A lecture by His Eminence, the late Religious Authority, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (p.)
Translated by: Ghassan Rimlawi
Since the early years of Islam, Muslims chose the immigration as the starting point of the Islamic calendar. It is also said that they consulted Imam Ali (a.s.) on that and he agreed. Then, in the year 60 H. Imam Al-Hussein (a.s.) immigrated from Medina to Mecca, and then from Mecca to Karbala.
Between these two dates, the beginning of the Prophetic Hijra and that of Al-Hussein (a.s.), many major events took place, the first of which was the Prophet's establishment of the first Islamic state in Medina. It included the Muslims along with the Jews who signed a pact with the Muslims to live under an Islamic state that ran the affairs of Muslims on the basis of the Islamic Shariah and laid the foundations for a challenging and striking force that was about to face disbelief in its entirety and create a new situation in the region, enabling the people to feel that there was no longer a single force, which used to terrify them, namely that of Quraish and its allies of infidels and Jews. A new force emerged and it was founded on the solid basis of reason, knowledge, Divine revelation and the Islamic Shariah; a force that possesses a law that runs the affairs of the people on the basis of Shariah which was by far different from the force Quraish relied on. Following the Prophet's (p.) death, many events took place. The legitimate Caliph, Imam Ali (a.s.), was denied his right, and the entire Islamic state became destabilized as a result of ideological and jurisprudential differences. And although there was a chance for the expansion of Islam through the wars the Muslims were engaged in with the Romans and the Persians, there was also the strife in which the third caliph was killed, followed by a second strife when Mu’awiyah exploited the death of Othman. Then, when Imam Ali (a.s.) assumed the Caliphate, they put all sorts of barriers in his way and declared war on him in all countries.
Then after the peace that was imposed on Imam Al-Hassan (a.s.) due to the weakness of his army that was not united, the Umayyads consolidated their power, and Mu’awiyah forced the Muslims to pledge allegiance to Yazid. It is said that the man Mu’awiyah commissioned to do this held a parcel of coins in one hand and a sword in the other and asked the people to choose one of them. Thus, Yazid, the dissolute man, who drank wine and killed innocent people, and who was never really a Muslim, was imposed as a caliph.
Al-Hussein (a.s.) refuses to pledge allegiance
Imam Al-Hussein (a.s.) was committed, with his brother, Imam Al-Hassan (a.s.), to the pact they signed with Mu’awiyah, which stipulated that they will never rebel against him as long as he was alive. Imam Al-Hassan (a.s.) was then poisoned and Mu’awiyah died. Imam Al-Hussein (a.s.) was asked to pledge allegiance to Yazid, but he refused and told the Wali (ruler) of Medina: “We are the family of prophethood, whom the Quran was revealed to, while Yazid is a dissolute man who drinks wine and kills innocent people despite Allah's prohibition”. And he ended by saying: “A man like me does not pledge loyalty to a man like him”, and added that they will wait and see who is worthier of being a caliph.
Then, the Imam began his revolution against Yazid, being the Imam who ought to be obeyed, according to what the Prophet decreed: “Al-Hassan and Al-Hussein are Imams (caliphs), whether they chose to stand (rebel and fight) or sit (incline to peace)”. He began planning to convey his message to the nation.
The conveying state in Mecca
He stayed in Mecca for a few months, receiving people and talking to them about the straight path and about the need for it to be followed and to become the force he will rely on in toppling this tyrant and his deviating regime. Imam Al-Hussein (a.s.) benefited from the Hajj (pilgrimage) season to guide the people to the straight path of Islam and the need to enjoin good and fight tyranny. Then, he left Mecca in similar circumstances to those of the Prophet (p.) when he left Medina, having been commanded by Allah to do so, thus escaping from a plot Quraish had envisaged to kill him, and to leave Ali (a.s.) in his bed. Al-Hussein (a.s.) too was informed that Yazid had ordered a bunch of bandits to kill him, even if he were in the Ka’bah. He left to Iraq having received hundreds of letters telling him to come and be their leader. Things developed later on when the Imam sent his cousin Muslim Bin Aqil who was martyred, and Al-Hussein (a.s.) headed to Karbala.
Thus, the Hijras (immigrations) of Muhammad and Al-Hussein (a.s.) were both for the sake of the cause of Islam. Al-Hussein's first speech proves this point, as it was concerned with conveying the Prophet's Message and telling the people that he was not looking for power, but that he sought to change the corrupt reality that was heading towards disbelief and the destruction of the true Islam. He quoted the Messenger of Allah (p.) as saying: “Whoever saw an irreligious and unjust ruler who breaks the promise and reverses the teachings of the Messenger of God, a ruler who does harm to the believers unjustly and aggressively, and he never attempts to deter him by saying or by doing. God will consider him, as bad as the ruler”.
