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In the Name of God بسم الله
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Karbala And Imam Husayn (As): Philosophy

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After discussing with other members, I have decided to share a chapter I am writing for my enlightenment class. The paper focuses on Karbala, and dissects the events through four main content areas: history, philosophy, art, and science (psychology). Here is the second chapter on philosophy:

(I would appreciate advice)



Chapter II:

The Philosophy of Imam Husayn (as)



Utilizing Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” found within The Republic, as an essential framework for deciphering and illuminating the philosophy of Imam Husayn (as), I will establish the historical and philosophical significance of Socrates’ teachings. Since one’s earliest upbringings, he/she remains stagnant, enraptured and entrapped by the confines of a societally constructed “cave,” compelled to perceive that which surfaces in palpable sight, a “screen” manipulated by “puppeteers,” the domineering figures of a societal submission (Plato 208).  Languished in a stupor, entranced by “shadows” of reality, of a fabricated truth, resembling “strange prisoners,” individuals remain incapable of observing existence as it truly abides (Plato 208). Enlightened, the suffering inherent in said goal, “pain” the seeker as he/she perceives “more correctly,” “puzzled” by the obscurity of his/her past conceived truth (Plato 209). The upward ascent, the enlightening experience of Truth, manifests for the seeker in the witnessing of the sun in its entirety, completeness as its “reflection” wanes (Plato 210). Yet, inherent within the seeker’s quest remains the ultimate “suffering” endured by him/her as he/she confronts unyielding, unforgiving “ridicule,” lauded by the unawakened society, tested with physical violence if the distorted cave-dwellers permitted (Plato 210).  Therefore, a reality, a counterfeit reality, comprised of and perceived through sight is akin to a “prison dwelling,” where the seeker must witness True reality through an “upward journey of the soul to the intelligible realm”—a pursuit of agonizing enlightenment (Plato 211). Yet, most pertinent to this analysis concerning Imam Husayn (as) remains Socrates’ ultimate philosophical goal, which will be dissected through parallels:

in the knowable realm, the last thing to be seen is the form of the good, and it is seen with toil and trouble. Once one has seen it, however, one must infer that it is the cause of that is correct and beautiful in anything, that in the visible realm it produces both light and its source, and in the intelligible realm it controls and provides truth and understanding; and that anyone who is to act sensibly in private or public must see it. (Plato 211)

Intrinsic to the liberating of Islam from said insipid desires, remains the concept of martyrdom. The notion of martyrdom, or shahada, is innately connected to the Islamic philosophy of “Holy Struggle,” or jihad (Ezzati 1).  In the modern context, erroneously interweaved with militant organizations like ISIS or Boko Haram, jihad has mutated, deteriorated to the barbaric inclination of mass violence, terror, and accumulation of man as mere property—men, women, and children to be manipulated, battered, and disposed for the sake of worldly possessions and power. However, this notion of jihad deviates from its morally disposed doctrine—the notion and strive for “enjoining right and discovering wrong (al-amr bi’l-maruf)” (Ezzati 1).  Islam, linguistically, equates to its Arabic derivatives of “surrender” and “peace;” thus, Islam is a manifestation and life of “submi[tting]” to the “will of Allah,” or God (Ezzi 1).  Divergent from scholarly, popular, and Islamist conception, jihad does not denote “Holy War,” or arms for the sake of God (Ezzi 1).


