This article is the transcription of a lecture delivered by His Eminence Sheikh Yasser al-Habib, titled "Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) The Miracle of Islam".
As Muslims, [we believe that] the holy Quran throws a great challenge to all nations. This is because it is the eternal miracle [of Islam] that no one has been or will ever be able to [take up the challenge] and produce anything comparable to such a miraculous book. The holy Quran is the only book that no matter however much it has been read, learnt and looked into; it will still remain relevant, tender and constantly involving.
One can read any other book, once or twice but will soon get bored and loose interest and probably not see the need to read it again. Should you have the interest to read it again, you will not find it that beneficial. In fact it will not add anything to your knowledge since you have fully absorbed the book’s content. Except the holy Quran; whoever grasps it, no matter how many times they have read it, they will still find it relevant and prestigious. They will constantly feel the need to go back and read it again, ponder and reflect on it. This is because every time the Quran is deeply read, new and valuable information is derived from it.
For instance, a new mind-dazzling meaning or insight could be revealed from a verse, which you have personally read tens of times. That’s why we see that the study of Quranic exegesis has still been on-going for more than fourteen hundred years. It remains to be the focus of discussion amongst scholars, scientists, researchers and thinkers including those non-Muslims.
This glorious book is the miracle of our religion of Islam. We have the right to present our holy book as a challenge to the nations. We also have the right to consider Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) as another miracle of our religion of Islam, and to present his cause as a challenge to all nations.
Because if you search across the land, whether you turn east or west, you shall not find such a human’s cause effectively monitoring the reactions of humans throughout history as the cause of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him).
Despite the fact that the battle of Karbala was, in fact, one of the shortest battles and wars; it had lasted only a portion of one day and resulted in the death of no more than 100 persons, at the utmost estimation, you find that this battle has turned into a major global issue arousing wide interest at all times especially during the month of Muharram.
Since 1400 years ago until today, the message of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) has remained alive as a source of aspiration to millions and millions of people throughout history. They feel as if it has just occurred before their eyes. No matter how many times they look into it, compose about it, hear or discuss its tragic details, they will not loose interest exactly like the one dealing with the holy Quran.
What is the secret to this [connection]? Why has the battle of Karbala in particular, which is considered simple compared to the other major battles with greater death tolls, gained much more global interest and [continuous] reaction from even non-Muslim individuals to the extent that many shed their own blood on the day of Ashura in [commemoration] of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him)?
Why is Imam Hussain’s name upon every tongue? Why do we always discover new astonishing facts and insights when we listen to a lecture on the battle of Karbala or read about it again, although many of us have already learnt the detailed incidents of the battle by heart?
The answer is: because Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) is a miracle of Islam exactly how the Quran is.
Indeed, Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) is a living eternal miracle. Exactly how the holy Quran has left the whole world in a daze, Imam Hussain’s personality has also left the whole world in a daze. Just as there is no book as effective as the holy Quran, there is also no cause as influential as the cause of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him).
The cause of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) has a great impact on the humans’ soul once it is known and understood. It has the ability to move people deeply as they realise the greatness and sacrifices made by this very man for truth, freedom and human dignity.
Many wars have taken place throughout history, many individuals have made sacrifices, and many have been oppressed. However, they have all faded in oblivion. They are hardly remembered by any. They might be remembered perhaps only in some special occasions within a limited, controlled and cold manner. For instance, people might assemble at a particular symbol’s grave on the day of his demise, place a bouquet of flowers, remain there for a minute of silence and it’s all over at this point.
However, as for Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) one should ask himself: does a single day go by without having ceremonials held around the globe in commemoration of such a great symbol as Imam Hussain (peace be upon him)?
During the month of Muharram and Safar, when people head towards [Karbala one wonders] how they throng [in millions] before his holy shrine, where they practice the mourning rituals on a scale unparalleled by any other rituals. Have you ever witnessed such amount of people gathering up at a person’s shrine other than Imam Hussain’s (peace be upon him)?
Has there been any other cause receiving greater attention from around the globe in such an astonishing manner other than the cause of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him)?
What would make a Chinese man, as an example, mourn for the tragedy of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) the same way a Canadian man would? What would make an African man weep upon the loss of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) the same way a Russian man would?
Various ceremonial gatherings (i.e. Majalis) are held in all parts of the world during the month of Muharram by individuals who do not belong to the Arabian Hashimi lineage of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) or have kinship with him whatsoever, yet they take Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) as their main role model. They hold ceremonial gatherings in commemoration of him and beat themselves upon his loss.
I was [once] told by the founder of Sayed al-Shuhada (peace be upon him) organisation in Kuwait that he had gone, during the 90s, to one of the African countries seeking to preach the religion of Islam and Shiism. He had initially thought that there would be no Shia in that country. However, he later acknowledged that there was an isolated village in the middle of the African forest which would take him [about] a day and a half to get there due to the bad road conditions, as the roads were unpaved, there was no phone lines, no electricity or any signs of modern life.
When he arrived there, he was surprised by the fact that the inhabitants of the village were all Shia Muslims. However, due to the factors of time and isolation, their religious awareness had gradually faded away. [Surprisingly] the only thing remained there, was an old flag labelled “O Hussain”, and the only thing that remained etched in their mind was Imam Hussain (peace be upon him). That is why they used to loudly cry in their language: “O Hussain.. O Hussain.. O Hussain”.
Certainly, you can never find any other personality or cause having such influence and impact. Therefore, we can confidently say that Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) is indeed an eternal miracle of the sacred religion of Islam.
