The sentiments of Karbala do not only belong to Shias

Published: October 22, 2015

Muslim Shiite pilgrims gather outside the Imam Abbas shrine in the holy city of Karbala, central Iraq, during Ashura commemorations. PHOTO: AFP

I would firstly like to inform my readers that I am a Muslim, a Hussaini at heart. I believe that Imam Hussain (RA) was the grandson of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). He was the one who had gifted us our religion back.

I would like to shed light upon the Battle of Karbala. This tragic event was not just an attack on Imam Husaain (RA) but also his family and followers. It was an attack on the family of our beloved Holy Prophet (PBUH) – the same Prophet (PBUH) who was extremely concerned for the good of his Ummah, and spent his nights praying and worrying for us.

The Battle of Karbala held a strong message, and even after 13 centuries, it is still being followed. The message will continue to hold its relevance despite the strong state persecution and failed attempts of complicating our faith and create a divide amongst the Muslim nation.

As the sacred month of Muharram begins, so do the same old debates.

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan deals with its share of hassles when it comes to observing the holy month. Cities are put under curfew, promises of security arrangements are made and cellular services are blocked.

We witness this every year.

But does anyone wonder, what was the actual message behind the Battle of Karbala?

What were the conditions in 61 AH that led to Imam Hussain’s (RA) family to partake in the Battle of Karbala?

Scholars from every school of thought have declared that the battle was about right and wrong. The grandson of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) wanted to unite the Muslim nations, and for this reason, he even took his six-month-old infant, Hazrat Ali Asghar (RA) to the battlefield.

How can a sensible person not empathise with the tragedy of our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) family?

They were deprived of water in the scorching desert and then brutally massacred, while they were striving to uphold the truth and justice for this world.

If we apply these conditions to Pakistan, it makes me recall the words of a Turkish Sufi teacher, Cemalnur Sargut. She stated that Karbala teaches us that we are Imam Hussain (RA). And we are also Yazid. It is vital to overcome the destructive ego (Yazid) within us and create modesty and social consciousness (Iman Hussain (RA)). Therefore, we must engage in a constant battle with ourselves.

There was a time when Sunnis and Shias used to take part in Muharram processions (juloos) together. Muharram processions, in my view, are just a symbolic representation of standing against Yazid of the time. Today, it is understood that the Rabiul Awwal juloos are for the Sunnis and the Muharram juloos are for the Shias. Yet, the Rabiul Awwal is the month of joy and festivity for the Muslims of the world, and Muharram is a month of mourning.

In my view, Muharram gives us the opportunity to unite on a single platform and work for the progress and prosperity of Islam.

The holy month teaches us the concept of sacrifice in the name of religion. Imam Hussain’s (RA) martyrdom was at the hands of those who could have easily destroyed Islam. It has become, and will remain the finest example of sacrifice, patience, and courage.

As the poet Malihabadi wrote,

“Let humanity awaken, and every tribe will claim Hussain as their own.”

Sadly, nowadays there are certain people who are far from religion and its implications; they have even forgotten their own history. For centuries, this month was observed by all sects as the month of mourning and respect. But now, we see people celebrating weddings, birthdays and even utilising Muharram holidays for enjoyment, instead of reflecting on their lives.

It is a common practice to issue a fatwa against every other person. Fellow Muslims do not follow pure Islam, and every group easily labels the other as ‘Bidati’ and kaafir’. But in reality, Islam is a religion of peace and teaches the way of life. Islam in its purest sense reaches out to an individual and the society. We have read on many rulers who play a grave role in our Islamic history. From the best governance of Hazrat Umar Ibn Khattab (RA), to the humble ruler Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talib (RA), to the sacrifice of Imam Hussain (RA), Islam has revealed incredible examples on how to run the society effectively.

Why can’t we follow the teachings of Islamic leaders like Imam Hussain (RA) and eliminate intolerance, injustice, and hatred from within and our surroundings?

Ever imagined what would have happened if the Battle of Karbala hadn’t occurred? Unfortunately, despite this incident, we continue to remain ignorant. If the sacrifice of pure souls could not unite us, then what can?

When a particular group of people mourn over the period of the Battle of Karbala, why are they not joined by other fellow Muslims?

It’s okay if their ideology doesn’t allow them to perform matam (beating of the chest), it is even acceptable if they avoid attending majlis too. However, just to mark the symbolic significance of the battle, why can’t all Muslims participate in Muharram processions?

The words of Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar were extremely precise,

“In the murder of Hussain lies the death of Yazid, For Islam resurrects after every Karbala.”

