Mourning is not exclusive to our Shia brothers – I am a Sunni and I mourn in Muharram

Published: October 11, 2016

I’m a Sunni, and my heart grieves, because Sunnis do grieve for Hussain. PHOTO: THEMUSLIMVIBE

This article originally appeared here.

I am Sunni. My family is Sunni. We love Abu Bakr (ra), Usman (ra), Umar (ra) and Ali (ra). We believe in their rightly guided caliphates. The Commanders of the Faithful. We believe in Aisha (ra) as the wife of the Prophet (pbuh) and a role model. A Mother of the Faithful. This is our belief. We are not Shia.

Being Muslim, we love the Prophet (pbuh) and love all that he loves. For what is beloved to the Prophet (pbuh) is beloved to God. This includes the love for the people he loved. The Prophet (pbuh) loved his wives, his friends, his companions, and his family. We wish peace upon the Prophet (pbuh) and his family in every salaat (prayer), just like every other Muslim in the world does, without regard to madhab (denomination).

Of the Prophet’s family (pbuh), there exist two names shadowed in an eternal passion, kept alive by billions of lovers for over a millennium. The beloved sons of Fatima Zahra (ra), the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and her husband Ali ibn Abi Talib (ra), Hasan (ra) and Hussain (ra). The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) confided with humanity that indeed his favourite two children in all of creation would be the leaders of the youth of Paradise. The two sons of the House of the Prophet (pbuh) would grow up to be great leaders, as prophesised by the Holy Messenger (pbuh), and find themselves murdered by their grandfather’s followers for their sacred ancestry (pbuh).

Why is it that, growing up, the names “Hasan (ra) and Hussain (ra)” brought the images of children to my mind?

Why is it that I, and many other youths in America, are not taught much about Hasan (ra) and Hussain (ra) when they grow up?

All most know about them is that the Prophet (pbuh) loved and kissed them and that they would bring him his blessed slippers. That’s it. They’re our role models to be the perfect children. We, as Sunnis, have forgotten that they’re really models through our death and afterlife.

We never learn that Hasan (ra) and Hussain (ra) grow up to be Imam Hasan (ra) and Imam Hussain (ra). We don’t learn of the prophecy of Imam Hasan (ra) being a “great sayyid” through whose hands,

“Allah shall bring peace between two parties.”

We don’t learn about him succeeding his father as the entitled fifth Rightly Guided Caliph, a rank we are taught is posthumously bestowed upon Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz (ra). We aren’t taught that he gave up his right to the caliphate to fulfill that very Muhammadan Prophecy (pbuh). We never learn that Hasan (ra) and Hussain (ra) grow up.

We never learn about the murder of the Prophet’s (pbuh) grandsons at the hands of his Ummah. We never learn about the betrayal from a son of Bani Ummayah. We never learn about the theft of khilafat from the righteous. We never learn about Muawiyah’s warning his son to not “meet God with his [Imam Hussain’s (ra)] blood”. We never learn about the gross disobedience to his father, his soul’s nature, his sense of inhumanity, to the Prophet (pbuh) he claimed to love.

They couldn’t spare a drop of water for the progeny of the Prophet (pbuh) they claimed to love. Their hearts had already traded God for the pleasures of this world.

We feel, from our parents and elders, that Muharram is sacred for reasons other than literal translation, but don’t know why. We get lost in confusing debates about not marrying during Muharram. Elders argue over engagements being jaa’iz before and/or after 10th Muharram. We get even more confused when an Aunty says marriages shouldn’t be held until Rabi’ al-Awwal.

“Why does it matter?” We ask.

“We aren’t Shia,” we iterate.

Few parents are willing to explain. Maybe the pain of which there is to speak is too deep. Maybe they’ve become confused on the validity of their beliefs. However, I’m not writing this to criticise the pseudo-salafi influence in America throwing off 1400 years of orthodox Sunni scholarship.

I’m writing this because I was (and still am, obviously) a confused Sunni youth in America, wondering why the hadith and scholarly quotes about the Ahl al-Bayt are an open secret, why the poems of Imam Shafi’ are hidden, why our elders and teachers are content in letting an entire generation grow up without knowing that Islam could have died barely 60 years in. How can an imam talk about the erroneous “fitnah of women” when we don’t even know about the fitnah that almost killed the religion of our beloved Prophet (pbuh)?

We, as a generation and a new culture are confused because we don’t know about Karbala. I educated myself. I read about the Ahl al-Bayt. I read about Orthodox Sunnism. I picked up where the Sunday school textbooks left off. I read about what our Shia brothers believe about the Battle of Karbala. I read about what the Orthodox Sunni scholars say about it. I read the accounts. I feel the shared pain between the lines—an ancient remorse, the feeling of shame.

