Related posts: Hindu contribution to the marsiya – by Intizar Husain
Hussaini Brahmins: Karbala and how Lahore was involved – by Majid Sheikh
As soon as the crescent of Muharram appears in the sky the whole world seems to change into Karbala to pay gratitude to the supreme revolutionist this universe has ever seen. The new Islamic/Hijri year starts with the worldwide commemoration of the greatest sacrifice of Imam Hussain (AS) and the tragedy he endured in the land of Karbala. His sacrifice yielded the most efficacious revolution that changed the course of millions of lives to come. The impact of the greatest sacrifice, Imam Hussain (AS) endured more than 1400 years ago, is larger than life. The revolution of Karbala is not only an inspiration for the followers of a specific religion rather it sets the guiding principles and an inspirational roadmap for all the mankind, indifferent of the religion they follow, to stand up against oppression and tyranny. Karbala spreads a universal message of non-violent resistance and supreme sacrifice to the cause and in today’s climate of violence, extremism and tyranny; it is more pertinent than ever. For the very same reason prominent leaders, statesmen, scholars, philosophers and historians from different religions and regions of the world paid gratitude to Imam Hussain (AS). Let’s have a look at few of them.
The most renowned Indian political and spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi said: “I learned from Hussain how to achieve victory while being oppressed.” Gandhi is believed to have studied the history of Islam and Imam Hussain (AS), and was adamant of the opinion that Islam represented not the legacy of a sword but of sacrifices of Imam Hussain (AS) and his unrivaled companions. Gandhi said: “My faith is that the progress of Islam does not depend on the use of sword by its believers, but the result of the supreme sacrifice of Hussain (A.S.), the great saint.”
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India (1947–64) deemed Karbala to represent humanity strength and determination. He writes: “Imam Hussain’s (AS) sacrifice is for all groups and communities, an example of the path of righteousness.”
Dr. Rajendra Prasad the first president of independent India (26 January 1950 – 13 May 1962) describes the supreme sacrifice of Imam Hussain (AS) as universal. He writes, “The sacrifice of Imam Hussain (AS) is not limited to one country, or nation, but it is the hereditary state of the brotherhood of all mankind.”
Sir Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan , the first Vice President of India (1952–1962) and subsequently the second President of India (1962–1967), writes “Though Imam Hussain (AS)gave his life years ago, but his indestructible soul rules the hearts of people even today.” It goes without saying that no revolution in the history of mankind had or will have such a huge impact.
Sarojini Naidu, the first Indian woman to become the President of the Indian National Congress and the first woman to become the Governor of Uttar Pradesh state, expresses her views about Imam Hussain (AS) as: “I congratulate Muslims that from among them, Hussain (AS), a great human being was born, who is reverted and honored totally by all communities”.
Clearly inspired from the victory of Imam Hussain (AS), Scottish historian and essayist Thomas Carlyle elucidates: “The best lesson which we get from the tragedy of Cerebella is that Husain and his companions were rigid believers in God. They illustrated that the numerical superiority does not count when it comes to the truth and the falsehood. The victory of Husain, despite his minority, marvels me!”
