The struggle between justice and injustice and the battle between truth and falsehood is as old as human existence on earth. When the rights of helpless and suppressed people are usurped, only a few devoted individuals, inspired by the Divine guidance stand by the truth to raise their voice against tyranny and oppression. All the Prophets and Messengers of Allah and the Imams from the pure progeny of the final Messenger, Muhammad (S), fall into this category.
Allah has chosen and appointed through His exclusive prerogative, the great Prophets and Messengers like Adam, Nuh, Ibraheem, Moosa, Isa and Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon them all) to lead mankind to the Right Path. History bears testimony to the fact that none of the Prophets were supported by the majority of their people at the inception. They had the support of only the devoted and faithful minority. Yet, they were triumphant because of the sacrifice and hardship they and their devoted followers endured. The message they left is that the Right can never be subdued by the Might. The Might vanishes but the Right survives. Imam Hussain emulated the footsteps of the great Prophets of God and has left an indelible mark in the history of mankind. His struggle against injustice and oppression has become an icon for freedom and dignity of mankind. In this context, what Gandhi had realised many Muslims are yet to realise. He wrote in 1924 in Young India:
I wanted to know the best of the life of one who holds today an undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind...I became more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of Hussain, the regard for pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission to save Islam.Imam Hussain was the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (S), the greatest personage to have treaded on the face of the earth. He was the son of Imam Ali, the brave and the selfless who never fled from fighting in the Way of Allah. He was the son of Fatima, the beloved daughter of the Prophet who did not swerve in demanding her rights. He was raised in the house of piety and purity. He possessed the heart of his father, which could not be swayed with the allurement of worldly power. He inherited the apostolic qualities from his grandfather. He upheld the message and values of the divine leadership by refusing to pay Oath of Allegiance to the most ruthless tyrant of his time - Yazid the son of Muawiyah bin Abi Sufyan. The result was that Imam Hussain and his small band of followers, with ladies, children and infants, were besieged by the mighty forces of the Umayyad empire in the year 61H (680 AD) on the desert of Karbala in Iraq and deprived of water. Imam Hussain, his companions, sons, nephews, cousins and brothers were massacred on the Day of Ashura. The ruthless enemies did not even spare small children including a six-month old, who was shot with an arrow while Imam Hussain was demanding some water for the thirsty child. The tragedy of Karbala is remembered since the last fourteen centuries and commemorated by the followers of the Prophet Muhammad (S) and his blessed household. Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti says:
Imam Hussain gave his head, but did not put his hand into the hands of Yazid. Verily, Hussain is the foundation of la ilaha illa Allah. Hussain is lord and the lord of the lords. Hussain himself is Islam and the shield of Islam. Though he gave his head (for Islam) but never pledged to Yazid. Truly Hussain is the founder of "La ilaha illa Allah" ("There is no God but Allah")Imam Hussain's martyrdom provides an impetus to the communities of the world who fight for human dignity and honour. Imam Hussain fought the evil not with the worldly might, but with the spiritual strength. His body was mutilated and trampled under the hooves of the horses. He survives in the hearts and minds of people around the world. His shrine is visited by millions from all nooks and corners of the world. Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti further says:
Hussain is the Prince, Hussain is the King; He is faith and faith's defender most daring; He preferred death to Yazid's allegiance; With his blood, Islam has verily been living.
