By Ammar Rajab
In the name of Allah who states “Shall We treat those who believe and work deeds of righteousness the same as those who do mischief on earth? Shall we treat those who guard against evil, the same as those who turn aside from the right?" Q38:28
May the everlasting peace and blessings of Allah be upon his noble servant, our master Muhammad (S) and his oppressed progeny.
Undoubtedly, the fourtieth day trek is the most important thing attracting the world at this very time. It is meant to express love, sympathy and respect to the oppressed prophetic progeny that were accompanied to Medina by the Yazid’s forces after the atrocity at then Karbalan desert, 61 AH. Commemorating the Arba’een is a pledge to follow the path of justice and righteousness and to reject injustice and speak up against oppressors of all times. Tens of millions of faithful annually converge at Karbala in the largest gathering on earth. Beside hospitable reception and utmost healthcare accorded the pilgrims by the management of the great shrine, security is jointly ensured despite the country’s difficult situation. Significant role is played by the religious authorities, scholars and other faithful in the cause of the symbolic journey in search of Allah’s pleasure.
Referring to OUR BELIEF, a book on Islamic doctrines by his holiness, Ayatullah Ozma N. Makarem Shirazi as translated to English by Mansoor Aminy – Baghbadorani, first published in 1998, doctrine 71 on visiting tombs of Apostles and Imams (pilgrimage): "We believe that pilgrimages for visiting the tombs of the Apostles and Imams, as well as the scholars and martyrs, is a definite religious precept which has to be observed, although not a must. In many books of the Sunni scholars, same as those written by Shiites, many a tradition is narrated from the prophet that he has recommended the precept or pilgrimage. To collect all such traditions will make a voluminous book. Throughout the history of Islam, our great scholars and all groups of Muslims have done that with much care, and books are written about the adventures of their pilgrimages. It is evident that no one takes his visiting a tomb for worship which belongs only to God. The purpose of visiting the tomb of a man is to respect him and to pay regards, and meanwhile seeking their intercession. It is also narrated that even the prophet himself often went to visit the Cemetery of Baqeea and saluted the dead in their graves. Therefore, no one should doubt the lawfulness of such pilgrimages in Islam". In the same way, Shaikh Muhammad Ridha al-Muzaffar has elaborated on doctrine 36, in his book; The Faith of SHI’A Islam published in 1999 by Imam Husain Foundation as translated by a group at Dar al-Tablig al-Islami in Qom. However, the details on the visit procedure could be easily traced in the books of supplication like Mafaateehul jina.
All in an attempt to answer the call of the Imam when all his companions were heartlessly killed by the enemy, – Hal min nasirin yansuru na? Is there any helper to come to our aid? Arba’een is commemorated across the world including Nigeria where millions participate in line with narration of Imam Ja’far (AS) that equated visit to their rightful followers to that of A’immah for those faithful incapable of the distant journey. In contrast to the unscientific and narrow-minded thought that Ashura was a bygone historic tragedy, the event denotes an everlasting warfare between right and wrong, truth and false and of course justice and oppression. But how do we answer the call of Imam Husain? This was the lesson maintained by the late Imam Khomeini in his popular expression, every day is Ashura and every place is Karbala! Looking at the increasing attention focused on the oppressed progeny of the noble prophet (S), the way some people try to misguide the Ummah on baseless allegations is not only surprising but very disheartening. Of the famous traditions, “Husain is from me and I am from Husain, O Allah do love he who loves Husain". The Imam went out on the call of his grandfather for a reform “I have not risen up, but to safeguard the religion of my grandfather, the Prophet.” But for his priceless sacrifice and that of his followers, Islam would have been a thing of history! What a paradox that some equate the two different parties together! It is completely illogical to claim the love of Imam Ali and that of Mu’awiya -leader of the unjust group – or Imam Husain and Yazid who was tyrannical murderer known to all.
Certainly, the murder and mutilation of Imam Husain was the worst atrocity in human history. However, some people try desperately to exonerate the culprits from their deliberate atrocity. In line with the baseless claims they created the widely circulated political joker accusing the Shi’ah of abusing the companions of the prophets. Evidently, the Shi’ah are known world over as the vanguards of the noble messenger and Islam entirely.
Those against Shi’ah equate Imam Ali with Mu’awiya, and some even exonerate Yazid from his devilish action. They attack the way Shi’ah mourn the Karbala tragedy and speak against them in the name of keeping off from the acts of predecessors. There is no wisdom in such assertion because Allah has given us the holy Qur’an as criterion to differentiate right and wrong and justice and oppression. Allah has prohibited oppression upon Himself, condemned it among His servants and strongly warned against it. Then why should we remain silent against oppression? Why can’t we speak against oppressors and mischief-makers? Certainly, we were taught to do the right just as we were enjoined to avoid injustice and speak against it "And do not incline to those who are unjust, lest the fire touch you, and you have no guardians besides Allah, then you shall not be helped" Q11 :113
Islam is basically opposed to oppression even against animals. That is why the Shi’ah are always against it from whichever angle it comes. Allah states "Shall We then treat the people of Faith like the people of sin? What is the matter with you? How judge ye? Q68:35-36. Our denouncement of oppression expresses our quest for justice at the same time. The love of the Ahlul-bait condemns oppression and promotes justice. This was the philosophy behind the first trek to Karbala by Jabir ibn Abd-Allah al- Ansari, a reknown companion of the Holy Prophet on the 40th day of the Imam’s martyrdom where he coincidentally met the surviving members of the prophet’s family under Imam Ali Zain al – Abideen and his audacious Aunty Sayyida Zainab! One must sympathize with either of the two parties. And regardless of all inclinations, people with a common sense of humanity cannot but side with the oppressed. The India’s political and spiritual leader, Mahatma Gandhi said “I have carefully read the biography of Imam Hussein and have contemplated the events of Karbala. I am sure Indians must follow his ideas on the path to victory!
The popular wording of the Imam was “Indeed I went out claiming reform for the ummah (nation of my grandfather – Allah’s prophet), I want order all that Islam has ordained and prohibit atrocious behaviors”. With this the faithful are reminded on the unflinching stand in the fight against oppression for the establishment of justice on earth. Obviously, this can bring about change in the society as Ashura was the catalyst for the success of Islamic revolution in Iran. Allah states “… verily, never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves with their own souls …” Q13:11. The Iranian philosopher and thinker, Ayatollah Mutahhari said with the respect to the Imam: Imam Husein conquered hearts and feelings of hundreds of millions of people, because of his great personality and heroic martyrdom. If different religious leaders could make use of this giant moral source to shape and harmonize the souls and make them all soul mates of giant soul of Hussein, all the affairs and issues of the world will be improved and corrected". So is not only to visit the tomb of the Imam at Karbala or to participate in the symbolic trek, a very important thing is strict compliance with the teachings of the Imam as highlighted by the expression of Imam Khomeini above. The increasing number of Imam’s visitors from all nooks and crannies of the world is apparently an indication of the great victory and brighter future to Shiism and Islam in general.
As we pray for a safe 40th day commemoration of the oppressed Imam across the glove, we urge the world to embrace path of justice and righteousness and reject oppression and exploitation of the weak as he courageously taught. And in addition to the need for justice, Shaikh el-Zakzaky and hid disciples should be unconditionally released.