The first month of Islamic calendar (the most 'violent religion' in the eyes of some people) starts with love. Love for the master of martyrs. Love for mothers and motherhood of Karbala. Love for brothers and brotherhood in Karbala. Love for Namaz. Love for the greatest sacrifice for the sake of humanity ever done in the history of mankind.
It doesn't start with fancy wishes, roses and hearts. It doesn't start with celebrations, singing songs, dancing in happiness. It doesn't start with tours and trips. Neither it starts with any form of celebration in Islamic context nor does it start with anything remotely related to celebration. It starts with the moon sighting and tears. It starts with the slaps on faces and beating of chests. It starts with thirst and imagination of thirst. It starts with unity and imagination of unity. It starts with a sign of muslims reaffirming to their faith and when one reaffirms to something, at that moment he or she follows that with true heart. So, this is the time when faith is at it's peak. It starts with sacrifice and eagerness for sacrifice. It starts with a new season of Islam where the spirits are going to change their levels. If they ignore this time, their faith will degrade. If they utilize these moments their faith will upgrade. The new year of muslims starts with a welcome note to the most crucial and magnificent reality which is truth/Haq. This welcome note is emotional but it's essence is a call to faith. It starts with the Adhaan of Ali Akber (رضي الله عنه) to the call of help (Halmin Nasirin Yan Suruna) by Imam Husayn (عليه السلام). This is the peak of the beauty of Islam.
Muharram starts with the arrival of Imam Husayn (عليه السلام) in the desert of Karbala, a hot place near the banks of Euphrates river or one of it's canals. Imam is met by the first group from the Army of Yazeed led by Hur. I would only emphasize on necessary history as each and every point of history is just out of scope. Hur and his men are badly thirsty. Not only they but even their horses. But as I said, Muharram starts with a welcome note. Here is the first welcome note of mercy, love and humanity. Imam Husayn (عليه السلام) provides them with water (as much as they want to drink). This was a message, a welcome note towards mercy and guidance of Allah to the bewildered.
Hur kept on noticing this. But as he was an employee of Yazid along with others, He did what he was asked by Ibn Ziyad. He stopped Imam Husayn (عليه السلام) from going to Kufa and removed their camps from the banks of Euphrates and didn't allow them any further access to water. He asked Imam Husayn (عليه السلام) about the objective of going to Kufa. Imam Husayn (عليه السلام) replied that they don't want war and have come for the guidance of the Kufans who have called him. Again, this was the Jihad of Imam Husayn (عليه السلام) — Love, mercy and guidance of people towards Allah and Islam — and resisting the tyrants and evil in this way.
Hur — who caused all the initial trouble and because of whom the children of Husayn (عليه السلام) stayed away from water — found himself guilty. This was the real sword of Imam Husayn (عليه السلام) that was struck on Hur and started to show it's impact since he met Imam and kept on growing until it became unbearable on the night before 10th of Muharram (Ashura). Here is a message. As, the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) has said that the greatest jihad is jihad-un-Nafs (Jihad with the self). The real battle that Hur fought in Karbala was against his own self. He fought against his desires on the night of Ashura. His weapon was the voices of thirsty children in the camp of Husayn (عليه السلام). His weapon was the mercy Imam showed to him. But what was he confronting. Hur was confronting an employee of Yazid in his self. An employee that said that 'somehow Yazid is your Emir and you have to follow his order.' The cancer of neutrality penetrated in his self which said 'What do you have to do with politics. You have a family and friends. Think about them. Stay out of this hassle. You are a soldier of an Army and a commander. Do your duty. Yazid is a drunkard, who cares? Husayn is the son of Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) , but who cares?' All these fearful, short-visioned, selfish and self-centered arguments were surrounding Hur and making him stay on the side of Yazid.