If we feel the essence and the depth of these sentences, we will also be able to recognise the importance of Karbala in Islam. With his sacrifice, Imam Hussain (RA) has surely provided us a platform which can unite us, against all the evils of the society, against all the Yazids of the time, because the tragedy reminds us that evil only succeeds, when the good remains silent.

Labbaik Ya Hussain.

Tuba Athar

Tuba Athar

The author is a reporter for the Karachi pages of The Express Tribune and a journalist in making. She is an avid reader of Islamic History. She tweets as @Tuba_Athar93 (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd)

    The amount of money spent in Muharram on Security can be utilized for better purposes. All acts must be within four walls to avoid inconvenience to the general Public. This should apply to all Religions, Sects & Minorities.Apart from that you are cut off from the world. All Mobiles go of the Air. Not done in any other occasion. Hazrat Imam Hussain RA & all other Sahabi’s are dear to us. Their lives were also exceptional. We do not mourn them as is done by the Shias. Mourning in Islam is restricted to three days. Who else can be more auspicious than our Prophet SAW..We send Durood & Salaam. Every minute & every hour of the Day. Allah SWT in the Quran has asked to do so. And Allah SWT knows best.Recommend

  • Syed Muhammad Antiq

    a good read.Recommend

  • Sam

    I hope the author understands the problem inherent in Islam when she says,

    However, just to mark the symbolic significance of the battle, why can’t all Muslims participate in Muharram processions?

    When you say there’s no God but Allah, what precisely you doing is claiming that only you know the Truth and others don’t. And this approach is so deep-rooted in devout Muslim mindset that as you narrow down to different sects among Muslims such Shias and Sunnis, this mindset effectively causes problem and hatred.

    So instead of asking Sunni’s to mark the symbolic significance of the battle, you should ask the whole Muslims to mark the symbolic significance of different cherished events of other religions of books such as Judaism, Christianity and if possibly Hindusism and Buddhism. I know it’s a lot to ask for but a respect for atheist would be cherry on cake.

    If you could do this i would say you mail aim would automatically get accomplished, getting recognition from your fellow Sunni Muslim brothers.Recommend

  • Parvez

    ……and even after all these centuries the biggest enemy of the Muslim….is the Muslim himself. Others have understood this and are using it to their advantage.Recommend

  • Gulchand Mehta

    Absolutely right ! And they mope and mourn and gnash their teeth
    as to why they are being treated like this. Well, they just need to look
    at themselves. Two thousand Muslims were crushed to death, untold
    injured. Simply because the son of the King of Saudia decided to make
    an appearance at the Hajj.. No inquiries, no investigations, no nothing.
    How dare anyone question the Saudis. And this is the 4rth time this has happened, over the years!! You wonder.Recommend

  • ali

    who are you to define muharram in four walls. it is a procession, in order to tell others about the tragedy so it is supposed to be in streets. Still you see people in the first 10 days of muharram who do shadis and other happy festivals without knowing the extent of the tragedy. And the 3 days is the minimum mourning in Islam, it can be maximum to any duration which depends on love. plz dont use Hadit for your own use, may Allah guide you.Recommend

  • bigsaf

    Unfortunately extremists and terrorists have made the situation so in having mobiles go off air, going hand in hand with rising intolerance. Even restricted to four walls they strike, giving the need for security which is much needed and serves a purpose for the protection of the minority. Applying a ban on the general public is not feasible. It would also restrict religious functions of the majority that would include Friday prayers or political rallies or other such protests in civil society. The mourning to 3 days is again a matter of one group’s own interpretation.Recommend

  • Amber

    And why do u have to tell others . Stop wearing religion on your sleeves both Shias and Sunnis and this world would be a better place Recommend

  • Blue eyes

    1st of moharam is the start of the Islamic New Year & even the Prophet celebrated it & encouraged people to have feasts so to have marriages on the 1st especially is a honorable act. There was no issue to mourn during his period The issues & the fights for power that took place after his demise are not a part faith. For shias its a part of faith & tragedy that hussain failed in his attempt to take over the Chalifate of yazid the ruler at that time, for others its a political issue.As a minority , they must show respect for the majority just like in Iran Sunnis are not allowed to build Mosques or praise the Chalips excluding one of the prophets cousin.Recommend

  • hina

    Do whatever you want and let me do whatever I want. Thats It ! why do I need to show my reverance by taking part in processions, I mean offcourse its a tragic event and we sunnis equally respect it, but asking us to show our respect in particular ways is certainly nonsense.Recommend

  • Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd)