The Professor of Arabic at the University of Cambridge and a British orientalist Simon Ockley (1678-1720), writes about the final speech of Imam Hussain (AS): “Then Husain mounted his horse, and took the Koran and laid it before him, and, coming up to the people, invited them to the performances of their duty: adding, ‘O God, thou art my confidence in every trouble, and my hope in all adversity!’… He next reminded them of his excellencies, the nobility of his birth, the greatness of his power, and his high descent, and said, ‘Consider with yourselves whether or not such a man as I am is not better than you; I who am the son of your prophet’s daughter, besides whom there is no other upon the face of the earth. Ali was my father; Jaafar and Hamza, the chief of the martyrs, were both my uncles; and the apostle of God, upon whom be peace, said both of me and my brother, that we were the chief of the youth of paradise. If you will believe me, what I say is true, for by God, I never told a lie in earnest since I had my understanding; for God hates a lie. If you do not believe me, ask the companions of the apostle of God [here he named them], and they will tell you the same. Let me go back to what I have.’ They asked, ‘What hindered him from being ruled by the rest of his relations.’ He answered, ‘God forbid that I should set my hand to the resignation of my right after a slavish manner. I have recourse to God from every tyrant that doth not believe in the day of account.'” – [The History of the Saracens, London, 1894, pp. 404-5]
Ignaz Goldziher (1850-1921), the Famous Jewish Hungarian orientalist entitled the 10th of Muharram as the Black day. He writes: “Ever since the black day of Karbala, the history of this family … has been a continuous series of sufferings and persecutions. These are narrated in poetry and prose, in a richly cultivated literature of martyrologies – a Shi’i specialty – and form the theme of Shi’i gatherings in the first third of the month of Muharram, whose tenth day (‘ashura) is kept as the anniversary of the tragedy at Karbala. Scenes of that tragedy are also presented on this day of commemoration in dramatic form (ta’ziya). ‘Our feast days are our assemblies of mourning.’ So concludes a poem by a prince of Shi’i disposition recalling the many mihan of the Prophet’s family. Weeping and lamentation over the evils and persecutions suffered by the ‘Alid family, and mourning for its martyrs: these are things from which loyal supporters of the cause cannot cease. ‘More touching than the tears of the Shi’is’ has even become an Arabic proverb.” – [Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law, Princeton, 1981, p. 179]
Member of Parliament Edward Gibbon, considered as the greatest British historian of his time writes writes about Imam Hussain (AS) in his most important work, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: “In a distant age and climate, the tragic scene of the death of Hosein will awaken the sympathy of the coldest reader.” (The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, London,1911, volume 5, p. 391-392)
Peter J. Chelkowski, Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, New York University, writes about the atrocities Imam Hussain (AS) endured: “Hussein accepted and set out from Mecca with his family and an entourage of about seventy followers. But on the plain of Kerbela they were caught in an ambush set by the … caliph, Yazid. Though defeat was certain, Hussein refused to pay homage to him. Surrounded by a great enemy force, Hussein and his company existed without water for ten days in the burning desert of Kerbela. Finally Hussein, the adults and some male children of his family and his companions were cut to bits by the arrows and swords of Yazid’s army; his women and remaining children were taken as captives to Yazid in Damascus. The renowned historian Abu Reyhan al-Biruni states; “… then fire was set to their camp and the bodies were trampled by the hoofs of the horses; nobody in the history of the human kind has seen such atrocities.” – [Ta’ziyeh: Ritual and Drama in Iran, New York, 1979, p. 2]
Reynold Alleyne Nicholson(1868-1945), an eminent English orientalist, and widely regarded as one of the greatest Rumi scholars, writes, “Husayn fell, pierced by an arrow, and his brave followers were cut down beside him to the last man. Muhammadan tradition, which with rare exceptions is uniformly hostile to the Umayyad dynasty, regards Husayn as a martyr and Yazid as his murderer.” – [A Literary History of the Arabs, Cambridge, 1930, p. 197 ]
The views of English novelist Charles John Huffam Dickens’ about Imam Hussain (AS) are a slap in the face of the shameless and so called Muslim Scholars of the likes of Zakir Naik: “If Husain had fought to quench his worldly desires…then I do not understand why his sister, wife, and children accompanied him. It stands to reason therefore, that he sacrificed purely for Islam.”
I will leave you people with a saying of Imam Hussain (AS), as a concluding note, in which he explains the mission of his sacrifice in his own words. Imam Hussain (A.S.) said: “I have taken this stand not out of arrogance or pride, neither out of mischief or injustice. I have risen to seek reform in the community of my grandfather. I would like to bid good, forbid evil, and follow the tradition of my grandfather and my father ‘Ali bin Abi Talib.”