Lecture 1 of Arba-een 2016 series

By: Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider on 17 November 2016 at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town

It is Arba-een once again, being the time of year wherein we revive our commitment and connection to the great revolution and uprising of Imam Husayn (AS).

This is the first night in our 5 night series of programs joining many millions around the world in commemorating this beautiful tradition of Arba-een, where we witness annually the single largest gathering of people marching on foot, from all corners of the world towards the shrine of Imam Husayn (AS) in Karbala and his devoted followers who were brutally massacred on the day of Ashura in the year 61 AH.

The number 40 has great emphasis in Quran and Hadith and the number 40 has great significance in the context of what happened in Karbala.

In prior years we have given detailed lectures on the significance of the number 40 but tonight I would like to examine this topic from a different perspective.  


If we go back to the history of Prophets, where we established in the first 10 nights of Muharram that Imam Husayn (AS) was the heir of the Prophets, we understood how the position of Imam Husayn (AS) is an extension of the life experienced by Prophets, in their challenges with injustice and oppression, etc.

Another aspect of the history of Prophets is that we find that even after their resistance and sacrifice, the oppressors and enemies of truth still could not handle their influence, even after PHYSICALLY defeating them.

A common trait among all oppressors is that they did not end their tyranny after physically defeating Prophets. They always felt insecure, such that the issue which they suppressed can spark from the ashes and transform into a huge fire to destroy their hegemony.

They tried in the history of Prophets to divert the attention of the masses, to let them forget about the sacrifices of the Prophets. This is a common phenomenon in the history, where tyrants try to cover up their repression, long after physically removing the direct influence of Prophets and wanting to silence the Divine legacy of Prophets.

This is exactly the situation in Karbala and the sacrifice of Imam Husayn (AS). They subjugated Ahlul Bait (AS) and their followers to the worst possible injustice after the massacre on the day of Ashura, with grave humiliation and torture, and portrayed them as people who rebelled and created instability.

They said Imam Husayn (AS) is the source of trouble and the enemy of Unity, because the society is united against one dictator and Husayn (AS) is creating a revolt in this “peaceful” setup and therefore should be silenced forcefully.


Even after 14 centuries this argument is still presented by those sympathizers of Bani Umayyah, that Imam Husayn (AS) was a trouble maker and wanted to create division in a peaceful society and therefore Imam Husayn (AS) made a “mistake” as Yazid was the appointed leader.

This is how Bani Umayyah introduced Ahlul Bait (AS) to the people, claiming that the tragedy of Karbala was the response to a revolt and the “troublemakers” had to be silenced.

And for this they brought all attempts to destroy the memory of Karbala with all their resources to misinterpret and willfully misrepresent the tragedy of Karbala to the masses. Then also, they employed strategies to hide or suppress the memory of Karbala, such that it can be forgotten in history.

Examples are by producing completely fabricated stories such as fasting on the day of Ashura, and other events which supposedly occurred on the day of Ashura to various Prophets. This was all introduced by Bani Umayyah to dilute the significance of the tragedy of Karbala and confuse people, and unfortunately this approach is still evergreen…

Interestingly, it is narrated that the introduction of fasting on the day of Ashura was based upon our Holy Prophet (SAWA) having witnessed Jews fasting on this day. Enemies of Ahlul Bait (AS) claim that Shia is the creation of a Jew, but here they confidently say that our beloved Prophet (SAWA) is following a Jewish tradition!! How does one explain this type of rationality?


Those who did not join Imam Husayn (AS) felt very guilty, and would visit his grave, pledging allegiance and imploring for forgiveness after not joining him.

We see in history how Karbala is the source of inspiration for revolutionaries in their stance against injustice and oppression. As a result, oppressive rulers forcefully stopped this tradition of visiting Imam Husayn (AS) in Karbala.

They placed heavy restrictions and even tried to wipe out the grave of Imam Husayn (AS). His grave was levelled to the ground quite a number of times in history.

Mutawakkil was the cruelest Abbasid ruler and the deadly enemy of Ahlul Bait (AS). He tried his level best to remove all traces of the grave of Imam Husayn (AS), to the extent where he diverted the direction of the Euphrates River towards the grave of Imam Husayn (AS) in an attempt to wash away the grave of our oppressed Imam. This is a common theme, that Ahlul Bait (AS) have to endure the worst oppression even after they have left this world! Amazingly, the water ended up going around the grave of Imam Husayn (AS) and the plan of Mutawakkil failed.


The key point from this discussion is to remember that Arbae-en, or the 40 days commemoration of the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (AS) is a movement of its own.

Remembering the tragedy of Karbala on the day of Ashura (10th Muharram) is a movement to honor the sacrifice for the sake of truth and to keep the spirit of revolution itself alive.

Whereas Arba-een is a movement to keep the memory of Karbala alive despite all the conspiracies to destroy its impact and memory.

We want to say after 40 days: “Oh Husayn (AS), by Allah (SWT) we swear that we will never forget you!

Arba-een reminds us of the heroic characters of Ahlul Bait (AS) led by Sayeda Zainab (SA) and Imam Zainul Abidin (AS) who had to endure the aftermath of Karbala and took the message of Karbala to the masses, explaining what happened.

The climax of this movement is Arba-een.

We see the great sincerity of this movement that they started, which is still very much alive after 14 centuries! We see millions of people WALKING to Karbala. It is completely unique, that after 14 centuries you see this love is very much alive on a mass scale, which makes it the largest human gathering in the world every year without comparison.


Millions upon millions of people walk from far away, even from parts of Iran despite inclement weather, and difficult mountainous terrain.

Our supreme leader, Ayatullah Khamenei, beautifully says that this walk is without any iota of doubt among the “signs of Allah”.

In Surah Hajj Verse 32 we read:

وَمَن يُعَظّـِمْ شَعَآئِرَ اللَّهِ فَإِنَّهَا مِن تَقْوَي الْقُلُوبِ

“…and whoever holds in honour the signs of Allah, verily it is (the reflection) of the piety of the hearts.”

He thus says he wishes he was with the people walking towards Imam Husayn (AS) with such craze in their love, as the walk of Arba-een is an expression of rationality fused with emotion.

This is the quality of Shia, which no other school of thought or belief system could present to the world i.e. the fusion of rationality with emotion which Ahlul Bait (AS) have presented.

This is pure love BUT filled with rationality!


It is a unique feature of this walk to Karbala on Arba-een, that it is incident free, and an annual success despite very weak infrastructure. This is the power of love filled with rationality.

ISIS warned and threatened that they will target this tradition and create mass carnage, but amazingly nothing happened. People still walked in their millions unabated.

Ayatullah Khamenei beautifully explains the power of Unity, by saying that if this whole Ummah walk together to liberate Palestine, nobody can stop it, and victory will be achieved.

Why is this not happening? The simple reason is because the route to liberate Al Quds is through Karbala! Karbala is the path to salvation and eternal freedom, and the problem is that our Ummah wants a different route to achieve the liberation of Palestine, without needing to exclaim Labbayk Ya Husayn!