The lessons we get from Karbala

MohammedHussein Kara,

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

The event of Karbala is renowned in Islamic history. This tragedy took place back in the year 680 AD, where the grandson of the Holy Prophet Mohammed and his family were massacred in the battlefield after being deprived of food and water for three days. This however, did not satisfy their beastly nature, after butchering the men, they went ahead, to torment and loot the ladies, snatching away their veils, chaining them, setting the tents on fire. This caused them great humiliation, and yet, they preserved their patience. This incident generally stands for the ultimate sacrifice that Imam Hussain made for the absolute love of Allah. All characteristics portrayed by his entire army played a vital role in this happening and are of distinct examples to us. They tell us we can make this world a better place to live in.  Out of the variety of lessons we draw from this incident; these are some.

On the day of war, when there was a swarm of arrows, came the time of prayer. Imam’s army did not hesitate to perform their prayer. This gives a lucid note to the Muslim community that prayer must be considered under any situation. This also shades light on the fact that Imam offered prayer despite the threat to his life, so what excuse do we have for not offering prayer? Therefore we must understand and keep the essence of Islam alive by performing our obligations.

Another lesson we gain – and is by far the most inspiring is that it’s never too late to repent. Hurr Al- Riyahi serves as an excellent figure for this. Initially, he was the person to block the access of Imam’s army to the river of Euphrates. He was among those who schemed against Imam. Before the day of Ashura, in the night, he regrets his actions and comes pleading to Imam’s camp. Imam tells him that he forgives him and Hurr was honored by being one of the first martyrs. Imam gives us a subtle message here – we should forgive even those who have wronged us, for it is wise. The Holy Prophet is also reported to have said “the best of you are those who reconcile with whoever that cuts you off, give to whoever that deprives you and forgive whoever that wrongs you.” If Imam could forgive someone for plotting to kill him, why can’t we forgive people for their simple mistakes?

Loyalty is rare today. However, this trait is was prevalent in the army of Imam. Habib Ibn Madhahir was an old friend of the Imam. He was 75 years of age when he fought in the battle of Karbala. If friends only meet in times of hardship, it is indeed not a true friendship. Habib did not turn his back on the Imam in time of need, even if he was struck by old age. He was martyred and is so honorable; he is buried in the shrine of Imam Hussain in Karbala, Iraq. Another explicit illustration is Hazrat John. On the day of Ashura, Imam told John “you have accompanied us all the way, but now you may go.” John only said “it is not fair that I benefit from you company and hospitality but abandon you in your hardship.” Another prime model is Hazrat Abbas, the brother of Imam. When he had gone to fetch water for the children, he did not drink a sip of the water all because his family and friends hadn’t drunk water for three days and so he didn’t either. All of these lofty personalities stood for the truth and displayed loyalty and love even in the most severe scenarios.

Globally, Islam is known as the religion of truth and righteousness. The incident of Karbala is in conformity with this. Karbala was where the truth was in rivalry with falsehood, where the entire religion of Islam was at stake. The truth reinforces the values emphasized in the Holy Quran. For sure, standing for the truth is not an easy thing to do. Imam stood for this truth, went the entire distance and sacrificed all he had for us. Even after all Imam and his army went through, Imam’s army’s faith did not shake nor did their objective change but they stood for the truth they had faith in. We must comprehend that the truth is what Islam stands for and when a Muslim sees injustice, oppression or tyranny, he/she must oppose it for it becomes our duty.

Amr Bil Maruf and Nahi Anil Munkar are of paramount importance in Islam, they are two of the ten branches of our religion. Karbala teaches us not to flee when things get intense and out of hand. We also mustn’t be frightened while forbidding evil. We must focus our minds on the permanent outcomes in the afterlife and our abode there. One night before the day of Ashura, Imam gathered his entire army and put off the candle that was the only source of light. He then told those who don’t want to take part in the battle anymore to take off so no one saw them and they wouldn’t be embarrassed. When Imam put the candle back on, no one had left and they were all in tears saying that it was not in their capability to desert the grandson of the Holy Prophet.

Having patience and remaining steadfast in the times of distress is a tough thing to do. Patience is not just a matter of willpower. Instead, patience as a virtue is Allah’s gift for us. Allah says in the Holy Quran “those will be awarded the chamber for what they patiently endured, and they will be received therein with greetings and (words of) peace.” [25:75] Allah clearly states that those who remain patient will receive a reward without measure. The Imam did remain patient in this time of hardship and so did the ladies when they were dragged on the streets and jailed. Their patience was not out of weakness or compulsion but a demonstration of their persistence and bravery. Imagine seeing your entire family being murdered in your presence and remaining patient and trusting the will of Allah. Can we do that?

After the showdown in Karbala, the women and children were taken captives. They were tied up and tortured on the route from Karbala to Kufa then to Damascus. The entire way, they were forced to walk behind the soldiers who carried the heads of the martyrs, which were mounted upon spears. When they arrived at Yazid’s headquarters in Damascus, Imam Sajjad requested for all the heads to be removed from the proximity of the women and children in order to protect them from spectators. This act shows how Islam takes Hijab seriously and should be observed by everyone, regardless of gender, age or race.

This tragedy represented a role which one of the extraordinary humanitarian roles gave the Islamic world so many unforgettable lessons which won’t be forgotten along all of eternity. Imam directed a fatal blow towards Yazid’s army, leaving behind a legacy of truth that shall prevail till the end of times. In this noble land, the martyrs ran their battle of dignity and scarified themselves for honor. This was the most effective event in all of Islamic history. Every year, Ashura crosses by us to remind us of their heroism and firm stance against falsehood.  It is therefore essential that we learn from these lessons and implement them in our daily lives.

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