The Magnificent Attributes of Al Hussain: The compassionate and an unyielding warrior

The writer, Alhaj Murtaza Somji (Nairobi, Kenya) is an entrepreneur, optometrist, 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


Fifty years since the passing of the Holy Prophet [PBuH] – The moral fiber of the society seemed to be fastened on the precipice of craggy peaks; starring directly at an abysmal abyss. Morality had taken a body blow; the political and ethical ecosystem was suddenly devoid of a barometer. Leadership had become the preserve of the perverts; religiosity had unhinged and was plummeting to that which was beyond the pale.

Ifsaad [Malice & Mischief] had taken center-stage, Impunity was at its peak; giving rise to systemic lack of integrity, disregard for the law and the pandering to politicians was giving rise to sycophancy and tyranny. The robust palette of Human morality was fast losing its hues and was at its lowest ebb. It was indeed an era of ethical bankruptcy, turning Religion into a shameful charade of dishonor and infamy.

The Awakening:

There rose a man who decided to turn the page, expose the maladies and change the face of History. He led a caravan of the few but that which was mammoth in conviction and commitment. He was Al Hussain A.S – A murmuring stream of knowledge, a radiant light, the apparent and the inherent; and the savior of Humanity.

His intention was very simple – Islaah Reformation, Restoration and the manifestation of the message brought forth by the last Messenger of Allah SWT.  Adopting a non-confrontational approach, He stirred souls by arousing curiosity, awakening those who were comatose, or in a slumber or just having a siesta. Thus, he nurtured a spark of virtue into a flame of wisdom.

The Aftermath:

After the massacre, the caravan consisting mainly of women & children was made to trek to Kufa – A journey of about 100 odd kilometers; covered hurriedly in 4 days on bareback camels and horses. Onwards to Damascus from there; and the humiliation continued. The caravan of captives faced ridicule by being paraded through towns and settlements, on a route that was undignified and treacherous. However, this brutalizing torment gave rise to pivotal and crucial sermons by Lady Zaynab A.S., and created awareness that shook the foundations of the wretched Umayyad dynasty. The Majalises, laden with magnificent words of eloquence revealed the reality, created a revolution and triumphed over the atrocities of immoral and despotic rulers. Soon, the caravan of captives started becoming the Caravan of Pride.

The extended repercussion of this tragedy is witnessed in the world even today; reverberating across Humanity as a whole. The lessons derived are immeasurable and have lit up the pages of History across the universal divide.  Such deep-seated is this miracle that apart from Millions marching from Najaf to Karbala, the daily converts to Islam are a nascent testimony of the impact the immortal sacrifice of Al Hussain and his followers created on the plains of Karbala.

The Impact:

The time is ripe to take the lessons gained from this monolithic movement onto the next level.
The time is ripe to reinvent our approach and impact the new generations through different versions. The time is now.

It has been observed that the emotional quotient is one of the biggest tools our Community hinges on to; while the quotient of intelligence is made to observe from the periphery, mainly because they give workable solutions and are direct in their approach. The unlettered seem to have taken centerstage leadership and the educated have nestled into remote comfort zones.

Change however, pivots on a clear Vision, Strategy and requires the hand of time. There is need to dive deep into the How’s and Why’s. The path to evolve and recreate the impact has to start at the grassroot level by allowing the following to act as our guide beacons.

  • Re defining Vision: Enrich the current version by launching a Five-year strategy plan to nurture the goals enshrined within.
  • Establish Centers of Excellence across all divides: Having rigorously encouraged secular education through sponsorships and loans, the LDP initiative etc, we now need to focus on instituting institutional Islamic based learning; emphasizing on Leadership courses. Structured discipline, judicial governance and a code of ethics should be the pre-requisites of the post one holds as a leader. This will create parity, equity, equality and impartiality. Leadership needs to be distinguished by statesmanship, Integrity and flexibility of purpose.
  • Promoting Qur’anic teachings:  by transforming them into the nectar of our everyday life.
  • Giving credence to our Pulpits:  Scholars need to have an informed understanding of the current situation within the Community and re-strategizing their approach in looping in the populace. Conversely, they also need to be recognized, remunerated and celebrated appropriately.  
  • Recognizing:  that Blind faith, cultural dogmas and herd mentality have rendered us bereft of our main objectives. The attributes of Islaah for which Al Hussain A.S. & his followers sacrificed their lives; need to be practiced religiously.
  • Invite & Involve:  intellectuals and technocrats to actually re-invent the wheel and suggest innovative methodology to develop the correct infrastructure. This will help develop communal interest that will in turn impact the lives of our children and youngsters.
  • Embrace & Enhance:  dialogue, participation and camaraderie. Shun egoism & heal the wounds.
  • Be Transparent: Come Clean on our activities, especially in the electoral processes. There is no room for bickering and tussling over the seat of service; especially if it is honorary. It must be remembered that we serve for the pleasure of the Almighty and none other.  
  • Identify & Amend: Fault lines and rush to amend them through consultation and discourse.

The above pointers are part of a broad-based strategy that needs to be looked into by our institutions.  Practical timelines are essential to achieve the identified goals. While the task may seem enormous; a start in the right direction will yield results suitable to our upcoming generations. Divine Blessings will surely propel noble intentions.   

To capture such a vast and perpetual miracle in print passages is almost impossible, however, the author has tried to keep it brief, presented fleeting episodes of the scenarios and has identified action points that will need Vision, Wisdom and Dedication. With HIS Mercy; this should create the desired Impact of the sacrifice of Martyrs of Karbala.

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About the author

Born in Tanga in 1959 in a humble family background, Alhaj Murtaza Somji studied at the Minto Ophthalmic Hospital in Bangalore, India to qualify as an Ophthalmic Optician. He then worked in Dubai as a senior optometrist for three years and finally settled in Kenya in 1989. He established his optical practice in Westlands –an upmarket suburb of Nairobi and has been operating as Eyestyle Opticians Limited since then.

Community service had been ingrained in his life from childhood as he regularly volunteered for Tanga Jamaat during his young age. After migrating to Nairobi and studying the Nairobi Jamaat dynamics, he assumed Governorship of the Golden Crescent Group in 1996. This led to bigger opportunities and he rose to the position of assistant Hon. Secretary of the Jamaat and then on to the post of the Hon. Secretary and finally served as the Chairman of SAAJ from 2004 to 2008. Prior to that he had taken up posts in the AF Sports Festival organizing committee, Africa Federation Education Board, Hon. Secretary - Nairobi Jaffery Education Board and more recently as a Board Member of a local NGO CHEPs. He has also had the honor of serving as the Hon. Trustee of Nairobi Jamaat, committee member of Housing Project Committee Nairobi and finally as the Chairman of the Nairobi Jaffery Education Board.

Murtaza Somji has also had the prestigious honor of serving the Ahlulbayt through his renditions of Manqabat, Naath and Merthiyas and continues to contribute to the general good of the Community at large.

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