Ashura is not just a simple event which took place in history; it is rather a historical reality which continues up until this day. It is a symbol of the fight between truth and falsehood, and justice and oppression; this is a reality which exists today and will continue to exist for as long as there are human beings on this earth. According to history texts, once Yazid had risen to power, Imam al-Ḥusayn (ʿa) decided to resist Yazīd and his tyranny even if this meant that he had to give his life for his noble cause. In the end, the Imam (ʿa) was martyred but his martyrdom left a very heavy mark on the society.
The values which Imam al-Ḥusayn (ʿa) was after included things such as enlightening the people, spreading the teachings of the Quran within the society, allowing the people to regain their honor, dignity, and freedom, as well as enjoining the good and fighting against corruption and deviation. Through the Imam (ʿa)’s sacrifice, these values spread throughout the society at a time when they had been in a state of regression. In light of this reality, it is extremely important that we look into the key elements and strategies within the context of Karbala which can be used today in combatting the superpowers and their oppressive policies. Karbala has much to offer us in this way and so we will utilize the viewpoints of Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī in gaining a more comprehensive understanding of these elements.
Fighting against the Tyranny of Muʿāwīyah: One of the Most Important Goals of Imam al-Ḥusayn (ʿa)
There is a very strongly worded letter from Imam al-Ḥusayn (ʿa) to Muʿāwīyah in which to the Imam (a) slams Muʿāwīyah’s Pharoanic style government; this letter gives us a deeper understanding of how Imam al-Ḥusayn (ʿa) fought against the oppressive governments of the tyrants. Part of the letter reads as follows: “At the current time, I do not intend to initiate war against you (since a peace treaty had been signed between Imam al-Ḥasan (ʿa) and Muʿāwīyah). At the same time, I am fearful of Allah for not fighting against you and your wrongdoing party, who have made lawful what Allah has decreed as unlawful… these are the wrongdoers and the followers of Satan the accursed. I swear by Allah that I do not know of any action better than fighting against you. If I do this, it will be a means of nearness to my Lord and if I refrain from it, then I seek forgiveness from my Lord. So I implore Allah to grant me the opportunity to do what He likes and what pleases Him”.
This courageous letter of the Imam (ʿa), which is written in a well calculated manner during a time when he did not possess much power, shows us the reality of the abject nature of the Umayyad dynasty. In the rest of the letter, Imam al-Ḥusayn (ʿa) pointed out Muʿāwīyah’s murder of the various pious and righteous individuals and the Imam (ʿa)’s desire of fighting against Muʿāwīyah’s Pharoanic style government. It appears that the Imam (ʿa) did not fear Muʿāwīyah’s response, however brutal it could be, and he considered this letter to be a necessary matter.
Enjoining the Good and Forbidding the Evil: A Foundational Element in Combatting the Oppressive Powers
Imam al-Ḥusayn (ʿa) did not only suffice with words; when the time was right, he rose up in open rebellion against the Umayyads and he continued the fight against injustice for as long as he was alive. He named announced the purpose of his uprising as “enjoining the good, forbidding the evil, and reforming the society”. Throughout various narrations, he mentioned this issue many times and he openly stated that one of his goals in rising up was reviving this religious precept. Perhaps one of the most explicit expressions of this concept can be found in the last testament which the Imam (ʿa) gave to his brother, Muḥammad bin al-Ḥanafīyah.
In the letter, after the Imam (ʿa) had explained that he was not in any way after his own personal desires, nor did he wish to rise up for the attainment of social rank and position, he then explained the following: “I have risen up for the sole purpose of reforming the Ummah of my grandfather. I want to enjoin the good and forbid the evil, and act in the way of my grandfather (the Prophet (ṣ)) and my father ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib (ʿa).” In this letter, the Imam (ʿa) quickly expressed that his goal in rising up was to fight against oppression and the tyranny of the Umayyads. He did not rise up in order to conquer lands and expand anyone’s realm, nor did he wish to gain wealth or worldly position. His sole goal was to reform the Muslim Ummah and revive the concepts of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil.