Imam Hussain made his decision clear to the rulers of the time that he will not surrender to the reign of terror. He said: "I am prepared for being martyred along with my companions and for my women and children being made captives in the path of enjoining good and forbidding evil (amr bil ma'aroof wa nahi anil munkar)." To face the mighty army of the Umayyads with a small band of faithful followers was a task of great courage, bravery and commitment for the Cause. The consequences of the struggle were foretold by him in the following words: "Even if we are defeated, predominance and victory is ours; the truth is victorious in all circumstances, whether it wins or loses." Imam Hussain's love for the Almighty Creator, the Cherisher and Sustainer of all creatures, is expressed in his memorable supplication on the day of Ashura. He prayed: "O Lord! I depend on you in every affliction and am hopeful of Your blessings in every hardship. In every difficulty with which I am faced, You are my only remedy and refuge." Allama Muhammad Iqbal says:
Imam Hussain uprooted despotism forever till the Day of Resurrection. He watered the dry garden of freedom with the surging wave of his blood, and indeed he awakened the sleeping Muslim nation. If Imam Hussain had aimed at acquiring a worldly empire, he would not have travelled the way he did (with women and children). Hussain weltered in blood and dust for the sake of truth. Verily, he therefore, became the bed-rock of the Muslim creed: la ilaha illa Allah. I am the one who weeps at the plight of the Martyrs of Karbala. Won't the reward be given to me by the Keeper of Kausar (Heavenly fountain)?Even when Imam Hussain had fallen on the battlefield of Karbala with hundreds of wounds on his body, and with the mutilated bodies of his companions and children around him, he did not stop invoking God. His last supplication before he was beheaded by his murderers was: "O All-Merciful Lord of the Universe! Accept the humble sacrifice of your Hussain. Hussain has submitted in Your way all that You had given him. If this son of Your Prophet had anything more, he would have submitted that also to You; but O Lord, forgive the sinners among the faithful, O Merciful One." Imam Hussain preferred to die a graceful death rather than live a life of disgrace with the oppressors. He followed the footsteps of the Prophets by not allowing sublime human values and virtues to be subjugated under the treachery of the tyrannical despotic rulers. Charles Dickens says:
If Hussain fought to quench his worldly desires, then I do not understand why his sisters, wives and children accompanied him. It stands to reason therefore, that he sacrificed purely for Islam.Imam Hussain was the trustee of the knowledge granted by Allah to His chosen servants. He was the guardian of the religion of God by Divine Grace, which appeared in the form of the Prophetic guidance. The Cause for which Imam Hussain fought, regardless of the consequences, is very much alive. Therefore, his memory would not fade with the passage of time. Thomas Carlyle writes:
The best lesson which we get from the tragedy of Karbala is that Hussain and his companions were the rigid believers of God. They illustrated that numerical superiority does not count when it comes to truth and falsehood. The victory of Hussain despite his minority marvels me.Imam Hussain's message invites the world communities towards peace and mutual respect when his adversaries pursue the policy of terror, fanaticism and intolerance. Imam Hussain is the torchbearer of struggle for the rights of the deprived communities when his adversaries are adamant at depriving others of living in peace. Even from his grave, Imam Hussain's message is a threat to the tyrants and oppressors. His enemies are afflicted with the perversion of turning the savage terrorists, brutal dictators and mass-murderers into "heroes". Brown writes in A Literary History of Persia:
As a reminder, the blood-stained field of Karbala where the grandson of the Apostle of God fell at length, tortured by thirst and surrounded by the bodies of his murdered kinsmen, has been at any time since then sufficient to evoke even in the most lukewarm and heedless, the deepest emotion, the most frantic grief and the exaltation of spirit before which pain, danger and death shrink to unconsidered trifles.Imam Hussain has won an immortal place in the hearts and souls of millions of people through his patience, resolution, perseverance and the spirit of sacrifice for the benefit of others. His followers respect law and order when his foes prefer anarchy. His followers respect the value of human life according to the teachings of the Qur'an and the immaculate traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (S) when his enemies are deeply involved in indiscriminate killing of innocent souls. Dr. K. Sheldrake best summarises the after-effects of the supreme sacrifice. He writes:
Hussain marched with his little company not to glory, not to power or wealth, but to a supreme sacrifice and every member of that gallant band, male and female, knew that the foes were implacable, were not only ready to fight but to kill. Denied even water for the children, they remained parched under a burning sun, amid scorching sands yet no one faltered for a moment and bravely faced the greatest odds without flinching.Imam Hussain is a symbol for freedom. His noble blood has given life to human dignity. His message adds meaning to the purpose of human existence on the face of the earth. His sacrifice pronounces the verdict of doom and gloom to all the oppressors and unjust people. His selflessness provides solace and hope for all the poor and suppressed people. He is the spirit and soul of honour for humanity. He lives so long as compassion, love and gratitude live in human nature.