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Muharram, Kerbala & Imam Hussain (as)           Inform others-use this Article esp for non muslims

Think not of those who are slain in God's way as dead. Nay, they are living, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord (Qur'an 3:169)


Imam Hussain was the grandson of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, through his daughter, Lady Fatima and son-in-law, Imam Ali, peace be upon them all.  

In less than half a day on the 10th of Muharram ( Ashura)  in the year 680 A.D. (61 A.H.), on the hot desert sands of Karbala in Iraq, Imam Hussain(as), and 72 of his family members, friends and followers, including his 6 month old infant son, were martyred under most gruesome circumstances. These included His brother Hazrat Abbas (as) the standard bearer, His young 18 yr old son Ali Akber & his 4 year old daughter Sakina who died while in prison in Damascus. The Oppressive ruler; Yazid son of Mu'awiya son of Abu Sufiyan & his very large army of over 30,000 men, committed these heinous crimes against the small group which included the household of the Prophet. Lady Zainub (sister of Imam Hussain)  also played a key role especially subsequent to the battle to inform people of the truth.

The group, including the six-month infant Ali Asgar, was without food and water for 3 days before their martyrdom. Ali Asgar was martyred thirsty in his father's arms when his tender throat was pierced by a three-pointed poisoned arrow, while his father implored the tyrants to allow water to the infant, after all his other companions were martyred at their hands.

Imam Hussain resolved to defend his thirsty entourage from the killer army’s onslaught, rather than submit to their forcible extraction of allegiance to a criminal despotic regime which used the  name of Islam. He was going to stand to his principle to defend True Islam, even though he might be the last man standing with no support, no help.

The martyrs were beheaded & their heads were put on spears, while their corpses were trampled upon and left unburied. The ordeal did not stop at this as the women and children in the Imam's entourage were held captives and tortured while being led on an arduous journey to Damascus to be paraded and later imprisoned . The only male survivor was Imam Zainul Abideen (as) son of Imam Hussain (as) who was ill at that time, yet chained & repeatedly beaten. He subsequently wrote a 'Treatise on Rights' & a monumental prayer book called Sahifa Kamila ( see

In the history of Islam, alHusayn ibn 'Ali, the martyr of Karbala, wrote one of the most brilliant chapters; a chapter which still and after more than fourteen centuries, echoes in the minds and hearts of Muslims everywhere. It is remarked by a modern Muslim writer that 'With every Karbala Islam is renewed'.

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) considered the greatest British historian of his time. Wrote “In a distant age and climate the tragic scene of the death of Hussein will awaken the sympathy of the coldest reader."  [The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, London, 1911, volume 5, pp. 391-2] 

Each year during the first Islamic month of Moharram and upto 40 days (Arbaeen) thereafter, mourning sessions are held  all over the world, wherein the trials and tribulations of these martyrs are recounted, mourned and lamented, while expounding the values and teachings upheld by them. These practices are an institution in themselves and are being continuously held for the past 14 centuries.       

The Martyrdom is unique and unparalleled in a number of ways, the most obvious of all being its sacrifices from - men, women and children of all age groups, every conceivable human relationship, rich and poor, noblemen and slaves, military commanders and commoners, and individuals coming from different specters of human society.


Imam Hussain(as), his family and friends sacrificed everything ( life ,wealth, family honor)  that they had ,in their struggle against tyranny and despotism and for upholding the human values of truth, justice and liberty of thought, word and deed. Their struggle was aimed at the ultimate goal of awakening human beings of all times to uplift the human spirit beyond short-sighted materialistic pursuits, and establish a just and equitable order in society. 

Imam Hussain wrote a will and handed it over to his brother Muhammad Hanafiyyah.  The will read, ‘’I have not risen against Yazid in order to create corruption or discord, nor to elevate myself in the eyes of the people, nor to oppress.’’ Innama kharajtu litalabil islahi fi ummati jaddi wa abi’’ I have only risen to rectify, to reform the affairs of the Ummah of my grandfather and of my father. ‘’Uridu ‘an aamura bil ma’ruf wa anha ‘anil munkar.’’ I want to invite people towards good and forbid them from evil.’’  