Reviving the Religion of Allah (swt): A Key Element in Fighting against the Oppressors
Imam al-Ḥusayn (ʿa) rose up and began his movement with the goal of reviving the religion of Allah (swt). He was primarily going to achieve this goal through the establishment of an Islamic government if possible. If he found this to not be possible due to various circumstances, then he and his companions were ready to sacrifice their lives for their noble cause. In any case, the religion and way of life of the Prophet (ṣ), which had been passed into oblivion by the Umayyads, needed to be revived in the society and who was worthier than Imam al-Ḥusayn (ʿa) to take on this responsibility?
Imam al-Ḥusayn (ʿa) mentioned that: When the Muslim Ummah is afflicted with the rule of one such as Yazīd, then Islam is as good as finished. Imam al-Ḥusayn (ʿa) was telling the people that when someone such as Yazīd had taken on the seat of caliphate, then he would destroy the religion completely and there was no hope that it could be saved.
Fighting against the Oppressive Superpowers as a Key Element towards Freedom
Fighting against oppression is in reality a school which helps people to develop various lofty human characteristics. One such characteristic is freedom, which is a key element in combatting the oppression of the unjust rulers. Imam al-Ḥusayn (ʿa) is narrated to have said in this regard: ‘Woe upon you, O’ followers of the family of Abū Sufyān [i.e. the Umayyads and their followers]. If you have no faith and you do not fear the account of the Day of Judgment, then at least be free men in this world. And if you know yourselves to be Arabs, then (at least) abide by your own Arab customs.’
Without any doubt, the commands of Allah are not without wisdom and divine wisdom necessitated that through the martyrdom of Imam al-Ḥusayn (ʿa) and his companions, and the taking of his family members as prisoners, the veil would be removed from the eyes of the people in regards to the Umayyad government and they would realize how oppressive and faithless the Umayyads truly were. When the Muslims saw this reality, they would rise up against them.
From another perspective, Imam al-Ḥusayn (ʿa) and his companions would gain a rank and position in world history which would serve as a model and inspiration for all those who are oppressed. The Imam (ʿa)’s sacrifice would serve as a lesson in freedom and all those who so desired could learn from it and implement its various lessons in their day to day lives. In truth, the concepts of freedom, dauntless courage, the defense of one’s religion, as well as the other Islamic values have all become intertwined with the name of Imam al-Ḥusayn (ʿa).
The Realization of Justice: A Key Element in Combatting the Oppressive Superpowers
At one point, Imam al-Ḥusayn (ʿa) wrote a letter to the people of Kufah where he introduced one of the goals of his revolution as the prevention of oppression and tyranny, and the implementation of justice. He mentioned in this letter that: “Without any doubt, you know that while the Prophet (ṣ) was alive, he said the following- “Whoever witnesses an oppressive ruler who considers the things which Allah has made unlawful as being lawful, and who breaks the divine covenant, and who opposes the way of life of the Messenger of Allah (ṣ), and who acts in sin and enmity amongst the servants of Allah, and they do not show any reaction in words or deeds , then Allah will place them in the same place as that oppressive ruler [i.e. they will both end up in Hell]””.
This letter was apparently addressed to the people of Kufah but in reality, it is addressed to all freedom seeking human beings of this world. This letter essentially shows the viewpoint of the Prophet (ṣ) in regards to combatting oppression and injustice, and it also shows that Imam al-Ḥusayn (ʿa) had risen up in order to fight against these same things. Similarly, on the day of Ashura, Imam al-Ḥusayn (ʿa) addressed the people of Kufah and he spoke of the justice that a ruler must spread throughout the society: “You all rose up unified in helping your enemies without them having acted with justice amongst you”.