This is a big lesson. Every soldier in the Army of Yazid was facing an enemy like this within their soul. Every human being on earth, more or less, faces this enemy. We might say a thousand words of truth, we might agree with everything right but our ill-self always confronts us with these arguments and stops us from understanding Haq. Hur had enough weapons. He successfully broke this siege and killed his enemy and with purity, humility, recognizing the truth with the eyes of heart went this time towards the rightful leader of the Ummah. He didn't go to Husayn to sympathise the children. He didn't go their to advice Husayn (عليه السلام). He didn't actually go to Husayn (عليه السلام). He travelled towards freedom. From a fake tyrant to the rightful leader. From a payed employee of Yazid to a self-seeking slave of Imam Husayn (عليه السلام). From ignorance and arrogance to awareness and humbleness. Imam Husayn (عليه السلام) accepted him and all people along with him. He himself became the 'leader of mujahids' in my eyes. It's better to call Hur (رضي الله عنه) Imam ul Mujahid (lesder of the Jihadis) because jihad was done by everyone in Karbala, but he provoked others too (atleast thirty people came to the camp of Imam Husayn from the other side). And he had a very less amount of time to decide on his fate. He certainly fought the most fierce battle against his nafs (self).
Imam Husayn (عليه السلام) was calling and testing. He was testing his companions and calling his enemies. These calls happened in many ways. With speeches and with actions. One of the ways among all these (for me) was even the Adhaan recited by Hazrat Ali Akber (رضي الله عنه) in the morning and everytime when it was the prayer time. Who matched the face of the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم)? Their were many good voices in Karbala. Many great scholarly people were their. Each one of them was capable of reciting Adhan. Glittering beautiful faces as well as wonderful voices. So, why only Hazrat Ali Akber (رضي الله عنه)? Because the face of Ali Akber (رضي الله عنه) was like Prophet Muhammed (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). They were so similar that Imam Husayn used to say, "When I want to see my grand father. I see Ali Akber." Imam Husayn (عليه السلام) made Ali Akber's presence a reminder for the enemies that they are not fighting Husayn (عليه السلام) but rather they are fighting the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) himself. Adhan of Ali Akber (رضي الله عنه) was a signal to remind the calls of Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) towards faith. This holds a lesson for us that faith should be above everything. Call of every wali/guide/Imam towards Islam is a call of the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) himself. Imamat is not an inch separate from Prophethood. As said by Dr. Ali Shariati, "Islam without Justice and Imamat is an Islam without Islam". Each and every call to prayer had two indicators. One was the visual indicator. Other was the vocal indicator. Call by the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) towards Salaat. Call towards peace, justice and Islam: 'Hayya Ala Khairil Amal - Come towards the Good'. This was the mission of Husayn (عليه السلام) and the objective of Karbala.
As I acclaimed, the master of martyrs was testing his companions again and again. Checking their faith and strengthening it minute by minute. At more than one moment, Imam Husayn (عليه السلام) asked his companions to leave him. More than once he told them about their fate if they stay with him. More than once, he told the purpose of his journey. Such that each and everyone of them became clear about it. Answers to these statements from the companions were mind blowing. This is what Imam said :
"It is a fact that I am not aware of any companions more faithful and honest than my companions and any relatives more righteous and kind than my relatives. May Allah grant all of you a good reward. I think that the day of our fighting with this army has arrived. I permit all of you to go away. You are free to depart without any restriction and should take advantage of the darkness of night."
I won't go in detail. But he gave them the certificate of Jannah. He even endorsed their piety. He declared them as the best companions. He even told them how to escape. But except a very few, none of them moved. How can they even leave? How can they love life or death or even Jannah with a thought that they left their Imam to get slaughtered in the hands of beasts? Imam Husayn (عليه السلام) was testing them. He was trying to debug even a single confusion in their heart. He was trying to eliminate even the thought of Jannah from their mind so that they only think of sacrifice for Allah. What a spirit! What can we say! Ask yourself what Imam Husayn(عليه السلام) asked to his companions in Karbala each and every time.
Will you leave your Imam while difficulties have surrounded him? Will you leave him if he grants you Jannah? Will you leave him if he himself asks you to leave? What does wisdom say? Ask yourself. Are you so firm in faith that whatever might happen, you are standing behind your Imam (عليه السلام) and doing your duty? Ask yourself. Are you an employee of Allah, who is paid with happiness, security, health and wealth and promise of Jannah so that he can forget his divine duty if all his payments are delivered irrespective of his stances? Or are you a slave of only Allah and follower of only his leaders and commanders appointed on you such that even if they themselves ask you to leave for your lives, you will not. What if, Allah is asking blood from you? Are you ready? Who can be more free in this world then the companions of Imam Husayn (عليه السلام)? Take a lesson here. Follow Islam irrespective of anything. We get into doubt: Our prayers are not accepted, our desires are not fulfilled, calamities keep on falling on us etc. Is this our vision of life? No. Our only mission and purpose of life is to obey Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى). Stay where he wants us to stay and refrain from something which Allah has asked us to refrain from. Allah will test you to see how much firm you are in following his commandments.
