This evening’s majlis began with a play about the events of Karbala by the students of Madrasatul Imam Husayn (AS). This very touching play shed much light on the struggles of the Ahlul Bayt (AS) in Damascus after Karbala in the prison of Yazid.

The play was followed by a comprehensive discussion by Moulana Sayed Aftab Haider about the spiritual dimensions of martyrdom in the context of Imam Husayn’s sacrifice. Moulana introduced his discussion by saying that while the social and political elements were indeed driving forces behind Imam Husayn’s movement, it was a deeper understanding and desire that drove Imam’s decision to sacrifice his life at Karbala. In this regard Moulana said that to fight against the enemies of Islam is merely one aspect of struggle (jihad), but to give your life is a much deeper aspect.

Linking the spiritual aspect of martyrdom to the concept of jihad, Moulana said that jihad in the path of Allah has two aspects. One is that of tabarra (to repel the enemy). According to Moulana the other much deeper aspect is the “journey of the mujahid (fighter) towards perfection” through martyrdom, “regardless of the enemy”. Moulana said that in this “journey” the mujahid liberates his soul from the prison of the material body towards his beloved. Moulana added that in this journey the mujahid and the martyr is the same.

Moulana emphasized that the philosophy behind this aspect of jihad is that of love. Moulana said that it is for this reason that Ayatollah Khomeini stated that love is the core of martyrdom. It is noteworthy that Moulana employed the Arabic term ishq when referring to this category of love and not hubb. In its meaning ishq is beyond love as we understand it in the English language.

After expressing the difficulty in defining love, Moulana emphasized that we should not confuse human attraction with love. In an attempt to define love, Moulana said that when love comes towards absolute perfection, that particular love never fades away, but burns stronger. Moulana stated that lovers define love as a fire that burns everything.

Moulana then went on to say that this particular love is not easily achievable. He said that one can only “travel on this journey” if the beloved is “kind towards you”. Tying this idea of absolute divinely permitted love to Imam Husayn (AS), Moulana asserted that it was for this very reason that Imam (AS) tells Allah (SWT) in Dua Arafa, “Oh Allah you are the one who removed from the hearts love of others until they love none but you”.

Moulana then explained a very mystical hadith qudsi in order to illustrate that martyrdom is the highest station of love. The first part of the hadith reads, “The one who seeks me will find me”. Moulana said that this “seeking” is the first station of love. Moulana added that those who are on this station do not seek the pleasures of this world. Moulana said that it was in this light that Imam Husayn (AS) said in dua ‘Arafa, “Oh Allah when you disappeared, I had to look for you”.

Citing the second part of the hadith which reads, “Whoever finds me knows me”, Moulana said that there is however a difference between knowing Allah and finding Allah. Then citing the third part of the hadith, “Whoever knows me will love me”, Moulana said that the result of this knowledge of Allah is the love of Allah. Moulana however pointed out that the lesser term; hubb is used for love at this stage of the hadith.

The hadith then continues, “And whoever loves me ends up having ishq for me”. At this point Moulana further attempted to clarify the difference between hubb (love) and ishsq (a deeper love). Moulana said that hubb (love) is an inclination but ishq comes with a sense of devotion and complete immersion and destruction in the beloved.

Moulana then quoted the final and most powerful passage of the hadith which deals directly with martyrdom. This part of the hadith reads, “And whoever has ishq for me, I will have ishq for him. And whoever I have ishq for, I kill. And whoever I kill, I will pay blood-money for. And I will be his compensation”. Explaining this last passage, Moulana stated that meeting with Allah’s essence is the compensation for a martyr.

Moulana then added that at Karbala it is this divine compensation and union that we witness. He said that at Karbala Imam Husayn’s followers saw nothing but love. To illuminate this point, Moulana quoted the famous Persian Sufi poet, Abdurahman Jami’s words. When he arrived at the land of Karbala, Jami wrote, “For those who follow fiqh (law), going for hajj to Makkah is compulsory. But for those who follow love, Karbala comes first”.

Moulana then re-affirmed this centrality of ishq (unconditional love) to Karbala when he quoted from various poems by the celebrated poet of the subcontinent, Muhammad Iqbal which he wrote in honour of Imam Husayn. Among the lines which Moulana cited in this context, was the following, “The secrets of freedom is the secret of Karbala. The secret of every freedom is nothing but ishq. Husayn is the nothing but the perfection of isqh”.

Moulana noted that at every stage in Karbala Imam Husayn (AS) was an unconditional lover of God. Underlining this love, Moulana quoted Imam’s famous words to his beloved Lord. Imam said, “Oh Allah, I have left the world in Your love, am ready to make my children orphans in Your love, my heart could not divert towards anyone but You, even if You cut my body into pieces in Your love”.

Citing another one of the many examples of Imam’s ishq, Moulana said that when on the night of Ashura, Yazid’s forces wanted to begin the battle, Imam asked for one more night before departing to his Lord. Imam told the enemies, “I want one more night to make salaah and praise my Lord. Salaah is the ascension of the lover”. Moulana asserted that Imam Husayn (AS) did not see anything but his beloved Allah (SWT).

Moulana concluded his discussion by proving the mystical basis to the famous hadith of the Holy Prophet (SAWA), “Allah loves the one who loves Husayn”. Moulana said that Imam Husayn’s martyrdom granted him unity with his beloved. Hence Husayn (AS) is immersed in Allah.

Moulana’s ‘aza then connected the audience with the undying love of Abu Fadl al-Abbbas (AS) by narrating his tragic martyrdom and his final words to Imam (AS). The majlis ended with the recital and spirited performance of the ma’tam in remembrance of this selfless son of Imam ‘Ali (AS) and brother of Husayn (AS).