Islam and Imam alHusayn
by: Husein Khimjee, MA., Toronto | Adapted from: SHIA INTERNATIONAL - SUMMER 1992

In this article, we will briefly explain that Islam is the faith that stands for peace and invites mankind towards good and prosperity in both the worlds - here, and Hereafter. Using Imam alHusayn Alayhissalam as our supreme paradigm, we shall explain as to what should he the goals of an Islamic state and as to why Yazid failed miserably to meet the criteria of a ruler of an Islamic state.

It is generally believed that peace in any nation is possible only when there is an eradication of ignorance, poverty and disease. But as the more affluent societies of the world show, peace is not really achieved by these three factors alone; because eradication of ignorance breeds arrogance as people think themselves to be more learned than people of other nations; eradication of poverty breeds materialism as more and more people want the life of comfort; and eradication of disease breeds other fatal diseases such as Aids etc., as people soon get bored with the life surrounded by material comfort and want to try out different promiscuous lifestyles.

In the Islamic understanding of peace, while eradication of ignorance, poverty and disease are very important, these are not an end but just a means to an end. Therefore, checks and balances are applied in an Islamic society so that the eradication of ignorance encourages the learned to teach others, so that there is no breeding of arrogance. Eradication of poverty makes certain that the rich give out Aims in regular proportion so that the wealth spreads to reach those who are less fortunate; and the eradication of disease still requires the believers to remain within the bounds of Islamic laws so that the eradication of disease does not permit experimentation's with illicit drugs or sex.

But that is not all. Peace in Islam is beyond the eradication of ignorance, poverty and disease. In Islam, peace is achieved also when there is no oppression on the land; when there is full justice accorded to all citizens alike, regardless of their social status or national origin; and above all else, only when the laws that prevail on the land are Allah's Laws.

As a matter of fact, the word Islam means precisely "submission to the Will of Allah". In His Laws there is no oppression but recognition that people are created with differences in their social status and capabilities. This should not make one set of people inferior to the other set of people. Rather, each one of us has been created for the purpose to fulfil.

It is, in fact, one of the signs of His Sovereignty that although all mankind was created from one father and one mother [Adam and Hawwa (Eve)], Allah scattered mankind of various shades of colours on the earth and made them into different tribes and nations so that one may be able to recognise the other.

It is also through Allah's bounties that mankind achieve their different social statuses on the earth, for some are richer and mightier than others. But Allah grants power and riches to some so that they should become the benefactor to the rest of humanity. The power and riches should be used to wipe out oppression and injustice on the land so as to make Allah's Laws supreme. Anything short of that would mean abuse of the bounties of Allah.

This necessity springs up in Islam because Islam is strictly a monotheistic faith. The three fundamentals of Islam (which contain in them all the Five Principles of our Usul al-Din) are:
  1. The Absolute belief in Oneness of Allah (referred to as Tawhid).

  2. The concept of Prophethood. Allah sent prophets to guide mankind. The first was Adam and the last with whom Allah completed all His Laws and Favours for all mankind was Muhammed. (Peace of Allah be upon them all). (This is referred to as Nabuwwah).

  3. The Day of Resurrection. Allah will bring about a day when all mankind will die and be revived to receive from Allah, the rewards of heaven (Jannat) or the retribution of hell (Jahannam) (referred to as Qiyamah).
It is for this reason that a Muslim submits to the Will of Allah by pronouncing the Creed, 'La ilaha illa Allah Muhammadan Rasul al Allah' (There is no deity except Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah). By pronouncing this Creed, a person accepts to be a strict monotheist; he accepts the concept of Prophethood that culminated with Prophet Muhammad (SAW); he also accepts that Allah is Aadil and will provide complete equity on the appointed Day of Resurrection. By pronouncing this Creed, a Muslim accepts the injunction to follow the authoritative leader in Islam who will guide the believers to the right path, as prescribed in the Holy Qur'an and the Sunna (traditions) of the Prophet (SAW).

The pronouncement of this Creed is called the witnessing (Shahada) which makes a person a Muslim, i.e. one who has totally surrendered to the Will of Allah.

It is important that in witnessing this, he becomes a witness to Allah himself, because his duty then becomes to enjoin on others what is good (i.e. the Laws of Allah); and forbid evil (i.e., that which is against the Laws, and therefore displeasing to Allah). In this, he disciplines himself and follows the authoritative leader (Imam) of the time.

Thus, when the Imam raises his voice against the mischief-makers on the earth, the Imam is inviting mankind towards good and forbidding oppression and evil practices. He is inviting the mischief-makers to recognise that the real Might and Sovereignty belongs only to Allah and therefore His Laws must prevail. He is further reminding that Allah sent guides to mankind who were Prophets to all nations and whose examples must be followed. Thus Islam teaches that Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (Peace be upon them all) were all Prophets of Resolve.

