LECTURE 6: INSPIRATION FROM KARBALA FOR A TURBULENT WORLD
5 September 2019 (6th night Muharram 1441)
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
Almighty Allah says in Surah An’aam Verse 122:
أَوَ مَن كَانَ مَيْتًا فَأَحْيَيْنَاهُ وَجَعَلْنَا لَهُ نُورًا يَمْشِي بِهِ فِي النَّاسِ كَمَن مَّثَلُهُ فِي الظُّلُمَاتِ لَيْسَ بِخَارِجٍ مِّنْهَا كَذَلِكَ زُيِّنَ لِلْكَافِرِينَ مَا كَانُواْ يَعْمَلُونَ
“Is he who was dead (with ignorance and polytheism) and we gave him life (by Our guidance) and provided him with a light by which he walks among the people, as one whose likeness is in the shadows (of ignorance and polytheism) and he cannot come forth from them? Thus has been made fair seeming for the disbelievers what they were doing.”
Last night in the discussion of what we learn from Imam Husayn (a.s) to face the challenges of the world today, we looked at his sermon he delivered in Mina 2 years before the event of Karbala where he analysed the situation and explained the reasons behind the chaotic and pathetic situation of his time.
We can’t face these challenges until we don’t know what the disease is that we suffering from to determine the approximate remedy.
He reminds people of the position of the Ahlul Bait (a.s).
He reminds people of the position of the institution of “enjoining good and forbidding evil”.
And after 14 centuries we realize that his understanding of this institution is on a much broader level than any of us appreciate.
I also recited the rest of sermon to draw your attention to the fact that Imam Husayn (a.s) believes that this responsibility was sidelined in that broader sense and thus the Ummah was in that pathetic situation.
Imam’s focus in this sermon is on social injustice, oppression, the fact that the poor and weak and vulnerable in society are marginalized and that oppressors are controlling society. This is certainly the greatest “munkar” in his eyes he wants to fight.
And the very important point he analysed why we had reached such a low point in time was because ulama/leaders/elite did not perform their duty.
While they have prestige among the people due to the great expectations that people have of them that they would champion the cause of the oppressed, however the Ulama did not do their job and this resulted in oppressive rulers and oppressive systems being established.
There are so many similarities that exist between the challenges of that time and the challenges of today.
Then after placing a major root cause of the quagmire that they reached on this layer of society, he explains why they abandoned their duty and what enabled oppressors to rule them and that is:
- Ulama feared death
- Ulama attachment and love for the world which they will ultimately be separated from
The problem of this class of society was that they were afraid of death and in love of world which refers to their materialistic inclination.
While posing as supposedly being God fearing, they not genuinely pious but worshiped this world and were stuck in love of dunya which hadith says is the head of every trouble.
When living in this manner where the purpose of life is worldly pleasure – note that there is nothing wrong to earn halaal income and enjoy halaal things of this world – the problem is when world is your final destination and first and only priority. They sell their hereafter for this world. That’s their problem.
And the Quran refers to the case of the Scholars among the Jews being like that.
And Ulama of this Ummah did the same!
So every city has a sheikh who justifies oppressive rulers!
OPPRESSIVE LEADERSHIP AND RELIGIOUS DICTATORSHIP
An interesting aspect of Karbala is that while Imam Husayn (a.s) opposes corrupt rulers, he at time same time opposes religious leadership who are ready to sell Imaan and belief in Allah for the life of this world.
Imam Husayn (a.s) was thus also opposing religious dictatorship of supposed pious knowledgeable people who were frauds with no genuineness or God fearing qualities in reality.
In other words Imam Husayn (a.s) was saying that the major root cause of our social problems is lack of spirituality and fear of God due to being stuck in materialism.
Their interests were “Maad-di” or limited to matter which relates to this world and lacked being “Ma’nawi” which refers to spirituality and matters beyond this world.
SYSTEMATIC EROSION OF REAL SPIRITUALITY
The one thing that Bani Umayya unfortunately achieved in a systematic fashion over a period of time was that they were successful in stripping the real spiritual aspect away from the Ummah.
While people performed rituals, the rituals were empty and devoid of any spirit to it.
