Muharram Statuses: Should I say “Happy Islamic New Year”?
It’s that time of the year again. The one in which we start a social media debate about mourning versus sending out New Year greetings. It’s Muharram; after all, that’s what the sacrifice of Karbala was meant for, wasn’t it?
Harsh, you say? Well so is reality.
Happy Islamic New Year to my Muslim sisters & brothers everywhere..We're gonna party like its 1437 *insert joke here* pic.twitter.com/s5p7PB5cCn
— Arsalan Iftikhar™ (@TheMuslimGuy) October 14, 2015
In recent times, well, since the advent of social media, people have taken to their keyboards to voice otherwise offensive views without any fear whatsoever or any inkling of tolerance. Since the past couple of days, my Facebook newsfeed, blogs online and Twitter timelines have been replete with sectarian conflict. New Year greetings are spewed venom against due to their ‘celebratory’ impression and Muharram statuses are gutted with comments on the so-called ‘biddati’ rites of Ashura. And amidst all this chaotic finger-pointing the one thing that stands out loud and clear is our ignorance pertaining to our own religion. While scholars continue to encourage a critical and analytical understanding of the event of Karbala and continue to decry how the media only conveys the ritualistic aspect of the story, we are left with a whole array of confusion. The superficial, and exceedingly immature, debate goes to show just how much we crave a clearer understanding of the most revered sacrifice in human history.
Imam Hussain’s (RA) sacrifice has left a strong message for us all and yet we do not pay heed. For example, not many people are aware that Imam Hussain (RA) purchased the land of Karbala from the tribe of Bani Asad and then gifted it back to them. He had foreseen the battle awaiting him and bought the land to ensure that he and his companions were buried there and that when their loved ones came to visit their graves, they would be treated with respect and honour. He did it to ensure that the owners of the land did not suffer any detriment. He did not hide behind the excuse that he was being forced to camp there or that he would not be responsible if the land were rendered useless for its owners. He did not say that he was fighting for the cause of Islam thus any land was God’s land. No. As a Muslim, he knew that no matter what the situation, using someone else’s property without permission or rightful authority is not permissible.
Yet, today we see mosques being built ‘in the name of Islam’ on property that belongs to someone else. Yet, today we carry out Muharram congregations throughout the country without any thought to damage done to the property of others.
When Hur invited Imam Hussain (RA) to Kufa, the men in Hur’s army were exhausted and desperately thirsty. Despite knowing that they were the enemy force, Imam Hussain instructed that water be taken out of his limited supply and be given to Hur’s men. How many of us even bother to shake hands with those we dislike?
Anyways, Hur then deceivingly led Imam Hussain (RA) and his companions to the desert land of Karbala. When Yazid heard that Imam Hussain (RA) and his companions were forced to camp on the land of Karbala, he sent his army to surround them completely. After failed negotiations to try and convince Imam Hussain (RA) to give an oath of allegiance to Yazid, the army blocked all supply routes to the land leaving not even one drop of water with Imam Hussain (RA) or his companions. Mothers and their children suffered from thirst. Yet, they waited in patience.
Any ‘rational’ person would have deprived their enemy of water and saved it for his/her own family instead Imam Hussain (RA) followed the words of Islam in letter and spirit. And we all know that Islam teaches more than just rationality, it teaches morality.
Yet today, we let our rationality dominate our morality. We forbid our servants from eating before we ourselves have eaten. Yet today, we do not stop to think how thirsty a policeman may be standing in the heat manning our chaotic traffic.
Are you still trying desperately to separate these acts of justice and morality in your head and excusing yourself from following the real essence of Islam? Are you still creating that dichotomy in your head between a Sunni and a Shia?
When Hur saw that the children of Imam Hussain’s (RA) caravan were suffering from extreme thirst, because the army he was serving had prohibited water and food supplies from reaching his camp, he felt a sense of guilt overcome him. He remembered the act of kindness Imam Hussain (RA) had bestowed upon his army, despite his deception. That night he went to Imam Hussain (RA) to repent.
Imam Hussain (RA) could have made Hur pay for his crime, but following the footsteps of his Grandfather, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the spirit of Islam, he opted for forgiveness rather than vengeance.
Yet today, we kill, maim and burn innocent, unarmed people in the name of religion. We are divided in the sophomoric debate of ‘us’ and ‘them’, while Imam Hussain (RA) provided access to his camp to an enemy soldier at night because he believed in atonement and forgiveness. Yet today, when we get into an accident on the road we stoop to brawls before even talking about what happened. Yet today, in our race to be proven right about religion, we forget what religion actually is.
With the widespread sectarian disarray around the globe, there is a dire need for us to move beyond the ritualistic aspect of Karbala. It is time for us to sit down and learn about our own religion. It is time for us to reflect over its social, economic, ethical and political messages. It is time for us to truly follow the teachings of Islam to spread humanity and order. Stop being ignorant.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.