By: Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider on 30 September 2017 (Muharram 1439) at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town)

We are gathered here tonight on this night of Ashura to pay homage to Sayed asShuhada, this grandson of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). This is the climax of our programs where we gathered every night to learn from this open university of Karbala and Imam Hussain (a.s). 

Our theme for these discussions was focused on the companions (Sahaba) of Rasulullah (SAWA). It is totally misunderstood that when we speak about the Ahlul Bait (a.s), Ali (a.s), Fatima (s.a), Hussain (a.s), etc. we are somehow ignoring and undermining the role of the Sahaba of Rasulullah (SAWA). As we categorically reaffirmed, this perception is completely untrue. 

Dhikr and remembrance of Ahlul Bait (a.s) is not in negation of anybody else, and therefore our focus in this series of lectures has been to define the Quranic understanding of Sahaba. We spoke about a number of great companions of Rasulullah (SAWA), focusing on those who are lesser known while they were great personalities with great contributions to Islam through their sacrifice and devotion.

From personalities like Uthman ibn Madh’un to Mus’ab ibn Umair, to Anas ibn Harith al-Kahili and Bilal, to Qays ibn Sa’d and Owais al-Qarni, to Khuzaima ibn Thabit, Ammar ibn Yasir, Abu Dharr, Salman Farsi, Miqdad, and Zaid ibn Harithah. We spoke about them and can be referenced to the previous lectures.


We said in our introductory lecture that Sahaba have a great position and great respect, with a significant role in the progression of Islam. However, as we clarified, there is no competition between them and Ahlul Bait (a.s).

I don’t know why we need to be apologetic and defensive by placing a disclaimer of not being Shia, when one speaks about Ali and Fatima, and Hassan and Hussain? Why? Ahlul Bait (a.s) are from Rasulullah (SAWA). Ahlul Bait (a.s) have Divine status and this is not something that one particular school of thought/sect believes. NO – it is a common belief.

If someone of the stature of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (RA) says that nobody can be compared or contested with the family of Rasulullah (SAWA). Who are we then to introduce this competition??

The purity of Ahlul Bait (a.s) is established by the Holy Quran in verse 33 of Surah Ahzaab (chapter 33) and by overwhelming Hadith by our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). Then why do we need to make this issue of Ahlul Bait (a.s) a sectarian issue. Love of Ahlul Bait (a.s) is not a Sunni/Shia issue.

The status of Ahlul Bait (a.s) is accepted by all. Imam Shafi’I (RA) is saying that love for Ahlul Bait (a.s) is compulsory and established in the Holy Quran in verse 23 of Surah Shura (chapter 42):

قُلْ لَا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ أَجْرًا إِلَّا الْمَوَدَّةَ فِي الْقُرْبَىٰ
“Say: I do not ask of you any reward for it but love for my near relatives”.

Imam Shafi’I (RA) was not apologetic for his love of Ahlul Bait (a.s). He fearlessly says:
“O traveler go stand near Mina, not in a private or discrete room, go in Makkah and Musdalifah, when the pilgrims are coming in scores of numbers for Hajj, like a roaring river. At this point, exclaim that if love of the family of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and Husayn (AS) is Shiaism then human beings and Jinn should bear witness that I Imam Shafi’i am Shia!!”

This is the courage displayed by Imam Shafi’i (RA) whom the majority of Sunni Muslims of Cape Town follow.


Related to the above verse of the Holy Quran is the Hadith where Rasulullah (SAWA) says that whoever dies having loved the Ahlul Bait (a.s) dies the death of a martyr, and whoever dies having hated Ahlul Bait (a.s) dies the death of a disbeliever!

So, the love of Ahlul Bait (a.s) and their supreme status is beyond any sect. Therefore, love for the Ahlul Bait (a.s) penetrates all those who have a heart and some semblance of pure nature. As a result, it does not matter what your ideological persuasion is, because love of Ahlul Bait (a.s) found a place in your heart.

