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Hussain the Universalist

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Imam Hussain's shrine in KarbalaEvery year millions of Shias gather for at least ten days during Muharram to listen and commemorate the tragedy that occurred in Karbala.  Historically, Muslims acknowledge the beheading of Prophet Muhammad's grandson, Imam Hussain ibn Ali (peace be upon him).  Shias in particular remember the tragedy and recite eulogies and repeat the heart wrenching epic poem year after year.

A person looking from the outside would want to understand the significance of this event and the messages one can derive from the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him).  By reading the sacrifice as a history lesson, the student will find out that Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) left Arabia along with his family due to the ongoing threat of Yazid's demand for allegiance.  Another contributing factor of leaving was the mass letters he received by the Kufans of Iraq asking him to come and lead them against the tyrant ruler Yazid.

However, the history lesson won't contain priceless quotes of the Imam during his journey.  Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) left a will to his brother Mohamed ibn al-Hanafiyah describing his intentions. 

"I never revolted in vain, as a rebel or as a tyrant; rather, I rose seeking reformation for the nation of my grandfather Muhammad. I intend to enjoin good and forbid evil, to act according to the traditions of my grandfather, and my father Ali ibn Abi Talib,” wrote the Imam.

Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) knew his obligation as the living Imam of the time to take a solid and firm ground against oppression, injustice, and tyrannical rule.  He was the ultimate example of "no matter what it takes, never bow to humiliation".  The Imam lived his whole life in freedom, and he wasn't about to let go of this God-given right for a life of silence and submission to the most corrupt Yazid.

“If you don't believe in any religion and don’t fear the Resurrection Day, at least be free in this world,” the Imam said.

His message is universal.  His lessons are everlasting and relevant until the end of civilization.  Martyr Murtadha Mutahhari explains in an essay entitled "The Truth about Hussain's Revolt: Hussain - The Universalist" that everyone can benefit from the hero of Karbala.

"His message is certainly not an exclusive preserve of any particular group. It embraces the entire human race," writes Mutahhari.

History continues to repeat itself, since injustice and oppression still prevail.  This is inevitable until the return of Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him), who will repeat the course of his grandfather by enjoining the good and forbidding the evil and stand up against the tyrants who cause oppression today.  But this doesn't mean that one stays passive and gives up hope to do what is right and speak out against evil.

Imam Hussain's (peace be upon him) message was not only for his time.  It needs to be applied on all occasions.  Protect and fight for what is rightfully yours.  Revolutions start within the self first and then can be expanded when oppression is happening at home, the community, the local and national scale. 

We ask Allah to guide us and help us against the oppression we commit against ourselves.  Let us pray to the return of our living Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him) and may we have the honor to serve him.

Author of this article: Ayat Joseph
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