How do you go for Haj, perform salaah, pay zakaah, etc but at the same time don’t fear Allah??
This is THEE amazing scenario in Karbala!!
Thus among killers of Imam Husayn (a.s) there are people who are hafiz and qari of Quran with big marks of sajda on their forehead!
Shimr, the actual killer of Imam Husayn (a.s) also similarly supposedly performed rituals.
Bani Umayya firstly, while allowing for rituals, removed the spirituality from the rituals. People then started feeling empty from performing such hollow rituals.
And then in the second generation even rituals itself started to disappear!
Thus during the time of the 4th Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s), the survivor of Karbala, partying, music, accessing female musicians all came from Madina! Books are written about the history of Arabic art and music which show that people in Madina did not even know how to make salaah! The people of the very city of Prophet Muhammed (sawa)!
Imam Husayn (a.s) showed that this spiritual erosion was happening in a systematic manner.
And thus while the call of Imam Husayn (a.s) was rooted in social responsibility, he focused on spirituality.
And in our turbulent world spirituality is THEE serious challenge.
Today many reform movements exist to serve the poor, but all lack offering them true spirituality.
Imam Husayn (a.s)’s logic is that without spiritual development you can’t do perfect reform of world!
THE TWO SEEMINGLY OPPOSITE PERFECTIONS IN KARBALA
Our Ustadh Ayatullah Jawadi Amuli (may Almighty Allah grant him long life) says Imam Husayn (a.s) presented such a strong spiritual approach which manifested itself with two seemingly opposite faces.
Firstly this spirituality manifested in a fearless, courageous face of being non-compromising and firm with the oppressors.
Then secondly the same Karbala has an extremely humble face of being down to earth – a face of people on the path of sayr and suluk – the path of journeying towards Almighty Allah. The same people are lions in the day in the battlefield and at night they cry and shiver in awe of their Lord while supplicating and worshiping Almighty Allah!
How this combination exists in Karbala is absolutely unique! Tough and soft hearts at the same time! Ayatullah Jawadi spoke about this is a series of his speeches many years ago under the title in Persian “Irfaan wa Hamasi” or “Spirituality/Mysticism and being brave/courageous warriors”.
And in these levels of spiritual development, Imam Husayn (a.s) is at the peak.
There’s certain levels of spirituality which expresses itself in form of Wilayah which appears in long nights of worship and sometimes it appears in the form of blood (tharullah).
I have thus far shared the sermon of Imam Husayn (a.s) with a purely hard hitting call for social justice in Mina.
But the same Imam Husayn (a.s) when he performs Haj and was on the plains of Arafah, recites the extremely spiritually charged and heart rendering Dua of Arafah which is an opening of the soul!
Let me just read one sentence from this Dua to get blessing from it. Imam Husayn (a.s) says in this dua:
ماذا وَجَدَ مَنْ فَقَدَكَ، وَمَا الَّذى فَقَدَ مَنْ وَجَدَكَ،
“Someone who lost you, what did he find?
And someone who found you what did he loose”?!
That is how Imam Husayn (a.s) explains great levels of spirituality.
The whole journey of Karbala is a social political movement on the one hand as well as a spiritual movement on the other hand. This is one of the unique qualities of Karbala – you can view it from different angles.
Thus some who are revolutionary inclined will consider Karbala a revolutionary movement.
Others who are inclined towards mysticism will consider it a spiritual movement. etc. Every one with their own understanding and taste see Karbala from their point of view.
PRESENCE OF TWO FORMS OF LOGIC AT EVENT OF KARBALA
When Imam Husayn (a.s) was still in Makkah before journeying to Karbala, many people got confused about Imam Husayn (a.s)’s intention and found it illogical.
So these people questioned Imam Husayn (a.s) about his approach and even tried to advise him to take a different approach! People warned him (as if he did not know) that people of Kufa by nature would abandon him and not be loyal.
But Imam Husayn (a.s) does not see it the way they do.
In Karbala there is a clash of two forms of Logic – Logic of interest (maslahah) – the idea of being diplomatic as it is not in your interest to attempt to take your approach of opposing Yazeed. Many senior people had this approach! This includes Abdullah ibn Umar, Abdullah ibn Zubayr, Abdullah ibn Zubayr, his own brother Muhammad ibn Hanafiyyah, etc. They all people of Maslahah and push the view it is not diplomatically correct to get into conflict with the state. Their logic is different to that of Imam Husayn (a.s).
