The treasure of truth in every era has remained the spiritual purity and moral dignity, knowledge and guidance, sincerity and love of man. In opposition to it, evil possesses ignorance and darkness, internal depravity and moral waywardness, division and enmity of humanity, exploitation and slavery; and rank and authority as well as army and power are at hand in order to establish the authority of these curses. This is the reason that whenever any prophet, leader, sage or wise man rose with the lamp of rectitude and guidance, they put their life at stake.
Such a time came upon Husain (AS) too, but the reward for ‘telling the truth’ which he received was not destined for any spiritual leader before this. Some had sacrificed their self, some their life and some their wealth and children for the sake of truth. But the great martyr simultaneously presented an offering of all these sacrifices:
“Husain ibn-e-Ali Karbala ko jaate hain
Magar yeh log abhi tak gharon ke andar hain”
(Husain, the son of Ali, walks towards Karbala
But these people still hide in their homes)
Guzre the Husain ibn-e-Ali raat idhar se
Hum mein se magar koi bhi nikla nahi ghar se
(Husain, the son of Ali, passed by this road last night
But not one among us stepped out of our homes)
These were the very days when some 1,300-odd years ago, when a small caravan of the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) family had alighted in Karbala on the banks of the Euphrates. It consisted of children and the aged, women as well as the sick, there were some 70-72 individuals. They included relatives and helpers and the commander of this caravan was Husain (AS), the son of Ali (AS), the maternal grandson of the Prophet (PBUH) of Islam. He refused to take the oath of allegiance at Yazid’s hand because he had forgotten the teachings of Islam in the intoxication of wealth and power. The Umayyad ruler did not have respect for humanity in his heart. He had meant to customize vice and immorality in society anew and Husain (AS) did not agree to this. On one side were ignorance, vice and disorder, on the other spiritual purity, goodness and peace. The reward for one was wealth and the throne of grandeur. The return for the second was misery and death. Husain (AS) opted for the latter.
If, by refreshing the grief of the martyrs of Karbala and honouring their memory, a ray of these virtuous passions does not burst in our hearts and the eyes remain devoid of perception despite being tearful, then this would mean that we have not understood the meaning of this martyrdom
The result was evident, he was martyred alongwith his children and the aged, relatives and helpers. The heads were raised upon spears, corpses were trampled, tents were burnt and women were taken as prisoners. But all witnessed that this defeat of the overt was the victory of the covert: its memory is still fresh and will remain alive and bright till the end of time.
It is the custom of the nations of the world that they keep the memories of their elders and leaders alive and obtain the warmth of life from them. And so the sacrifices offered by Husain (AS) and his comrades in the path of truth and loyalty will always be celebrated and it is impossible that any eye remains dry after hearing of the miseries and adversities suffered by these martyrs.
But the Ashoura of Muharram was not merely the day for the renewal of Islam. The series of sacrifices is linked to one another. That day the cross became alive, the fire of Abraham again became a bed of roses, Socrates obtained a new life. This one lamp had brightened the flames of so many lamps. Today when we refresh the memory of the martyrs of Karbala and embellish the rows of weeping and mourning, we do not merely take the names of Husain (AS) and his comrades; we actually light the lamps of goodness and intelligence, humanity and spiritual purity, morality and affection within the curtains of these memories, and pay tribute to that human passion which remained verdant even after bathing in its own blood.
If, by refreshing the grief of the martyrs of Karbala and honouring their memory, a ray of these virtuous passions does not burst in our hearts and the eyes remain devoid of perception despite being tearful, then this would mean that we have not understood the meaning of this martyrdom and its spirit.
The conflict between good and evil carries on even now. Whether we evaluate our national circumstances or analyze the international situation, the struggle of these two will be seen everywhere. On one side are those elements which regard freedom of thought and expression as solely their own right and are pushing society towards spiritual and moral abjectness and material poverty. On the other side are those people who are striving for moral and spiritual elevation and material contentment; who want freedom of thought and expression. If we have understood the correct meaning of the sacrifices of the martyrs of Karbala, then we will be seekers of the victory of good in the present-day battle too. And then we will indeed consider the temporary victory of evil as its ultimate defeat – however triumphant it may temporarily appear.
“Insaan ko bedaar to ho lene do Har qaum pukaregi hamare hain Husain”
(Let every man become conscious Every nation will shout that Husain belongs to us)
Raza Naeem is a Pakistani social scientist, book critic and award-winning translator and dramatic reader currently based in Lahore, where he is also the President of the Progressive Writers Association. He can be reached at: email@example.com