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Aashura – The Untold Truths

The word Aashura reminds a person of the sacrifices of Imam Husain (a.s.) and his companions. It inculcates the spirit of sacrifice in a person for the sake of Allah. Probably, this is the principal reason why the Ahle Bait (a.s.) have tried to keep the memories of the sacrifice of Imam Husain (a.s.) alive in every era. Today, we have so many treatises regarding Karbala. Although we don’t claim that all of them are authentic – as the ‘chain of narrators’ in most of them are questionable, yet we can say that most of the traditions found in the books sketch a vivid picture (in the minds of the readers) of the events of Aashura. And it has been possible to protect it in the annals of history only due to the strenuous efforts of the Ahle Bait (a.s.) and their lovers. When we turn the pages of history, we find a group of people who have highlighted the importance of the event of Karbala and the incident of Aashura, while there are some manipulators who have left no stone unturned in trying to belittle the greatness of Aashura and erasing the episode from the pages of history. The following presentation is a humble attempt to present a bird’s eye-view of both these aspects.

1) The approach of Sufis :

Shaikh Abdul Qadir Gilani is considered to be a great Sunni scholar. His tomb in Baghdad is a place of pilgrimage. He comments on the doubts raised against the Sunnis and states that “Some people question the Sunnis and ask them ‘ Why do you (sunnis) fast on the day of Aashura? What you do is not correct. Because on this day Husain ibn Ali (a.s.) was martyred. Is it appropriate that on the day of befalling of calamity (on the grandson of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)), when everyone is in a state of mourning, you (sunnis) should regard this day as the day of happiness? Is it correct that you celebrate this day by wearing new dresses, and invite people to eat delicious food like the day Eid? These actions by you are incorrect and unacceptable.”

Then he himself replies to the objection. He says “The one who raised the objection has surely erred and his faith is incorrect and invalid. Because Allah has selected Martyrdom for the grandson of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)…..and the day of Aashura should not be considered as the day of calamity because the devotee has reached his beloved (God). So this should be a day of happiness”

Abdul Qadir Gilani further writes: “If Aashura is to be considered as the day of mourning then it is better we consider Monday as that day(for mourning) because the soul of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Abu Bakar Siddique departed on this day.”

 We say: Poor and prejudiced explanation has not only snatched their capacity to contemplate but also the ability to comprehend.

2) The approach of Taqwa (piety) :-

In order to create a doubt and confusion concerning the sacrifice of Imam Husain (a.s.), some people adopt the path of Taqwa (piety) and abstinence. Ghazzali in his book ‘Ehya-ul-Uloom-ud-deen’ tries to belittle the magnificence and splendorous sacrifice of Imam Husain (a.s.) on the pretext of ‘taqwa’. He writes “In the first place, it is unjustifiable that the slaughter of Imam Husain (a.s.) should be ascribed to Yazid or Yazid is responsible since the killing of Imam Husain (a.s.) (by Yazid) is not proved. Secondly, whoever may be the killer of Imam Husain (a.s.), it is possible that he may have sought forgiveness and repented before his death. Hence, it is not correct to curse the killers of Imam Husain (a.s.).

(Ahya-e-Ullom-ud-deen,vol. 3, page 125)

He further writes: Better than the mourning of Imam Husain (a.s.) is the remembrance of Allah i.e.to say “There is no god except Allah.” Reciting “La Ilaha illah” is better than cursing the killers of Imam Husain (a.s.).

3) The approach of denial (of Aashura):-

Ibn Taymiyyah adopts this approach to reject and falsify the event of Aashura. He declares emphatically that Yazid has NOT killed Imam Husain (a.s.). Nor has he imprisoned the Ahle Bait (a.s.)!!! Such talks (by the Shias) are blatant lies. He writes thus:-

“Certainly, Yazid did not order the killing of Imam Husain (a.s.) (and all the scholars and historians are unanimous about it). They (historians) say that Yazid only instructed Ibn Ziyad – through a letter – to ensure that Imam Husain (a.s.) does not establish a government in Iraq. But they (Ibn Ziyad & his army) rose to fight against Imam Husain (a.s.), ultimately killing him in miserable and pitiable circumstances. And when this news reached Yazid, he became very angry and he wept profusely. He has never imprisoned the captives. On the contrary he released them with respect and dignity and utmost humility so that they may reach their destinations. The killing of Imam Husain (a.s.) is not more painful than the tribulations that befell on previous prophets. So, come let us weep on the problems of previous prophets.