 Yazid the oppressive ruler openly indulged in sinful activities like drinking, womanizing, terrorizing /killing innocent people, making fun of scholars etc & yet claimed to be rightful successor /leader of Islam & the Muslim ummah. The silent majority scared and terrified by the overflowing military might and power, did nothing about this. 

Yazid demanded that Imam Hussain (as) pay allegiance (bay'aa) to him. When asked to give bay’aa to Yazid, Imam Hussain said, ‘’ We are the household of the prophet hood, the source of messengership, the descending place of the angels, through us Allah had begun showering His favours, whereas Yazid is a sinful person, a drunkard, the killer of innocent people and one who openly indulges in sinful acts. ‘Mithli la yubayi’u mithlah’. A person like me can never do bay’aa(pay allegiance) to a person like him (Yazid).   I look upon death as but the felicity of martyrdom and I regard life among oppressors and transgressors as nothing but agony and torture.  By God I will never give you my hand like a man who has been defeated; nor will I flee like a slave.’’

He rejected the rule of a man who was generally agreed not to have been fit to rule. In this sense he was a revolutionary, as indeed he is now regarded by contemporary writers.


The event is of great significance because of what this martyrdom meant for the religion of Islam in exposing the wrong and upholding the right through the sharp contrast between him and his followers on the one hand and his antagonists on the other.

 Mahatma Gandhi in 1924 writing in ‘Young India’’ about the battle of Karbala said among other things ‘’ I wanted to know the best of the life of one who holds today an undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind….the utter self-effacement of Hussain, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission to save Islam.’

 The Martyrdom has also prompted a vast body of literature in a multitude of languages all over the world, a phenomenon that continues to this day. Outstanding examples of this are the elegies written by Mir Anis, one of which holds the world record for the longest verse for the past two centuries.   

The largest gathering on the face of the earth since time began now occurs in Karbala in Iraq on Arbaeen ( 20 safar) where over 10 million pilgrims visit the shrine.  

 Imam Hussain embodied in himself magnificent qualities - wisdom, knowledge, leadership, patience, humility, forbearance and total submission to the Almighty, to name a few - and his life is a source of inspiration and a role model for all generations to condemn all forms of oppression & Injustice. 

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Muharram    Message from

The ‘new year’ in Islam is marked in a way which perhaps no other nation or community marks their own ‘new year’. In fact most, if not all civilizations, take this as a time of happiness and joy in which the people party and celebrate, committing sins most of the time. However in Islam, and particularly the school of the Ahlul Bayt, the new year is one which begins with grief and sorrow and a call to stamp out corruption, evil and sin – not to indulge in it! It is a time in which we not only call for the eradication of all forms of outward tyranny by whoever is enacting it over ANY oppressed individuals, but it is also a time to purge the inner tyranny which our own lower passions and desires pull us towards.

This belief is best seen in the beautiful supplication which the Prophet used to recite when he saw the new moon of Muharram, a portion of which reads: “O’ Allah! You are the Pre-Existing Lord and this is a new year so then in this (new year), I ask you for protection from the Satan and strength against this lower soul which pulls towards evil and that you make me busy with that which makes me closer to You, O’ the Noble … O’ our Lord! Do not divert our hearts after You have guided us and grant us, from Yourself, mercy. Surely You are The Granter.”

The events which put the Ashura movement in motion stemmed from these two factors – the outward Satan – the likes of Muawiyah, Yazid and the previous “caliphs” who came before them who laid the groundwork for the destruction of Islam, and the inner passions and desires which also affect us today. Without doubt, both of these have always worked in tandem with one another. It is the small instigation and whisper of Satan which puts the wheels of the inner desires in motion – giving them the lubrication and energy to run on their own.