It is worth stating, therefore, that while the floods in Noah's time affected all humanity, the bulk of humanity today belong to Abrahamic faith. This is because Abraham was the Imam of mankind and father of the Prophets. He was the first one to invite mankind on a large scale to worship only Allah. He was a Muslim who truly submitted entirely to the Will of Allah. In Islam, all followers of the Abrahamic faith are the Muwahhids (Monotheists). Islam, therefore, recognises Judaism and Christianity as the Muwahhids and forms with them the majority on this earth who are monotheists. Islam also boasts to be the fastest growing faith in the world and is estimated now to have over one billion followers all over the world.

Since the reality of human destiny on this earth is also mixed with the whisperings of evil forces, the mischief-makers, when warned, usually rise with all their might against the righteous ones. When this happens, the Imam and his followers have a duty to defend the Laws of Allah on this earth. If they get killed, they become martyrs (witnesses) while defending the monotheistic cause (i.e., they become the shuhada (martyrs) defending the shahaada itself, and this is the supreme martyrdom in the cause of Allah).

It is interesting that the Greek word martureo, from which the English word 'martyr' is derived, also means, "witness".

The supreme paradigm of this witnessing has been undoubtedly the Imam alHusayn (AS), the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

The necessity for Imam alHusayn's Martyrdom arose precisely because of all the things we have mentioned in this article so far. It arose because the new Caliph of the Muslims, Yazid, the son of Mua'wiyah was spreading oppression and injustice only fifty years after the death of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). What became more urgent was the fact that he was leading an Islamic nation and therefore all oppression and injustice was being legitimised in the name of Islam. Furthermore, Yazid himself rejected the basic fundamentals of Islam. Thus it is recorded by most authentic sources that he said:
"Bani Hashim (i.e., The Prophet) had staged a play to obtain the kingdom. Actually, there was neither (any) news from Allah nor any revelation."
By announcing this, he clearly negated the most basic tenets of Islam, specifically, the Oneness of Allah and the Concept of Prophethood (Tawhid and Nabuwwah).

Yazid's opinion on the Day of Resurrection (Qiyamah) was expressed by him like this:
"Oh my beloved! Do not believe in meeting me after death (referring to the Day of Resurrection), because what they have told you about our being raised after death for judgement is only a fiction which makes the heart forget the pleasures of this world".
The believing Muslims were shocked and horrified at this. Their natural recourse only lay with the Imam of the time, who was also the only surviving grandson of The Prophet (SAW).

Actually, by a treaty signed between Yazid's father, Mua'wiyah, and the elder brother of Imarn alHusayn, Imam alHasan (AS) the Caliphate should have gone to Imam alHusayn (AS) after Mua'wiyah' s death. This fact was universal and Muslims sent scores of letters to the Imam in Madinah for their support and asking him to come to their aid. The Imam left Madinah with a handful of his companions which included his wives and children to proceed to Kufa, the important centre.

On his way to Kufa, he was intercepted at Kerbala by the army of Yazid, who demanded allegiance to Yazid. Imam alHusayn naturally refused to accept Yazid as the Caliph. The army was then ordered to kill the Imam.

The atrocities took place on the 10th of Muharram, 61 A.H. (October, 680 A.D.). It is remembered by all Muslims as a very sad day in the history of Islam.

But this day, although sad because the Imam was so brutally slain and the hardship that his family suffered at the hands of Yazid's forces, this day proved triumphant for Islam. This tragedy has had wide repercussions in the history of mankind because the future Islamic rulers never dared to introduce any schisms that Yazid tried to inaugurate. When rulers became oppressive, Muslims arose following the examples of Imam alHusayn (AS) to demand justice.

Edward Gibbon in his famous Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire wrote this:
"... (Imam alHusayn) was the saviour of Islam and it was due to his martyrdom that Islam took such a deep root, which it is neither possible nor even imaginable to destroy now".
Mr. Gibbon is certainly correct in his analysis that Islam can never be destroyed. There are several reasons for this fact.

First, the Holy Qur'an tells us "(Verily) The Religion (Way of Life) before Allah is (only) Islam." Ch. 3:19).

Second, Islam in the history of humanity really started with Adam. He was the first Muslim as well as the first Prophet; and all prophets that followed him were all Muslims. So Islam is rooted in humanity and therefore can never be destroyed.

Third, Islam is not a religion in any dogmatic sense. It is a way of life that invites mankind to live in peace by submitting to the Will of Allah and achieve Prosperity in this world and the world Hereafter.