(Minhaj-us-Sunnah, 4/476)

So dear readers, you have read how the Sunni scholars have been trying to lower and belittle the significance and magnitude of Aashura through deceit and various excuses. Even today they brazenly and ceaselessly attempt to bring down the glory of Aashura. Sometimes they give a fatwa of ‘innovation in Islam’ (‘bidat’) while sometimes they raise baseless objections. Now every sane and just man would wish to know why these so called scholars are trying to falsify and negate such a great event as that of Karbala. The very simple and straightforward answer is that Azadari is a revolutionary slogan whose arrow pierces the heart of Muawiya and his followers. If we remember Imam Husain (a.s.) again and again, year after year, then it is obvious that the people would like to know who laid the foundation of his (a.s.) killing. And eventually, the name of Muawiya ibn Abu Sufyan will be taken. Hence people (Sunnis) have been denying this great historic event so that the real culprits who are followers of Muawiya and Yazid, and those who had paid allegiance to Yazid can be shielded. So the best way to redeem them of these accusations would be to reject the event itself. And you will find this motive hidden somewhere in the statements of Sunni scholars. For example, Abdul Mughees-e-Hanbal-e-Baghdadi writes about the objections raised against Yazid that “Yazid should not be humiliated out of the respect of his father” Of course we should not say anything!!! Yazid, the debaucher used to immerse himself in intoxicants and wine and he used to marry his own mahram!

Similarly, one may observe Taftazani defending Yazid in these words:

“If people say that the scholars of the faith do not consider Yazid to be cursed, while you (shias) believe that he should be cursed, then the people (shias) are more entitled to be cursed as this series of curses will move further up.”

(Sharh-e-Maqasid, V 5, p, 310)

In his reply, we would say that you are preventing us to curse Yazid so that the matter does not reach his father, and further to his patronizing elders.

One of the objections that is raised against the Shias is that it is they who invited Imam Husain (a.s.) and then they killed him ruthlessly. So now as a matter of regret they cry over their sin till today. Although this unsubstantiated objection has been answered numerous times, yet with the passage of time, the same objection emerges in different hues. Hence it is incumbent to reply to their doubts regularly. The best reply to this question is present in the Sunni books itself. The words of Imam Husain (a.s.) too give a glimpse of the answer. For example, Tabari narrates from his sources that in the army of Ibn Ziyad, there was a soldier by the name of Yazid ibn Ma’qal, who was an arch rival of Imam Husain (a.s.). On the other hand, Burair ibn Khuzair-e-Hamdani, a resident of Kufa, who was well known for his knowledge of Quran, was a warrior in the army of Imam Husain (a.s.). There is a conversation between Yazid ibn Ma’qal and Burair-e-Hamdani which is narrated in this book. Yazid ibn Ma’qal said to Burair, “See how Allah has written your fate.’’ Burair replied that “whatever Allah has written in my fate is only goodness and virtue while in your fate there is nothing except misfortune and annihilation”. Yazid ibn Ma’qal said “You are lying. You spoke lies earlier too. Don’t you remember that earlier you people of Bani Lozan used to accuse and speak lies against Usman and used to call Muawiya as misguided and also blamed him for misguiding others? And you considered Ali (a.s.) as the rightful Leader guide?”

Burair replied, “I testify and confirm that my belief and my views are the same as you just said.”

Now since Yazid knew that Burair believed in the Wilayat of Imam Ali (a.s.) so he said: “Even I testify and witness that you are one of the misguided ones”

Burair asked, “Are you ready to do ‘Mubahela with me and then engage in a battle?” Yazid ibn Ma’qal answered, “Yes”. Then both of them came face to face and before the battle, raised their hands and prayed that may Allah curse the liar and may the one who is on Truth be victorious and the one who is on falsehood be perished. Then the battle between the two started and Burair killed Yazid ibn Ma’qal.

(Tareekh-e-Tabari, vol 5, Pg 431-433)

From this incident we conclude that on the day of Aa’shura, the battle was between the legitimacy of Imam Ali (a.s.) and Usman (l.a); between the standpoint of Imam Ali (a.s.) and Usman (l.a). The result of the Mubahela was that Burair, the follower of Ali (a.s.) emerged victorious. Now I want to know from those who oppose us – Was Yazid ibn Ma’qal a shia? While he himself proclaims that he belonged to Bani Umayyah and was an adherent of Usman and Muawiya.

In the same vein, Tabari narrates one more incident. He says, ‘When Na’fey ibn Helal – one of the warriors of Imam Husain (a.s.) – proceeded to fight, he recited the war-cry stating, “I am the follower of the religion of Ali (a.s.).” On hearing this, a person from the army of Ibn Ziyad, named Mazabil ibn Harees, came forward to face him and replied back in these words : “ I am the follower of the religion of Usman.”