With the politics and climate of the world changing as fast as they are, this year, it becomes ever important for those who are participating in the Majaalis of Muharram to ensure that the message of Kerbala is not relegated to the year 61 AH. Yes, Imam Husain died in the plains of Kerbala on the 10th of Muharram, however, he ensured that his message was not limited to his time. When he was proceeding forth, he continuously reminded us that his mission was timeless and borderless. He sought to ensure that we too would be ‘Husaini’ in our outlook and efforts and that we would reject any “Yazidi” forces. For this reason perhaps, he gave Muhammad al-Hanafiyyah an important testament which to this day, remains the blueprint for his mission, and should also form the plan of our life. The Imam stated, “Now know that surely the aim of my stand is not inspired by vain exultation, nor is it for the quest of kingdom. It is not to cause dissension, nor to spread corruption. It is also not for the goal to wrong anybody unjustly. Rather, the purpose of my stand is the reformation the Ummah (nation) of my grandfather. I only intend to enjoin good and forbid evil (and in doing so), emulate my grandfather, the Messenger of Allah and my father Ali ibn Abu Talib.”

He further spoke on this Divine movement and once again, generalized his struggle, a hint for us, by saying that, “The one who sees a tyrant leader making unlawful as lawful; violating the pledge (of God); opposing the Sunnah of the Prophet; ruling on the servant of Allah with sins and oppression, and by his words and actions does not oppose the leader and does not strive to reform the state of affairs, then it behooves Allah to hurl him into Hell along with that ‘leader’.”

This Muharram, if anything, we need to keep the movement of Abi Abdillah in mind and heart and make a conscious decision to make a change in our lives and work towards a reformation within our own hearts and beliefs. Islam is in no need for reform – there is no ‘trouble with Islam’ as some ‘enlightened’ people will have us believe. Rather, it is the followers who need to heed the lesson learnt through Kerbala and the victory of truth over falsehood – and apply it to our lives and reform ourselves.

Hussein (A): The End of a Tragedy or the Beginning of an Uprising?

When certain seasons of worship come around like the months of Ramadan and Muharram, it is very important that we re-evaluate ourselves to see what blessings we have gotten from them. Were they in proportion with the power of the season? Have we preserved these blessings? How can we best invest these blessings after the season is over? Many people are pleased with the condition they have at the time, without worrying about what will come after the season. The Devil is eager to take away whatever the believer has earned at the first possible opportunity. Are we cautious about that? 

The movement of Imam Hussein (A) was a method for dealing with one’s own soul and with others, for he wanted to teach us a lesson about servitude at every stage of his blessed movement. We see him depart from the safety of the Divine Kaaba when he saw that it would please his Lord. We see him exposing his family to capture when he saw that his Lord willed for them to be captured. He exposed himself to the greatest forms of insult and torture when he saw that his Lord willed for him to be killed. His sister Zainab summarized all of these lessons when she confronted the oppressor of her era saying: I didn’t see anything but it was beautiful. God willed for this group of people to be killed, so they came out to be killed, and God will gather you and them together to be judged. So wait and see who will be victorious on that day!

The principle of dialogue through speaking is the well-known method of explaining the messages of the Prophets (A), and this is what was referred to when Almighty God said, {And each nation had its own warner.} But the corruption of the leadership sometimes reaches the point where warning and explanation are not sufficient to put an end to the greatest falsehood: the corruption of one who corrupts the entire nation by his actions – because the people follow the religion of their leaders. So it would be necessary to establish a movement beyond explanation and dialogue, an unusual movement in which blood is sacrificed. This movement would awaken the nation from its depths, to see the corruption of the leader’s soul after it had neglected the corruption of the leader’s deeds! And thus the rule of the Umayyads collapsed shortly after the killing of Hussein (A). His revolution was considered the source of all revolutions which arose throughout the nation which hadn’t been seen before the killing of Chief of Martyrs (A). 