Historians have narrated that one of the Prophet’s companions by the name of Anas son of al-Harith al-Kahili al-Asadi had heard the Prophet (peace be upon him and his pure family) saying that his grandson Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) would be martyred on a land known as Karbala in Iraq. Whoever is martyred along with him will be granted a high status in paradise and whoever isn’t will certainly be filled with great remorse.
Since then, he had decided to leave everything behind and head towards the land of Karbala, which was an uninhabited desert at that time, where he pitched a tent and lived there alone for a long time so that he would not miss the privilege of being martyred along with Imam Hussain (peace be upon him).
Some people from nearby villages used to go animal hunting in Karbala and notice Anas’s tent. They would make their way towards the tent, convey their Salam and ask as to why he was living there by himself. To which he used to reply: “I am Anas son of Harith al-Asadi, a companion of the holy Prophet, I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his pure family) saying: “Hussain (peace be upon him) will be martyred on here, I live here because I might meet him and be killed along with him!”
Indeed, by the time Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) arrived in Karbala, this man was advanced in years. He tied a bandage on his head to keep his eyebrows in position so that they wouldn’t fall on his eyes. He was the first to meet Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) and amongst the first to be killed on the day of Ashura. In the holy Ziyarat of Nahiya, Imam Mehdi’s ode to the martyrs of Karbala, we realise that Imam Mehdi (peace be upon him) mentions this great man and conveys his Salam upon him too.
Where would you find such love, sacrifice, loyalty and strong attachment to the personality of such symbol and leader? Certainly, this is what makes Imam Hussain’s cause exceptional in all aspects. Since Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) has been martyred, this world has not witnessed a moment of calm until today.
The conflict between truth and falsehood, justice and injustice, humanitarian and brutality is still ongoing until today. Today we can clearly see the victory of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) and the victory of those who have believed in his message and teachings. We can also clearly see the defeat of Yazid (May the wrath of Allah be upon him) and those who followed in the footsteps of Yazid (May the wrath of Allah be upon him).
There is a tradition (Hadith) attributed to Imam Zainul Abideen (peace be upon him). The essence of this Hadith is that after the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) and his companions, there were only three Shia individuals left on earth, and the rest were all followers of Yazid and the sons of Ummayah.
Now what do we see? From three individuals to about half a billion Shia Muslim on earth today, all scream with one voice: “O Hussain”! Whereas the path of Yazid and Bani Ummayah, rather even the path of Abu Bakr and Umar is [loosing followers] day by day.
Everyday there are more people being guided through the message of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) and his teachings. They declare their conversion to Shia Islam. Have you ever heard that a Shia individual has converted to the religion of Yazid or even Abu Bakr and Umar? Have you ever heard of a person declaring his disassociation from the pure household of the Prophet (peace be upon them) and befriending Abu Bakr, Umar and Aisha instead?
Why do Shia Muslims increase in number and the followers of other sects constantly dwindle? How have they managed to increase from three to millions and millions? And on the other hand; where have the million followers of Yazid gone?
This has only one explanation, Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) and his followers have gained victory and thus are alive today, whereas Yazid and his followers have been defeated and thus are dead today!
I will conclude my speech with two traditions (Hadiths) attributed to Imam Hussain (peace be upon him). The reason why I have chosen to narrate these two particular traditions is for the reason that they might be unknown to most of you. This is unfortunately due to the fact that they are hardly mentioned by any of our scholars as a means to take into account the feelings of the followers of the other sects. However, I do believe that it is one of the obligatory duties of our religion to no longer veil the traditions of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) just because some might refuse to accept them.
These two traditions (Hadiths) clearly reveal to us what stance Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) has taken on Abu Bakr, Umar and Aisha. This is indeed a very important issue and should be made clear unto people. In fact, it is as important as knowing what stance Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) has taken on Mu’awiya and Yazid, as an example. Why do we limit ourselves to mentioning what Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) has said regarding Mu’awiya and Yazid? Why do we not pay as much attention to what he has said regarding Abu Bakr, Umar and Aisha?
The first tradition has been reported by one of our greatest ancient scholars, Sheikh Abu al-Salah al-Halabi (May Allah be pleased with him), in his well-known book (Taqreeb al-Ma’arif). This book was considered reliable by many of our great scholars including al-Allamah al-Majlisi (May Allah be pleased with him).
Narrated Sheikh al-Halabi, when Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) was asked about his stance on Abu Bakr and Umar he said (what it means): “By Allah they have usurped our right, treaded on our necks (meaning that they have done severe injustice towards us) and made people ride over our necks (meaning they have made people commit injustice towards us as well). Verily Allah shall punish them an intense punishment on the Judgment Day when people request our intercession”
As to the second tradition (Hadith), it has been reported by our great scholar al-Kulaini (May Allah be pleased with him) in his book al-Kafi, which is one of the most authentic Shia books.
Narrated al-Sheikh al-Kulaini, Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) confronted Aisha when she had gone out to strike Imam al-Hassan’s coffin with arrows at the time of his burial. He said (what is means): “A long time ago you and your father had disregarded the privacy of the Messenger of Allah. You brought to his house those whose nearness he did not love. Allah will hold you responsible for this O ‘A’isha." To which A’isha replied: “Take your son away from my house; you are contentious people”
These two traditions reveal to us the stance of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) on these inimical characters. Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) made it crystal clear that Abu Bakr, Umar and Aisha had taken their right away and caused them immense harm. Due to which they shall consigned to the most grievous doom on the Day of Judgement.
Thus, the battle of Karbala was not only against Mu’awiya, Yazid and Bani Ummayah, but it was also against Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Aisha as well.