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

Summary of Lesson 1 from Karbala: Tawheed

Last night we spoke about the first lesson from Imam Husayn’s mission in Karbala, the most important lesson, the central theme and concept from Karbala, namely, the lesson of Tawheed. Imam Husayn (AS) taught us in Karbala what it means to believe in One Allah. Husayn (AS) is not the first to come and teach humanity that there is only One God, but without any doubt he is very unique in how he taught humanity how to believe in One Allah.

Theoretically, when he presented his idea of Monotheism and Tawheed, he reached to the most amazing climax in how he taught us to believe in Unity of Allah. But he did not only teach humanity theoretical Tawheed, in Karbala he taught humanity practical Tawheed in a most unique manner.

To repeat from last night, he taught us to believe in One God, but he also taught us how to be, and become one. His stance and approach in Karbala taught humanity how you can yourself become one, meaning nothing exists except Allah (SWT).

He taught us what the meaning of La-ilaha is. He taught us the courage to say NO (La), which is the first component of Tawheed. He taught us how to reject, how to refute and say NO, and how beautifully he taught us how to surrender and submit before Allah (Il-lallah).

As mentioned, in Karbala there are so many lessons Imam taught us, but if you analyze and break them down, it goes back to the same concept of Tawheed. You may feel in these discussions that there is repetition, it is not repetition, but in fact, it is a fresh angle to reaching the pristine message of Tawheed.

Therefore last night I deliberately used deeply reflective poetry of some big poets, that after they ((Iqbal and others) studied the events of Karbala they concluded that Husayn (AS) is the foundation of Tawheed.

As Iqbal said: “by writing La-ilaha Il-lallah with his blood on the sands of Karbala, he wrote a sentence of salvation of this Ummah”.

I am not saying that the Husayni mission is just about the philosophy of Tawheed, Imam Husayn (AS) taught us in Karbala how to be Muwahhid.

Understanding Prophethood through Imam Husayn (AS)

Tonight we move further, and we say that after Tawheed, Nubuwwat and Prophethood is the second crucial lesson of Karbala.

In relation to Prophethood, many verses in the Quran speak about it, but I will only highlight a few verses to demonstrate important points.

In Surah Al-Nahl Verse 36 it says:

لَقَدْ بَعَثْنَا فِي كُلّ‌ِ اُمَّةٍ رَسُولاً أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَاجْتَنِبُوا الطَّاغُوتَ فَمِنْهُم مَّنْ هَدَي اللَّهُ وَمِنْهُم مَنْ حَقَّتْ عَلَيْهِ الضَّلاَلَةُ

“And We certainly sent unto every nation a messenger, [saying], “Worship Allah and avoid Taghut.” And among them were those whom Allah guided, and among them were those upon whom error was [deservedly] decreed.”

Furthermore, in Surah Al-Hadeed Verse 25 it says:

لَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا رُسُلَنَا بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَنزَلْنَا مَعَهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْمِيزَانَ لِيَقُومَ النَّاسُ بِالْقِسْطِ

“We have already sent Our messengers with clear evidences and sent down with them the Scripture and the balance that the people may maintain [their affairs] in justice.”

And in Surah Aali-Imraan Verse 164 it says:

لَقَدْ مَنَّ اللّهُ عَلَى الْمُؤمِنِينَ إِذْ بَعَثَ فِيهِمْ رَسُولاً مِّنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَإِن كَانُواْ مِن قَبْلُ لَفِي ضَلالٍ مُّبِينٍ

“Certainly did Allah confer [great] favor upon the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from themselves, reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and wisdom, although they had been before in manifest error”.

These verses explain the following in relation to Ambiya:

– who they are

– what is the purpose of their revelation

– what is their strategy and approach to achieve the purpose

– what type of challenges Ambiya faced in their journey

– how people treated them

– and how Ambiya reacted

Ziyarat Waritha – Husayn (AS) the inheritor of Ambiya

When we analyse the above in the context of the Husayni mission, we find that Husayn (AS) shares this legacy with Ambiya.

Therefore, when we read in Ziyarat Waritha of Imam Husayn (AS), we say

Peace be upon you, O inheritor of Adam the choice of Allah.

This Ziyarat of Imam Husayn is known as Ziyarat Waritha http://www.duas.org/ziaratwaritha.htm, which we read together every night, paying salutations to Imam. This Ziyarat is recorded from Imams of Ahlul Bayt (AS) themselves. They taught us that if you want to greet Imam Husayn (AS), this is the etiquette (through Ziyarat Waritha).

Peace be upon you, O inheritor of Adam the choice of Allah.

Peace be upon you, O inheritor of Noah, the prophet of Allah.

Peace be upon you, O inheritor of Abraham, the intimate friend of Allah.

Peace be upon you, O inheritor of Moses, the spoken by Allah.