When you realise the scholars who speak about Hussain (ra) are the scholars that are here to be the heirs of the Prophets (pbuh), you see how much we share across these sects. You see how sects become madhabs (religions). We aren’t united by the shahadah. We aren’t united by love of a single God (swt). We aren’t united by love for the Prophet (pbuh). We are united by all that and the love of the Ahl al-Bayt.

In Muharram, we share the deep grief for the events at Karbala. When you see what both traditions of scholars, Shia and Orthodox Sunni, say about the emotions of Muharram, you see why we are brothers.

We are brothers because when a tyrant stole the caliphate of the Muslim Ummah and abused it, Imam Hussain (ra) stood up for you and me and the nation his grandfather built with his blood, sweat, and many tears. He marched himself to his death for the sake of survival. On that day in Karbala, he was undoubtedly on the side of Islam, the side of his father, the side of his grandfather (PBUH), the side of righteousness and truth.

Imam Hussain (ra) came to the battlefield not as a Shia to fight Sunnis, or a Sunni to fight Shias. He was there as the inheritor and rightful successor of his grandfather (pbuh) to continue the Prophetic crusade against injustice and darkness. It wasn’t “Sunni succession versus Shia succession”. The learned of the Ummah had already designated Imam Hasan (ra) and Imam Hussain (ra) as caliphs. No. That day in Karbala, the battlefield was Haq versus Kufr.

Bloodshed was to ensue. Brother slaughtered brother. Imam Hussain (ra) came with a message of diplomacy, of amnesty, of civility. He was faced with an army who claimed to be from the Ummah of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). They were a people who claimed to pray and fast. An army who venerated the grandfather of the man they were ordered to murder (pbuh), an army who claimed to love God (swt) and His messenger (pbuh) as the ultimate reality.

An army who claimed to be on the path of Islam, an army who claimed to love the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), was about to slaughter his holy family before leaving their dead bodies to rot for three days. They took the words of the kalma, chewed them up, spat them out, and trampled them with their horses. When Sayydina Abu Bakr (ra),“would rather do good to the family of the Prophet (pbuh) rather than to [his] own family,” the army at Karbala didn’t even spare thirsty infant Ali al-Asghar (ra) crying in the arms of Imam Hussain (ra).

They couldn’t spare a drop of water for the progeny of the Prophet (pbuh) they claimed to love. Their hearts had already traded God for the pleasures of this world. Words cannot describe the revolting lapse of conscience, of taqwa, of basic humanity, that the murderers of the Prophet’s household had on that day (pbuh).

The story ends with Sayyid Shabab al-Jannah, the Leader of the Youth in Paradise, the Prince of the Prophet’s household (pbuh), becoming the final casualty. Having watched all 72 of his followers and most of his family slaughtered, beheaded, and disfigured, he charged into the army of thousands, fighting valiantly despite his severe wounds. After the final blow to the Prince of the Martyrs, his head was cut off, and placed on a silver platter to be presented to the general of the army, who “started playing with a stick at the nose and mouth of Al-Hussain’s (ra) head and saying something about his handsome features”. The army, who claimed to be Muslims, would then place the heads of their victims and Imam Hussain (ra) on the tips of spears and march 600 miles to Yazid—championing their victory.

I mourn in Muharram. I mourn in my own way, and always look to do better in honouring our Imam, and for at least the first ten days of every year, I remind myself of Imam Hussain (ra).

If only this was the whole story, yet this much is enough to make anyone’s skin crawl. Such injustice was done. If Hussain (ra) had remained quiet and relented to Yazid, he and his family members would have lived. However, Yazid’s men would still have been evil.

They would gut Islam of anything good or Prophetic, and left it a shell of empty words, of sin, of corruption, of evil. If it weren’t for Imam Hussain’s (ra) sacrifice, Islam would have died. The legacy of Hussain’s (ra) selfless sacrifice lived on in the community of the Muslims under unjust rulers. The light of his fight for truth lived on in the minds of the believers, ready to reclaim the religion of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) whenever opportunity presented.

Imam Hussain (ra) inspired the spirit of reality in the darkness. Yazid had Imam Hussain (ra) killed, Yazid won, but Yazid still died three years later, and today he’s nothing but dust in the desert, while Hussain (ra) lives on in the hearts of billions. While Yazid won the battle, Hussain (ra) continues to win the war hundreds of years later. His death in righteousness lit the fire of truth until the truth of the battle could prevail, and continues to inspire truth in the face of injustice today.