    On no occasion in the Annals of the Four Imam’s & Sahaba’s such a spectacle took place. A procession with Zuljana was planned in Britain and the Court put a stop to it. Why did not the Shia community challenge it. Three days is the max. The period of Idaat for the wife(widow) is the only extended limit of mourning in Islam.Recommend

  • Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd)

    Stop putting off the Mobile. Pillion riding. I need these. Do not clog my path.Recommend

  • Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd)

    Billions of Rupees and Manpower spent on the first 10 days of Moharram ul Haram when you have children dying of starvation and target killings. Put if for the use of Humanity and act with a sense of proportion & wisdom.Recommend

  • Raza

    haha, blue eyes I can see the ignorance in you. Please get your facts right and visit Iran to see how they treat minorities! Recommend

  • Blue eyes

    I dont have to go to Iran to learn the faith. I have been to Iran, was a shia ashnari & one of your recent Ambassador was a my cousin so unlike you, I look out for the real facts. For your information under Clause12f the iranian constitution Sunnis are clubed with bhais, Jews etc as minorities, unlike Pak where they are still given equal rights. Sunnis are not allowed to build Mosques or hold processions & in fact even in the Sunni provinces in Iran like Sistan, North Kurdistan, etc they are ruled by shias & denied equal rights.Recommend

  • Blue eyes

    Hina you are right. In fact Suniis have different approach . Read the comments by me.Recommend

  • Blue eyes

    In Iran they dont allow Sunnis to build Mosques or have a procession & here they do a mess wasting money which can be better used for social service. Ashura is clebrated as a vcvtory of oses on Paroh & has nothing to do with the political fight for power by hussain against ruling ChaliphRecommend

  • Fahimuddin

    What do you mean by here, if you are talking about Pakistan than founder of this country is a ShiaRecommend

  • Asif

    Zul Jinnah processions are taken out in every major city of UK. get your facts straight.

    BTW, I’m sure you are aware that the founder of the nation, MA Jinnah was also named after the horse Zul-Jinnah.Recommend

  • Blue eyes

    Mr Mohd Ali Junah was a follower of His Highness Sultan Mohd Shah, The Late Agha Khan & they are Ismailis who don do matams of mourn etc. They follow the enlightened path of Prince Karim not Ayatoolas of Iran.Recommend

  • Blue eyes

    Mr Jinnah was an Ismaili a follower of Prince Karim The Agha Khan & his grandfather. They do not mourn or beat their breasts & they don follow thw ayatollas of Iran like Ashnashrshri shias. They are enlightened by a living Imam .He was son of Jetha Junnah. We dont have vanishing Imams
    Just to add Mr jinnah’s death prayer was also led by Mufti Usmani a Sunni Imam.
    Nations are created by the blood of the Martyers like 1.20 million of Punjab were killed while , Jinnah, Allama Iqbal etc were the leaders Recommend

  • Fahimuddin

    When a person died it had no control who led his Janaza. For higher celebrity like Jinnah most obsequious Mullah usually held the final prayers.Recommend

  • peter pan

    I would request the readers of this blog to be more tolerant. If the Shias in Pakistan want to mourn the death of the grand son of THEIR prophet for three days let us let them do so! We live in the same country don’t we?Recommend

  • peter pan

    A very good comment but unfortunately based on a misunderstanding or perhaps a miscommunication by the Muslims. The Quran says that the word Muslim means someone who submits to the word of God. It goes on further to say that God delivered the same message through his various prophets from Adam, to Moses, to Abraham, Jesus, and then Mohammad ( peace be on all of them). The Quran states explicitly that each of these prophets was a Muslim and delivered the same message – submitting to the same God. the God of Abraham was the same as the God of Moses or Jesus or Mohammad ( peace be on all of them). In addition to the basic message these prophets also gave elements of a code of conduct for people living in their times. The essence of this code have remained through the times. Thus the Muslims are supposed to obey the 10 Commandments as any other Christian or Jew.

    So this is the God that Muslims pray to and this is the code of conduct they should adhere to.

    Now there have been variations in the code of conduct over time dictated by the particular circumstances of those times , but the essential parts remain the same.

    Thou shall not lie, kill, commit adultery and other elements embodied in the 10 commandments.Recommend

  • peter pan

    Ho chi Minh said and this is posted on his tomb in Hanoi- There is nothing more precious than freedom from oppression- no amount of treasure or blood. The commemoration of the Martrydom of Husain in his war against the tyrant Yazid falls in this category- Brigadier Sahib. Remember the war cry that your SSG colleagues used – HAIDER!!!!!Recommend

  • Tees Sobi

    beautifully written.Recommend