The couplets recited by Imam Al-Husayn (A) on Ashura day were of different types. Some were composed by Imam Al-Husayn (A) and some were composed by others and recited by Imam Al-Husayn (A). For example, the couplets composed by Farwa Ibn Musaik which were filled with enthusiasm and fervor.
Here, are some of the couplets composed by Imam Al-Husayn (A) Ashura day:
“Death is better than living with disgrace. Death is always better and more beloved than disgrace and shame. The apparent defeat in this world is better than entering hell-fire.”1
This slogan of Imam Al-Husayn (A) should be called the slogan of freedom, slogan of respect and slogan of honesty. It means: It is better for a true Muslim to die instead of living a life of disgrace.
The world should know why Imam Al-Husayn (A) was ready to shed each and every drop of his blood and the blood of his youths. It is so because Imam Al-Husayn (A) grew up in the lap of Prophethood. It is so because the blood of Ali (A) was flowing in his veins. It is so because he had been suckled by Fatimah Az-Zahra (s.a.).2
When all hopes were apparently lost on Ashura day, the Imam delivered a sermon, filled with zeal and enthusiasm. It seemed that Imam Al-Husayn’s (A) tongue was emitting flames of unbearably hot fire. Can these words be a joke?
Imam (A) said. “O people! See how this illegitimate person (Ibn Ziyad) is daring to force me to accept one of the two conditions - disgrace or death. Go and tell your master that disgrace is unbearable for Al-Husayn.”3
Blood was dripping from Ibn Ziyad’s sword. His tyrant father had oppressed the people of Kufa twenty years ago so much that when they came to know that Ibn Ziyad is appointed the governor of Kufa, they hid themselves in their houses because they knew that he too was a stone-hearted person like his father and would wreak havoc on them.4
When this Ibn Ziyad came as the governor of Kufa, the people of Kufa abandoned Muslim Ibn Aqeel’s support due to the awe Ibn Ziyad’s father had upon them.
Imam Al-Husayn (A) addressed the people of Kufa saying, “Do you know what options your ruler has kept before me? He has asked me to either accept disgrace or unsheathe the sword. Go and tell your ruler that Al-Husayn says that disgrace is miles away from him. We would not put down our weapons and accept defeat (Ustad Mutahhari cries). God wants Al-Husayn to be such but you don’t know.”
“That illegitimate one does not know in whose lap I was brought up. I was brought up in the lap of Prophethood and reared in Ali’s lap. I was suckled by the daughter of the Prophet (s.a.), Fatimah Az-Zahra (Martyr Mutahhari weeping continuously). Can one suckled by Az-Zahra accept the disgrace of Ibn Ziyad? Disgrace is miles away from me.”
The slogans of Imam Al-Husayn (A) on the Ashura day were of this type only. Hence, I request my brothers, who develop slogans for their friends that they should think whether their slogans are in accordance with those of Al-Husayn or not?
The thirst of Imam Al-Husayn (A), his Ahl al-Bayt and his companions was not a matter of jest. The climate was extremely hot at that time (Ashura was in the last days of June and it is an extremely hot season in Iraq, where winters are also hot).
There was not a drop of water for the progeny of the Holy Prophet (S) for three days at a stretch. It is a fact that when a lot of blood is lost from the body, fresh blood needs to be produced and thirst increases.
God has made the human body in such a way that whenever it feels the need of something, it expresses it. Thus, injured persons feel thirsty because they have lost a lot of blood. The body tries to produce more blood in such a state and needs water.
The injured Imam was so thirsty that when he looked at the sky, there was darkness in front of his eyes.5 This is not a light matter, it is a fact. I have fully searched the books of Karbala Tragedy but could not find these words linked with Imam Al-Husayn (A) where he said, “Give me a sip of water”6 because Imam Al-Husayn’s (A) personality is far more elevated than asking for water from those people.
Yes, I have found it written that Imam Al-Husayn (A) was searching for water while fighting in one place.7 The context shows that Imam Al-Husayn (A) used to reach water while fighting near Euphrates. However, he never asked them for water.
The greatness of Imam Al-Husayn (A) is completely different from we people. Imam Al-Husayn’s (A) couplets were also completely different. When we do mourn and recite Nauha, we should try to match verses of our nauhas with those of Imam Al-Husayn (A).
Reciting nauhas and elegies is a great deed. The Holy Imams used to invite poets to recite the versified sufferings in Majlis of Imam Al-Husayn (A). The poets used to come and recite elegies and the holy Imams used to weep and wail.8
I support nauhas, breast beating (matam) and chain-beating (zanjir)9 but with the condition that the verses that are recited should not be invented by anyone. Instead they should be verses of Al-Husayn. For instance, when it is said, “O my young Akbar, O my young Asghar” it is not an elegy of Al-Husayn (A).
The elegies of Al-Husayn (A) should be of this type: “Don’t you see truth is not being followed and the way of falsehood is not being blocked? In such conditions, a believer moves ahead to get martyred in the way of Allah.”10 The Imam did not say ‘Al-Husayn is one’ or ‘the Imam is one...’ he said, ‘a believer is one who prefers to meet his Lord over such a life’.