We see warriors, with all capabilities to break the largest armies in a battle alone, shying and controlling themselves in Karbala. Sayyed ush Shuhada (Imam al Husayn (AS)) stopped Abbas at every step from battling with the enemy. He even brought Hazrat Zaynab (SA) at one point for the same purpose. I won't mention the reason why Imam Husayn (عليه السلام) stopped Hazrat Abbas (رضي الله عنه). But how difficult it would be for a warrior like Abbas (رضي الله عنه) to control himself from attacking the enemy. How difficult it would be to obey the master of Martyrs (عليه السلام) and understand the fate at this moment. More difficult then understanding was accepting. Acceptance and understanding that made Abbas a Saqqa (water carrier) from an Alamdaar (flag-bearer). This was the time when Al Abbas (رضي الله عنه) became the symbol of patience. He changed his being and kept down his sword to obey his mawla and his brother. This proves how critical and crucial weapon is patience and endurance. How important it is to remain patient in order to sustain yourself on the path of Allah. The will of Allah can be for us or against us. We should put our heads down in front of Allah's will. Ghazi Abbas (رضي الله عنه) teaches us how to contemplate on what Allah wants from us and then not only refraining from our own will but submitting to Allah's will in the best of ways. How he managed to take a broken spear on the battle ground while he had a sword with him? How he managed to only try to bring water to the camps and not breaking the other enemy fronts? How he managed to protect the water and gave his hands in doing so? What patience a person needs to refrain from drinking a drop of water even after his lips are dry and throat dying from thirst. This patience led Al Abbas (رضي الله عنه) to become the symbol of loyalty (Sarkaar-e-Wafa) in the history of mankind. Hazrat Abbas (رضي الله عنه) was not even an infallible but still he made himself so strong that whatever his brother and leader demanded from him he delivered. Only one thing that remained was water. Which led Abbas to such a level of regret and emotion that he denied his body to be taken to the camps. If we can't learn patience, perseverence, submission and loyalty from Hazrat Abbas (رضي الله عنه). This history is useless and just as important as a novel.
Karbala startles us at every step. Their was even a child as young as 6 months. When Imam Husayn (عليه السلام) called for help, no one was their to answer except a 6 months old Ali al Asghar (رضي الله عنه). He fell on ground after this call. He was taken to ask for water by Imam Husayn (عليه السلام). Imam knew that he will be martyred. But another reality of Karbala is a father taking his own son to sacrifice for Allah and become an example in history. Imam Husayn (عليه السلام) never needed help so what was the reason of this call? It was nothing but a reminder to everyone. Imam (عليه السلام) warned humanity that 'don't let a time come upon your leader when no one will accompany or support him'. Imam was calling people to Islam, to guidance. But only a 6 months old could understand. It is a call that echoes in our ears every year to move towards Karbala and to move towards religion and guidance. Not only Ali al Asgher answered but his mother answered it. All the woman answered it. Bibi Umm Rabab (SA) became a symbol of motherhood in Karbala. This is how a mother should be. Woman should teach their children to become the pure and free servant of Allah because this is the greatest honor and they should be so strong and firm that if Allah asks them their dearest sons for sacrifice, they should deliver and content themselves with patience and thankfulness towards Allah. If mothers become like mothers of Karbala, every child will become a servant of Allah and fighter of Islam which would pave the way towards an ideal Islamic society.
At the end, before his sorrowful martyrdom, Imam Husayn (عليه السلام) addressed the faithless and inhumane army of Yazid. He introduced himself not as a warrior but as a divinely appointed Imam, who has got the highest honors in the eyes of Allah. He was introducing himself like this in order to guide them so that they refrain from what they are about to do and understand the path of Allah. So that they understand that what all rewards they will recieve after this act will be nothing in comparison to what they will loose. Their was a lot of wisdom and beauty in each word but cursed were those who were blinded by the pleasures of this world.
