Contributed by Muslim Bhanji,
One of the amazing things about the month of Muharram is the fact that people whom you don’t see in the Imambargah during the entire year, show up. They take out time from their busy schedules and come dressed in black to attend the majlis of Imam al-Husayn (a.s.).
But why do we feel so compelled to attend these Majalis? Is it just to provide condolences to Bibi Fatimah (s.a.)?
How does the second sentence make Bibi Fatimah (s.a.) sound? An extremely Patient woman, the Best of all Women in the entire Universe, the Princess of the Day of Judgement, and yet we make her sound like she still needs condolences from sinners like us?!
We need to understand that we are not attending the Majlis for Bibi Fatimah (s.a.). You may argue that Bibi Fatimah (s.a.) is said to collect our tears in her handkerchief, and so the tears are for her, but don’t these tears become the light of our own graves and a shade for us on the Day of Judgment?
These Majalises are meant to be a revival for our dead hearts and an awakening for our drowsy souls. Yes, we do need to console Bibi Fatimah (s.a.), to show her that we too, care about what happened to Imam Husayn (a.s.) and the rest of her family but that is not the only reason we attend majlis.
Karbala happened to wake up the sleeping Ummah, to show them the difference between right and wrong and then to ask them which side they were on? The side of people who called out: Be quick in the slaughter of the grandson of The Prophet of Allah, we must pray the Asr Salah! Or on the side of the Imam (a.s.)?
Muharram comes every year to remind us of the tragedy, and then asks us the same question. So let’s see how well my Azadari prepares me to be able to answer it.
I attend a Majlis every night, in which I’m dressed completely in black. I listen to each and every word the Zaakir says, I weep profusely when he talks about the Masaib that fell on my Imam (a.s.) and take part in the Matam too. When I go home that night, it’s 1:00 am, and I remember what the Zaakir had said about the importance of Namaaze shab, such that Bibi Zainab (s.a.) recited it, even in the prison of Shaam! I consider praying it.
“Hmm.. Nah, tonight I’m not up to it.” So I get into bed, forget everything the Zaakir said, and fall asleep.
That is the Azadari of almost each and every Shia on the face of this Earth today and I’m sure you can tell, something isn’t right here..
If you really want to know what true Azadari is, let’s go to Shaam, where the very foundations of Azadari were laid. The first time a Majlis was ever held, was not by Bibi Zainab (s.a.) after they were freed from prison. Rather, it was those stories Bibi Sakina (s.a.) would tell the little children while she was in the prison. The children’s hearts were moved by what they heard and they went and told their mothers, who also started to listen to what Bibi Sakina (s.a.) had to say. Bibi Sakina (s.a.) would tell the women of Shaam the story of Karbala, They realized what actually happened to the family of Aba Abdillah (a.s.) and it wasn’t fair and every word of the Majlis by Bibi Sakina (s.a.) was taking its toll on the conscience of the women of Shaam.
And when this little Princess left this world, the ladies of Shaam, because they had done Azadari, a true Azadari, one which heated their blood and flamed their hearts, went out and spoke against Yazid and because of the fear that their protests and “INTERNAL AWAKENING” would topple his throne, the Ahlul Bayt were set free. This is Azadari!
There was a lecture, there was the story of Karbala, there was mourning and there was weeping. There were listeners, but what it did to the hearts of the women of Shaam and what it does to our hearts today, is something totally different.
Unfortunately, Azadari now is all about crying, and thinking about it. If all the women of Shaam would have just cried over Bibi Sakina (s.a.)’s death, the Ahlul Bayt would never have been released that quick.
We need to understand that when our Imams (a.s.) insisted that we remember Imam al-Husayn (a.s.), when our Holy Prophet (s.a.w.w.) said he’d intercede for those who cried over his grandson, this was the type of crying and Azadari they had in mind, one that would move us to such an extent, that our insides burn and flare, and that we get so affected by what Imam al-Husayn (a.s.) did, and by what happened to him, that until we change what is wrong, we can’t rest in peace.
And that change doesn’t have to be marches and protests on the road. Every single one of us has a battle going on within us, every second of every moment of every hour of each day.
When we believe that we come to the Majalis, just so that our tears can heal Bibi Fatimah (s.a.)’s broken heart, that is all we do. We don’t bother taking Azadari to the next step, the actual reason why we have been commanded to remember Imam al-Husayn (a.s.) in the first place.
It has been mentioned in the Holy Qur’an: “Verily, those who disbelieved after their Belief and then went on increasing in their disbelief (i.e. disbelief in the Qur’an and in Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) – never will their repentance be accepted (because they repent only by their tongues and not from their hearts). And they are those who are astray.” (3:90)
If we feel that crying and lamenting is enough, and if we don’t bring about a change from within, the tears are valueless no matter how many they may be. The Ayah above clearly tells us that the repentance of the people will not be accepted because it is just on their tongues, why then will our Azadari be accepted if it’s just in our tears??
How do we let these Majalises have the same effect on us that they had on the women of Shaam? The only way we can change the ritualistic Azadari into something more effective, is by changing how you listen to the Majlis. When you hear about how sweet death was to Hadhrat Qasim (a.s.), what goes through your mind? Do you just cry over that statement in the heat of the moment and then forget about it? Or do you ask yourself what your own feelings on death are? If you’re scared of dying, does the statement of Hadhrat Ali Akbar (a.s.) come to mind; the one in which he tells his father that if they were on the right path, it didn’t matter whether death came to them or they went to death. So if you ARE scared, does it mean you’re indulging in sins? If so, WHY?? Didn’t Imam al-Husayn (a.s.) sacrifice everything he had so that you get the true Islam and yet you’re sinning??…
Just imagine: If one line of the Majlis can bring such a train of thoughts into your mind, what can twelve days of constant reminding and advising do?!
Why do you cry over the Hijab of Bibi Zainab (s.a.)? Do you interact with Na-Mahram for no reason? If it’s a must for you to do so, is that how much care you take when you do interact with them? Or are you relaxed? Look at yourself in the mirror before you leave the house? Is this the Hijab the women of Karbala would ever be seen wearing? If not, why are you wearing it? How can you cry over a tragedy which hurts the hearts of the Ahlul Bayt, yet do the same thing which caused them that pain in the first place? What kind of Azadari do you do??
Imam al-Husayn (a.s.) sacrificed himself and his family so that we get the religion of Islam in one piece with no alterations and by adhering to its rules and regulations, we can get into Jannat. If we just live our lives with no care and concern, hoping that the intercession of the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) will save us, Imam al-Husayn (a.s.)’s sacrifice becomes pointless because we’re not following the religion he saved! It’s sad how we fail to understand that..
Let us always keep in mind that Azadari is important. Remembering Imam al-Husayn (a.s.) is important. Not letting this annual tradition slip away or be forgotten in our future generations is also as important. But actually following what the Imam (a.s.) died for, is the most important of all…
In Ya’subood deen, Mulla Saleh Mazandarani (son-in-law of Allama Majlisi) explains that everything we do, how we think, what we eat, what we wear, all affect our souls. A sick person will not get the taste of a nice warm plate of khichro even if it is served with green and red chutney. He will not feel like eating it. Only when he recovers, he will be able to enjoy the food. Similarly, if our souls are weak then our Namaz and Azadari is not going to affect us.
May Allah (s.w.t.) help us to act upon the message of Imam al-Husayn (a.s.). Ameen.