The writer, Abdulhussein Tejani (Dubai, UAE) is a Change Architect in Leadership and HR and has been involved in many capacities in the community and through pro bono work with youths.
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
Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish Philosopher, wrote,” The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins,” highlights one of the most important facets of Karbala.
The supreme sacrifice lives on today in our hearts, mind and soul.
Or does it?
Is it a commemoration of a ritual that we go through yearly? The evolution of how we commemorate Karbala over the years has evolved to encompass a depth of understanding beyond the event itself. We no longer look at it superficially. The children today have a better connection as to why Imam Hussein undertook such a monumental step to stand up to Yazid compared the repeated recollection of the events which also continues to serve a purpose to date.
And yet this deeper understanding brings about questions that we never dared asked in the past. Fortunately, the dimensions of the sacrifice go beyond the commemoration, the cultural significance as well as regurgitation.
There were far reaching lessons that extend in the realms of social interaction – the responsibilities of self-versus tyranny, self-versus friends and relatives and more importantly self-versus one’s older version of oneself.
We live in a world today that values individualism, greed, and instantaneous gratification. It took a micro-organism that cannot even be seen by the naked eye to put humans in a place that allows them to realize that there is a power that extends beyond the realms of humanistic comprehension. Has that realization sunk in? I doubt it. Are lessons being learnt? I surely hope so.
It is time to find a win-win situation. We (traditionalists and modernists) can no longer be at loggerheads with each other.
Before we go there, I would like to examine the three social responsibilities that I alluded to above.
Self-versus Tyranny: There is probably more tyranny today than there was in those days. And yet the challenge is that we are happy to pay lip service and say that “may ours be sacrificed for you” and yet the sacrifices that are asked of us today versus tyranny is seen as being a price too high to pay. Tyranny at the minutest level is still Tyranny! A simplistic approach would be to pray for those down-trodden and help in what little way we can and more importantly we are Husseini to those around us. If you cannot vocalize, then teach, educate and live a life that would make you feel that you can face the questioning on the day of judgment. We need to remember that some battles are won subtly.
Self-versus Friends and Relatives: Are we conscientious enough to ensure that we are not putting down those that are within our sphere of influence? Don’t be it. Let us not become the very manifestation that we abhor yearly during our commemoration. Do we inquire about relatives and friends; do we offer help; do we maintain relations despite the circumstances! Unfortunately, the scope seems vast given the spread across the world. Yet we have at our finger tips the ability to connect to the whole world. Yet we use it to further individualistic causes. Worse still when we do good, we want to the whole world to know about it. The pandemic has shown us how we miss our loved ones and yet now when the opportunity presents itself, it is not taken up. Have we not lost enough people? Has our compassion died a slow death? What will happen to us when our kids sow what we reap? It’s ironic how we ignore the ones that adore us, adore the ones that ignore us, hurt the ones that love us, and love the ones that hurt us.