People of mysticism and spirituality, who believe in the purity of the heart and soul, rely on Ahlul Bait (a.s) as the guiding backbone for this journey to reach purity. This theme is clear when one studies the life and works of the great Persian Sufi, Mowlana Jalaluddin Rumi, and his teacher Shams Tabriz. 


That very well-known poetry of the great Sufi saint Khwaja Ghareeb Nawaz Mu’inudin Chishti Ajmeri (RA), when he defines Husayn (AS), he eloquently writes:


“Husayn is King! 
Husayn is King of the Kings!
Husain is himself religion and also the one who gave shelter to the religion
He preferred to give his head but not his hand to Yazid
Truly, Husayn is the foundation of la ilaha il-lallah”

I wonder how many fatwas of Kufr and Shirk would have been issued on him if he was living in our times!!

He says that Husain (a.s) is himself religion! People are not even ready to digest that Rasulullah (SAWA) is religion because they relegate his status to that of a normal human being!… how about digesting this?!

Khwaja Mu’inudin Chishti (RA) goes further to define Imam Husain (a.s) as the shelter of Islam! Furthermore, he says that Husain (a.s) is the FOUNDATION OF MONOTHEISM, renouncing all false Gods. This is Husain (a.s) and the Ahlul Bait (a.s) of Rasulullah (SAWA). 

There is no reason for competition and there is no reason to be apologetic and defensive! We all have to proud of this legacy of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).


We spoke about different companions of Rasulullah (SAWA) across these nights of Muharram. We explained that some of them came with the background of pure nature even before they accepted Islam. We spoke about some of them with their undivided devotion to Tauheed.

We also discussed Sahaba such as Ammar and parents Yasir and Sumaya who are symbols of extreme perseverance through adversity. And then we also reflected on Ammar and his unique insight in understanding the truth in the most confusing situations.

We spoke about Sayedina Bilal – another example of devotion and love for the Ahlul Bait (a.s). With Bilal we learn that Islam establishes equality amongst humanity and shows the utmost concern for the oppressed and downtrodden. 

Abu Dharr – whose heart beats for the poor and oppressed! This man was ultra-sensitive about the unfair distribution from the Public Treasury. Abu Dhar, Ammar, Miqdad, Salman are crying for justice. They display immense courage and resistance with their critical approach based on their understanding of the Holy Quran.

Then we also discussed that great lover of Rasulullah (SAWA) – Owais al-Qarni, all the way from Yemen. They never met, despite their best intentions to, but had a very deep love for each other. Rasulullah (SAWA) said of Owais that he can smell the fragrance of Heaven coming through a fresh breeze from Yemen. He was referring to Owais!


Now let us take all these qualities of the Sahaba which we discussed, namely, devotion, commitment, perseverance, Imaan, seeking justice and being prepared to die for it, Tauheed, resisting oppression, resisting deviation, defending the Quran and Sunnah, challenging those who treasured worldly pursuits.

All of these characteristics are evident on one day, on one stage, and that is KARBALA! This is why Karbala is ETERNAL!

The tragedy and level of injustice and oppression committed in this bitter event in history is indeed unparalleled. There are plenty of examples of this in history. Even in our own time, such as Rohingya for example. We watch the news of the suffering of these people and the decades of suffering of the Palestinians.

The history of Islam has many examples of deep suffering and pain, but no remembrance survived in history other than Karbala. Why can we never forget Karbala despite all the efforts to try and erase Karbala from the memories of people? All kinds of fabrications are brought forth, citing different events which are purported to have occurred on the Day of Ashura to dilute or remove the significance of the tragedy of Imam Husain (a.s). From Nabi Adam (a.s), to Nabi Esa (a.s), to Nabi (Musa)…you see all kinds of propaganda!!!

We again see the apologetic attitude on radio, when commemoration programs are tagged as Muharram commemorations. The name of Husain (a.s) is not mentioned. Why are we shy to say “Remembrance of Husain (a.s) and Karbala?” Is Husain (a.s) not the grandson your Rasulullah (SAWA)?