How could I ignore the sacrifices of the Prophet’s family? How could I not grieve and mourn when recounting the atrocities at Karbala? How could I ignore the suffering of Imam Hussain (ra), when he watched all those he loved in the world beaten, abused, slaughtered, beheaded, and molested in front of his eyes? When Imam Hussain (ra) gave up his whole world, was stabbed 33 times by spears, struck 34 times by swords, hit over 100 times by arrows, only to weep and say, “I only wish for Allah (swt) to shower them with forgiveness,” how can I say that remembering his suffering is a sin?

I am a Sunni, and I mourn in Muharram. Mourning is not exclusive to our Shia brothers, and we shouldn’t let that cross our minds. Imam Hussain (ra) died so that all of us could be Muslim. His death enabled us all to seek the pleasure of God and the righteous, and not this world. The family and lovers of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) faced such inhumanity from people who also claimed to love the Prophet; people who supposedly read salawat on them during every salaat. It should not be forgotten. It should always be remembered, and if you don’t even shed a tear, if you don’t start grieving just at the thought of the injustice, then you aren’t remembering like you should. When you don’t remember, when you don’t feel emotion, for the events of Karbala, when you’ve let the sacrifice be forgotten, you’ve accepted Yazid’s victory.

I’m a Sunni, and my heart grieves, because Sunnis do grieve for Hussain (ra). We weep for Hussain (ra). We have for 1400 years, just like Shias. Because Karbala wasn’t a sacrifice for Shias, it wasn’t even a sacrifice for all Muslims. It was a sacrifice for humanity.

Shah ast Hussain, Badshah ast Hussain
Deen ast Hussain, Deen Panah ast Hussain
Sardad na dad dast, dar dast-e-yazeed,
Haqaa key binaey La ila ast Hussain ”

“King is Hussain, Emperor is Hussain .
Faith is Hussain; the Defender of Faith is Hussain.
His head he gave, not his hand, to Yazid.
The reality is that the foundation of La ilaha ila Allah is Hussain.”

-Khawaja Ghareeb Nawaz Moinuddin Chisti

Peace and blessings be upon the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), his family, his companions, and his wives.

Obaid Zia

Obaid Zia

The author is a 20 year-old Texan pharmacy student in New York. In a quest to define "home" and to stop saying "y'all" so much; seeking the life of a poet but on the path of a pill dispenser. He tweets as @obaidz96 (

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

  • Krishna

    Acts of mourning should not go further then allowed by Islam. Exaggeration in mourning and funerals are not promoted in Islam. Also this has been made an important part of their religion, so that makes it bid’ah. Remembering and grieving for them is understandable. But this is not a islamic tradition, nor can we join them in it. Shia regretfully and shamefully scold the sahabas r.a. and the wife of the Propet (pbuh). There is no excuse, but yes we should learn more for those who haven’t.Recommend

  • M.Saeed

    Mourning in Islam is disallowed after 3rd day!Recommend

  • AA_Southpaw

    I celebrate the stand of Husain ( as).

    His(as) is a story of honesty, bravery and Iman.

    Sadly all some people have made it just a story of sadness.Recommend

  • Adnan D Malik

    Janab try not to be a religious scholar next time. Or at least get your words vetted before getting them published.
    Yazid did not win any battle whatsoever. His army was there for a massacre and assassination. And so did they. Killing a caravan of family members is no battle at all. Imam Hussain razi allah anhu was not traveling for a fight. He had no provisions for war/battle. Not even food. He was tricked into visiting koofa, and his small group was halted midway and forced to encamp away from water. Had he been traveling with intent of war, to remove yazid and restore correct caliphate, he would have found tens of miliions of Muslim volunteers from across Arab and beyond. Yazid would have fled on the first sight of such a lashkar.
    Further, you said he died for …sic. He did not die, dont you get it? Martyrs dont die, Allah Himself has said so. We just cant comprehend the mode of their eternal life.
    I shall stop short of saying anything further. Neither you nor I are learned scholars. I am amazed that we dont delve into surgery topics realizing that we are not doctors, but when its about Islam, everyone is a scholar. Oh great.
    I am neither sunni, nor Shia. I am a Muslim, a proud one.Recommend

  • Khan

    Your ignorance is astonding…Recommend

  • Patwari

    In a Wahabi/Khawariji directly imported from Saudia,
    it might be. But to an Khawariji like you. it will not
    make any sense.,……… if anyone tried explaining.Recommend

  • Shuja Hasan

    Jazakallah. Very thoughtfully written.Recommend

  • Blue eyes

    Agreed. Islamic message ended with departure of their Prophet as the deen was completed. The rest after his death is all history & fights for power.Even the Koran says he the prophet was given via his message & thats why his 3 sons died during his life. Recommend

  • Blue eyes

    If God willed their death who are the muslims to challenge Him. If they are shaheeds then they are supposed to be alive so why cry for them.Recommend

  • S. Karim A. R.

