Imam Hussain’s message transcends religions, centuries

Hussain ibn Ali is a symbol of courage and a marvel of defiance against submission to an unjust order

Ishtiaq Ali Mehkri August 09, 2022
The writer is a senior journalist currently associated with a think tank based in Islamabad. He can be reached at


It is not necessary to be a Shia to be a lover or admirer of Imam Hussain. Nor to be a Muslim to acknowledge the infallibility, greatness, and valour of the grandson of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), who stood fast against tyranny and barbarism never seen in human history. Hussain ibn Ali is a symbol of courage and a marvel of defiance against submission to an unjust order. He registered a passionate order against incredible adversity. This is why he is adorned for as he stands tall as the torchbearer of human values, one that excels in dire straits on the path of unison against repression and cruelty.

Imam Hussain lives on in the hearts as the symbol of devotion to truth and love for the Almighty. The inspiring story and glory of his martyrdom in Karbala along with his kith and kin, and companions, comprising 72 in total against 0.9 million forces of Umayyad will forever be remembered. It can neither be ignored nor undermined till the doomsday.

The great Imam, scion of Ali and Fatima, registered an unprecedented epilogue of conviction and by soaking the dirt of Karbala with his holy blood, has left behind undeniable prints on human conscience. To this day, he provides guidance to drive our conduct and character against the idols of wickedness and deceit. The fact is that divinity, the teachings of the Holy Prophet, and the indispensable truth stood with Hussain – and this is what makes Karbala an institution to recollect and rise in catastrophe for the entire humankind.

The tragedy of Karbala in 61 Hijra was a war that was fought for 10 hours on the 10th of Muharram. Yet, it continues to inspire people across the world. It is beyond ritual and devotion. It touches the human heart, irrespective of his/her faith and belief. The pious Imam’s rejection of injustice and tyranny to uphold traits of human conscience makes him immortal.

The repression unleashed on his person, and his family including women and children, as well as the guided companions of the Prophet in Karbala, was meant to succumb him to an imperial juggernaut. The forces of evil wanted to subdue the glorious teachings of Islam by instilling adultery, falsehood, and cunningness as the way of life.

Hussain, the heir to the Holy Prophet, stood like a rock and shed his blood but did not give in. Refusal to submit at the cost of annihilation is what makes Imam Hussain the stardom of humanity. A trait that is eulogized by everyone except the unrighteous.

Karbala is a testament to divine love. In this age of materialism, the message from the holy martyrs’ acts as an antidote to realising spiritualism. This is why Napoleon Bonaparte, in his incarnation, wrote to his soldiers to read out Hussain. The reason was simple: Hussain is a saviour and shall remain an undiminished example of bravery.

It is no folk story that the retreating forces of Ibn-e-Ziyad were piling on the doors of Kufa, as Hussain and his 72 faithful put blood to sword. Charles Dickens eulogizes by saying, “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.”

So is Edward Gibbon, as he admits that Hussain’s martyrdom has well-entrenched Islam, as the tragic scene of his death will continue to awaken the sympathy of the coldest reader. The righteous men of Karbala proved they were rigid believers of God, and that numerical superiority does not count when it comes to truth and falsehood.

What a tribute to the uniqueness of Hussain, as the Prophet said, “Husain is from me and I am from Husain.” The Prophet also addressed Hussain in his lap by saying, “he is the lamp of guidance, and the ark of salvation.” Thus, the firmness of Hussain’s truth in Karbala was, indeed, the steadfastness of the Prophet!

Shaikh Abbas Qummi wrote in ‘Nafasal Mahmum’ — one of the most authentic accounts of the event of Karbala — that a witness to the battle says: “By Allah! I have seen none like him [Imam Husain], who having lost his sons, relatives and dear friends, and in spite of this, his heart [remains] powerful and serene, and feet firm upon the ground.”

Allama Majlisi (1628-1699 AD) narrates in Maqtal-e-Hussain, Hussain’s body bore more than 900 wounds as he went down fighting and bowed his head in submission to the Almighty.

Allama Iqbal was apt in recollecting history for all times, as he said: Haqiqat-e-Abadi hay maqâm-e-Shabbiri; Badaltay rehte hain andâze Kufio-Shâmi (Bal-e-Jibril).

Ashura every year invokes mankind from slumber and drives attention towards emancipation. This is why Karbala is unforgettable and serves as a denominator for all races and religions. The message is universal and eternal. Hussain transcends national and linguistic boundaries, and this is why his sacrifice is mourned and praised century after century.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2022.

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