Fighting against the Oppressive Powers: A Key Element in Saving Humanity from Deviation
Another one of the lessons we can learn from the school of Imam al-Ḥusayn (ʿa) is that which pertains to some of the effects of fighting against the oppressive powers as a key in saving people from deviation and misguidance. It has been narrated that some of the Infallibles (ʿa) narrated in regards to Imam al-Ḥusayn (ʿa) that: Imam al-Ḥusayn (ʿa) gave his own life in Your way [i.e. in Allah (swt)’s way] (he sacrificed the utmost) so that Your servants would be saved from ignorance, unawareness, bewilderment, and confusion.
A Final Word
In our world of today, the oppressive superpowers run rampant and they have left waves of corruption and inequality everywhere they have gone. In practical terms, this means that they have covered the entire earth with injustice and inequality. The biggest problem which humanity faces today is directly related to these superpowers. When Imam al-Ḥusayn (ʿa) rose up, he rose up with the goal of fighting the oppressors and their oppressive policies. The reality is that this issue of oppression and fighting against it is not something limited to only the Muslim world. It is rather something which affects the entire globe. The teachings of Imam al-Ḥusayn (ʿa) taught to us through his actions in Karbala something which can be utilized by all the people of this world, Muslim, as well as non-Muslim.
When we look at the epic story of Karbala and the things which took place there, we can reach the conclusion that with the passing of time, Karbala has become more than a simple historical event. It has been transformed into a veritable university which builds proper human beings. This is something which applies to the Muslims but it also goes beyond the Muslim borders and it holds many key lessons for humanity as a whole. Karbala serves as a model for the salvation of the nations from the tyranny and injustice of the oppressors irregardless of their religion. We can consider the school founded by Imam al-Ḥusayn (ʿa) to be one where resistance against the oppressors and their oppressions is taught lesson by lesson, class by class. This is a university which teaches us how to live honorable lives with full dignity, honor, and freedom.
Researched and edited at editorial deputy of his eminence office
. ما أَرَدْتُ حَرْباً وَ لا خِلافاً، وَ إِنّي لَاخْشَى اللَّهَ فِي تَرْكِ ذلِكَ مِنْكَ وَ مِنْ حِزْبِكَ الْقاسِطيِنَ الُمحِلِّينَ، حِزْبِ الظَّالِمِ، وَ أَعْوانِ الشَّيْطانِ الرَّجِيمِ....وَ إِنّي وَاللَّهِ ما أَعْرِفُ افْضَلَ مِنْ جِهادِكَ، فَإِنْ أَفْعَلْ فَإِنَّهُ قُرْبَةٌ إِلى رَبِّي، وَ إِنْ لَمْ أَفْعَلْهُ فَأَسْتَغْفِرُ اللَّهَ لِدينى، وَ أَسْأَلُهُ التَّوْفيقَ لِما يُحِبُّ وَ يَرْضى
. وَ إِنَّما خَرَجْتُ لِطَلَبِ الْإِصْلاحِ فِي أُمَّةِ جَدِّي، ارِيدُ أَنْ آمُرَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَ أَنْهى عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ، وَ اسِيرَ بِسِيرَةِ جَدِّي وَ أَبِي عَلِىِّ بْنِ أَبِي طالِبٍ؛
. وَ عَلَى الْإِسْلامِ السَّلامُ اذْ قَدْ بُلِيَتِ الْأُمَّةُ بِراعٍ مِثْلَ يَزِيدَ
. وَيْحَكُمْ يا شيعَةَ آلِ أَبي سُفْيانَ! إِنْ لَمْ يَكُنْ لَكُمْ دينٌ، وَ كُنْتُمْ لا تَخافُونَ الْمَعادَ، فَكُونُوا أَحْراراً في دُنْياكُمْ هذِهِ، وَارْجِعُوا إِلى أَحْسابِكُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ عَرَبَاً كَما تَزْعُمُونَ
. وَ يَداً عَلَيْهِمْ لِأَعْدائِكُمْ، بِغَيْرِ عَدْلٍ أَفْشَوهُ فيكُمْ
. وَبَذَلَ مُهْجَتَهُ فيكَ لِيَسْتَنْقِذَ عِبادَكَ مِنَ الْجَهالَةِ، وَحَيْرَةِ الضَّلالَةِ