Martyrdom, therefore, cannot exist without “struggle” in the seeking of God, for the acquisition of Truth amid un-truth (Ezzati 2). From a examination of derivatives, martyrdom (shahada), translates to “see,” to “witness,” to “testify,” to transform into a “model and paradigm” (Ezzati 2). Thus, martyrdom linguistically and precisely denotes the perception of truth for the sake of instilling a paradigm, or exemplar, of absolute, unadulterated Truth. A “shahid,” an individual who perceives and “witnesses,” is compelled to not merely a verbal affirmation, but a physical assertion as well—he must be willing, yearning, to sacrifice his existence wholly for “truth,” transforming into a martyr (Ezzati 2).  The emphasis of truth—of haqq—its “recognition” and “declaration,” straining for such, and the “preparedness to die for its sake,” thereby establishes “a model for seekers of truth,” and is the manifestation of martyrdom (Ezzati 2). Muhammad (pbuh), the seal of Islamic prophethood, embodies the “universal Message of Allah,” and the “incarnation,” the “model” (shahid) and “paradigm” (uswa), “attract[ing]” people towards the “truth” (Ezzati 3-4).  Inherent within the Shi’ite comprehension of Islam remains the conception of the Immate—the “leading” and “guiding” of the Muslim Ummah (Ezzati 4).  Therefore, Imam Husayn (as), reflects the concept of Truth amid un-truth akin to the seekers entrapped within the “cave”—the noble against the ignoble, the just against

the tyrant. Rooted heavily in the philosophy of “Every day is Ashura,” and “every place is Karbala,” illustrates the poignant martyrdom of Imam Husayn (as) (Ezzati 5). 

To more comprehensively understand the intention of Imam Husayn (as), one must construct a parallel among the seeker of Socrates and the seeker Imam Husayn (as). The most eloquent and analogous words of Socrates occurs during his illustration of the ultimate goal of the enlightened to his philosopher companion Glaucon:

You have forgotten again, my friend, that the law is not concerned with making any one class in the city do outstandingly well, but it is contriving to produce this condition in the city as a whole, harmonizing the citizens together through persuasion or compulsion, and making them share with each other the benefit they can confer on the community. It produces such men in the city, not in order to allow them to turn in whatever direction each one wants, but to make use of them to bind the city together. (Plato 213)

This concept of “harmonizing” the community through “persuasion or compulsion,” to essentially “bind” the collective populace in tandem mirrors the distraught, yet steadfast supplication of Imam Husayn (as). Witnessing the bloodshed, mass calamity of the Battle of Karbala, near the closing of the tenth of Muharram, Imam Husayn (as) invoked the Muslim Ummah of “every generation,” of all victims oppressed by “Yazeedism”—the ideological representative of tyranny, repression of “justice, truth, morality” (Rashid 1):

Is there anyone who will come to assist us?

Is there anyone who will respond to our call for aid? (Rahim 1). 


Imploring for the perpetuation of “this jihad at the individual, social, and political levels,” Imam Husayn (as) sacrificed his physical existence for the amelioration of a regime devised on “nepotism and blood relationships” (Rahim 9).  Prior to leaving Medinah, Imam Husayn (as) crafted a will delivering such to his brother Muhammad Hanifiya: “My mission is to reform the muslim community which I propose to do by amral bill ma’ruf and nahya anil munkar, inviting them to the good and advising them against evil. It is not my intention to set myself as an insolent or arrogant tyrant or mischief maker” (Rahim 9).  Akin to the philosophy of Socrates, the Islamic ideology of shielding “truth,” blossoms from those “bred” to be “leaders and kings of

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the hive,” divinely appointed as Imams from the lineage of Muhammad (pbuh) (Plato 214).  Successorship, the cautious, heedful guiding of the Muslim Ummah rests within the hands of those sustained by the consort of God, those who reject the worldly, dunya-molded facade of power, politics, and possessions. Thus, Imam Husayn (as) “exhorted” believers to refuse to “pander” to the “philosophies” of the puppeteers who bribed them to “keep away from truth” (Rahim 9).  Interestingly, Socrates proposed an identical conception of those who ought to rule, affirming: “a city in which those who are going to rule are least eager to rule is necessarily best and freest from faction, whereas a city with the opposite kind of rulers is governed in the opposite way” (Plato 214).

