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(Your Voice in a World where Zionism, Steel, and Fire have
turned Justice Mute)
Ashura: A Call to Action
by Nabila Harb FAV co-editor
To Shia Muslims, 'Shiani 'Ali' or followers of 'Ali, Imam Hussein ibn Ali is the finest and greatest examples of a martyr 'fee sabillillah' , 'in the way of Allah'. On the 10th day of Muharram, in the Islamic year 61, 680 A.D., on the sands of Karbala in Iraq, the grandson of the Holy Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. sacrificed his life in jihad. This day has come to be known simply as 'Ashura' which means '10'.
The subject of this article is not the particular importance of this event to Shia Muslims nor is it the historical nature of the conflict between Hussein and Yazid. In historical terms, there are some differences of opinion as to the events of Karbala, and history always is a matter of dispute, being a combination of actual events and the interpretation of these events by different individuals.
What is not in dispute, however, is the nature of Husayn's sacrifice, his complete and utter dedication to Islam and his willingness to support his principles even at the price of his life. This can be said not only of Husayn himself, but of all of the martyrs of Karbala. The example of Karbala is extraordinary enough to have earned the attention and respect not only of all Muslims, Shia and Sunni alike, but of Western non-Muslims as well. A number of Western historians have referred to Husayn as the ultimate example of a noble martyr.
The fact that the general non-Muslim public in Western nations is woefully ignorant of Islamic history, as demonstrated by the fact that they never have heard of any Husayn apart from Saddam Husayn shows how ignorance serves government propagandists. In the Arab and Muslim world, Husayn ibn 'Ali is as well-known a figure as the Buddha or Jesus Christ and yet the West on the whole knows nothing either of Husayn or of 'Ashura.
Friday, 14 March 2003 marked the day of 'Ashura, the 10th day of the Islamic month of Muharram. As the world watches the ongoing machinations on the part of the U.S. to crush Iraq and its leader, Saddam Husayn , one cannot but be aware of the example of Karbala. What should be recognised, are the universal lessons of Karbala, and the pertinence of those lessons not only to the present situation in Iraq, but to the Palestinian people and their ongoing struggle against the Zionist entity.
At Karbala, against overwhelming odds, Husayn ibn 'Ali, his family and fewer than 100 followers sacrificed their lives in martyrdom for their principles. Their courageous and noble martyrdom is an example to all of those who follow the path of jihad, and who are willing to give their lives for a cause.
Another significant point in the history of Karbala is the fact that, when the final confrontation took place, the majority of individuals who had expressed support for Husayn and actually had begged him to act on their behalfs, had capitulated to the enemy, either by not joining Husayn at all, or by abandoning him before the battle. The example of the people of Kufa is that of ordinary individuals who, through the pressures of fear or greed, having first recognised the cause of truth and justice, ultimately surrender to the enemy. Most of the world, unfortunately, resemble the people of Kufa rather than the martyrs of Karbala. The human basic instinct for survival has something to do with that, perhaps. It is only when the heart, spirit and intellect unite against that instinct that the crown of martyrdom is won.
Years after Karbala, one of the descendants of Husayn declared that: Kullo yawm'in 'Ashura, Kullo ardh'in Karbala'. 'Every day is 'Ashura; every land is Karbala.' Indeed, for any one who cherishes truth and justice above all else, every day must be 'Ashura, and every land Karbala.' The battle for truth and justice is an ongoing one, and must be fought daily. In the case of the U.S. plans to invade Iraq, it is vital for the world to act now, to recognise the dangers posed by a superpower that appears determined to invade a sovereign nation, against all morality and justice. In the U.S. campaign against Iraq, propaganda usurps the position of truth and self-serving platitudes take the place of facts. Those who attempt to act as true friends of the U.S. by seeking to deter the nation from this war are labelled 'enemies' while those who actually recognise that their interests are opposed to proclaimed U.S. interests are afraid to act lest they meet the same fate that is planned for Iraq.
In physical terms, Husayn lost the battle of Karbala. He died on the sands of Karbala and his family and followers either were slaughtered or taken prisoner. In spiritual terms, he was one of the greatest victors the world has seen. Few recognise the name of Yazid, his opponent and if they do, there is no one who supports him. Husayn and the martyrs of Karbala have won universal respect and fame. Even among non-Muslims, the example of his courage and determination have become legendary.
On the sands of Karbala, Husayn, quoting the Holy Qur'an, asked: 'Is there any helper to help us? Is there any rescuer to rescue us?'
Iraq today asks the same question of the world. Will the answer be similar to that of the majority of Kufans who, although they recognised the justice of Husayn's cause, ultimately abandoned him to his fate, or will the world act to oppose the U.S. in its destructive course of action?
When Imam Husayn met the poet Farazdaq and inquired about conditions in Kufa. Farazdaq replied: 'Their hearts are with you, but their swords are with your enemies.'
Could this indeed be said about Iran in its present position towards its sister Islamic nation, Iraq? Is Iran willing to damn its soul by working covertly with the U.S.? Is Iran, itself a Shia nation, blinding itself to the truth for the sake of material gain and the dubious benefit of a stay of execution from the U.S.? After all, Iran has been declared a part of the supposed 'axis of evil' by the U.S. Unless it wishes to wholly abandon all principles of truth and justice, it must take an unequivocal stand against U.S. aggression NOW. It cannot give with one hand and take with the other, as it is trying to do, with its promises to the U.S. that it will not oppose an invasion of Iraq.
What of the Arab leaders who, either through the promise of material aid from the U.S. or threats from the U.S. have allowed the U.S. to station its troops on Arab soil?