Someone said the following interesting comment. If someone makes a big noise without any weight or credence in their claim, the natural result is that nobody takes note of it. But if someone makes a claim and has some credibility, then people do not simply let it slide if it is challenged. They try to shut it out, and even resort to violence to silence it if necessary. 

This person then concludes that when he looks at the injustice and oppression committed against the family of Rasulullah (SAWA) over and over again, he realizes that there is some great deal of credibility associated with this family. The Ahlul Bait (a.s) had to be faced with their homes being attacked, being exiled, poisoned and then being massacred, with their children being slaughtered too, and their women being taken as prisoners of war.

If there is no virtue or anything of substance, then why inflict this level of harm on a small group of people??!!

Then the question is why do we cry for them?! Crying for Ahlul Bait (a.s) is the reaction to the crimes and atrocities committed against them. Action is under control, but reaction is not. If you hit somebody, they will cry. Whoever loves will cry and feel the pain of those who are hurt. The whole of Islam is manifested in Karbala.

This is how the memory of Karbala is eternal. This is what Khwaja Mu’inudin Chishti (RA) is saying (refer above).


When it came to Hussain (a.s) and Karbala, he was able to penetrate and influence beyond borders. Imam Husain (a.s) stood in Karbala and offered his sacrifices in a most unique way that he even has something to present to those who do not believe in Islam or don’t practice Islam.

Imam Husain (a.s) is the symbol of Taqwa and piety. But what we find uniquely strange is that Husain (a.s) is loved by people who have no religious background, such as singers for example. Somehow they also speak about Imam Husain (a.s) when Muharram arrives. 


If you do an online search with the subject being “remembrance of Imam Husain (a.s)”, you will find search results of a wide variety of religious people, non-religious people and even people who do not believe in God. They somehow are all impacted by Karbala though!

As an example of the type of search results, you will encounter Lata Mangeshkar’s eulogy to Imam Husain (a.s). This is the point about the universality of Karbala, that even a Hindu singer is inspired about Husain (a.s)!

In these days of Muharram, we see Shia having a procession, and Sunnis having something similar. Furthermore, we see Hindus also have a procession for Imam Husain (a.s). And would you believe it, we have some Christians also decorating their churches with “Ya Husain (a.s)”. They come to Karbala carrying their cross, chanting “Labbayka ya Hussain”!!

We have the grandson of our beloved Rasul (SAWA) who is so charismatic in articulating his message, that Muslims, non-Muslims, politicians, revolutionary leaders, philosophers, scholars and poets all show their utmost respect to him. Are we as Muslims not supposed to be proud of him since he is from us? We have the treasure of Husain (a.s), and the diamond of Karbala.

Even non-believers can recognize the greatness of Imam Husain (a.s). Mahatma Ghandi had a very thought-provoking statement about Imam Husain (a.s). He says that he learned from Husain (a.s) how to win while losing in the battlefield! This means that you cannot always win with the sword, but rather, you can win with the blood over the sword!

Husain (a.s) taught us that we have a different tool to fight with. He redefined war! This is how people surrender before Husain (a.s)! We have experiences in our own city where the respected Catholic Father Christopher Clohessy would speak on our platform, displaying his love for Imam Husain (a.s).


This is Husain (a.s) that Mohammad Ali Johar beautifully says that the martyrdom of Imam Husain (a.s) is the death of Yazid and Islam is revived after every Karbala. Karbala is symbolic with every fight between truth and falsehood. Whoever will stand against injustice will be the representative of Husain (a.s) and that land of resistance will be Karbala! This is the meaning of “Kullu yaumin Ashura, wa kullu ardin Karbala” – every day is Ashura, and every place is Karbala.

There is a Hadith from Rasulullah (SAWA), where he says that for Husain (a.s) there is a secret love in the hearts of the believers! Every pure heart loves Husain (a.s) even if you don’t know him, because he is the symbol of truth, justice and sacrifice.

The memory of Karbala is also unique! It goes beyond academic discussions. Our dear friend Father Christopher Clohessy beautifully says that when Muharram arrives every year, lovers of Husain (a.s) do not narrate Karbala like a story, but rather, we RELIVE Karbala as if it is happening now! 

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