The following is an excerpt from “Hajj: Reflections on Its Rituals” written by Dr Ali Shariati highlighting the significance of the Karbala movement. The book is one of the most read works of Dr Shariati (available in English).
The fact that Imam Hussein left Mecca for Karbala where he was martyred before completing his Hajj (pilgrimage) duties taught us a more important lesson than Shahadat (martyrdom).
Hajj was a duty that all his ancestors struggled for. Blood was shed to vitalize this tradition. He did not finish the ceremonies and decided to leave and become a Shaheed!
He did not complete his Hajj in order to teach the Hajj makers those who pray and have faith in Ibrahim’s tradition, that if there is no Imamat and there is not true leadership, if there is no goal, if “Hussein” is not there and “Yazid” is there, making Tawaf (Circumambulating) around the house of Allah is equal to making Tawaf around the idol-house. The people who continued their Tawaf while he went to Karbala were no better than those who were circumambulating around the green palace of Muawiyah.
“Hajj”, the tradition of the idol-fighter Ibrahim, in “God’s house” or the “house of the people”-what is the difference? What is happening this year? A warm whirlpool of people are busy circumambulating. All the faces are eager with interest. All the hearts are burning with love. All the people are answering Allah’s invitation. The love of faith, the glory of Islam, the fear of God and punishment of the day of judgment and the desire for worship are pushing the chosen people of the community to circumambulate around the Kaaba.
Among these faces were: the companions of the Prophet (PBUH), some very early Muslims, the heroes of the Jihads, the conquerors of the lands of the unbelievers, those who destroyed the houses of idols on the earth, whose who lived by the Quran and followed the tradition and spiritual leaders. They were all discarding all worldly matters. Fully in love with God, they saw paradise dancing in front of their eyes, houris twinkling at their righteous faces and angels calling upon them from the sky. While Gabriel had his wings under their feet, they were busy circumambulating!
Who is the man who so decisively and angrily comes out of the crowded whirlpool of Muslims and leaves behind the city of “holiness, security and love”? Now that all the Muslims are facing toward the Kaaba, where is he going? Why does he not turn around to see this moving circle where people are cirumambulating the house of Ibrahim to the music of Nimrod and running between Safa and Marwa as a show of their useless efforts. From Arafat, which is the beginning of history, the stage of the first visit of Adam and Eve on earth, they are taken to Mashar in the darkness. In this land of consciousness where these slaves of ignorance should not be, they are asked to sleep all night and by dawn they are moved like the flock of a beast to the land of Mina. The three evils of trinity are located here. As a joke with Ibrahim and a trick to Allah, they throw a few tiny pebbles to the well made-up faces of the three Gods whom they have been worshipping all their lives. They kill the sheep as a symbol of their miserable fate.
They are like beasts and these three gods, taking advantage of the meat, skin mild and wool of this animal, have come to power and decorated their table! These poor people have always been sacrificed upon the demand of these gods and their red blood is shed and poured into the vessels of the green palace, the Zarar Mosque, and the commonwealth of Croesus. At the end, to show their obedience to these gods they should shave their heads!
Oppressors use ignorance as their tools. These are the conservative people whose hands lie soaked in the blood of facts. In the “absence of these people”, in any generation and at anytime there will be ground for “man’s martyrdom”. Evil is hiding itself behind the masks of holiness and righteousness. These are the same Hajj performers who whispered by the idols and sacrificed Ismail in front of Nimrod with their own hands. Then they celebrated the day of “human sacrifice” or “the sacrifice of the Ismail of their time.” They turn their backs to the Kaaba and face Qibla of their miserable life, saying to themselves “the hell with this world”, let’s work for the “paradise of the hereafter”! Feeling happy with the joy of the life after death, they are sound asleep on the warm ashes of the master’s kitchen floor and enjoy the left overs of the plunderer’s table!