(Tabari , vol 5 , pg 425)

Ibn Jawzi in his book ‘Kamil-ut-Tareekh’, presents this war-cry of Na’fey ibn Helal, but does not mention the reply which was received from his opponent. Why? The reason Ibn Jawzi chose to hide the reply is that no one should know who are the true killers of Imam Husain (a.s.)!! And centuries later, they may conveniently lay the blame – god forbid – of the massacre of Imam Husain (a.s.) at the doors of the Shias.

Similarly, the historians note down that Ibn Ziyad dispatched a letter to Umar-e-Sa’ad in which he wrote, “Stop the water from being taken to the camps of Imam Husain (a.s.) and his companions. Let not a single drop of water reach them, as they (Imam Husain (a.s.)) had done the same thing with Usman ibn Affan.”

(Tarikh-e-Tabari, v. 2, pg. 412)

Other than the above narrations, when the captives of Ahle Bait (a.s.) returned back to Medina, there was loud wailing in the houses of Bani Hashim (a.s.). Raavi says: – At that moment, I went to the house of Umar ibn Sa’ad Ashraq. I found that Umar was laughing loudly at the sight of the captives. And Umar recited a verse in the animosity of the Ahle Bait (a.s.).

“This wailing and weeping is in response to the inflictions on Usman ibn Affan.”

These are some of the arguments which are sufficient to testify that the killers of Imam Husain (a.s.) were the people of Bani Umayyah and from the progeny of Abu Sufyan.

There is one more fact which needs to be mentioned here. The enemies of Ahle Bait (a.s.) have left no stone unturned and wasted hundreds of pages in their quest to prove that – neither Yazid was involved in the cruel killing of Imam Husain (a.s.), nor did he issue any order for killing him (a.s.) nor he sent an army to kill him (a.s.). But it is evident like the bright shining sun and history is a witness for the one who is acquainted with the rights of Ahle Bait (a.s.), that soldiers were dispatched from Sham and they kept pouring in Karbala on the orders of Yazid. His (la) impure hands are coloured with blood of Imam Husain (a.s.).

One of the proofs is evident in the following incident. Someone asked Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) regarding observing fast on the 9th and the 10th of Muharrum. Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) replied

Ninth & tenth of Muharram are the days when the armies of Sham had encircled and surrounded the camp of Imam Husain (a.s.) . . . . . . Ibn Ziyad and Umar bin Sa’ad were delighted after seeing the size of their armies. And they overpowered Imam Husain (a.s.) and his companions on the day of Aashura, while they ensured that no help should reach the poor and helpless companions of Imam Husain (a.s.).

(Kafi , vol 4, pg, 147)

According to the above narration, Ibn Ziyad and Umar bin Sa’ad became happy when the armies of Sham entered the battlefield of Karbala. Similarly, Shaikh Saduq (r.a) narrates an incident from his chain of narrators

Imam Husain (a.s.) turned to his left and then to his right, and when he could not see anyone, he raised his head and said “O Allah, be a witness how the son of your Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is being treated… At that moment, Sanaan bin Anas, Shimr bin Zil jawshan and some people from Sham attacked Imam Husain (a.s.).

(Amali-e-Saduq, pg 226)

This tradition clearly proves that the army of Sham had come to kill Imam Husain (a.s.). The people of Bani Umayyah and the people of Sham still celebrate the murder of Imam Husain (a.s.) by observing a fast. And even today certain Wahabi people say ‘Aashura is the day of the killing of Imam Husain (a.s.). And if you wish to please the Ahle Bait (a.s.), then observe fast on this day’.

Observing fast on the day of Aashura is the custom of Bani Ummayah. Shaikh Tusi (a.r.) narrates from Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.)

Indeed the progeny of Ummayah and those among the people of Sham who had assisted in killing Imam Husain (a.s.) had taken a vow that if they were successful in killing Imam Husain (a.s.) and acquired the Caliphate for the progeny of Abu Sufyan, then they will celebrate that day as Eid and would observe fast as a token of thanksgiving. And this tradition still exists in the progeny of Abu Sufyan.

(Amali-e-Tusi)

Dear readers, these are some of the testimonies and proofs which are clear evidences as to why there have been restrictions on weeping on Imam Husain (a.s.). Now from here we, take a look at the other aspect of Aashura and see the steps which were taken by Holy Prophet (saw) and the holy Imams (a.s.) to protect the sanctity of the day of Aashura.

(1) Events which occurred after Aashura

After the event of Aashura many natural incidents took place in the world, such as Lunar Eclipse, oozing of blood from below the stones etc. Narrations of such occurrences can be found in the books of Sunnis as well. The authors testify to the authenticity of such incidents and traditions. (It is worth mentioning here that the presence of such traditions in the books of the opponents is miracle in itself).

Tabrani narrates that Umme Hakim says “I was a young girl at the time when Imam Husain (a.s.) was killed. I remember that the sky was red for several days after that event.”

