We are on the cusp of the days of mourning for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) and due to this reason, we find it more pressing than ever to look in to the essential philosophy of these rites and rituals. We will examine the viewpoints of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi in this regard in order to better understand the various subtle aspects of the philosophy of this mourning.
The Emphasis of the Islamic Traditions on Establishing Gatherings of Mourning for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa)
The traditions which we have in regards to the importance of establishing gatherings of mourning for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) are of such an acute nature that we don’t see this same level of emphasis for the mourning of the other Imams (ʿa). These traditions have emphasized this issue to such a degree that this same degree does not even exist for the Holy Prophet (ṣ). It is as if there is a secret in regards to this issue which has brought all of the Imams (ʿa) to attach such importance to it.
Protecting the School of Thought of the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa)
In regards to the reasons behind the emphasis of the Infallibles (ʿa) on the establishment of the mourning of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa), the following must be said: According to the words of both friend and foe, the mourning ceremonies which are held for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) are an extraordinarily powerful means of awakening the masses. These mourning ceremonies were something which Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) taught to his followers in order to guarantee the permanence of the true Islam.
Similarly, the secret behind the importance of these ceremonies and emphasis placed on them by the Infallibles (ʿa) become even clearer when we look at the time and atmosphere of the era of the Infallible Imams (a). These were times when the Shias were under considerable political, social, and religious pressure. The Umayyad and Abbasid rulers of that time did not allow the Shias to engage in even the least political or social activities.
Things had reached the point where the Shiism was almost about to be wiped out as a school of thought. Under such harsh conditions, it was only the morning ceremonies held in commemoration of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) that saved the Shias and protected their school of thought. Thus, every year after Imam al- Hussein’s martyrdom, the Shias would gather in mourning and this would breathe a new life in to the Shia school of thought and allow the true Islam to be safeguarded.
It was for this same reason that the establishment of gatherings of mourning was so empha-sized in the traditions as ‘Preserving the school of the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa)’. Similarly, Imam al-Sadiq (ʿa) is narrated to have said in this regard that: ‘I like these types of gatherings; keep our school of thought alive through the use of these means.’
The Unity of the Muslim Ummah
Indeed one of the secrets behind the emphasis of the Infallibles (ʿa) in regards to establishing mourning ceremonies for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) is that such ceremonies can promote unity amongst the Muslims. Today, people attend these mourning ceremonies from various different social classes, races, sects, and even religions. These people attend such gatherings and cry and lament in one voice. This is one of the special characteristics of mourning for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa).
When we examine any society, we find that they require unity amongst themselves if they wish to be successful and able to fend off their enemies. Without any doubt, the best means of attaining unity with the least amount of work and expenditure for the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) involves these gatherings of mourning for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa).
Awakening the Masses to the Goals of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) as a Means of Fighting Injustice and Oppression
It is evident that one of the main goals of establishing mourning ceremonies for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) is to keep alive the event of Karbala and the goals for which the Imam (ʿa) was martyred. The main goal for which the Imam (ʿa) fought and died was to combat the oppression of the ruler of his time and to not allow the religion to be perverted by him. Therefore, when we mourn for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa), we must be aware of why he was killed and we must continue his struggle against oppression and injustice. We must announce openly our aversion and hatred of the oppressors as this is a key function of these mourning ceremonies held for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa).
The Union of Affection and Wisdom: A Strengthening Element in Combatting the Oppressive Superpowers
Mourning and crying for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) is indicative of our deep affection and love for the Imam (ʿa) as the great leader of Shia school of thought. We understand that Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) taught us key lessons in courage, faith, and combatting the oppression and injustice. One who understands Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) loves him deeply and will mourn over what he was forced to endure by his enemies; this is something which is very human and natural. When we cry and mourn for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) we are in reality announcing that we are at war with his enemies, which include all of the oppressors and tyrants around the world, past, present, and future. The tragedy of Karbala combined the issues of affection and worldly wisdom together, allowing us to utilize them both against the tyrants.
A Final Word
The essential quality of mourning for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) is such that it awakens the Islamic community, gives them a greater sense of awareness, and allows them to combat the oppression of the superpowers who wish to dominate over them. In reality, it is a veritable school which teaches one all of the noble characteristics which a human being should have. In light of this, it must be said that ʿĀshūrāʾ is not just something which happened in the past, but rather, it is a reality which continues to this very day. The fight between the truth and falsehood, and justice and oppression is a fight which has existed in every time period and in every nation; this is a fight which will continue long in to the future as well.
The uprising of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) contains many valuable lessons which we require in order to be victorious over falsehood and oppression. The slogan of ‘Far from us is humiliation’ is a call of war against the forces of falsehood and oppression which exist in every era and in every land. Looking back in to our history, it is clear that we have utilized these teachings and we will continue to utilize them, God willing!
Researched and edited at editorial deputy of his eminence office