Much has changed since 570 CE, when Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) was born in the city of Mecca in the Arabian Peninsula in the Banu Hashim clan of Quraysh tribe. Even though the “Deen-e-Islam” has always in existence through unaltered original monotheistic faith of Adam, Abraham, Moses and other prophets, it was the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) to whom the holy Quran was revealed by Allah the merciful and it was the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who laid down the religious, social and political tenets that were to lay the foundations of Islam and the Muslim world.
Within next 100 years, the Quranic faith spread under Umayyad Caliphate over nearly 5.17 million square miles from eastern Iberian peninsula in Spain to western Indus river in Sindh, and for next 600 years, Muslim world under Abbasid Caliphate was to experience what is today known as the “Golden Age of Islam”, when the Muslim world was the global center of scientific inventions and discoveries as well as latest medical, astronomical, economic, literary and cultural activities – a far cry from the present-day image of Islam and the Muslim world, seen as an outdated faith, irreconcilable with modernity, and fixated on jihad.
The contemporary dogma and rigidity of the Muslim community, which was brought global disrepute to the faith of Islam, has no one else but the Muslim Ummah to blame. Why it is that the Muslim world that was once Europe and America of its times (when medieval Europe was going through dark ages and there was no United States of America in existence) in terms of human advancement, has now become synonymous with decadence and doom? The Muslim community tends to put blame on anyone but themselves. In contemporary times, most Muslims believe that it is the “conspiracy” of the so called “non-Muslim” world to ensure the decline of Islam. There is hardly any introspection into what has really gone wrong within the Muslim community (and not the “Deen-e-Islam”) that has made it so regressive, conservative, and inward-looking.
The battle of Karbala and the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (AS) and the response of the Muslim ummah to this tragic episode at that time and over centuries is a symbol of what is wrong with the Muslim community at many levels. The sectarian divide and the prism of Shia and Sunni divide with which the entire period of Muharram (the beginning of the Islamic New Year) is looked at trivialises the message of the battle of Karbala and the sacrifice of Imam Hussain (AS). The battle of Karbala was not the battle between Shias and Sunnis and nor was it a “jihad” between Muslims and non-Muslims. Imam Hussain (AS) was the beloved son of Fatima az-Zahra (AS), daughter of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and her husband Ali Ibn Abi Talib (AS), and yet he and his family members were murdered in the most brutal manner by the very followers of the Prophet Muhmmed (PBUH). Whether or not one agrees with the judiciousness of who was to be the rightful successor of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the fact remains unchanged that Imam Hussain (AS) was dear to Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) and was of his blood.
The suffering that the beloved grandson of Prophet Muhmmed endured included watching all those he loved tortured, slaughtered, beheaded, and female members of his and Prophet Muhammad’s family (PBUH) molested in front of his own eyes. It was not a “Yahood” or “Hindood” or “Christian” conspiracy to stab Imam Hussain (AS) 33 times by spears, 34 times by swords, and 100 times by arrows. It was a Muslim army of Yazid who claimed to be on the path of Islam and it was followers of the Prophet Muhmmad who did not even spare a drop of water for the thirsty infant Ali al-Asghar crying in the arms of Imam Hussain (AS). There was no “holy war” declared by the “infidels” on Islam when an immense indignity was imparted even on the dead body of Imam Hussain (AS), who was beheaded by the Muslim army of Yazid, who placed the severed head of Imam Hussain (AS) on a silver platter and presented the same to the Muslim general of Yazid’s army, who inhumanly started playing with a stick at the nose and head. The army of Yazid, which professed itself to follow the path of Islam, then marched over 600 miles to the palace of Yazid with trophies in the form of heads of Imam Hussain (AS) and his family members. Between the soldiers walked disrobed female members of the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) daughter’s family.
The greatest lesson of Karbala is not the fight of virtue and righteousness against darkness of tyranny and oppression, but the need for introspection within the Muslim ummah. The sole reason for the social and cultural decline of Muslim community since the fall of Ottoman Empire has been its refusal to introspect into what is wrong with the community. This refusal to acknowledge what is wrong with the practices and institutions of the Muslim community and stubbornness to reform has led to the decline of Muslim community as a whole. Even today, we sadly continue to look at the battle of Karbala from sectarian prism and not introspect into wrongs that Muslims did to beloved members of Prophet Mohammed’s (PBUH) family.
In today’s world we consider the entire non-Muslim community as the enemy of Islam, while refusing to look at the evils within our own selves. The greatest lesson of the Day of Ashura is to introspect and learn from our own mistakes and never to repeat the same. That will be our greatest tribute to the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (AS).
The writer is an aspiring politician, political analyst and columnist.
His views are personal. [email protected]