But Imam Husayn (a.s)’s logic is expressed in his reply to these objections and advice offered by these senior figures. He says “I saw in my dream that my grandfather was telling me that verily Allah desires to see you being killed”!
This is the highest level of spirituality as this is the logic that other people do not understand.
The logic of Maslahah then responds and asks Imam Husayn (a.s) “Why are you taking your family, women and children with you??”
The logic of Imam Husayn (a.s) responds by saying “Allah wants to see them being made into prisoners”! It’s the Will of Allah that he understands very differently!!
When these people of Maslahah question Imam Husayn (a.s) asking him what does he really want because they just don’t get it, the logic of Imam Husayn (a.s) responds:
رضى الله رضانا أهل البيت
“Allah’s pleasure is our pleasure” – that’s what I want – SUBMISSION to Almighty Allah!!
SPIRITUAL ACHIEVERS AND SPIRITUAL LOSERS IN KARBALA
It is not only Imam Husayn (a.s) himself (who of course is on the highest level of spirituality) who achieves amazing levels of spirituality, but those with him ALSO achieve amazing levels of spirituality.
On late afternoon of 9th Muharram in Karbala, the army of ibn Sa’d wanted to attack Imam Husayn (a.s) because that was the day when Shimr arrived in Karbala with the express instruction from Ubaydullah ibn Ziyaad to not delay the matter and immediately finish the job.
Under these circumstances Imam Husayn (a.s) sent Abil Fadl Abbas to request time until the next for so they could have one last night.
The opposition did not understand the difference? As far as they were concerned what was the point – you were going to be killed in any case.
But there was a reason for this. Imam Husayn (a.s) wanted one more night to read Quran, perform salaah, make dua and remember his Lord and he said that “they know I love salaah”!
What a night it was when the whole camp of Imam Husayn (a.s) were involved in spiritual activity and the environment was sounding like the zinging noise of bees where everyone was busy.
This is the spiritual inspiration that Imam Husayn (a.s) gave his companions.
It is very unique in this journey of Imam Husayn (a.s) to Makkah and then to Karbala and eventual martyrdom, there are a number of people who came and joined Imam Husayn (a.s) and there are a number of people who left Imam Husayn (a.s) as well!
There is a person called Ubaydullah Ja’fi – he was not a great personality and has an interesting story. Though he had a terrible history, Imam Husayn (a.s) wanted to save him. So when Imam Husayn (a.s) met him and told the story of what was about to happen and he acknowledged that he understood the dangers that lie ahead, Imam Husayn (a.s) invited him to join him to rescue his soul.
What was his response? He said sorry he is not ready to die! This is the exact sentence from the sermon of Imam Husayn (a.s) in Mina where he said the influential in society fear death.
Thus Imam Husayn (a.s) was very clear before traveling to Karbala and said that ONLY those who are ready to die and meet Allah should join him. He made it clear that if you thought he was going to win some battle and become governor of Kufa and that you can benefit from spoils of war – that was not going to happen – so stay away.
Imam Husayn (a.s) then reminded Ubaydullah Ja’fi that this world is transitory and he should worry about his soul. His conscience was thus still pricked and he decided to offer Imam Husayn (a.s) a compromise! What was that compromise? He said that he has a top quality horse – he will offer that to Imam Husayn (a.s) to use, but he himself would not join. Imam Husayn (a.s) smiled and said to him keep your horse, I don’t need it!
There was much instability in the life of this person, he was sometimes on the side of truth including being in camp of Mukhtar in later years and then in camp opposing Mukhtar and eventually he ended up committing suicide.
That is the meaning of the Quranic verse:
خَسِرَ الدُّنْيَا وَالاَخِرَةَ ذَلِكَ هُوَ الْخُسْرَانُ الْمُبِينُ
“he losses this world and (also) the Hereafter; that is indeed the manifest loss” (Surah Hajj Verse 11)
Umar ibn Sa’d is another very important example. Though he is not from the camp of Ahlul Bait (a.s), he is a prominent personality whose father Sa’d ibn Waqqas conquered many lands and was very prominent. But this Umar is deceived by promises of governorship of Tehran. The cost of achieving this was that he had to first kill Imam Husayn (a.s).
