In the Name of Allah, the All-Beneficent, the All-Merciful.
May Allah bless Muhammad and his Family and damn their enemies.
As Muslims, [we believe that] the Holy Qur’an represents a great challenge to all different paths and ideologies. The Qur’an is the eternal miracle [of Islam] that no one has been able to – or will ever be able to – replicate. No matter how much you read it, learn it and contemplate its words, The Qur’an will always remain relevant, evocative and constantly evolving.
One can read any other book, once or twice, but will soon get bored, lose interest and probably not feel the need to reread it. Should you decide to reread it, you will not find it that beneficial. It will not add anything to your knowledge since you have fully absorbed the book’s content. The Qur’an is the exception – whoever grasps it, no matter how many times they have read it, will still find it relevant and prestigious. They will constantly feel the need to read it, ponder and reflect on it. This is because every time the Qur’an is read, new and valuable information is derived from it.
For instance, a new astonishing discovery could be made from a verse that you have personally read tens of times. That’s why we see that Qur’anic exegesis is an ongoing study, lasting over fourteen hundred years. It remains the focus of discussion amongst scholars, scientists, researchers, and thinkers – including non-Muslims.
This glorious book is the miracle of our religion. We have the right to present our holy book as a challenge to the nations. We also have the right to view Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) as another miracle of our faith and present his cause as a challenge to others.
One must wonder why.
Even though the battle of Karbala was one of the shortest battles and wars, lasting no more than a portion of one day and resulting in the death of no more than 100 people, the battle turned into a major global issue, garnering interest at all times, not just during the month of Muharram.
For 1400 years, the message of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) has remained a source of inspiration to millions and millions of people throughout history. People feel as if [the tragedy] has just occurred before their eyes. No matter how many times they contemplate the story of Karbala, hear or discuss its tragic details, their interest in it remains fresh, just as their interest would not wane no matter how often they gaze upon the words of the Holy Qur’an.
What is the secret to this [connection]? Why has the battle of Karbala, in particular, which is considered simple compared to other major battles with greater death tolls, gained much more global interest and [continuous] reaction, even from non-Muslim individuals? To the extent that many shed their own blood on the day of ‘Ashura in [commemoration] of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him)?
Why is Imam Hussain’s name upon every tongue? Why do we always discover new astonishing facts and gain new insights whenever we are presented with the story of Karbala or review its tragic details?
The answer can only be that Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) is a miracle of Islam, a miracle that is comparable to the Holy Qur’an.
Indeed, Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) is a living, eternal miracle. Just like the Holy Qur’an, Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) continues to amaze people. And Just as there is no book as influential as the holy Qur’an, there is also no cause as influential as the cause of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him).
Once known and understood, Imam Hussain’s cause (peace be upon him) leaves a profound impact on the soul. His cause is deeply moving once people realise the greatness of the sacrifices made by this man for the sake of truth, freedom and dignity.
Many wars have taken place throughout history, many individuals have made sacrifices, and many have been oppressed. However, they have all faded into obscurity, hardly even remembered. And even when these individuals are remembered, they are usually remembered in a limited, controlled and passionless manner. For instance, people might assemble at the burial site of a particular symbol of their belief or ideology on the day of their demise, place a bouquet of flowers on their tombstone, and remain there for a minute of silence, and that is about it.
However, for Imam Hussain (peace be upon him), one should ask themselves: ‘Does a single day go by without ceremonials being held around the globe, commemorating the great symbol that Imam Hussain is (peace be upon him)?’
During the month of Muharram and Safar, when people head towards Karbala, throng [in their millions] before his holy shrine, where they perform the mourning rituals on a scale unparalleled by any other, [ask yourself] have you ever witnessed this many people gathering at any other person’s shrine?
Has there been any other cause that received greater, global attention in such an astonishing manner other than the cause of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him)?
What would make a Chinese man, as an example, mourn for the tragedy of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) the same way a Canadian man would? What would make an African man weep for the loss of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) in the same manner a Russian man would?
Various ceremonial gatherings (i.e. Majalis) are held in all parts of the world during the month of Muharram by individuals who do not belong to the Arabian, Hashimi lineage of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) or have any kinship with him whatsoever. Regardless, they still see Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) as their main role model. They hold ceremonial gatherings, commemorating him and beat themselves upon his loss.
I was [once] told by the founder of Sayed al-Shuhada (peace be upon him) organisation in Kuwait that he had gone, during the 90s, to one of the African countries seeking to preach the religion of Islam and Shi’ism. He had initially thought that there would be no Shi’a in that country. However, he later realised that there existed an isolated village in the middle of the African forest that would take him [about] a day and a half to reach due to bad road conditions. The roads were unpaved, there were no phone lines, no electricity, or any signs of civilised life.
When he arrived there, he was surprised by the fact that the village inhabitants were all Shi’a Muslims. However, due to the factors of time and isolation, their religious awareness had gradually faded away. [Surprisingly] the only thing that remained there was an old flag labelled “O’ Hussain”, and the only thing that remained etched into their minds was Imam Hussain (peace be upon him). And that is why they cried loudly in their language: “O’ Hussain. O’ Hussain. O’ Hussain.”
Indeed, you can never find any other individual or cause having such influence and impact. Therefore, we can confidently say that Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) is indeed an eternal miracle of the sacred religion of Islam.