Imam said: "Even if you don't believe in religion, atleast be free in this world." Imam Husayn (عليه السلام) wanted people to become free from everything, even their soul and then choose according to reason because truth cannot be imposed. It is not necessary to deceive someone to follow the truth. If we remove all the veils of falsehood, evil and deception, the only thing left will be truth. Freedom is not to remove your hijab or even wear it to make people admire you. Freedom is not to pray because your parents will kick you or Allah will send you to hell. Choose religion not because you are born in such a family but because you are a human being and Allah has given you the right to think, contemplate and ask the best for yourself independent of anything. Choose anything in life on the basis of free will that only submits to Allah (the absolute). This is the perception Imam Husayn (عليه السلام) wanted us to work upon. Karbala if followed and read in a right way should change a person. If it doesn't then the message is not delivered. It was a battle between free will and imposed will. Battle between freedom seeking revolutionaries and employees of evil. A battle between 'I stand with Husayn and condemn Yazid and I know what I'm doing' vs 'Husayn is good and Yazid is bad but we are employees of Yazid so do the duty.' It shows that evil is everything except truth and not even the companions of the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) are immune from it. Even taking neutral grounds is a sign of ignorance and part of evil.
This takes us to the Zaynabi revolution. The start of the new year. The pledge and commitment to change our 'self'. The pledge to fight the evil within us to a level that only Allah's manifestation remains. Azadaari (mourning for Imam Husayn (AS)) is resistance. It is not a mere custom in which some people come, cry, beat their chests and go away as if nothing happened. It is not a majlis that starts with lamentation and comes to end with gheebah (backbiting). It is not a show-off place where you show the standards of food you serve in the form of tabarruk. It is not a place to compete that who will gather the maximum audience and who will provide the best in tabarruk. Neither it is about how many slogans of 'Yaa Ali' will be raised or how many people will faint during Masaaib (sorrowful happenings in Karbala). Tears are natural and not man-made. Only that person can cry on Imam Husayn (عليه السلام) who has the maarefat (wisdom) of Imam Husayn (عليه السلام). The people who do all that I said above except azadaari are making fun of Hazrat Zainab (عليه السلام) and her revolution. They are equivalent to those Kufans and Syrians who mocked and taunted the Ahl Haram when they were taken captive and dragged in the streets of Kufa and Damascus. Shame on such people and shame on the show-off they do in the name of Mourning. Shame on those who do politics in the name of azadari. Shame on those reciters and orators who do business in the name of Azadaari. This is the worst of insults that AhlulBayt (عليه السلام) have to bear. We sell our souls so cheap that we fight on some bits of food that we recieve after majlis. We are making a joke of ourselves and also a joke of our religion and our Imam. Azadaari is a custom of purity started by the Great Sister of Al Husayn (عليه السلام) and Imam Sajjad (عليه السلام) as a form of resistance to tyranny and cruelity. A person who is a true azadaar of Imam Husayn (عليه السلام) and has percieved his revolutionary message will not sit down until he purifies himself and brings society towards Islam. He will not settle unless he becomes a pain in the gut for the tyrannic rulers. Who is the real mourner of Imam Husayn (عليه السلام)? The one who brought down the forts of oppressors and stood for the oppressed. As an example, Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah is the true mourner. His army are the true mourners of Imam Husayn (عليه السلام). It is not possible that a mourner beats his chest, cries on Imam of the oppressed but remains quiet in supporting 'The Husayn' of this time. It is impossible for a mourner of Imam Husayn (عليه السلام) to curse Yazid while stay quiet on the crimes committed by 'The Yazid' of the time or be supportive of it. Azadaari is not a dead custom and Imam Husayn (عليه السلام) is not a dead hero. It is indeed a living revolution that flows in our body and pumps through our hearts in the form of martyrs of Karbala and becomes manifest when we stand for justice and haq in the present time.
Our duty is to take the message of Husayn (عليه السلام) and implement it on our own lives. Our duty is to be kind, humble, firm, down-to-earth, tough in front of the world, soft in front of Allah. Our duty is to put up sacrifices in the path of Allah whenever needed. Our duty is to unite and set aside our differences. We should unite under the banner of Allah the great. This is what Azadaari teaches us. This is what Karbala teaches us. When only a few people who stood as one in front of the most powerful enemy of the time and defeated him, why can't we? When people celebrate new year, they take pledges. We have the most appealing history remembered just on the start of the year. We should also take a pledge.
Commit yourself: you will practice taqwa, pray on time, practice patience and base your life on knowledge and faith.