By Rashid Samnakay, NewAgeIslam.com
This is the season of Muslim Religious “Passion”.
A community of Muslims on the other shore of the great divide of sectarian schism will express its unbridled sorrow in the streets of their towns and in their houses of worship during the next few days; commemorating the events that took place fourteen centuries ago and culminating in the legend of the martyrdom of the grandson and great grandson of the last messenger of God; at Karbala in Iraq --at the hands of a fellow Muslim’s army; who was contending for the glory of State Power!
There is a parallel to this passion in another comparative Religion, namely Christianity, where the event of over two thousand years ago, is also similarly commemorated at Easter, on Passover day.
The similarity however ends there in two significant aspects. Firstly the solemnity with which the people of that church conduct themselves during Easter, compared to the blood and gore of the other people. And secondly the accuracy of the events as narrated in the Gospel of Mark in particular, in the Bible is questioned theologically and even historically by scholars of Judaic Faiths quite openly; instead of it being considered as a taboo subject to question its validity by others.
In this context, it must be remembered that the Bible is a collection of a few selected Gospels, compiled long after the death of the main person Jesus Christ. Many of the disciples of his in the Bible were even separated in time and space from him.
Further, it is worth noting that the Catholic Church has made overtures lately to the Jews in absolving them of the heavy burden of guilt associated with crucifixion of Christ. Thus giving rise to some questions in perspective today; such as whether Jesus did even go to Jerusalem knowing what fate awaited him at the hands of his enemies?
Were his enemies the Jews or the Romans or both?
Was his ‘suffering’ theologically and or politically motivated? Etc.
In the context of Muslims, the legend of Muharram and ‘passion of Imam Hussein’, can one ask or discuss this dispassionately, rationally and historically in the context of Quran amongst the two main sects of Muslims? Erroneously called Shia and Sunni sects of ‘Islam’!
Erroneously because Islam derives its code – ad Deen from Quran and it says in verse—6-160: As to those who split up their religion (Deen) and become sects, have thou (Muhammad) nothing to do with them: their affair is with God only. Here after He shall tell them what they have done. (Ref. The Koran, translated in English by J.M. Rodwell, ISBN 10 1-8421-2609-1, The Oriental Institute, Oxford).
Hence, with reference to the verse given above, the question is asked as to whether there is the capacity even among the Muslims intellectuals and scholars on both sides of the divide to enter into a meaningful dialogue with an open mind? And whether the verse, along with other similar verses stressing the importance of a unified community of Muslim people to face the threats that beset it at the hands of the enemies? And whether acrimonious theological divisions such as we have had for centuries, lead to its destruction or not?
Let us consider the following in the light of the one Book that should bind us together.
References from it are considered unnecessary as people on this forum are well aware of what the Book says.
1- Investigate thoroughly prior to accepting a matter as fact.
2- “Contemplate” and use “intelligence” to arrive at a conclusion.
3- Only righteous acts of a person are of merit, and its judgment is with God.
4- The genealogy of a person is not a merit and elitism is frowned upon.
5- The very early and the first batch of Muslims were enemies to each other, but on acquiring Faith (Iman) were filled with love and their hearts were joined in unity
6- Taking one innocent life is akin to genocide and saving of one is akin to saving the whole nation.
In the light of the above, may not one ask then as to:
• how was it possible for Muslims to have slaughtered so many of their fellow Muslims?
• were there so many Muslims so early in the history of Muslims to be slaughtered?
• how then was it possible for them to have spread in the known world from East to West within the first century if they were busy battling and killing each other? And more!
Notwithstanding the fact that Jesus had appeared five centuries prior to Muhammad of Arabia, in the line of Divine Messengers, do we have to wait further five centuries to ‘reflect’ on the events as presented to us?
Hence the requirement to open our minds to scholarly enquiries:-
“Passion”, as given in one dictionary has such meanings as--‘the strong feeling or agitation of mind; esp. of rage, often sorrow…ardent love etc’.
With this in this mind one has to acknowledge these feelings of people amongst us, particularly the Shia Muslims at this month of Muharram. To divest oneself of the passion of Karbala and become dispassionate is perhaps to ask for the impossible from an ordinary person but perhaps not for a person open to inquiry, whether Shia or Sunni!
Rational”, Of reason: endowed with reason: sane: intelligent; judicious etc. This attribute to reflect bestowed on Humanity by all-Mighty God and its use by it is the requirement of Quran, given in many verses, such as one 34-45 extolling ‘reflection’ among ourselves.
Even Aristotle is quoted as having said---I can’t believe that the one who has given me intelligence would not want me to use it.
History: Along with other long list of meanings; some significant ones are: a systematic account of the events: the knowledge of past events: eventful life: a past of more than common interest etc.
The knowledge of past history of events of 10th of Muharram is so significantly of interest to us as community of Muslim-world, professedly adhering to the one Book of codes Quran; and yet so differently practiced as to cause acrimonious schism, unbridgeable even after almost fourteen centuries! --30-31: of those who have split up their religion (ad Deen) and have become sects, where every party rejoices in what is their own. (It is a limitation of English language to juxtapose Religion with the code Islam and we are all guilty of it!)
As a community we may not be rejoicing this season of “passion”, yet the one Book that extols us not to ‘split’ must also be expecting of us that we reflect upon the events of history and systematically analyse the eventful life of the person Imam Hussein who we believe is the core subject of this issue, and the roll our Religions, their thoughts, their Churches and their Clergy (all generic terms) have played in preventing the reconstruction of the bridge to get on the other side!
Logically therefore, it is difficult to believe that the person Imam Hussein, along with his elder brother, who as children is said to have played in the lap of their grandfather, and was nurtured by Imam ALI- the wise and brave; would have ever wished to be tainted with being a cause of such a calamitous split among their own people! Is it not appropriate to ask: :
Why did the elder brother react so differently compared to the younger in similar situation years before? One therefore must question the role of Imam Hassan who was closer in time to his grandfather.
Question also, we must, the theological History, which after all is always written with coloured vision of vested interests and very often passionately to protect that interest!
If rationality has any place in the Reconstruction of Religious Thoughts in Islam, then we should perhaps heed an insightful poet-Iqbal, who used two separate words of ‘Religion’ of Muslims (churches) and ‘Islam’ of the brotherhood of Quranic community of momin and suggested its reconstruction, perhaps too radically and therefore too difficult for us to act upon.
He has summed it by expressing a wish in his poem جمعيتِ اقوامِِ مشرق- viz:;-
ط ہران ھو گر عالمِ مشرق کا جنيوا If only Tehran were to be the Geneva of the East,
شايد کرۂٔ ارض کی تقدير بدل جاۓ May be the fate of the planet earth would be different!
How fortunate for him that the name of any geographic Muslim Religious Centre did not fit in the meter of the poem. Or was it a deliberate thought provoking and prodding line on his part for us to ‘contemplate’ upon?
Rashid Samnakay is an Indian-origin Engineer (Retd.) based in Australia for over forty years.