Historians narrate that a companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his pure family), known as Anas Ibn al-Harith al-Kahili al-Asadi, had heard the Prophet (peace be upon him and his pure family) say that his grandson, Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) would be martyred in a location known as ‘Karbala’ in Iraq. Those martyred alongside him are granted a high status in paradise, and those who are not will certainly be filled with great remorse.
Upon hearing that, he decided to leave everything behind and head towards the land of Karbala, an uninhabited desert at that time, where he pitched a tent and lived there alone for a long time so that he would not miss the privilege of being martyred alongside Imam Hussain (peace be upon him).
Some people from nearby villages used to go animal hunting in Karbala and notice Anas’s tent. They would make their way towards the tent, convey their Salam and question why he lived there by himself. He used to reply:
I am Anas Ibn al-Harith al-Asadi, a companion of the Holy Prophet. I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his pure family) saying Hussain (peace be upon him) is to be martyred here. I live here because I might meet him and die alongside him!
Indeed, by the time Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) arrived in Karbala, this man was very old. He tied a bandage across his forehead to keep his eyebrows in position so that they do not cover his eyes. He was the first to meet Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) and amongst the first to be killed on the day of ‘Ashura. In the holy Ziyarat of Nahiya, Imam Mehdi’s ode to the martyrs of Karbala, we see that Imam Mehdi (peace be upon him) mentions this great man and conveys his Salam upon him too.
Where else would you find such [an example] of love, sacrifice, loyalty, and devotion to such a symbol? Indeed, this is what makes Imam Hussain’s cause exceptional in all aspects. Since Imam Hussain’s martyrdom (peace be upon him), the world has not witnessed a moment of calm.
The conflict between truth and falsehood, justice and injustice, humanity and brutality is ongoing. Today we can clearly see the victory of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) and the victory of those who believed in his message and teachings. We can also clearly see the defeat of Yazid (May the wrath of Allah be upon him) and the defeat of those who followed in his footsteps.
There is a narration attributed to Imam Zain al-’Abideen (peace be upon him). The essence of this narration is that after Imam Hussain’s martyrdom (peace be upon him) and his companions, there were only three Shi’a individuals left on earth. The rest were all followers of Yazid and the sons of Ummayah.
Now, what do we see? From three individuals to about half a billion Shi’a Muslims on earth today, all scream with one voice: “O Hussain”! Whereas the path of Yazid and Bani Ummayah – rather, the path of Abu Bakr and Umar is [losing followers] day by day.
Every day, more people are being guided by the message of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) and his teachings. They declare their conversion to Shi’a Islam. Has it ever reached you that a Shi’a individual converted to the religion of Yazid, or even the religion of Abu Bakr and Umar? Have you ever heard of a person declaring his disassociation from the pure Household of the Prophet (peace be upon them) and befriending Abu Bakr, Umar and A’isha instead?
Why do Shi’a Muslims increase in number and the followers of other sects constantly dwindle? How have they managed to increase from three to millions upon millions of followers? And on the other hand, where are the million followers of Yazid?
There can only be one answer: Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) and his followers have attained victory and prosper to this very day, while Yazid and his followers are no more.
I will conclude my speech with two narrations attributed to Imam Hussain (peace be upon him). I have chosen these two particular narrations because most of you have not heard of them. As to why you have not heard of them, that is, unfortunately, due to the fact that our lecturers hardly mention them because they do not want to hurt the feelings of the followers of the other sects. However, I believe that it is one of our religion’s obligatory duties to no longer shy away from revealing Imam Hussain’s narrations (peace be upon him) just because some might refuse to accept them.
These two narrations reveal Imam Hussain’s stance (peace be upon him) towards Abu Bakr, Umar and A’isha. It is crucial that people are aware of that. It is as important as knowing what stance Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) has taken on Mu’awiya and Yazid. Why do we limit ourselves to mentioning what Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) has said regarding Mu’awiya and Yazid? Why do we not pay as much attention to what he has said of Abu Bakr, Umar and A’isha?
The first narration was reported by one of our greatest, ancient scholars, Sheikh Abu al-Salah al-Halabi (May Allah be pleased with him), in his well-known book, Taqreeb al-Ma’arif. This book was considered reliable by many of our scholars, including al-Allamah al-Majlisi (May Allah be pleased with him).
Sheikh al-Halabi narrated that when Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) was asked about his stance on Abu Bakr and Umar, he answered [along the lines of]:
’By Allah, they have usurped our right, trod on our necks, and allowed people to sit atop our shoulders [they have allowed people to commit injustice towards us]. Verily, Allah shall punish them an intense punishment on Judgment Day, when people request our mediation.
The second narration has been reported by our great scholar al-Kulaini (May Allah be pleased with him) in al-Kafi, one of the most authentic Shi’a books.
Al-Sheikh al-Kulaini narrated that Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) confronted A’isha when she had gone out to strike Imam al-Hassan’s coffin with arrows at the time of his burial [along the lines of]:
A long time ago, you and your father had disregarded the privacy of the Messenger of Allah. You brought to his house those whose nearness he did not want. Allah will hold you responsible for this, O’ A’isha.” To which A’isha replied: “Take your son away from my house; you are contentious people.
These two narrations reveal Imam Hussain’s (peace be upon him) position towards these inimical characters. Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) made it crystal clear that Abu Bakr, Umar and A’isha had usurped the rights of Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them) and caused them immense harm. And for their acts, they shall face their inescapable doom on the Day of Judgment.
Thus, the battle of Karbala was not merely a battle against Mu’awiya, Yazid and Bani Ummayah – it was a battle against Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and A’isha as well.
The Office of Sheikh al-Habib