    One should comply with his beliefs BUT (with due respect) WITHOUT TROUBLING OTHERS LIFE. One’s action should reflect the true essence of the cause, otherwise he’s just disfiguring his own faith.Recommend

  • Junaid

    Saeed is correct, how do you say he is ignorant Mr Khan?Recommend

  • Junaid

    While I believe in the right of all the sects to practice whatever their beliefs are. I don’t understand how people defend the mourning for 1400 years while Allah has disallowed mourning after the third day. Are we Muslims to practice the teachings or just be pedestal to the teachers?Recommend

  • Riz

    Maybe you should do that in case of your own family… Recommend

  • intellectual.pseudo

    We celebrate our martyrs, we don’t cut ourselves, tear our clothes or beat our chests on their martyrdom, if this was the case, Prophet salalahu alehi wasalm would have done the same on the martyrdom of Hazrat Hamza (ra) in the battle of Auhud.Recommend

  • Nada Ramzan

    i can totally relate !! well writtenRecommend

  • Muslim

    Do you mourne like Shias do? If you do then you are not sunni. Recommend

  • mynewsclips

    If they have any humanity they should stop killing women and childerns in Syria.Recommend

  • Studying Islam

    Pls correct your facts and read history again. Prophet SAW did mourn on the martyrdom of Hazrat Hamza AS. He even visited the streets of Madina to mourn his martyrdom.

    If you can’t get this in our Islamic history book which have been recently amended do look for old version if any been collected by your grand-fathers.

    If you dont have these as well, do try to read The Holy Quran in Urdu with its Tafseer there you will get how to mourn on the death of beloved ones.Recommend

  • Juan

    Unfortunately these articles tend to attract negative or prejudiced sectarians who believe in their own interpretationsRecommend

  • zaidisfh87

    Hazrat Yousuf cried his whole life for his lost son, who he knew is alive, He cried so much so that he lost his eyes and Allah loved all that….. You can read all this in Quran…… so why can`t we cry on the family of MUHAMMAD P.B.U.H. What ummat did to his daughters ? They were forced to travel through the markets without their chader. The daughters of Fatima were beaten in markets when they tried to cover their faces with their hair. Fatima is the lady leader of Jannah. and you said we shouldn`t cry…………Recommend

  • Alamdar Raza

    Allah has disallowed mourning after the third day for our friends and relatives. The people who sacrificed themselves in Karbala were the Prophet’s (P.B.U.H) family. Which Prophet you ask ? The same one about whom Allah says in the Quran that if He didn’t create Muhammad (P.B.U.H), He wouldn’t have created anything. His family were slaughtered in Karbala, his grandson, who is the prince of Jannah, watched his children, Ali Akbar and 6 month old Ali Asghar, his brother’s son Qasim, his brother Abbas, (P.B.U.T), all slaughtered, and then leaving his sister, Zainab (P.B.U.H), Grand daughter of the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H), and his daughter, Sakina, behind, after 3 days of no food and water, in the name of Allah, in the way of Allah, for justice. You seriously think they were normal like us ? That God would be pleased by mourning them for 3 days then forgetting about them ? Recommend

  • farhan

    It was his father Hazrat Ayub(AS)..And he did not celebrate a special day for it ,it was just that he was sad and he cried from seperation of his son who was also alive..It is said that he was told by Jibrael that his son is safe…But he could not bear his seperation…Two very different things..Though we should not fight wether we should mourn him..The thing to mourn about is that we cannot follow the sarifice in spirit to stand against the tyrants of our time..SalamRecommend

  • Fahim

    There is difference between Mourning, sadness and maatam. Sadness in natural and there is no verdict about it in number of days. Hazrat Muhammad sawaw became sad even about future events and for Muslims going to hell. One must be sad on every atrocities on weak specially freedom fighters and human right activists.Recommend

  • Junaid

    Prophet (PBUH) was the best of teachers and that is why he (and his family by virtue of association), has been granted the highest spiritual ranks. To please Allah, I believe in practicing their teachings instead of practicing an absurd idea of mourning for the whole life just to prove my love for them. No one has endorsed this idea of proving your love and pleasing Allah. So unless you give me proper references of how mourning for the rest of the life is a superior way of expressing love, I cannot accept your arguments.Recommend