(Second night lecture of Muharram 1437 delivered by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town)

Say: He is Allah, the One! (1) Allah, the eternally Besought of all! (2) He begetteth not nor was begotten. (3) And there is none comparable unto Him. (4)

Highlights from Last Night

Last night we explained the reasoning and philosophy of these annual commemoration programs, in the light of Quran and Sunnah. Why it is crucial to remember Husayn and Karbala and why it is crucial to remember this tragedy with the deepest of our emotions and feelings and our very existence and wujud. We will try to achieve this in these few nights of Aza and remembrance of our Master Husayn (AS).

We explained last night that attachment and affiliation to a personality is through his thoughts, message, ideas and teachings. At the same it is crucial to establish this special relationship with Sayyed-al-Shuhada Imam Husayn (AS), his unique personality and of Ahlul Bayt as a whole.

So we will be doing both in these 10 nights. We will try to understand the message, ideals, values, teachings and lessons of what we learn from Karbala, and we will also try to establish the connection from the depth of our souls with the heroes and martyrs of Karbala, with our tears and expressions of love for this family and the tragedy that has been befallen the Household of our Holy Prophet (SAWA).

Synopsis of the Topic

We are trying to reflect on the principle messages from the Lessons of Karbala. Karbala is an ocean of lessons. Every aspect and step of Karbala has a lesson.

As the saying goes in Farsi, if you cannot bring the whole ocean or river to yourself, at least drink to the extent of your capacity. Insha’Allah we will try to fulfil our thirst and desire to be inspired by Karbala as much as our capacity permits.

Tonight we will start with the most important and central message of Karbala. The most important, the most central and pivotal message of Imam Husayn (AS) in his whole life and particularly in Karbala, is the lesson of Tawheed.

Imam Husayn (AS) in Karbala conveyed a very genuine, unique, in-depth message of Tawheed to the people. Indeed, a very comprehensive message for generations to come.

What is the Meaning of Tawheed?

Normally we understand it as believing there is no God except Allah (SWT), and He is One. There is no partner with Allah (SWT). Normally this is what we understand from the Unity of God, the Oneness of our Creator, as a Monotheist religion of Islam. This is a very simple and basic definition of Tawheed.

Let us take it a step further. Ulama and theologians have given a great deal of discussions on Tawheed. Not only in Karbala and Imam’s uprising is Tawheed the main lesson. But at the same time, the reality is that in the whole message of Islam, in the institutions of Islam, it all finally concludes with Tawheed.

In chemistry, we say there are so many things around in this world. Compounds and elements – the periodic table as we commonly know it. It means that in all the millions of phenomena in this world you will finally end up in its basic elements if you dissect them.

Shaheed Ayatullah Murtaza Mutahhari says: if you analyze and dissect whatever is in Islam such as:

– Nubuwwat in Islam

– Qiyamat in Islam

– Jihad in Islam

– Akhlaaq in Islam

– Fiqh in Islam, etc.

Whatever is in Islam – if you dissect it you will end up with the basic element of Tawheed.

The 8th Imam of Ahlul Bayt (AS), Imam Ali ibni Musa Ridha beautifully explains: “The purpose of Imamat is Tawheed”. Qiyamat Hajj, fasting, salaat is same. Even having good akhlaaq – its purpose is not to please people. Its purpose is to worship One Allah. What is the purpose of knowledge in Islam? The first step to knowledge is to know Allah (SWT).

Therefore if you look at the Holy Quran, Hadith and the teachings of Ahlul Bayt (AS), the most crucial topic is Tawheed. That is the central point – calling people to believe in One God, One Creator.

Tonight, I want to tell you that Imam’s uprising, style and strategy of his stance was nothing but Tawheed. Great Ulama, scholars, thinkers and philosophers conclude that Karbala is nothing but the establishment of Tawheed.

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”

These people when they look at Karbala, they find that Karbala means Tawheed!

The foundation of Tawheed is Husayn ibni Ali. That is what Karbala is all about, in all aspects. Scholars have gone to great lengths to explain, since Tawheed is such a crucial issue in Karbala.

Understanding Tawheed from the Holy Quran

Tawheed is a very detailed discussion. When we analyze Tawheed from the Holy Quran, we see Tawheed is divided into 2 stages:

1. Theoretical Tawheed – to know, that there is no God except Allah (in theory). There is no creator or provider other than Allah (SWT). Theoretical Tawheed is further divided into 3 levels, discussing the essence and attributes of Allah (SWT):

– Tawheed fizzaad

– Tawheed fil sifaat

– Tawheed fil af’aal

2. Practical Tawheed – to believe in One God is theoretical, and to become one is called practical Tawheed.

Shaheed Ayatullah Mutahhari has very appropriate wording. He says theoretical Tawheed is knowing that there is One Allah (SWT), but practical Tawheed is “being and becoming”.

