a danger than a common unfortunate reality. In the
modern era, instead of calling for Imam Hussain, we are calling for his pure
descendant, Imam Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance).
But to await for him properly, we have to reform ourselves not just to the
extent of removing all Yazid-like traits, but to go further, God willing, and
achieve a state as individuals and as a community that were we to be the modern
counterparts of the Kufans and other Shia in the time of Imam Hussain, that we
would behave and make decisions in such a way that we would not end up being
regretful for not doing more to stand with our Imam. Were our Imam to return
today, once again we would be likely to see not a pure juxtaposition of good
versus evil, but also a number of people who claim to love the Imam and to be
ready to serve him, but when put to the test they may fail to stand on either
side, preferring to wait things out and to let others sacrifice. If we do not
want ourselves counted among their number, then we should take steps now to
learn from the Kufans in the events surrounding the martyrdom of Imam Hussain
(peace be upon him).
True progress and reform requires not only desire and hope, but commitment and
sacrifice. If we want to move forward we have to make deliberate and continual
steps, starting from the very basics of our deen, and couple this with regular,
intense self-examination and passion for the goal. Reform is an exercise in
which you get out what you put in. If we expend little of ourselves and reflect
little, then we can expect little in return. We should not be content with that
outcome. We should not be satisfied to say we are not like Yazid, but we should
continue to push ourselves so that, God willing, we will never face the
heart-breaking remorse and regret like ‘Ubayd Allah ibn al-Hurr al-Ju’fi.
Source: Islamic Insights