The writer, Al-Hajj Khalil Champsi (Toronto, Canada) is a professional engineer, PMP certified, and a community volunteer
This article forms part of the series ‘ A Call to Return’ – an initiative to inform and define the message behind the events of Kerbala, its relevance, and connection to life today, for both Shi’a Muslims and the rest of the global population. It is an effort by the writers to cast an apt perspective to a very commonly misunderstood message
One of the important narrations in the tragedy of Kerbala is a denial of water to the small brave caravan of Imam Hussein (as).
Every creation of God has a water composition and thus water becomes an essential part of all creations and especially of human existence. In the Holy Quran in Chapter 24 verse 46 God says, ‘’And Allah has created from water every living creature: so of them is that which walks upon its belly, and of them is that which walks upon two feet, and of them is that which walks upon four; Allah creates what He pleases; surely Allah has power over all things.’’ As per the USGS article,’’ Therefore Water is of major importance to all living things; in some organisms, up to 90% of their body weight comes from water. Up to 60% of the human adult body is water’’.
When one looks at the story of Prophet Abraham (a) one of the significant part of Hajra’s (Haggar ) challenges was to look for water in the barren land of the Holy Land of Makka. In her search of water to quench the thirst of her infant son Ismail, she moved from one mountain to another.
The mountains have been given importance as a sign of God as revealed in the Holy Quran, Chapter 2 verse,’’ Surely the Safa and the Marwa are among the signs appointed by Allah; so whoever makes a pilgrimage to the House or pays a visit (to it), there is no blame on him if he goes round them both; and whoever does good spontaneously, then surely Allah is Grateful, Knowing’’.
Thus with God’s miracle, a spring of water appeared at the foot of Ismail and water is still in use, and until today and Pilgrims are able to benefit from it. At the same time, all Muslims who go for Pilgrimage, one of the must-do rituals is to walk between the two mountains seven times. This shows the importance of the Role of the mother and the caring nature of her child especially the importance of water.
When Prophet Moses (a) crossed the red sea with the miracle from God by parting the water escaping from Pharaoh, he took his community to safety which had twelve tribes and each tribal head wanted a separate water source. God in the Holy Quran, Chapter 7 verse 160 says,’ We divided them into twelve tribes or nations. We directed Moses by inspiration, when his (thirsty) people asked him for water: “Strike the rock with thy staff”: out of it there gushed forth twelve springs: Each group knew its own place for water. We gave them the shade of clouds, and sent down to them manna and quails, (saying): “Eat of the good things We have provided for you”: (but they rebelled); to Us, they did no harm, but they harmed their own souls.
Exodus 17: 1 to 6 narrate that when there was no water for the people to drink Allah asked Musa to take with him some of the elders of Israil and the staff with which he had struck the Red Sea. When Musa struck the rock, water poured out of it. Twelve springs for the twelve tribes of the Bani Israil gushed out from that rock, as each tribe wanted to have a separate spring for its use.
From the above, one can derive the importance of water and God’s commandments and miracles to the Prophets and his chosen ones to ensure their respective communities are provided with its use to sustain life as a universal principle since he is the Provider of all types of Sustenance. In short metaphorically one can say Water is life.
Muawiyah ibn Abu Sufyan (Moawiya) was ruling over Syria as its Governor for nearly sixteen (16) years, and was secretly planning to grab the Caliphate taking advantage of every possible opportunity. In the battle of Siffin, one can see a human approach by Imam Ali (as) even during the war in providing water even to those who were fighting him.
According to historical records, the soldiers of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (as) after removing the soldiers of Muawiyah ibn Abu Sufyan from Ghat( source of water ), asked his permission to prevent the enemy from taking water. Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (as) said, “Don’t deny them water. These are the methods of ignorant. I do not set my hands to such acts. They are human beings and though they have acted inhumanely yet I cannot follow their example and cannot refuse a man food and drink because he happens to be my worst enemy. I am going to start negotiation with them on the basis of the Holy Book of Allah (SWT). If they accept my proposals, well and good; and if they refuse, I shall fight with them, but gentlemanly not by denying them water. I will never do such thing and will not oppress them by a shortage of water.”