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Karbala: How a Political Skirmish became Religious

Yasir Qadhi's lecture gives a thoughtful insight of the Battle of Karbala - a tragic chapter in the Islamic history

Wednesday August 26, 2020 9:02 AM, Team ummid.com

Karbala

[Iraqi Shiites take part in Ashura commemorations in Karbala. (File photo: Mohammed Sawaf/AFP)]

We are few days ahead of 10th of Muharram al Haram once again. Muharram al Haram is one of the four holy months of Islamic Calendar. The significance of Muharram al Haram, the entire month and the 10th day, has been described by Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) in much detail.

Significance of Ashura

Youm e Ashura, as the 10th day of Muharram al Haram, is referred as in the Islamic History, was of paramount importance even before the Prophet (Peace be upon him). When the Prophet (Peace be upon him) migrated to Madinah he found local Jews observing fast on the day. He asked the reason.

“Prophet Moses (Peace be upon him) was liberated from the clutches of Pharaoh on this day. This is why we fast on this day”, they replied.

To this, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said, “We have more claim over Moses than you.” So he fasted on the day and also asked other Muslims to fast.

This tradition is reported by a number of Companions (R. A.). According to some traditions, Pagans of Makkah too were observing fast on the 10th day of Muharram so was Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).

Some traditions also said that fasting on the 10th day of Muharram al Haram i.e. on Youm e Ashura was mandatory. It however became voluntary after the fasting in the month of Ramadan became compulsory.

Simple and plain – this was the significance of Youm e Ashura till the death of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and during the reigns of first Caliph Hadhrat Abu Bakra Siddque (R.A.), second Caliph Hadhrat Omar Farooque (R.A.), third Caliph Hadhrat Usman Ghani (R.A.), fourth Caliph Hadhrat Ali (R.A.), during the tenure of Hadhrat Muawiyah (R.A.) and many years later.

How Complications started

Complications started after the tragic and brutal martyrdom of Hadhrat Hussain (R.A.) – the noble grandson of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and son of 4th Caliph Hadhrat Ali ibn Abi Talib (R.A.) on 10th day of Muharram al Haram, according to majority of historians, though some others have established that Hadhrat Hussain (R.A.) was martyred not on 10th but 7th of Muharram al Haram.

But, one thing is certain and unanimous. Everyone, whether Shia or Sunni, agrees that Martyrdom of Hadhrat Hussain (R.A.) was painful, tragic, cruel, brutal, unjustified, condemnable and one of the darkest incidents of the Islamic history.

In later years however a number of things have been added in the incident to give it a religious and sectarian colour. Though tragic and painful, but the religious colour, and a matter of faith and aqeedah, that a circle tries to associate the incident with can’t be justified.

Endless list of martys in Islamic History

Moreover, in whatever angle you look into the incident, mourning over it every year on 10th of Muharram al Haram is something we don’t find anywhere in the proven principles of Islam. Mourning on dead is allowed for Muslims only for 3 days (Exception given only to widows). Likewise, beating chest and faces to mourn a dead is what the Prophet (Peace be upon him) has categorically disallowed and made all such practices forbidden.

The martyrdom of Hadhrat Hussain (R.A.), to reiterate, is condemnable. However, this is also true that the history of Islam is filled with sacrifices and martyrdoms of hundreds of the companions (R.A.) of the Prophet (Peace be upon him). Caliph Umar (R.A.) was martyred while he was leading the morning prayers. Caliph Usman (R.A) was martyred when he was reciting Quaran and the Holy Book was in front of him. Even Hadhrat Ali (R.A.), the father of Hadhrat Hussain (R.A.) was martyred. Hadhrat Hasan (R.A.), the elder brother of Hadhrat Hussain (R.A.) was poisoned and martyred. And, who can forget Hadhrat Hamza (R.A.) – the loving uncle of the Prophet (Peace be upon him), who was brutally martyred in the battle of Uhud?

Beating chest to mourn not part of Islam

Have you seen any Muslim beating chest and faces to mourn the martyrdom of so many of these noble companions of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) who sacrificed their life for Islam? Are there any examples of taziya and alam procession during the lifetime of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) or during the time of the Guided Companions (R.A.)? No, because these are not the teaching of Islam and part of its proven and established principles.

Nonetheless, since mourning and other innovations on 10th of Muharram al Haram have become popular, it is a matter of paramount importance to learn and understand what actually led to the brutal martyrdom of Hadhrat Hussain (R.A.)

For learning and academic purpose, we digged into Internet and found an insightful video lecture of Shaykh Yasir Qadhi on the subject. Yasir Qadhi, a US based Islamic theologian, is born and grown up in Texas, United States. He has graduated from Islamic University of Madinah al Munawwarah and has completed doctorate from University of Texas.

In his lecture, Yasir Qadhi has dwelled at length about the events leading to the tragic and brutal martyrdom of Hadhrat Hussain (R.A.) in Karbala on October 10, 680. He has explained everything right from the nomination of Yazid ibn Muawiyah as Caliph, the unrest in certain parts of the Islamic Kingdom over his nomination, how the companions, including seniors like Abdullah ibn Umar (R.A.), Abdullah Ibn Abbas (R.A.), and Hadhrat Hussain’s own brother Muhammad al Hanafiyyah, had unsuccessfully tried to persuade the grandson of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) from going to Kufa in Iraq.

Some of his observations could be debatable requring more research and may not coincide with what is popular about the incident in the mainstream Shia and Sunni circles. Yet, the lecture gives a thoughtful insight of the Battle of Karbala - a tragic chapter in the Islamic history. Watch and Judge if it was a religious battle or political skirmish.

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