Al-Hussein (a.s.) wanted all Muslims to shoulder the responsibility of toppling the corrupt and tyrannical non-Islamic regimes, since all the bad traits that the Messenger (p.) talked about, applied to Yazid and his followers, and they provide for the legitimacy of revolting against him, and not ,as some jurists say, that we have only to advise the unjust ruler. That is why he said that Allah will consider them as bad as the ruler explaining to them why they should rebel by saying: “Do you not see that those people have quitted obeying God and taken to the obedience of Satan, shown corruption and violated the limits of God…. while I deserve it more than them?”
A movement of reform
Thus, the revolution aimed at changing the ideological corruption, as well the corrupt political reality that plagued the society. As for the debate among some religious scholars who object to the fact that Al-Hussein (a.s.) was seeking power, we say that this is his responsibility, but there is a difference between one who seeks power for himself and the one who seeks power to eradicate falsehood and uphold the Islamic Shariah. This is the line of the Imams, which was emphasized by Imam Ali (a.s.) as the following story shows:
Ibn Abbas narrates: “Once when I visited Imam Ali, he was mending his shoes. The Imam asked me: ‘What do you think will be the price of this shoe?’ I said: ‘It has no value at all’. The Imam then said: ‘By Allah! To my mind this torn shoe is more valuable than my ruling over the people if I do not enforce the right and eradicate falsehood’. It is true that the Imams did not want anything in this World, but this does not mean that they had abandoned their right to rule.
Imam Hussein (a.s.) sent many letters to several states to convey this message. The one to Basra says: “Now then! Verily Allah has chosen Prophet Mohammad (p.) above all His creatures and granted him (the prestige of) Prophethood and chose him for the Apostleship. Then the Almighty took him towards His mercy (death) after the Prophet having guided all people towards the truth, and after having propagated the message for which he was sent. Thus, we are his Household (Ahl El-Beit), vicegerents and his successors and are more worthy of succeeding him than anyone else. Then our people tried to precede us in this matter and we helplessly withdrew to avoid dissentions. To preserve Muslim unity, especially that the nation was facing severe threats”.
Thus, he emphasized that he has rebelled to uphold the right and reform his grandfather's nation and to reestablish the basis of Islam that was set by his grandfather, the Messenger of Allah (p.). Thus, we do not accept what some say that he was about to perform a suicidal or martyr operation, relying on a saying Imam Hussein (a.s.) is alleged to have said: “It is good for me the death that I am going to meet”. Listen to this story that describes the Imam in the battlefield:
"Deity by Allah! Never have I seen a man, standing alone amidst a crowd of people attacking him, conquering him; killing his sons, his family and his companions, who maintained a more balanced composure and self-possession. Truly, if men were to harass him hard, he would respond by tormenting them even harder making them dispel just like goats are dispelled by the attack of a wolf. He fought them in such a way that forced them to be dispersed everywhere as if they were the widespread locusts, then he would draw back and say: ‘upon Allah and only Allah we count in expectation of strength and power’”.
People used to see in the fighting of Imam Al-Hussein (a.s.), and his son Ali Al-Akbar, the fighting of Imam Ali (a.s.). That is why when Ibn Saad saw many of his soldiers being killed one after the other, he said: “Do you not know whom you are fighting? You are fighting the son of Ali… the killer of Arabs.”
We notice in many of the Ashoura Majalis – gatherings held to commemorate the Martyrdom of Imam Al-Hussein (a.s.) – that they portray the Imam as a weak man, especially when they claim that he said: "I swore by my grandfather that I am thirsty". All this is not true. Imam Al-Hussein (a.s.) was a symbol of strength, and he instructed his sister, Zeinab (a.s.), to endure and be brave and strong. And that is what she did, when she stood before Ibn Ziyad and Yazid. And what some say that she hit her forehead on the Mahmal (the wooden saddle of the camel) is a lie.
Ashoura inspires strength and freedom
What we aim at from commemorating Ashoura is to attain the same strength Al-Hussein (a.s.) and Zeinab (a.s.) had possessed, since we are surrounded by huge challenges just as they were. When he was given the choice of accepting Yazid's rule or being killed, Imam Al-Hussein (a.s.) prepared for the battle. That is why he said: “By Allah, I shall not give my oath to you like a humiliated one, and nor shall I flee like the captive. Yazid, the natural son of an illegitimate, has placed me in a dilemma, drawing my sword and fighting or being humiliated by allegiance to him. But it is impossible for us to be humiliated, God, His messenger, the believers, my respectable family would not prefer obedience to mean people, over dying with glory”.
This is the Imam who stood alone, yet he embodied an entire nation in one man. That is why when we face the arrogant challenges of the Americans, Europeans and the Israelis, we have to be true supporters of Al-Hussein in our pride, strength and missionary soul. As for crying and feeling sad, it is a matter of human emotions, which the Imam is worthy of due to the tragic aspect of the event itself, but this does not mean that Al-Hussein (a.s.) and his Household Members were weak. This is the role of Ashoura; to give us strength, determination and the will to endure all harm, so that we will repeat what Ali Al-Akbar said to his father: “As long as we are with the right, we swear by Allah that we do not care if we fall on death or if death befalls us”.