10 Moharram – Ashura

Posted on January 19, 2008
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Religion, Society
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Adil Najam

NOTE: In some parts of the world (e.g., Europe) today is the 10th of Muharram. Ashura. In other parts (e.g., Pakistan) Ashura will be tomorrow. We reproduce today the post we had done on Ashura last year. My sentiments today are the same as they were last year. Given the events of the year, only much more profound. The lessons of Ashura for all of us are even more poignant and more urgent today than they were a year ago.

Ashura commemorates a struggle that is steeped in deep spiritual meaning, not only for Islamic history but for all humanity. It is a struggle between good and evil, between just and unjust, between weak and powerful, between immediate and the eternal, between principle and ambition. The power of Ashura is not only in the epic events that it commemorates, it is in the narrative of those events, in the symbolisms that we construct. Ultimately, it is in the meanings that we derive from those events.

Muharram is, of course, of special significance to Shias. But the events and meaning of Ashura is of significance and relevance to all Muslims, and I would suggest, to all humans everywhere.

Like so many others growing up in a Sunni household I grew up observing ehteram-i-Muharram and am always drawn in the days leading up to Ashura towards thinking about the meaning of religion and of faith. To me these have always been days of deep spiritual reflection; especially of intellectual enquiry into the meaning of justice (the concept of ‘adl’ holds a deep significance to me given the name I was given at birth and therefore I have always interpreted Ashura particularly as a time to reflect on what justice is).

Growing up in Pakistan, the night of Ashura was always defined for me by the Majlis i Shaam i Gharibaan (often by Allama Naseer ul Ijtihaadi) on PTV on the night of dasveen Muharram, which was followed immediately – and at right about midnight – by Syed Nasir Jahan’s soulful recitation of Salam-i-Akhir.

Bachay to aglay baras hum hain aur yeh gham phir hai
Jo chal basay tou yeh appna salam-i-akhir hai

His soulful voice, so pregnant with a deep and heartfelt pain, always echoes in my head when I read of continuing sectarian violence and the instigation of sectarian hatred.

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Also echoing in my head are memories of the eloquent narratives of those PTV Shaam i Gharibaan’s. What I took from my yearly ritual of sitting glued to the screen was that the message of Ashura, of Karbala, is a universal and humanist messages. Justice is a universal message. Courage is a universal message. Conviction is a universal message. Sacrifice is a universal message.

It is the universality of the messages of Ashura that I hope we will all reflect upon. Every one of these messages is literally torn asunder each Muharram when the merchants of sectarianism highjack these commemorations with their vitriolic politics of fear, of difference, of hatred.

While these are universal messages, they are also – as they must be – messages of Pakistaniat. Yasser Hamdani sent me this quote from Mohammad Ali Jinnah published in a souvenir commemorating the 1300th anniversay of Imam Hussain’s shahadat.

There cannot be a better and more illustrious example than that of Husein who was the greatest embodiment of courage, conviction and sacrifice and every Mussalman in particular should take the great example of his life and service and follow it.

Jinnah was right. He would probably be pained to see how not only his own message, but that of Imam Hussain’s life -and death – have been so very lost on so many of his countrymen today.

(Ashura post and comments from last year).

15 Comments on “10 Moharram – Ashura”

  1. January 19th, 2008 3:07 am

    The Imam must have realized the price to be paid for standing up for what is right in the face of the tyranny and its determination to stop at nothing to achieve its ends.

    The only thing that exceeded the determination of the butchers, was the determination of the beloved grandson of the blessed prophet(SAW) to, forever, light up the beacon of guidance for the believers with his own blood.

    To never yield to the intoxicated forces of injustice and brutality, no matter what the cost, is to honor that ultimate example in courage and sacrifice set by Imam Hussain (RA), at Karabala on that fateful date, for all times.

    aye dil bagIr dAman-e sultAn-e auliyA
    yAni Hussain ibn-e Ali shAn-e auliyA

  2. January 19th, 2008 8:20 am

    Thank you for your commentary. I just found your site through Andrew Sullivan’s blog, and I’ve spent the last hour reading your and your commenters fascinating and insightful observations on Islam. I wish the American media would call someone like you when they “need a comment about a Muslim issue”. Were it so, it would go far to facilitate a better understanding of Islam in America.

  3. January 19th, 2008 9:25 am

    Adil Bhai,

    For me the message must live on, it is a MUST!

    We are the captains of this ship as Muslims as Pakistanis as Human Beings as South Asians and so on. It us alone through our joint acts of ommission and commission that can make it sink or swim.

    Ashura and its message is timeless, let us learn from it.



  4. Abid says:
    January 19th, 2008 1:55 pm

    For me the lessons of Karbala: STRIVE towards the change of the status quo; REVOLT against tyranny; UNITE as one force (Ummatic concept) against arrogant domination of corrupt elites.

    To do that: we need to REFORM our internal conditions and establish the principles of CONSULTATION and choosing the leaders.

    “And hold fast, all of you together, to the rope of Allah, and do not separate

  5. Anwar says:
    January 19th, 2008 1:55 pm

    There is another important message that never gets attention and that is weak leadership. Root of this crisis lies in the weak leadership of Caliph Othman – he sowed the seeds of nepotism and dynastic attitudes through Muawia…

  6. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    January 19th, 2008 2:22 pm

    @ distinction between Al Haq and Al Batil,
    is reminded in this massacre of Al-e-Muhammed SAW.
    When are we going to learn ?
    bickering and complaining was and will be there,
    should we not think befor voting.?
    should we keep on inventing third option ?
    half melon half kudoo ?

