Following a recitation of passages from the Holy Qur’an, Moulana Sayed Aftab Haider delivered his address to the mourners of Imam Husayn (AS) and the martyrs of Karbala. This evening Moulana introduced the concept of shahaadah, or martyrdom for the pleasure of Allah (SWT) as Imam Husayn’s loftiest ideal.

Moulana began his discussion by alluding to the necessity of martyrdom on the part of Imam Husayn (AS). Moulana said that because Imam (AS) realized that he was talking to a non-responsive audience, he saw martyrdom as the only means through which to ultimately achieve his goals. In this regard, Moulana quoted a passage from Imam’s response to ibn Abbas’s cautions against standing up to Yazid. Imam Husayn said, “The Prophet (SAWA) told me in my dream, ‘Allah wants to see you martyred’”.

Moulana then went onto shed light on the importance given to martyrdom in the Islamic tradition. In this context Moulana asserted that martyrdom is more sacred than reform. He added that martyrdom is so “precious” in Islam that it is used in ahadith as a criterion in determining the virtuous status of any other good action. In this light Moulana cited a hadith in which the Prophet (SAWA) said that there is no virtue better than martyrdom in the path of Allah (SWT).

Moulana pointed out that Islam grants such special status to a martyr because society is indebted to the martyrs. He said that people cannot fulfill their roles in the society if the environment is not conducive and it is the martyr who brings about this conducive environment by sacrificing his/her life. Illuminating this point, Moulana cited Ayatollah Murtadha Mutahari’s likening of martyrs to “candles of the human-beings”. Mutahari wrote that through “burning themselves, the martyrs give light to the whole world”. Moulana added that this “spiritual ascension” of the martyrs even reaches their physical bodies. He said that it is due the spirituality of the material body resulting from martyrdom that the body of the martyr does not require ghusl (ritual purification) and kafan (shroud).

Moulana then sought to define the concept of martyrdom in Islam. Moulana’s definition was very important in dispelling certain misconceptions as to who exactly may be considered a martyr. After stating that when one dies as a victim, one cannot be considered a martyr, Moulana said that when someone decides to give his/her life in the path of Allah and gives it with conviction and understanding, then he/she is a martyr.

Moulana cautioned that this death does not entail suicide. Moulana retorted that instead, the attainment of martyrdom possesses its own “deep philosophy”, insisting that closeness to Allah as well as a clear vision is integral. Linking this idea of martyrdom to the movement of Karbala, Moulana said that the understanding and conviction present at Karbala cannot be compared to any other event.

In a sense contrasting martyrdom with destructive actions such as suicide bombings, Moulana emphasized that the martyr does not sacrifice his/her life out of despair for this world. He said that instead the martyr recognizes that there is a higher status than what this world can offer but this can only be achieved through striving in this world. Moulana stated that for the martyr, the world is like a school.

After presenting some examples of the love for martyrdom on the part of the Muslims during the lifetime of the Prophet (SAWA), Moulana pointed to the uniqueness of Karbala as far as the love for the attainment of martyrdom is concerned. Moulana said that at Karbala, both in terms of motivation and understanding, people yearned for martyrdom. Underlining the diversity of this yearning, Moulana said that an eighty year old Habib ibn Madhahir and a six month old Ali Asghar both presented themselves for martyrdom.

Moulana added that in Karbala people were prepared for death like a mother prepares her son or daughter for a marriage. He said everyone at Karbala was clear about the vision of Imam Husayn (AS) because Imam (AS) took the purest of all people with him to Karbala.

In this regard Moulana cited the example wherein Imam offered his companions the option of leaving Karbala, but they all remained faithful to Imam (AS). Moulana asserted that it was for this understanding and dedication on their part that Imam Husayn (AS) described his companions as the “best and most loyal”, even in comparison to the companions of his grandfather (SAWA) and his father (AS).

Further underlining the fact that this love for martyrdom was present on the part of young and old at Karbala, Moulana concluded his lecture by recollecting the last dialogue between Imam Husayn (AS) and his beloved nephew, Qasim bin al-Hassan (AS) and Qasim’s eventual martyrdom. Tying this moving ‘aza directly to the status given to martyrdom at Karbala, Moulana quoted Qasim’s reply to Imam Husayn (AS) when Imam asked him what he thinks about death. Qasim told his beloved uncle (AS), “Death is sweeter to me than honey.”

The ‘aza was followed by the spirited recital and performance of ma’tam in remembrance of the suffering of Qasim and all the martyrs of Karbala.