Sep 8 2019
It is said that God loves those who love Imam Hussain …
Few men indeed, if any, have ever commanded such love, inspired such allegiance, and commandeered to their name such selfless devotion.
Martyred in the plains of Karbala over 13 centuries ago, Imam Hussain ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and third Imam of Islam, remains to this very day a catalyst for change – together a beacon of hope, and a light that no darkness has ever been able to dim.
Truth it is said owes to Imam Hussain, for it is the boundless courage of his stand against the tyrannical forces of Yazid which allowed Truth to be set free and man taught that none should enslave those God created free. Alone against a power which brought to its deception thousands upon thousands of souls, enslaved countless communities of men, and abused nation into forfeiting their right to stand dignified, Imam Hussain spoke a revolution into motion … It is that revolution, that tradition, which Imam Khomeini, and Ayatollah Khamenei after him, architected, nurtured, and anchored into political reality through the Governance of the Jurist.
And if much ink has been spent demonizing those who came to speak freedom in Iran, so that others would feel compelled to follow suit, and in an ocean of ignorance, drown the truth, we ought to remember that, this battle which took place in between Imam Hussain and the heir of Abu Sufyan in Karbala all those centuries ago is still very much raging on today.
As Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stressed in August 2017 at a meeting with Hawza graduates [Islamic seminaries] “…And you should fight. Nothing is achieved without fighting.” This is not to say of course that war and violence are recourses one should strive for, but instead that struggle – whichever form it may take, is necessary when opposing tyranny.
It is often we forget in our remembrance of the tragedy of Ashura, that Imam Hussain never intended to enter into an armed struggle against Yazid, rather he was forced to. What our Imam desired most of all was to cleanse Islam – the religion of his grandfather from the many grave deviations a certain elite decided to enact so that their selfish interests could be best served.
If not for Imam Hussain it is likely Islam would have been lost to the abomination of a powerful elite.
To the same token, if not for Imam Khomeini, Iran, and by extension much of the Middle East would not have risen a grand resistance movement against imperialism.
Those sons of Hussain ibn Ali, those jurists of Islam, quite literally followed in the footsteps of their exceptional lineage, so that the message of Ashura would echo the greatest of light for those who choose in fact to believe that death is preferable to a life spent in bondage.
Hope it is said, was set free on the courage and pious devotion Imam Hussain wielded against his enemies in the plains of Karbala, allowing for communities of men across the ages to learn that Dignity is not to lived in oppressive submission, but in just resistance against tyranny.
Today, as millions prepare to commemorate Arbaeen, we owe it to ourselves to reflect upon that very message Imam Hussain spent his last breath upon: that without freedom there can never be peace. That without dignity, there can never be true freedom, and that victory lies not in the hands of men of power, but with God, for He, and He alone wields Power.
As Iraq stands liberated from the clutches of radicalism, at a time when hope has been brokered anew on the courage of Iraq’s sons and daughters and those volunteer resistance fighters who heeded the call of their kin, we must remember that it is Islam’s Imams’ defiance we see manifested.
If not for Imam Hussain, if not for the son of Ali there will be no dignity to call our own, no freedom to defend, and no tradition to emulate.
And it stands to reason we ponder over those words the Prophet Muhammad once spoke when he told his community: “The Truth is with Ali and Ali is the Truth.” Indeed … who better than the son of Ali to define Truth … and with his last breath set alight a fire in the hearts of his followers? Who better indeed?
Today more than ever we must draw strength and wisdom from our Imam’s martyrdom, and conceptualise his message within our modern day paradigm.
It was Imam Khameini who said: “Some people think that we should compromise with the US. That is while the more compromise we make, the bolder they become. The way to proceed is to confront, to challenge and to resist. The way to proceed is to continue the movement that the Revolution has begun. So, the main condition is this.”
* Catherine Shakdam is a PhD candidate at Harvard University, a political analyst, writer and commentator for the Middle East with a special focus on radical movements. The Director of Programs at the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, Catherine is also the co-founder of Veritas Consulting.