We notice this year and every year the spread of the majlis of Imam Hussein (A) all over the world. This revives our sense of hope that there is still a heart beating in the body of this nation, a heart which draws its blood from the pure blood that was spilt at Kerbala. All of that is by the blessing of the commemoration of one of the Imams from the chain of the Holy Family of the Prophet (A), so how many more blessings would there be if the last in this chain were present? We can imagine how much the hearts which thirst for justice would welcome this Imam after they lost hope in all the theories which promised to bring human happiness. 

One of the lessons of Kerbala is connecting between the highest degree of chastity and the defense of the religion by whatever power the individual is given. Thus we see Zainab (A) who observed hijab and shyness like no one else. Ali (A) would even try to keep her shadow from the view of outsiders by extinguishing or turning down the lights when she was visiting the grave of her grandfather the Holy Prophet (S). However when it came time, she was the tongue speaking in the name of the sacred law even in the presence of the Imam of her time, Ali ibn al-Hussein al-Sajjad (A). There is a saying that Islam owes its existence to Muhammed but its preservation to Hussein. While this is correct, we could also say that the origin of the reform movement was Hussein, while its preservation belongs to Zainab. 

There is a great likeness between Ibrahim (A) the beloved friend of God and Hussein (A) the sacrifice of God. God made the hearts of the people incline towards both of them. What we notice amongst those who gather for the remembrance of Hussein (A) and establish his mourning is something truly amazing! Just as we see people who don’t follow the sacred law throughout the year attracted to perform the Hajj, we see the same group showing a loyalty towards Hussein (A) which is not in proportion to their nature. This shows us that there is divine control over the hearts, and it appears that the movement during these two seasons of Hajj and Muharram are an answer to the prayer of Ibrahim (A). The reason for loving the family of the Prophet (A) in their valley of martyrdom is no less than the reason for loving the family of Ibrahim (A) in their valley of barrenness! 

Whatever we have done during the days of Muharram is a divine lesson in which God tests us for the heat of love for Hussein (A). The Holy Prophet (S) made it one of the tests of true faith. At the same time it is a claim against us, because after we get these divine blessings the judgement against us is swifter than if we hadn’t participated in them. The one who receives these blessings is not like the one who does not, and the one who has knowledge is not like the one who is ignorant. Is it enough to emerge from this season with tears and crying without seeing an important change in our life?! 

One of the important lessons of Ashura is to beware of coming to a bad ending in our lives. Some of the companions of Ali (A) participated in killing Imam Hussein. There are many people like this in history who have been cursed by the Imams and who were once their companions! All of us have to beware of the hidden seeds of major corruption, especially in the area of our beliefs, as one of the signs of the end of time is mental corruption. Some of the causes of this are committing major sins, companionship with corrupt people, profiting from what is forbidden, taking the material world over religion, finding pleasure in the fancy words which the Devil distributes to his friends, as the Holy Qur’an says, {The devils inspire their followers to argue with you.} 

Ashura, an eternal saga of conviction and courage 
By Hedieh Ghavidel, www.Press

Many westerners do not understand why it is that Shia Muslims mourn the martyred Imam Hussein as though the event did not occur a thousand years ago but as if it happened as recently as yesterday. 

The 10th day of Muharram, Ashura, marks the martyrdom of the third Shia Imam, Hussein ibn Ali, in the year 680 CE/ 61 AH. 

Shias beat their chests, cry and mourn, because Ashura is a sad, sad story. It is a story of cruelty, loss and grief; a story of love, faith and courage. 

Hussein (PBUH), the son of the first Shia Imam and the grandson of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), along with 72 of his faithful companions, fought the army of the Umayyad caliph Yazid bin Muawiyah who had no reverence for the Ahl al-Bayt (the Infallible progeny of the Prophet) and did not adhere to Islamic values. 

One needs only envision the events leading to and of that painful day and it will be a mystery no more.