Sometimes you only believe that there is One Allah (SWT), but then in the further stages you are one and you become one. What does it mean, as this is a potentially dangerous statement.

Practical Tawheed means your direction becomes one. You reach the point in your life where there is only one direction, namely Allah (SWT). When you believe in One Allah (SWT) and everything in your life and the direction and purpose of your life is nothing other than to seek the pleasure of Almighty Allah (SWT).

Becoming or being means going to Allah (SWT), your journey of travelling toward Allah until you reach Allah. This articulates the distinction between philosophy and Irfan.

In philosophy, the objective is to prove the existence of God. You reach to the point of knowing God.

Irfan and the mystical approach takes you to God! When you travel, you don’t say I know God, you say I found God! This is a different level of understanding God!

Therefore, in philosophy, someone teaches you the existence of God through different proofs, but when you want to reach God, nobody can teach you, you need to travel the journey yourself!

Theoretical Tawheed Explained in Dua Arafah

Now, coming back to Karbala, Imam Husayn (AS) has taught us both stages of Tawheed in the most beautiful manner, theoretical Tawheed and practical Tawheed. In fact, the message of Imam Husayn (AS) in a nutshell is: O people, if you want salvation and success, leave everything and surrender to one God.

When it comes to theortical Tawheed, who can reach even close to Imam Husayn(AS) as expressed in Dua Arafah? (http://www.duas.org/zilhajj/arfday.htm)

Look at how Imam Husayn (AS) teaches us Tawheed in this dua. If we claim to love Husayn (AS), we should study how Imam speaks to Allah (SWT). Even when we speak about theoretical Tawheed in the Husayni mission, it is much much deeper than simply saying there is One God.

From Dua Arafah, we understand oneness of God is not simply numerical. It is not about one in contrast to two. What Imam Husayn is saying is that there is only Allah (SWT) – there is nothing else other than Allah. This is the depth of Imam’s approach to Tawheed.

Some religions believe in the God of good and the God of bad. That is a numerical approach to deity. But what Imam Husayn (AS) is saying, when we saying Allah (SWT) is one, it is not about the number one, because you can then imagine number two. Imam Husayn (AS) is saying in his approach to theoretical Tawheed that there is no possibility to imagine another one.

You see, if in this room there is a place for two people, but only one is here, you will say only one is here (but there is place for another – the room is big enough). So those who are saying God is numerical one, they are saying in this room of existence, there is plenty of space but only one God is present. But in the approach of Imam Husayn (AS), he is saying there is nothing existing other than Allah (SWT) – there is no space for anything else.

In Dua Arafah, Imam Husayn (AS) explains Tawheed in the most sublime manner.

“O Allah I am poor, while people believe I am rich (not poor in money, but poor in my very existence). In being, I am poor, so what about my own reality which is poverty. How poor I will be in that poverty?”

“I am ignorant, while people (and me), think highly of myself. What will be the level of ignorance if I know?”

 Practical Tawheed displayed in Karbala

How beautifully Imam Husayn promotes and preaches Tawheed in its most pristine form in Dua Arafah.

But what we see in action in Karbala is practical Tawheed. Like we experience in Surah Fatiha, theoretical Tawheed is expressed in the first three verses. The fifth verse expresses practical Tawheed:

إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ

“You (Alone) we worship, and You (Alone) we ask for help (for each and everything)”

In Karbala, we see theoretical Tawheed at its peak, but the mission of Husayn (AS) demonstrates practical Tawheed. He taught people what is means to surrender to Allah (SWT) and Him alone.

Kalimah Tawheed has two components, which we see flourishing in Karbala:

1. La- ilaha – negation of all the false Gods, rejecting everything other than God Almight (SWT)

2. Il-lallah – surrender and submission to only and only Allah (SWT)

In Karbala, surrendering before an oppressor is regarded as the biggest Shirk. You cannot understand Tawheed, until you understand different levels of shirk, because until you don’t refute shirk, you will not reach Tawheed.

When the demand of bay’at comes to Imam Husayn (AS), he emphatically says: “A person like me will never give my hand to Yazid (LA).” This is the voice of Tawheed!