Abu Bakr Haysami narrates after this narration that all the narrators of this incident are reliable. Then he adds: Abu Qubayl says ‘When Imam Husain (a.s.) was killed, the sun became dark (eclipsed). So much darkness spread in the sky that stars could be seen, and we thought that Day of Judgement has arrived.

Haysami narrates from another person, “When Imam Husain (a.s.) was martyred, someone robbed a camel from the camp of Holy Imam (a.s.). As the camel was being cooked for eating, the meat turned into blood.”

Haysimi says that all the narrators of this tradition are dependable.

Ibn Katheer Damishqi also testifies in this regard. Pay attention to what he says, because he is a student of Ibn Taymiyyah. He narrates in his book of history.

(Tarikh ibn Katheer)

“Mostly, those narrations which depict the wrath and curse on the killers of Imam Husain (a.s.) are correct. These people got inflicted in various miseries, afflictions, heavenly curses and sufferings. And most of them became mad and insane.”

(2) Azadari and weeping on Imam Husain (a.s.)

There are innumerable traditions on the subject of weeping of Imam Husain (a.s.). And such traditions exist in both Sunni and Shia books. (We understand from these traditions that Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and all other Imams (a.s.) have taken so much care and pain in preserving azadari) One of the traditions in this regard is that of Ahmed ibn Hambal. He narrates a tradition from a person who had participated in the battle of Siffin along with Imam Ali (a.s.). That person says, “While returning from Kufa, when Imam Ali (a.s.) reached Karbala, he called Imam Husain (a.s.) and said, “O Aba Abdillah! Be Patient! O Aba Abdillah! Be Patient! Be forbearing near the river of Furat!!” I asked the explanation of those words from Imam Ali (a.s.). He (a.s.) said:

“One day I was in the presence of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) , and I saw his eyes moist with tears. I asked the reason. Then he (s.a.w.a.) gave me the news of the martyrdom of Imam Husain (a.s.) near the river of Furat.”

Imam Husain (a.s.) too was present in the battle of Siffin, and he (a.s.) was with Imam Ali (a.s.) through the entire journey. After narrating this incident, Abu Bakr Haysami says that all the narrators of this tradition are reliable. Similarly, the tradition of Umme Salma has been narrated in the book ‘Moa’ajam ul Kabir’ by Tabari. We won’t narrate them here for the sake of brevity.

Various forms of Azadari

In an incident, Janabe Jabir asked Imam Baqir (a.s.): What is meant by Jaz’aa? (Mourning)

Imam Baqir (a.s.) replied:

Jaz’aa means crying loudly; wailing; beating the head and chest and pulling the hair.

In another tradition it has been mentioned from Imam (a.s.) that

“All types of wailing and weeping are abominable except the crying and wailing on Imam Husain (a.s.).”

(Wasail-us-shia, vol3 pg.282, H.no 3657)

Participating in condolence gatherings (Majaalis)

Raavi says, “I asked Imam Musa Kazim (a.s.) that my wife and ibn Marid’s wife have attended a mourning gathering (majlis) and whenever we forbid them they say – If attending the Majlis is Haram then tell us clearly, we will not attend it. And if it is not Haram then why are you stopping us? If someone from us departs from this world then no one too will come to our house in majlis.” Imam-e-Kazim (a.s.) replied

“You are asking me about the social rights. My father used to send my mother to the houses of the people of Madina so that their (neighbour’s) rights (of condolence) could be fulfilled.”

This shows it was the custom of Ahle Bait (a.s.) to attend the condolence gatherings. Women should not be prevented from attending the majlis (gatherings).

Providing food for the mourners

When Jafar-e-Tayyar was martyred, his entire family was bereaved and wailing. Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) ordered that food should be sent to the mourners of the family for three days.

(Wasail-us-shia, vol 3, pg. 221)

Wearing black clothes

Ibn Abil Hadeed Motazali writes, “When Imam Ali (a.s.) was martyred, Imam Husain (a.s.) wore black clothes”

There is a tradition from 6th Imam (a.s.) wherein he says “When Imam Husain (a.s.) was killed, the women of Bani Hashim wore black dress and organized a majlis. And Imam Sajjad (a.s.) arranged for their food”

To keep businesses closed

Tabari writes that it was tradition to close down business for the sake of Azaadari.

“People used to close down their business for a week and used to weep for Imam Husain (a.s.)”

(Tabaqat ul kubra, pg 90)

These are some of the things that remind us that we should always perform those actions which will maintain the dignity and grandeur of Azaadari of Imam Husain (a.s.).

In the end, we pray to Allah to enlist our names among the mourners of Imam Husain (a.s.) and hasten the reappearance of that Imam who will avenge the unjust killing of Imam Husain (a.s.).