Muharram Insights

Sheikh Muhammad Khalfan 

(Qum, Iran)

Ardent Lovers
Whosoever wishes to learn the lesson of true love must reflect on the warriors of Karbala.  According to one account they were called ‘Ushshaaq by Amir al-mu’minin (‘a), which meant love for Allah had coiled their hearts. They sacrificed whatever they had to emancipate mankind forever.

Al-Husayn (‘a) is the Epitome of Religion
Khwaja Mu’in al-Din Chishti’s poetry touches the core of the heart when he says “DIN HAST HUSAYN” (Husayn is Religion itself). It informs us how sacred our love for and obedience to Husayn (‘a) is. The more our heart experiences attachment to this outstanding martyr, the more fortunate we must reckon ourselves to be. For Husayn is the epitome of religion. But this has a very important message for us: we must align our gatherings of lamentations with the revival of the spirit and love of religion. If we observe that these gatherings induce love for Islamic values and a towering resolution to be totally obedient to Allah, we must know that the true lesson of Husayn’s love is taught there. Every reflective human being therefore must inculcate this important message before attending lamentation ceremonies: DIN HAST HUSAYN…

Roots of the Lesser Battle
The spirit and root of the Lesser Jihad is the Greater Jihad of the soul. In order to decode the Revolution of Karbala it is imperative for us to decode the spirits of its participants. Those who had already won in the inner war which is the Greater Jihad were ready to sacrifice all what they had for the sake of the Only Beloved. But those who lost, had the audacity to commit the most heinous massacre history has ever recorded.

Characteristics of a True Reformer
Prior to his uprising, Imam al-Husayn (‘a) clearly stated the fundamental aim behind his uprising: Innama kharajtu litalab al-islaah fi ummati jaddi (“I only rose [against Yazid] to confer equilibrium to the nation of my grandfather”). And one who would like to confer equilibrium to a situation must enjoy the same himself first. Two of the most fundamental prerequisites of a muslih (reformer who affects equilibrium) according to the Holy Qur’an are: (1) Adhering to the Book of Allah, and (2) Establishing prayer. The Holy Qur’an in chapter 7, verse 170 says: “As for those who hold fast to the Book and maintain the prayer, indeed we do not waste the recompense of those who bring about reform.” Hence these two characteristics are essential for every reformer. It is interesting to note that when Imam al-Husayn (‘a) seeks permission on the 9th of Muharram for the night of ‘Ashura, he is reported to have said to his brother Abu al-Fadhl al-‘Abbas (‘a): “If you can divert them from us today, then do so; perhaps we can pray to our Lord this night, for He knows that I love salat (prayer) for His sake and the recitation of His Book. [Ref: Sayyid Radhi bin Tawus al-Hasani, Al-Luhuf, p.89]. Notice in these moments too the Imam (who indeed is a muslih) manifests the two fundamental requisites of a reformer.

The Question of Victory
Speakers in Muharram sometimes discuss the question of victory in the battle of Karbala. After asking who actually won, they say that despite the apparent loss met by Imam al-Husayn (‘a) and his loyal companions, they were the ultimate winners. I personal feel that such a question is incorrect: It is only when Imam al-Husayn (‘a) appears in Karbala for the sole purpose of apparently defeating Yazid in that particular physical battle that this question comes about. We already know that the fundamental purpose why Imam al-Husayn (‘a) rose was to affect reform in the Muslim community and revive the Islamic values therein. And in order to achieve this, he was ready to give all whatever he had in the path of the Beloved. He was prepared to suffer all the sufferings that he met for the revival of religion in which he knew was the eternal salvation of mankind. And by his supreme sacrifice he managed to wake the slumbering masses and kindle the spirit of Islam and thus did achieve what he rose for. Hence he won for what he actually fought!

Safeguarding Religion
It is crystal clear that Imam al-Husayn (‘a) and his loyal companions fought valiantly to safeguard the religion of Islam and ensure the continuity of its intact form among the Muslims. They revealed their towering resolution of being ready to sacrifice everything for the realization of this great endeavor. When we commemorate their martyrdom we often allude to this important point and remind ourselves about its fundamental significance.

Today we are faced with circumstances that signal the distortion of Islam. One of the major forces that always inculcates wrong information about the true visage of Islam is the distorting media: in showing some so-called Muslims engaging in indescribable acts of terror they disseminate the message that Islam is a religion of terrorism. When Islam is taught in universities a substantial number of the professors teaching it are neither Muslims nor have a genuine understanding of the intact version of Islam. A group of simpletons who call themselves Muslims instead of uniting with the rest of the Muslims are overtaken to perpetually cause rifts between them through different Satanic machinations. These are only three of the several examples of distortion of the true picture of Islam.

If we really endeavor to revive the true visage of Islam, we must through the guidance of the authorities and experts of Islam employ the different means of propagation and remove the ambiguities spread by the enemies of Islam and inculcate the true message of peace, wisdom, bravery, chastity, philanthropy, human perfection, etc. that Islam always propagates. One who seriously undertakes this, has truly said, Labbayk Ya Husayn!

The Universal Dimension of Karbala
One of the very significant dimensions of the Karbala Revolution is its universal aspect. Although it transpired during a certain time, in a particular place, and with specific people, it has a timeless message. In some of the traditions we are informed that even the past prophets of Allah remembered Imam al-Husayn (‘a) and cursed those who would martyr him. The Husayni spirit can therefore be an example for every true-seeking human being. The well-known dictum “kull yawmin ‘Ashura wa kullu ardhin Karbala” (Every day is ‘Ashura, and every land is Karbala) alludes to this very dimension of this great movement.

Practical Commentary of the Qur’an
In light of the well-known narration of thaqalayn (two weighty things) which has been narrated successively both by the Shi’ah as well as the Sunni narrators of hadith, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) are referred to as being the ‘idl al-Qur’an (peers of the Qur’an). Hence, Imam al-Husayn (‘a), who is among the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) likewise is a peer of the Qur’an. He is the vocal and practical book of Allah. Every thought, move, and aspiration from him is Qur’anic and serves as the practical commentary of the Holy Qur’an. The uprising of Imam al-Husayn (‘a) and his entire movement, therefore, is nothing but a practical translation and commentary of the Qur’an. Therefore, as we are told to reflect upon the written book, we must also reflect on the microcosmic book of al-Husayn (‘a).

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