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Ashura… The Voice of Every Oppressed

Fatimah Haydar

Rain drops washed my face as I sat listening to the Sheikh retelling the story of Imam Hussein (A.S.) in a Majlis. It was not unusual for it to rain in October, but what stunned people is that it was a long hot month and it had not begun to rain; suddenly out of nowhere, it began raining as if the skies gave in to the sorrow in the Sheikh’s voice as he mourned Imam Hussein (A.S.) and his household. 

It is the tenth of Muharram – Ashura – as Muslims around the world know it. Every year, Muslims mourn the loss of their beloved Imam Hussein (A.S.) the grandson of Prophet Mohammad (A.S.) who was denied his God-given right to lead Muslims by a king in the guise of a Caliph, arrogating himself to powers Muslims judged pharaoh-like.

This caliph, Muawiya, built palaces and shut himself off from people rather than ruling in a simple, egalitarian fashion, like the Prophet whose memory was still alive and well.

To add insult to injury, he appointed his own son, Yazid, to succeed him on his death. On his part, Yazid was a lascivious and licentious drunkard who would dishonor the true image of Islam.

The Imam, who saw his grandfather’s legacy almost undone, journeyed to Karbala [southern Iraq], where he’d meet up with his followers and called for the reform of the Muslim nation.

As I passed by the city streets, everything was gloomy; but what caught my attention were the mourners who were eager to participate in the Ashura Annual March – a march that revives the prophet’s grandson and his family’s procession from Mecca to Karbala.

Men, women and children all dressed in black and carried flags were getting ready for the march. Scout members – young boys and girls – rehearsed their slogans excitedly.

One Girl Scout cadette came up to me as she realized I was a reporter and willfully asked if she could share her opinion regarding Imam Hussein (A.S.). She said: “to me, Ashura means the world; if it weren’t for Ashura, neither us nor our religion [Islam] would exist. We are to continue Imam Hussein’s (A.S.) path even if it meant our death.”

Other young girls were encouraged and spoke out as well; “I participate in Ashura to console Sayyida Zeinab – Imam Hussein’s (A.S.) sister” said another cadette. She added that “Ashura is the revival of Sayyida Zeinab’s thirst. Our march symbolizes Ahl al-Beit’s [Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUHH) household] procession no matter what the weather or circumstance was.”

As I entered Sayyed al-Shuhada Complex in Beirut’s Southern suburb, I felt the grief and sorrow of losing a loved one but I also felt a sense of relief… all these people in the same place mourning the loss of a loved one who passed away a very long time ago.

I wondered why these people bothered to wake up so early even after having stayed up late the night before in mourning and bring along their toddlers without even having breakfast just to mourn the memory of the same person!

Next to the tall black gate of the complex, I noticed a veiled woman sitting with her baby girl in her lap. Her skin complexion and facial features were different- not that of an Arab; I sat next to her. She turned to me and smiled. With a strange Arabic accent mixed with a couple of English words, she asked if I happened to have a tissue paper.

At that moment, I realized she was a foreigner and I that I had to quench my curiosity. I asked her about Ashura and what it means to her.

In a low voice, she answered: “as a foreigner married to a Lebanese Muslim, I tried hard to know the real meaning of Ashura and who Imam Hussein (A.S.) is and why people mourn his martyrdom”.

She continued, “At the very beginning, I started to attend the Ashura ceremonies out of curiosity; why do people still mourn the loss of a man killed thousands of years ago? Year after year, I started to realize that greatness of Imam Hussein (A.S.) and his Cause in the Muslim and non-Muslim world – as the famous Gandhi mentions: ‘I learned from Hussein how to attain victory while being oppressed’.”

“Regarding my children, it is important for them to grow up as true Muslims in a true Muslim family abiding by Imam Hussein’s (A.S.) path” she added.

Before the Sheikh was done with the Majlis, I headed to the Men’s part where they, too, were getting ready for their procession. Minutes before the march would start, I was lucky enough to talk to a couple of Boys Scout taking part.

Boys were more revolutionaries than enthusiastic little caddettes were. They spoke excitedly and eagerly about their part in the march.

“I am participating in this ceremony to show the world that we fear no enemy; it is true that we didn’t live in Imam Hussein’s (A.S.) time but we will continue his fight and end what he started with Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah [Hizbullah Secretary General His Eminence Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah]” said one boy scout.

Another younger boy explained what happened on a day like today but 1400 years ago. “Sayyida Zeinab and other women members were left alone in the desert without food and water after Imam Hussein (A.S.) and his companions were killed and then decapitated” he said.

Moments later, the 10th of Muharram March was underway. Flags shivered as the breeze touched them softly and slogans denouncing oppression chanted by marchers roared aloud.

A bystander and his son chanted “O Hussein!” and encouraged his son to do so. He told me that his participation in this March “is a continuation of Imam Hussein’s (A.S.) reform of our nation”. He added that “our children need to learn that the only hope for a Muslim Umah [nation] is by following the imam’s reform path.”

A young women listening to the conversation stated that “Ashura is the revolt of the oppressed over the oppressor… Ashura symbolizes the overcoming of the few over the many – it is a David and Goliath scenario. Every day of our lives is a revival of Ashura. Hizbullah relives Ashura on a daily basis by fighting Daesh [“ISIL”].”

“Families are required to participate in Ashura ceremonies to engrave the Imam’s (A.S.) love and the lessons learned from him in our minds. After all, Imam Hussein (A.S.) did not fight the battle of Karbala solely for the Muslims’ sake; he fought for the sake of all Humanity; to maintain Islam in its true form”.

Ashura is a day of deliverance and a day of sorrow, of freedom — and tyranny. Ashura speaks out loud what silenced people cannot utter.

There’s a Hussein in each and every one of us!

There’s a Hussein in the Resistance men who are fighting for the sake of safeguarding the True Islam. There’s a Hussein in Palestinians who refuse to give up their rights. There’s a Hussein in Occupy Wall Street, asking us where our values of fairness and fair play have gone. There’s a Hussein in #BlackLivesMatter, forcing us to face up to the racism we insist we’ve overcome.

However, all these Husseins might be silenced as Yazid thought he did with Imam Hussein (A.S.); they might never see the outcome of their struggles. Not here, at least. Some pharaohs meet the sea, while others pass away in their palaces peacefully – but the truth never stays hidden.

Like other prophets, Mohammed (PBUHH) taught that those whose prayers are not answered in this life will be heard in the next. Justice might be postponed, but it will never be denied.

Source: al-Ahed News

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