This dilemma kept him awake the whole night as he knew that hell awaits him in the next world if he killed Imam Husayn (a.s).
So the next morning he rationalized the crime he was about to commit. For him the governorship was virtual cash whereas heaven was only a promise in the next world like getting something on credit. So for him cash is king and always better than credit – so he decided to kill Imam Husayn (a.s) and intended to afterwards pray for forgiveness, not realizing that he would not have that opportunity. And again history has recorded that he never received the governorship of Tehran either and practically became insane as a result.
That is again:
خَسِرَ الدُّنْيَا وَالاَخِرَةَ ذَلِكَ هُوَ الْخُسْرَانُ الْمُبِينُ
“he losses this world and (also) the Hereafter; that is indeed the manifest loss” (Surah Hajj Verse 11)
HORRIFIC RESULTS OF KILLING YOUR OWN SPIRIT
What I just mentioned now shows that when you kill your own spirit, your ability to commit atrocities is virtually limitless.
Today when you look at the crimes committed against women and children and xenophobia and other crimes – yesterday in the news we read how a father hangs 4 of his children in Durban in his own house – or the case of rape of women and dismembering their body – when does a human being reach this point??? It’s when you completely kill your inner soul.
The killers of Imam Husayn (a.s) are those who first crushed and killed their very own soul before killing Imam Husayn (a.s).
FLYING THROUGH ALL SPIRITUAL STATIONS IN ONE NIGHT
While there is this group who crushed their own souls, Karbala presents people who not only saved their own soul but had the most amazing spiritual achievement in the shortest period of time.
History recorded that 30 people moved from the opposition to the side of Imam Husayn (a.s). This is the spiritual revolution of Imam Husayn (a.s)
When did they cross the floor to the side of Imam Husayn (a.s)?
Some joined Imam Husayn (a.s) in Makkah.
Some joined along the way when he traveled to Karbala
Some joined while Imam Husayn (a.s) was camping in Karbala itself.
Now for all of these we may assume (an outrageous assumption) that they could have ulterior motives that maybe Imam Husayn (a.s) might be victorious and that they would somehow materially benefit from this expedition.
But there are probably 10 people who on the day of Ashura in the morning and even during the day who deserted ibn Sa’d and were martyred in the camp of Imam Husayn (a.s). This is his spiritual revolution.
This Imam Husayn (a.s) who reaches that level of spirituality that when he is full of wounds and on the burning sands of Karbala with his body virtually suspended on arrows and spears – in that condition of the last moments of his life he says:
انا لله وانا اليه راجعون
رضا بقضائك، وتسليما لأمرك، لا معبود سواك، يا غياث المستغيثين
“We come from Allah and to Him is our return
I am pleased with your decree and am submitted to Your command
There is none to be worshipped any other than You
O helper of those who seek help!”
Is there any Irfaan/Tasawwuf or spiritual climax more than that??!!!!
Companions of Imam Husayn (a.s) also have great stories of spiritual achievement we can narrate.
The children of Imam Husayn (a.s) achieved the highest levels of Maqamat Irfaani or spiritual stations. Children!
Most of the time we stuck in terminology of Irfaan and Tasawwuf.
But Ayatullah Jawadi Amuli says the Irfaan and Tasawwuf of Karbala is without terminology!
Its without definition of Maqamat. Because Maqamat is for those people who must struggle from stage to stage to grow spiritually like:
- Maqamat Yaqeen (Station of Certainty)
- Maqamat Saabireen (Station of Patience)
- Maqamaat Ashiqeen (Station of Love), etc etc
But in Karbala these people traveled a journey that most can’t achieve in a lifetime – they traveled it overnight!! They flew with Imam Husayn (a.s) to Allah.
Now you understand why ALL the great Sufis are submitted to Imam Husayn (a.s) and how Khwaja Mueenudin Chistie (r.a.) says:
“Husayn is king
Husayn is king of kings….”