The War of Karbala & The Martyrdom of Imam Hussein
The Islamic year begins with the month of Muharram and terminates at Dhu alHijjah. Its commencement with the month of Muharram and termination thereat with Dhu al Hijjah is an indication that the journey of religious life in Islam begins and ends with sacrifice, the implication being that a Muslims life in its entirety is molded with the intent of sacrifice. While [the month of] Dhu al Hijjah presents us with Prophet Abrahams intense love of God and an earnest desire to achieve shahadat, Muharram is an invitation to a practical witnessing [of surrender] to that shahadat by the martyr Imam Hussein. On the tenth of Dhu al Hijjah, Ishmael in his submission to God offers his head on the altar of sacrifice, but God accepts this act of submission prior to the separation of the head from the body. And on the tenth of Muharram, not just the grandson of the Prophet, but those of his kin, present their necks in resignation [out of submission] in the Heavenly courtyard of acceptance.
In the prohibitive month of Muharram, Imam Hussein, the house-hold of prophecy [nubuwwat] accompanied with his companions [ashab] (who according to conflicting traditions number not more than 145), journey to the land of Karbala for the sake of upholding the sanctity of Gods religion, against an unjust, oppressive and dictatorial system, as they gathered to raise the standard of struggle. With the exception of the honorable ladies observing hijab and Imam Zaynul Abidin, all the honorable souls drank the cup of martyrdom. This is a momentous sacrifice in the history of mankind, which took place in the month of Muharram, and God the Almighty entered this as a sign (sha'ir) from the Muslim community [ummah] for eternity. So, the events of Karbala are not just for those who call themselves Shias but are important to every Muslim and every person of conscience.
The Event of Karbala ... Is it a mere historical happening? The martyrdom narrative and the events that transpired with Imam Hussein and the rest of his companions are duly remembered. In certain circles, this
event and the martyrdom of Imam Hussein are treated as mere historical happenings liking it to the misfortunes and the mountains of hardship that befell other [mortal] beings, resulting in their martyrdom. Likewise, they
regulate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, to just another historical narrative, not warranting any special merit.
This particularity has evolved over a certain period, with a rejection of its mentioning from the practical and conscious realm. There is a growing realization in the minds of people that the mention of the event of Karbala
and the martyrdom of Imam Hussein lends towards Shia affiliations and is a task taken upon by them. As such, there is no importance attached towards propagating the event and martyrdom.
There is much that we can derive inspiration from in the anniversary of Imam Hussein and his martyrdom, since in his intellect which encompassed Islam, and in his heart which opened onto the human being, and in his movement which sprang from justice, goodness, and truth, he was a symbol for the meaning of a person who lived with Allah and sought inspiration from Allah for all aspects of his personality. So, when in our turn we seek inspiration from him, it is not impossible for him to be confined to a certain time or place; nor can any one event summarize him. We have seen that some histories summarize Hussein in Karbala' and summarize Karbala' in the meaning of tragedy, and when they wish to broach the meaning of the revolution in Karbala', they limit it in a narrow circle.
In the video below, there is a depiction of Zuhayr Ibn Qayn. "Zuhayr ibn Qayn is best known for his participation in the Battle of Karbala. Despite the fact that he did not want to even speak to Husayn ibn Ali, he eventually spoke to him when his tribe met his companions and his wife influenced him into speaking with Husayn. After meeting Husayn, Zuhayr got amazed by the content of his character. After this event he got so happy with Husayn, that he volunteered to join his army against the forces of Yazid, led by Umar ibn Sa'ad. When Umar ibn Sa'd cut off the water supply (as ordered by Kufa's governor Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyad), for Husayn and his companions, Zuhayr asked the army if he could bring some water to Husayn, his family and his companions. The army did not allow this, but said that he could drink some water himself as long as he does not bring any to Husayn and his family. Zuhayr refused saying: 'It is a sin for me to drink while the holy Imam and his family are thirsty'. After gatheration of his armies Yazid ended up with at least 40 000 men, whom were placed under the command of Umar ibn Sa'd. Husayn's army had only 72 companions, all of whom did not eat or drink for 3 days. Their supply was cut off at the third ofMuharram, one of the holy months in Islam, however they dug a few wells at the seventh of Muharram, and only drank a few sips at the seventh. At the tenth the Battle took place. An anti-Islamic website states that Husayn sacrificed his family and companions as well as himself in the pursuit of power. This is not true however, because if Husayn wanted power he would have easily attained this by surrendering to Yazid. A reasonable question that arises from the statement that Husayn wanted power is, if Husayn was looking for power, why did he bring women and children with him? This proves that Husayn was never looking for power but wanted the women, children and his son Ali ibn Husayn, the only male survivor of the battle, to be witnesses to his sacrifice in order to convey the message of Islam by showing the great sacrifice of Husayn. According to Muslim and some non-Muslim tradition, Husayn's sacrifice, was in the purpose of saving Islam and also to influence individuals to alter their destinies. Husayn split his army into three parts, the left flank, the right flank and the Ahl al-bayt. Ahl al-Bayt in Arabic means people of the house, and refers to the family of the Prophet of Islam Muhammad." [source: wikipedia]
How can we be a companion of The Prophet’s Grandson? Whoever follows Islam and the Sunnah (Tradition) of Prophet Muhammad cannot pledge allegiance to an oppressor, or can such a person fight alongside an oppressor or excuse an oppressor or justify his oppression. Therefore, shorten your tears when they are tears of history, and let them flow when they are tears of the oppressed and downtrodden human beings. Karbala in its entirety was about oppression, since it sprang from the message in the path of justice, and it sprang from the heart of reality in order to argue against that reality, to revolt against it and to change it. Do you wish to be like The Prophet? If so, the issue is not to cry much, even though crying has its meaning. And the issue is not to mourn much and beat oneself, though that has its symbolism. Instead, the issue is to face reality in its entirety and to live that reality as Imam Hussein lived it and his family and companions lived it. They did not remain neutral in the face of the reality of oppression and arrogance. Do not move with Hussein in history; instead, move with him in reality, revolution, and change. So each of us should be Hussein, even if only one percent. Because when we live Hussein in his method, thought and spirit, and in his opening onto the issue of justice and liberty in the human being not only are we following the Sunnah (Tradition) we will find the audience of Muharram, Karbala and Imam Hussein among us today, and not just speak of its audience in 61 AH.
We as a united Muslim community must fight against extremism, oppression and hypocrisy. The oppression of Al-Qaeda, Taliban, and the extremist right are something that all peoples of every faith, creed, and culture needs to stand against. We as a human society on earth need to work and strive (Jihad) towards peace and love, the love that was taught by the Prophet Muhammad and his family. The forces of extremism wish to bring us "Qital" or murder and death. We can not stand by while forces of extremism try to divide us and conquer us and turn the world into their worldview. Imam Hussein stood up against the tyranny of the forces of extremism and hypocrisy.