Although the people of the Arab nation have expressed their support of Iraq as well as the Palestinian people, Arab leaders on the whole have capitulated to U.S. pressures. Eternal shame on the heads of the leaders who have through cowardice or greed allowed foreign troops of aggression to be stationed on Arab soil!
The means through which the Kufans were persuaded to abandon Husayn are the same basic strategies that the U.S. employs to persuade the world to abandon Iraq.
While Husayn was heading towards Iraq, Ibn Ziyad applied severe economic pressure on the population through the 'arifs, responsible for distribution of stipends and the maintenance of law and order in their respective ~irafas. These state functionaries became spies with orders to record the names of any strangers or rebellious or suspicious people in their irafas. He held the 'arifs responsible for any trouble that might occur in their districts. If any information were to be withheld from Ibn Ziyad, the `arif would be crucified and the entire `irafa would be deprived of its stipend. Secondly, he made a declaration that anyone suspected of supporting Husayn would be hanged without trial, his house would be set on fire, and his property would be confiscated. Through these repressive measures, he soon brought Kufa under full control.
In similar fashion, on the domestic front, the U.S. is attempting to intimidate or coerce the population into agreeing with its proposed war on Iraq through such unconstitutional legislation as the Homeland Security Act, the Patriot Act, and the so-called 'anti-terrorism' legislation of 1996. A proposed Patriot Act II will make disagreement with U.S. foreign policy even more dangerous, as it will have the power to strip U.S. citizens of their citizenship, imprison them and confiscate their assets if they give any 'support' to any organisation that the U.S. labels as a 'terrorist' organisation. The organisations that so far have been designated as 'terrorist' organisations pursuant to the 1996 legislation include a number of legitimate resistance organisations such as Hamas that never committed ANY act against the United States but restricts its actions to resistance against the Zionist entity.
On the international front, the U.S. is busy with the carrot and stick approach, offering bribes for support of its invasion plans and threatening the withdrawal of financial aid to nations if they fail to support the proposed U.S. war of aggression against Iraq. Threats that any nation that opposes the U.S. may be a future target of U.S. aggression are another very effective source of intimidation.
For Shia Muslims, the month of Muharram is a month of remembrance of Imam Husayn and his sacrifice at Karbala. This remembrance in theory has two components. One is mourning, in the belief that tears shed for Imam Husayn have spiritual power not only to purify the soul but to 'ransom' it from just punishment for sins that have been committed. This component is not political in nature and thus will not be discussed here. The other certainly is, as keeping the memory of the revolution of Husayn alive involves recognition of the nature of corruption in governments and the need to oppose it. Without discussing the nature of Shia political activities throughout the centuries, one can recognise the need to constantly search one's own soul for evidence of corruption, and the need to be courageous enough to oppose injustice wherever it may occur.
There are two clear instances of injustice in this month of Muharram that must be opposed. One is the continuing occupation of Palestine by the Zionist entity and the other is the U.S. plans to invade Iraq. How far will the world go to support the cause of justice and truth? It is not enough if hearts are with Palestine and Iraq. It is not enough if one does not draw the sword against Iraq or Palestine. What is required here is unequivocal opposition to the U.S. and the Zionist entity. What is required here is opposition so strong that U.S. and Zionist swords will be made impotent.
The act of martyrdom or shahadah, apart from being a sacrifice of one's life for Allah is an act of political protest against injustice. Shaheed means 'one who bears witness' and the martyr, through his/her sacrifice, bears the most eloquent witness to political corruption or evil. It is in this sense that Husayn's example of martyrdom is a message, not only to Shia Muslims, but to the entire world. Injustice and corruption must be opposed through deeds as well as words.
The sacrifice of Husayn at Karbala reminds the world through every age and in every place that one of the noblest acts a human being can commit is the act of ultimate sacrifice of ones life for a just cause. The memory of Karbala must cut through greed and fear like a blade, forcing the world not only to recognise the base motives of the U.S. in its plan to invade Iraq but to act to protect Iraq. Justice cannot be served by bullying, intimidating and coercing individuals or nations who understand the false premises upon which such an invasion rests. Capitulation to the current foreign policy of the U.S. will bring neither security nor peace ultimately to any nation or individual. If the U.S. is allowed to become a tyrant, what hope will there be for justice for any one? If truth and fiction depend wholly upon the will of a single superpower, then no one is safe.
Where Palestine is concerned, every week brings news of more slaughter, as the Zionists destroy more homes, murdering the occupants, and continue their bloody rampage across the land, unimpeded by any foreign government or power, using weapons given to them by the U.S. The people of the United States must do more than protest against an entity that not only possesses real weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear capacity, but uses them in its continuing aggression against the people of Palestine. It is the Zionist entity that is a true terrorist entity acting in defiance of every U.N. resolution, every international law, and is guilty of crimes against humanity. The people of the U.S. and world must not only withhold all support for the Zionist entity but be willing to act to stop the foreign occupation of Palestine. It is the Zionist entity, not Iraq that should be the target, as the Zionist entity is a blatantly foreign and racist occupier of the land of Palestine.
Muharram this year must be an occasion for doing more than shedding tears for the Holy Prophet's grandson Husayn. It is in this month, with the example of 'Ashura before us that the world must unite in lifting the standard of truth and justice against tyranny. Otherwise, innocent blood will be shed in Iraq once again and the bloodbath against the Palestinian people will continue unabated, and if the world does not act to protect the innocent, that blood will be on our hands as well.