    ‘Dhobi ka kutta, ne ghar ka na ghat ka’

  7. Eidee Man says:
    January 19th, 2008 8:11 pm

    At a time when we’re talking about the sacrifice of Hussain (AS) and his fight for justice, it is comforting to know that some in our society are following his great example in their own small way:


  8. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    January 19th, 2008 8:12 pm

    Adil Najam,

    if you don’t mind can you remember the radhif
    of the following Qafia :

    Qafilah-e-hijaz mein aik Hussain bhi nehien,
    Garchay hay tabnak abhi gasuaiy dajla-o-farat ?

    if you can , thanks

  9. sidhas says:
    January 19th, 2008 10:49 pm

    Does anyone know who wrote this couplet. I have seen this couplet attributed to both Khawaja Moin udeen chisti and Molana Rumi.

    Shah ast husain, Padshah ast hasain
    Deen ast husain, Deen panah ast husain

  10. Roshan says:
    January 19th, 2008 10:50 pm

    The tragic Shahadat of Hazrat Imam Hussain also reminds and renews the message of defiance against tyranny and sacrifice for truth.

  11. Ammar Ali Qureshi says:
    January 20th, 2008 7:15 am

    Dear Sidhas,

    The couplet “Shah Ast Hussain” is by Hazrat Mueenuddin Chisti of Ajmer Sharif.

    It is a moving tribute by Hazrat Mueenuddin Chisti in praise of the immortal Imam.

  12. TEE BEE says:
    January 20th, 2008 11:33 am
  13. Dr. Haider says:
    January 22nd, 2008 6:08 pm

    We are so unfortunate that we are living in a world that is full of Yazeeds but don’t have a single person like Imam Hussain (RA).

  14. February 6th, 2008 7:43 am

    Muharram is, of course, of special significance to Shias. But the events and meaning of Ashura is of significance and relevance to all Muslims, and I would suggest, to all humans everywhere.

  15. dr razahaider says:
    January 10th, 2009 8:24 am

    Karbala, an insignia of struggle against injustice, tyranny and oppression…………………………..

    “It’s the story of upraising and insurgency against the evil and the falsehood.

    It is the sprit of belief and lust for sacrifice to ensure the seal as truth that, what lord decides his messengers fulfill and justify their designation for being in bondage as love.

    It’s the approval to award life and living in the name of desire of the lord, so to meet the one and only lord of nature and life.

    It’s the willingness as similar concept to accept and offer sacrifice so to please the lord even if it’s the dream of the prophet Ibrahim (a.s).

    It’s the day of application to authenticate and justify the human granting of superiority over other being as creation, as granted by the granter.

    It’s the legitimate insurance to the fact that Islam would continue to excel and breed till the Day of Judgment.

    It’s the demarcation between truth and false and among followers and extortionist.

    It’s the division to delineate fundamental principle of Islam from intruding falsifications.

    It’s the concept to upraise against tyranny, oppression and injustice.

    It’s the theme to defeat power with believe in faith.

    It’s the lesson to recite, follow and carryout under aggression of wrongdoers.

    Let this be the judgment day between believers of Muhammad (PBUH&A) and Abusuffian.

    Let this day be the day of rebirth of Islam and its teaching.

    So you think (Yazeed malaoon) that it’s (Islam) your personnel property to mould, melt or mud its real teaching with your obnoxious and cruel falsified and disgusting activities.

    Here I(Hussein a.s) come to teach you and your ancestors and of course your coming generation as siblings, a lesson that would crucify all your bearing and perverted practices with ultimate malign ,and disgusted slogan of condemnation, till the day of final judgment.

    Now hold and check out the real realm of Islamic teaching and principle of law as dictated by my ancestors and grand parent (PBUH&A).

    Prepare your self (Yazeed malaoon) so to become unrest and anxious from now and onward as I (Hussein a.s) may very soon entangle the cord of Islam with in core of your unashamed throat.

    Prepare your self (Yazeed) to the extreme of inhumanity and blatant shameful activities that shall make you (Yazeed) an idol satanic preface among and within the universe.

    O my people I understand that you want me to be with you(People) as your (People) master against all evils(Yazeed) and intents(Practices) created by the offender (yazeed malaoon Ibne maavia).

    Do not worry I am (Hussein a.s) still there to hold the fort of faith and belief as been delivered to me by my ancestors (PBUH&A).

    Let few more days of tyranny and embezzlement of injustice be there, till my (Hussein a.s) arrival.

    Here comes the day I (Hussein a.s) was honored and uplifted with the birth and grooming of the legitimate theme of prophecy.

    I (Hussein a.s) know your (People) call; it’s the same truth that was intimated to me earlier with the foretelling and preparation, so to enhance the rebirth of the principality of faith and preaching of confiscated theme of Islam and its real practice.

    I (Hussein a.s) know its time to handover the soul so to save the realm of Islam and republish what has been delivered as exemplary practice.

    I (Hussein a.s) know its time to offer my cushions, bearing and peace as children and family so to cushion Islam from further trauma.

    O followers of Islam, I am(Hussein a.s) ready to offer my friends and family and my beloveds so to handover you(People) the gift of same teaching of Islam and its real format as was intended and acknowledged to be delivered by our prophet.

    May god bless all within faith with unity, love and prosperity, Ameen?”

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