Peace be upon you, O inheritor of Jesus, the spirit of Allah.

Peace be upon you, O inheritor of Muhammad, the most beloved by Allah.

Now this is very important to understand – the relationship between Imam Husayn (AS) and Ambiya. Let us explore what Imam Husayn (AS) inherited from Ambiya. He inheritated from Prophets:

– Their status – as discussed in the first night. When the greatest of creation, our grand Master (SAWA) is saying:

“Husayn is from me and I am from Husayn, Allah loves those who love Husayn”

Is there any further question about the status of Husayn (AS)? So, Imam Husayn (AS) inheriting the status of Ambiya is beyond any doubt or dispute.

– Their purpose – Husayn (AS) in Karbala shares with Ambiya the purpose of their revelation. Among the many verses in the Holy Quran explaining the purpose of their revelation, I’d like to draw attention to the below verses which explains the purpose of Ambiya:

  1. Inviting towards Tawheed –

لَقَدْ بَعَثْنَا فِي كُلّ‌ِ اُمَّةٍ رَسُولاً أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَاجْتَنِبُوا الطَّاغُوتَ

“And verily We have appointed a messenger in every nation to command: ‘Serve Allah and shun false gods.’”

2. Establish social justice –

لَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا رُسُلَنَا بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَنزَلْنَا مَعَهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْمِيزَانَ لِيَقُومَ النَّاسُ بِالْقِسْطِ

“and we have sent our Prophets with proof and we have descended down along with them the book and the criteria for truth to establish justice among the people”

3. Directing people towards signs of Allah (SWT) –

لَقَدْ مَنَّ اللّهُ عَلَى الْمُؤمِنِينَ إِذْ بَعَثَ فِيهِمْ رَسُولاً مِّنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ

“And Allah bestowed upon them favour, when he appointed from among themselves a Rasul, with the job of reciting upon them signs of Allah. He purifies them, he reforms them rectifies them, guides them, and teaches them the book and wisdom.”

4. Tazkiya/reform and education

So, let us now go to Karbala. Lets study these ideals in the life of Husayn. In this discussion you will see the movement of Karbala is inch by inch a carbon copy of the ideals of Ambiya.

1. Husayn (AS) invites towards Tawheed

This first purpose was already proven last night. You will recall this message firmly established that Husayn’s (AS) fight was for Tawheed, namely:

a. Rejection of everything other than Allah (SWT)

b. Complete submission to none other than Allah (SWT)

2. Husayn (AS) Establishes Social Justice

Who can even ask the question of the connection of Imam Husayn (AS) to social justice? This is another central theme in Karbala. The main problem leading to Husayn’s (AS) uprising, besides many other problems, is that social injustice is prevalent.

When Imam says he will not give his hand in the hand of Yazid – what does it mean really? When Imam stayed in the house of ibni Abbas, and receives various delegations of Hajj, he lays the challenge before them:

“Don’t you see that an unjust and oppressive person has usurped the leadership of this Ummah? Do you realize what the consequences of this leadership are? Don’t you see that Haqq is not being practiced?”

Who is Husayn? He is the son of the one who was killed for his insatiable desire for social justice, whose entire life was for social justice. When Imam Ali (AS) accepted the Khilafat after the assassination of the third Khaliph, he laid down this condition: he accepted this leadership explaining his pledge of leadership from Quran. He explains the pledge between Allah and Ulama, that they will not keep silent on the full stomach of oppressor, and empty stomach of oppressed. That is why Husayn (AS) is champion of the oppressed.

As you can see, this is one of the unique features of Karbala. Everybody finds a connection. Mystics find their shelter in Husayn, revolutionaries find their shelter in Husayn, etc. Husayn as a caller for justice!

Husayn’s purpose of uprising is without any doubt to establish social justice. He clashed with a system of injustice in Bani Umayya. Yazid is a product of a system. He did not simply appear from nowhere. Starting from his ancestry, he is the finished product – the end result of a series of problems…

Husayn (AS) was killed somewhere else before being killed in Karbala. Husayn (AS) stood against a system which was introduced well before Karbala.

That well-known scholar and philosopher from the Indo-Pak subcontinent Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi explains how Caliphate gradually transformed into Monachy. Husayn (AS) stood against this system. Islam brought society forward, freeing humanity from the chains of slavery. Bani Umayyad dynasty took them back towards a system of Jahiliyyah and injustice. Now we understand why we say in Ziyarat Waritha:

that Husayn (AS) came out against a most oppressive tyrant Yazid like Musa (AS) came out against the evil and brutality of Pharoah. (LA)

3. Husayn (AS) Directing People Towards Signs of Allah (SWT)

Imam Husayn (AS) main purpose was not to convert non-Muslims to Islam. That was not his focus. As a result of big military campaigns which leaders of Islam took, and the vast lands they conquered, people became Muslim in big numbers. A huge Muslim empire came into existence. They were not Muslim because of free choice. It was a political change. There is a saying in Arabic, which says: People are always under religion of rulers. Very important discussion to explore! We will come to this topic in later nights.