The heat and thirst have drained the children, their questioning gazes asking what their lips dare not speak for fear of embarrassing the Imam, who cannot quench their thirst as the enemy has ruthlessly prevented man, women and child from the water of life. 

The Imam's brother Abbas volunteers to bring water for the camp. He advances toward the river Euphrates to fill his water sack, his fingers touching the cool surface of the water. He does not drink although every fiber in his being cries out to him to relive his thirst. 

The enemy attacks and Abbas loses an arm. He picks up the water sack with his remaining limb and when that is severed he picks it up with his teeth but he is knocked out of the saddle and a blow to his head leaves him with no power to move. He calls to the Imam, 'Brother, where are you?'

The Imam fends off the enemy and rushes to his brother's side, holding Abbas, who has been blinded, in his arms until he draws his last breath. 

The baby Ali has no strength left to cry and no more water left in his body for tears. The Imam decides to reason with the enemy; surely they will understand that a father cannot watch his child wither away in front of his eyes and do nothing; surely they will be moved upon seeing the six-month-old Ali's condition. 

Imam Hussein faces his enemies and shows them Ali, telling them he doesn't seek water for himself but for the children. He tries to persuade them, but to no avail; hostility radiates in their every response. The sound of an arrow pierces the air and there is a shower of crimson rain.

The baby's body shakes no more with dry sobs. The Imam looks down and sees the arrow in the infant's throat. Ali needs water no more. The Imam fills his hand with the lifeblood of his son and throws it to the skies, crying 'Allah, please accept this small sacrifice from me.' 

How much pain can one person bear? How much loss can a person tolerate? 

Imam Hussein's sister Zaynab has to be calm so as not to worry the Imam. She must conceal her anguish and give strength to all the women in the camp who look up to her. If she breaks down, so will they. 

Instead, she displays strength, and carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders, never showing the slightest hint of weakness. 

She has watched the torn bodies of her sons brought in one by one, her limbless brothers one after the other, and not a word of complaint has escaped her lips. She has been the same calm Zaynab whom everyone turns to in their moments of despair. 

When the grief is too hard to bear, she only says, 'The will of Allah is my will.'

She is atop the hillock overlooking the battlefield now, watching her pillar of strength, her beloved brother, racing toward his destiny of martyrdom as was prophesied so many years ago. 

She follows her brother with her eyes, feeling the pain of every sword blow he receives. It is almost too much to take and she drops to the ground only to stand tall again. 

He races toward the enemy and her heart races after him. 

Her legs again give way beneath her when she sees five-year-old Abdullah, who has slipped out of his mother's grasp, racing toward the battlefield. The little boy is running to his uncle, trying to make his attackers stop delivering blows. 

His childlike logic tells him he will be able to overpower the assailants and make them leave his uncle alone. Abdullah reaches his uncle and tries to protect his body with his small hands, but blades do not understand reason. 

Blood is gushing from the little boy's severed hand and he starts crying but is not willing to abandon his uncle. The Imam is near the end and has little strength left to comfort Abdullah. 

'It's alright, little one…we will join your father and mine soon...soon we will be free,' he consoles the terrified child. 

The attacking horde, not satisfied with shedding the blood of the Imam, raze the camp of defenseless women and children, set fire to tents, flog the petrified survivors and loot what they can lay their hands on. 

The children run across the thorn-covered sand with nowhere to escape and no one to turn to. Possessing not a whiff of humanity, the savages revel in the havoc they have created.

The Ahl al-Bayt's suffering and agony is not yet over, as they will be forced to walk barefoot to Damascus. The camp, which has lost all, is forced to walk behind as the decapitated heads of their fathers, brothers and husbands precede them on spearheads. 

One need not be Shia or Muslim to be moved by the horrific incidents of those sorrowful days. 

The tragedy of Ashura will leave a permanent mark on the soul of any free and compassionate spirit, regardless of religion or race. 

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