By Sadia Dehlvi
Dec 06, 2011
The month of Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar. This month is not celebrated because it marks the martyrdom of Imam Hussain at the battleground of Karbala in 680 AD. His mausoleum is in Karbala, southwest of Baghdad. Muslims hold assemblies to recall the brutal massacre of Imam Hussain and the righteous virtues for which the valiant martyr sacrificed his life.
Throughout centuries the historical events of Karbala have reflected the battle between good and evil, freedom and slavery, or between truth and falsehood.
On the night before the battle, Hussain gathered his men and told them that they were all free to leave the camp in the middle of the night, under the cover of darkness, rather than face a certain death if they stayed with him. None of Hussain’s men defected and they all remained with him. Hussain and his followers held a vigil and prayed throughout the night.
The enemies had cut off their food and water supply many days prior to the martyrdom. Imam Hussain’s camp, which included women and children, endured the sizzling hot temperatures without a drop of drinking water. During the battle, Imam Hussain witnessed the savage mutilation of his brother Abbas’s body, the killings of his nephew Quasim, his son Ali Akbar and his six-month-old baby boy, Ali Asghar.
All of Imam Hussain’s 72 companions died while fighting against a huge well-equipped army. In the end, the Prophet’s grandson was left alone, surrounded by enemies. He suffered a volley of arrows but fought bravely till his head was severed from his body, while he prostrated in prayer. The aftermath of the battle led to the humiliation of the women of Hussain’s camp. Their tents were looted and burnt, leaving the women to the mercy of the enemies. The captives were made to travel from Karbala to Syria.
Yazid, the caliph of that time, demanded allegiance from Imam Hussain. Yazid realised that the Muslim community otherwise would not accept his leadership. By refusing to pledge his loyalty to the tyrant ruler, Imam Hussain rose against those who acted falsely in the name of religion. His sacrifice drew the line between the real Islam and its false version as propagated by usurpers of power such as Yazid.
Imam Hussain fought the corrupt and oppressive leadership not for personal gain, but to reform the nation of his grandfather, the messenger of Islam.
Prophet Mohammad said: “My followers will not unite in supporting corruption.” He had also famously said, “I am from Hussain and Hussain is from me.”
Muharram literally means, “One that is sacred”, and is one of the four sacred Islamic months, where fighting is forbidden.
It is a time for spiritual renewal, for contemplating the great virtues of Imam Hussain and translating those moral and spiritual lessons into our own lives.
Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam.
Source: The Asian Age, New Delhi