4. Husayn (AS) – Purpose of Tazkiya/Reform and Education

From day 1, Imam Husayn (AS) wished to clarify his motive. He wanted to tell the people that his movement was not an ordinary one based on human passions and worldly desires. When he left Madina, in that well known will to his brother Muhammad ibn Hanafiyya, he said:

“This movement of mine is not on account of stubbornness, rebellion or worldly passions. It is also not my object to create trouble or to oppress anyone. The only thing which invites me to this great movement is that I should reform the affairs of the followers of my grandfather, eradicate corruption, undertake enjoining to do good and restraining from evil and follow the tradition of my grandfather, the Prophet of Allah”

The message of Imam is a message of reform. On the communal level, the whole community should be reformed. Imam was giving sermon after sermon…laying down the appeal: “Don’t you see who your ruler is? Which direction are we going?” Nobody was ready to listen. It’s not like they did not know. People were intoxicated in this dunya.

There is often a misconstrued question floating around, that Husayn (AS) rebelled against legitimate leadership. Indeed, this is completely baseless. This is what Bani Umayya exploited for their propaganda campaign.

In Karbala there is a conflict between 2 approaches. Imam Husayn’s (AS) approach, where he explains: “I heard my grandfather say, if anyone witnesses an oppressive ruler and does not challenge, Allah (SWT) will place him in the same place of hell as the oppressor.”

This conflicts with the ruling establishment of the Umayyad dynasty, where fabricated hadith say: “Follow your leader, even if he breaks your back and contradicts the Sunnah.”

So based upon this logic, Imam Husayn (AS) made an ijtihadi mistake (wana uthu billah)…so they say!

All those people who disagreed with Imam Husayn’s (AS) marching forward towards Kufa, amongst them the high profile personalities like Abdullah ibni Abbas, Abdullah ibni Umar, Abdullah ibni Zubayr, even Muhammad ibni Hanafiyya, they all said to Imam – Please don’t go to Kufa! Amazing is that none of them said that the uprising is wrong!

What they said was don’t depend on the people of Iraq. They are not loyal, they are very unreliable. But none of them said uprising against Yazid is wrong. This is a very crucial point to understand. They all agreed that we should stand against oppressive system, but their caution to Imam Husayn (AS) was, be careful of the people of Kufa who are inviting you, claiming that they will not be a reliable support base. Why did they not join? Problem is Tazkiya.

The struggle of Ambiya and Imam Husayn (AS) is identical. They both stood against money, power and hypocrisy. The people were of 3 types:

a. Those who could be bought over;

b. Those who could not be bought over were threatened and shut down forcefully;

c. Hypocrites – double standards on display.

Imam Husayn’s (AS) job was Tazkiya and education. Like Ambiya came to educate, Husayn (AS) educated in a most unique manner. Husayn (AS) presented an understanding of Quran like it is understood by Ambiya. Imam on every step of his journey use to read Quran and interpret Quran practically. When Imam saw people are turning away, he read verses of how people left Ambiya alone (such as Musa (AS).

The movement of Karbala and Ambiya is so close. The purpose, challenges, strategies are all the same.

Ambiya – in their struggle never worried about numbers, always about quality not quantity. Like in Ziyarat Waritha, we read:

Peace be upon you, O inheritor of Noah, the prophet of Allah

Who is Nuh (AS)? He lived for 950 years, and converted only 7 people. People asked why so few people came with Imam Husayn (AS)? But Imam Husayn (AS) had 72 people!

Peace be upon you, O inheritor of Abraham, the intimate friend of Allah.

Ibrahim (AS)! Who is more suitable than Husayn (AS) to say he is warith of Ibrahim (AS), like when Ibrahim challenges Nimrod, Husayn challenges Yazid. He jumps into fire in extreme love and attachment to Allah (SWT). Husayn in Karbala so beautifully says:

“If the deen of Muhammad (SAWA) cannot be established without my murder, then Oh swords come take me”.

Ibrahim (AS)…who takes Ismail (AS) submitting to Allah (SWT) as a sacrifice. Sabr of Ibrahim prefers to cover his eyes before sacrificing his son.

In Karbala, there is not only one Ismail whom Husayn sacrificed, and Husayn never concealed his eyes.

One very important point Husayn taught us, and Ambiya taught us in their mission and movement, they never justified their strategy by its purpose.

It does not mean because the purpose is good, anything is acceptable. NO!! If our purpose is sacred and truthful, then we will never use false strategies and deception to achieve that purpose. This is what Karbala teaches us.