Instilling the utterances of his grandfather, Muhammad (pbuh), and soliciting the scholars to “inculcate Islamic conscience,” Imam Husayn (as) counseled them to not “mislead the masses” who placed their absolute trust in them (Rahim 9). Heeding the words of Muhammad (pbuh), Imam Husayn (as) strived to salvage the battered vessel of the dunya, or world: “The world is like a ship and mankind its passengers. The welfare of all depend upon the safe conduct of each. If anyone is found making a hole on the side of a ship, he must be stopped” (Rahim 9).  Therefore, the Islamic conscience persists despite the inevitably of death by dissent; the martyr, the enlightened seeker, must be willing to trade existence for Truth.  Confronted with the overwhelming army of Yazid at Karbala, Imam Husayn (as) routed them: 

My parents did not raise me to submit myself to an evil tyrant.  I am your Imam and it is my duty to tell you that you have surrendered the freedom of your mind to the evil ways of Yazid. If you do not care for Islam, and do not fear the day of judgement, at least do care for that precious gift from Allah, the freedom of your spirit! (Rahim 10).

Manifesting the goal of Socrates’ enlightenment, Imam Husayn (as) sought to unite the Ummah and the Kufan forces of Yazid, comprehending that “persuasion” would not suffice, rather “compulsion” through his blatant sacrifice to the principles of Islam to exercise the freedom of mind and thought bestowed by God (Plato 213).

While denouncers of Imam Husayn (as) ascribe his motives as utterly militarily and politically impelled, indisputably, the sheer ratio of Yazid’s army to Husayn’s (as) illustrates the

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absurdity of said claim. With Imam Husayn’s forces representing a mere seventy-two men and accompanying women and children, and Yazid’s enumerating thousands, the selflessness of Husayn’s (as) act remains unquestionable, further emphasizing his intention of utter sacrifice. The notion of military “triumph” was inherently unfeasible—Imam Husayn (as) remained entirely conscious of the ultimate cessation of Karbala.  Inscribed within the will imparted to his brother, Imam Husayn (as) affirms: “Wa innama kharajtu li talabi-l islahi ummaati jaadi. Indeed I am leaving Madinah to reform the ummah of my grandfather” (Rahim 9).  Recapitulating the tenets of attesting goodness and Truth and accosting evil, inequity, Imam Husayn (as) accepts martyrdom in the name of rectitude against the pervasiveness of injustice. Through his invocation to the Kufan, the “cave-dwellers,” those compelled to perceive the guise of a distorted reality, Imam Husayn (as) appeals to the freedom, the liberation of the mind inherently granted by God (Plato 208).  Seeking to dissolve the “screen” fabricated by the puppeteers—Yazid, the Ummayid—Imam Husayn (as) urges the Kufan to “care for that precious gift from Allah, the freedom of your spirit” (Plato 208, Rahim 10).  Paralleling the enlightened seeker of Socrates, Imam Husayn (as), observing the “strange prisoners,” essentially returns to the “common dwelling place” of the “cave-dwellers”—the manipulated prey of Yazid—to “grow accustomed to seeing in the dark,” comprehending and transmitting the “image” of Truth as it rightly exists (Plato 208, 214). Yet—Imam Husayn (as) perceived the inexorable conclusion of a steadfast act of dissent, conscious of the most adversarial protestors of his resonating Truth, and as Socrates divulges: “As for anyone who tried to free the prisoners and lead them upward, if they could somehow get their hands on them, wouldn’t they kill him?” (Plato 208). Witnessing the slaying of his baby, the arrow slicing through the child’s meager frame, Imam Husayn (as) approaches the river of Karbala, assailed by the incessant swords of his innumerable enemies, he implores them—not for his sake, but for their’s—“Give me some water! For what will you do on the Day of Judgement, and when you will come to my grandfather, and you will ask him for water on the Haud E Kauthar? What will you do on the Day of Judgement?” (Source #). As Socrates raises, “wouldn’t they kill him?,” with the Kufans, paralyzed, crying, and the commander, Shimr bellows, “Well what are you waiting for? Finish him off? (Plato 208, Source #). Stricken with a fatal wound, Husayn (as) passed, with Shimr approaching, severing, and decapitating the head from his body, bolstering the head upon a spear for Yazid (Sabir 11). Answering the imploring of Socrates, his companion responds with, “They certainly would” (Plato 208). 

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