By Laila Gardezi
Exclusive | The Crescent Post
Early this month, millions of Muslims around the world gathered to begin the commemoration of the tragedy of Karbala and the sacrifices of Hussain ibn Ali, the grandson of the Holy Prophet Muhammad. While the event has been commemorated within some groups for hundreds of years, its underlying message is universal.
In the first month of the Islamic calendar in the year 680, Hussain refused to give his allegiance to the oppressive tyrannical ruler Yazid ibn Mu’awiya. He held strong to his moral convictions even though he and his companions were outnumbered by the thousands. Scottish historian and essayist Thomas Carlyle wrote that the event at Karbala, “Illustrated that numerical superiority does not count when it comes to the principles of truth and falsehood. The victory of Hussain despite his minority amazes me.” On the 10th of Muharram nearly 1400 years ago, Hussain and much of the Holy Household of the Prophet lost their lives at Karbala and their women and children were imprisoned and tortured. From the sorrows of this tragedy, however, shines a beacon of hope, a spiritual awakening to enjoin the good and forbid the evil. Hussain’s sacrifice showed the world the strength of the human will for the sake of righteousness. On that day and in the time that followed, an important stand was taken: a stand against oppression and injustice, a stand for humanity. This is the universal message of Hussain.
This year, like the years before it, commemorators of Hussain and his message came out for processions from the US, to South Africa, to the Middle East. Although cultural traditions vary from place to place, the appeal to the human consciousness reverberates throughout the generations. The message of patience and morality in the face of adversity transcends religions, races, genders, and creeds. The father of the Indian independence movement, Mohandas Gandhi once said “I learned from Hussain how to attain victory while being oppressed.”
In today’s political climates of injustice, violence, and uprising, the tragedy that took place at Karbala centuries ago is more relevant than ever. The Arab Spring showcased the rise of the masses against injustice. We all watched as a wave of popular uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Libya illustrated the power of the human spirit to take a stand against oppression. Last week in Bahrain, peaceful demonstrators were reignited and returned to Pearl Square chanting “Hussain.” The revolution against tyranny did not die on the plains of Karbala, rather, it has been reborn over the ages as a universal message for humanity. Hussain lived his life by his father Ali ibn Abi Talib’s last words, “Oppose the oppressor and support the oppressed.” More than a story in history books to be read and forgotten, the principles of justice, sacrifice, courage, and conviction from Karbala are eternal. Dr. Rajendra Prasad may have captured the spirit of the message best when he said, “The sacrifice of Hussain is not limited to one country, or nation, but it is the hereditary state of the brotherhood of all mankind.”
Laila Gardezi is an analyst for a risk consultancy firm in Los Angeles, California. She is a graduate of the University of California- Irvine.