What Imam Husayn (AS) is trying to say is that those people who confused Tawheed for their own ideals, separating when you are religious and in spiritual circles then you only speak about Allah (SWT), but when you are in dunya you can surrender. Real Muwahhid is only possible when you are completely submitted to Allah (SWT). That is when you understand HAQQUAA KE BINA-E LA ILAH AST HUSAIN.

“Husayn (AS) is the embodiment of Tawheed”

Tawheed of Sayyida Zainab (SA)

Truly amazing is that in Karbala, every child, woman, companion has no submission other than to Allah (SWT). We have Sayyida Zainab as a small child being taught numbers by Imam Ali (AS). Ali says to Zainab, say one, and she responds, he says say two, and she gets stuck. Her blessed tongue which has said one is shy to say two! This is theoretical Tawheed of Sayyida Zainab as a young girl!

This same Zainab (SA), known as the mother of calamities, after losing everything in the massacre of Karbala, having witnessed the tragedy first-hand, her family being slaughtered, and dealing with its aftermath with her family being robbed and taken as prisoners, responds to the taunts of ibni Ziyad when she reaches Kufa by saying:

“Wallahi ma ra-aytu Illah jamila”

By God I did not see anything other than beauty”

Look at this level of practical Tawheed and complete submission to Almighty Allah (SWT)!

Practical Tawheed Before Karbala in the Husayni Mission

As we discussed earlier, Shaheed Ayatullah Mutahhari says: theoretical Tawheed is to know there is One Allah. Practical Tawheed is to be and becoming. That you don’t know or recognize anything other than Allah (SWT).

Before Ashura, we see this practical Tawheed shining through. Highly influential people of Meccan society warned Imam please don’t go as you cannot depend on the people of Iraq, they are not loyal. Imam explains with his practical Tawheed:

“Allah’s pleasure is pleasure of us Ahlul bayt!”

I saw in a dream, my grandfather Rasulullah told me: Allah wants to see you slaughtered.”

Ibni Abbas then asks: “Why do you want to take these women and children with you?” To which Imam replies:

“I also saw in my dream, my grandfather saying: O Husayn Allah wants your children to be taken as prisoners.”

In Imam’s poetry on the plains of Karbala we see further how Tawheed is manifested, most mind-blowing:

“O Allah, out of your desire, I left everything, and I made my children orphans. O Allah if you chop me in this love for you, for a fraction of a second this heart will not divert in any direction other than to you O Allah.”

Iqbal’s Poetic Reflections on Husayn (AS)

Let us beautify tonight by concluding with the reflections of great poets on Karbala, such as Allama Iqbal, Shams Tabriz, and Rumi. They all conclude with emphasizing the message of Karbala is the message of Tawheed!

Iqbal talks about the status of Husayn (AS), stating that in the ummah of our great Nabi (SAWA), do you want to know where is Husayn? The place of Husayn is in the Holy Quran, in Qul Huwallah. Just as Qul Huwallah (Say that He is One) is the most absolutely unambiguous and definite commandment in the Quran, Imam Hussain (AS) distinguishes himself among the followers of our Holy Prophet (SAWA) through his immovable conviction and allegiance to truth.

Iqbal says that truth continues to live on by virtue of the strength imparted to it by Imam Husayn (AS), thus rendering it immortal. His sacrifice to proclaim right in the face of wrong remains beyond compare in the history. While the wrong may seem to triumph for a while, Imam Husayn (AS) has shown that its triumph is always bound to be short-lived and it invariably meets its end in annihilation.

Not only on the mystical level, but also on the social and political level, Husayn is the perfect example of a Muslim never being a slave of anyone other than Allah (SWT).

Iqbal says: A Muslim’s head is never bowed down to anyone other than Allah (SWT). The blood of Husayn (AS) explained the secret of being Muslim. The sleeping nation was awakened with his blood!

Husayn’s (AS) sword of NO pulled the life blood out of the people of Batil and oppressive tyranny.

Husayn (AS) on the desert sands of Karbala (which is always moving) could manage to inscribe La ilaha Il-lalah with his blood. Iqbal summarizes this as the sentence which is salvation of this Ummah.

This couplet eloquently portrays Iqbal’s love for and faith in Imam Husayn (AS). Iqbal addresses himself to the breeze which takes messages to the far away people. Iqbal asks the breeze to carry his tears, as he weeps for Imam Husayn (AS), to the sacred soil of Karbala so as to place them on the grave of Imam Husayn (AS).