Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) was martyred on the day of Ashura. His closest family members and companions were left butchered on the battlefield. The army of Yazeed, the tyrant, chopped off the heads and held them on spears. These trophies of oppression foreshadowed the tragedies that would soon befall the survivors of the massacre – all of which serve as sources of reflection in our world today.
Imagine the burning tents, weeping women and crying children. Imagine the army of savages and their raucous chants. Imagine the wicked hearts of such beasts that sat on the chest of Imam Hussain and slaughtered him. What would these murderers do to the women and children of Imam Hussain...?
The army of Yazeed treated the women and children of Imam Husain like slaves. Their orders were to take the survivors to the tyrant of Kufa, Ibn Ziyad. Then the orders were to force the women and children of Ahlul Bayt through the desert to Damascus – to the palace of the corrupt Yazeed.
In every step of the way, Imam Zainul Abideen (peace be upon him), the son of Imam Husain (peace be upon him) who had not fought in battle because of his serious ailment, and Lady Zainab (peace be upon her), the sister of Imam Hussain, led the distraught survivors.
In the presence of Ibn Ziyad, Lady Zainab was a firm mountain of dignity and justice, speaking with the eloquence and strength which baffled the listeners. In today’s world we look to Lady Zainab as a prime example of someone who, even in the most difficult situations, stands steadfast in the face of injustice. When her brother's role ended on the battlefield of war, she stood up to the plate and took charge against the oppressors with the spoken word.
At Yazeed's palace, even as Yazeed was using his stick to play with the lips of Imam Hussain’s head, Imam Zainul Abideen and Lady Zainab delivered some of the most powerful speeches in the history of struggles against injustice.
Imam Zainul Abideen called out with an appeal to reason when the call to prayer was made in Yazeed’s court: "Oh Yazeed, this Muhammad (called out in athan), is he my grandfather or your grandfather? If you claim he is your grandfather then you have lied, and if you say he is my grandfather, then why have you killed his family?"
In our day-to-day lives, we remember the call of Lady Zainab, "Is it justice… that you keep your own daughters and slave maids veiled while the daughters of the Prophet of Allah are being paraded from place to place exposed?"
Lady Zainab continued, "You may contrive and try however much you can. By Him who honored us with revelation, the Book and Prophethood, you cannot achieve our status nor reach our position, nor can you affect our mention, nor remove from yourself that shame and dishonor."
History tells us of various incidents that took place in the journey of the survivors after the massacre in Karbala. What historians do not mention is still hidden in the folds of time. However, we can benefit from what we do know about the journey and implement the principles.
The survivors of Ashura showed us that protecting principles of justice is not only on the battlefield. Rather, in every situation, we must do all that is appropriate and in our ability to be proponents of justice – in the media, in education, in our communities, etc.
We are fortunate to have such clear examples in our history that did not just call for justice in a specific battle in time. Rather, they showed us through their actions that they were ready to sacrifice for the universal principles in every necessary way.