Salaam everybody and condolences to you all on the start of the month of Moharram, which in the year 61 AH witnessed history’s most heartrending tragedy in Karbala, where Imam Husain (AS) refused to yield to tyranny and preferred to drink the elixir of martyrdom. Here is a special feature on the 1st of this month.
Today is the 1st of Moharram, the month of grief and mourning. It is the month that renews our allegiance to the ideals of the immortal epic of the grandson of Prophet Mohammad (blessings of God upon him and his progeny). Although Moharram marks the start of the lunar calendar that is in use in the Islamic World, for us the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt of the Prophet of Islam, it is not an occasion for feasts and festivities, as some unfortunate Muslims do. For a true believer, facts and realities matter, and not something that had not occurred on this day.
The Seal of Messengers had migrated from Mecca to Medina, not on the eve of Moharram, but on the eve of the 1st of Rabi al-Awwal, an event later suggested by his divinely-designated vicegerent, Imam Ali (AS) to base the Islamic calendar upon. But sadly those who had seized political power of the Islamic state, continued to persist with the pagan Arab practice of considering the 1st of Moharram as start of the New Year – perhaps to keep alive memories of their own freewheeling ways of the days of Jahiliyya.
Thus, since Prophet Mohammad (blessings of God upon him and his progeny) had foretold of the martyrdom of his younger grandson in the month of Moharram, and had shed tears for the tragedy to befall Imam Husain (AS) and his household, in the land called Karbala in Iraq, we consider the commemoration of this tragedy as adherence to the Sunnah and Seerah of the Messenger of Mercy. That is the reason, we herald the start of this month with tears and all other evident signs of grief, such as black clothes, black banners, mourning sessions, recital of elegies, lamentation, discourses of martyrs, etc.
“Karbala” has therefore become synonymous with devotion, steadfastness, refusal to bow to threats and pressures, determination to defeat injustice, and the urge to sacrifice ourselves for safeguarding Islam and its humanitarian values, especially in these days when terrorists masquerading as Muslims are indulging in the bloodthirsty ways of the tyrant Yazid, without the least mercy for even infants. Last year’s massacre of some 7,000 Guests of God, including around 500 Iranian Muslims in the inviolable plain of Mena during the Hajj pilgrimage, once again reminded us of the foresight of Imam Husain (AS) in deciding to leave Arafaat on the 8th of Zil-Hijja for Iraq so that the sanctity of Mecca could be safeguarded from the evil intentions of the assassins that Yazid had sent in the garb of pilgrims to shed his blood. (Aal-e Saud, where do you stand?)
The Imam’s rendezvous was Karbala, where he drank the elixir of martyrdom on the 10th of Moharram, along with his few loyal companions, his brothers, his cousins, his nephews, and his two sons – that is, 18 year-old Ali Akbar who was the carbon copy of the Prophet of Islam and 6-month infant Ali Asghar. He thus taught us to live as free persons, with faith in God, and without the least fear from the Yazidis of each and every generation, like the Takfiris and Wahhabis of our own days. Karbala has since achieved immortal fame. It is here that the shrine of the Chief of Martyrs stands. It is the place to which the faithful flock from all over the world with tributes of tears.
Karbala rejuvenates faith. It renews our strength. It revitalizes our resolve. It reaffirms our allegiance with Imam Husain (AS) to defend his ideals. It resurrects our spirit. It relieves us from the worries of the mundane world by instilling in us the determination to discourage cannibalistic terrorists from encroaching on its sanctified soil.
This was proved in last year’s anniversary of Arba’een – the traditional 40th day after the martyrdom of Imam Husain (AS) – when a record twenty-two million mourners gathered from all over the world to pay respects to the Prophet’s grandson. No untoward incident took place, and the multitudes of the faithful left in peace after having gathered in peace, compared to the mismanagement of the Hajj by the Saudi occupiers of Hijaz, where almost every year deaths of hundreds of pilgrims occur (mostly intentional). In short, Karbala is that spot on Earth where the lips, of even innocent children as young as a six-month boy had been forced to remain parched within eyeshot of the fresh flowing waters of the River Euphrates. It is the land where blood triumphed over naked swords. It is the site where victory was announced, not by those who wrought history's most heart-wrenching tragedy and exulted in wild celebrations, but by the severed heads of their victims which were gruesomely mounted on lances. It is the soil of curative properties which has a healing effect for so many physical ills, as experience has shown, and as physicians have admitted. It is the source of the Planet's most sought after clay tablets for those who believe that Islam - as part of its exaltation of the humbleness of a Muslim before the infinite Majesty of the Lord Most High - has prescribed "sajdah" or prostration on undefiled ground, preferentially dried mud, rather than on synthetic materials or victuals. It is the tract whose fateful future, according to a hadith, had been foretold by God to some of His prominent prophets, like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and others in antiquity.
Yes, Karbala is not a relic of the past but a permanent barometer between truth and hypocrisy. It beats with the indomitable spirit of immortal martyrdom. Karbala translates faith into action; defies political equations; defines the parameters of philosophy; promulgates the principles of morality; inspires poets towards reality; and demonstrates the art of converting inevitable death into glorious immortality. Karbala is the rendezvous of the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt, the Blessed Household, so clearly defined by Almighty Allah in the Holy Qur'an and so explicitly explained by the Prophet of Islam in the famous Hadith Thaqalayn that serves as the safeguard from manifest error, and which reads:
“I am leaving behind among your Two Weighty Things; the Book of God (i.e. the Holy Qur’an) and my progeny the Ahl al-Bayt. Hold fast to them and you will never go astray, for the two never part with each other, even when they return to me at the fountain (of Kowthar on the Day of Resurrection).”