The slogan of Al-Husayn is: “I don’t see death but as a success and life with the oppressors, a disgrace.”11 Each and every word of Imam Al-Husayn (A) is worth writing in golden letters and spreading in entire world so that the world comes to know the secret behind his war. It is not so easy to say, “Death is an honour for me and living with the oppressors is disgrace.”
“I feel ashamed to live a life as a slave in spite of being a leader.”
The slogans of Imam Al-Husayn (A) are life-giving:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اسْتَجِيبُوا لِلَّهِ وَلِلرَّسُولِ إِذَا دَعَاكُمْ لِمَا يُحْيِيكُمْ
O you who believe! Answer (the call of) Allah and His Apostle when he calls you to that which gives you life. (8:24)
Imam Al-Husayn (A) is a reformer. This word was used by Imam for himself. Imam said, “The purpose of my war is neither oppression nor revolt nor based on selfishness. I do not intend to spread mischief or do injustice to anyone. I am setting out only to reform the Ummah of my grandfather and would follow the way of my ancestors.”12
The Imam mentioned this in his letter to his brother, Muhammad Ibn Hanafiyyah, which was also his will. Muhammad Ibn Hanafiyyah was physically challenged.13 His hands were paralyzed. He did not have the strength to accompany the Imam in his journey. Hence, Imam (A) handed over this will to him so that the world comes to know the purpose of his movement.
Al-Husayn (A) is saying, “O people of the world! I am not like others. My revolution is not because I want to reach a good post or gather material wealth. I only want the world to know the truth that my stand is for the sake of reforming the Ummah.
I am the reformer of the Ummah of my grandfather (the Imam had written this letter in Medina). I want to fulfill the duty of enjoining good and forbidding evil. My aim istfo give life to the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (S), which has beeome dead. The Sunnah of Ali Murtadha has also become dead and I want to enliven it.”
Now we know why the holy Imams emphasized that we consider Ashura as a school and why there is so much reward for the mourners. Is the reward of mourners equal to what good deeds people perform in the memory of their late parents? No, not because our death has no significance.
It is so because our death has no reasoning or purpose. Thus, the holy Imams stressed that we should keep Ashura alive so that not only Imam Al-Husayn (A) but his school is also remembered forever. The ideal of this school is Imam Al-Husayn (A). Imam Al-Husayn (A) is alive in the form of a thought.
Although Imam Al-Husayn (A) is not apparently present among us, yet the power of his character is alive. Every year Muharram begins, the voices of this message of Imam Al-Husayn (A) are heard everywhere in the air: “Don’t you see that the truth is being neglected and falsehood made customary. In such circumstances, a believer should wish to meet his Lord.”
It is heard everywhere so that the enthusiasm of Shias is enhanced and they begin supporting the truth and enjoin people good and correct all the evils that appear among Muslims.
If someone asks, “What message do you want to give to the people by calling, O Al-Husayn, O Al-Husayn and beating your heads and chests? It is necessary to reply that “We want to make the message of our master reach the people. We vow to revive the spiritual life every year.”
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اسْتَجِيبُوا لِلَّهِ وَلِلرَّسُولِ إِذَا دَعَاكُمْ لِمَا يُحْيِيكُمْ
O you who believe! Answer (the call of) Allah and His Apostle when he calls you to that which gives you life. (8:24)
We should reply that Ashura is the day of the revival of the life of a believer. We wash ourselves and our souls in the Kauthar of Imam Al-Husayn (A) on this day and purity our souls. We learn the fundaments of Islam openly on this day because we do not want to keep ourselves away from enjoining good and refraining from evil or martyrdom or sacrifice in the way of truth.
We want to make this feeling unforgettable through Ashura. The philosophy of Ashura is not that we commit sins, first and then seek forgiveness through Imam Al-Husayn (A). We would get salvation only when our soul is attached to the holy soul of Imam Al-Husayn (A). Repentance means that one should not commit a sin after seeking forgiveness for it even by mistake.
The sins of a person are not forgiven by merely saying ‘my sins are forgiven’ after attending a Majlis of Imam Al-Husayn (A). The sins are forgiven only when our soul is attached to the soul pf Imam Al-Husayn (A). Our sins are certainly forgiven at that time but the condition is that we do not commit that sin again.
However, if we commit sins and attend a Majlis of Al-Husayn and then come out and occupy ourselves in committing sins again, it indicates that our soul has no connection with the soul of Imam Al-Husayn (A).
The slogans of Imam Al-Husayn (A) are slogans of the revival of Islam. It is a Al-Husaynite slogan that why the wealth of the Muslim treasury is being given to only a particular group? Why is the lawful being prohibited and the unlawful is being permitted? Why is the community divided? Why are the poor involved in difficulties and not getting enough to kill their hunger while others are filled so much that they cannot move from their places?
Imam Al-Husayn (A) had delivered a famous sermon to the army of one thousand soldiers of Hurr during his journey in which he narrated a tradition14 of the Holy Prophet (S) and said that if such a period comes when the Muslim treasury is being exploited such that what is permitted by God is prohibited and vice versa and Muslims remain quiet; then it is rightful for Allah to send these Muslims to the place where the unjust are destined to go.
The Imam said that he had an important responsibility15 in such circumstances and he cares for it. This is the school of Imam Al-Husayn (A). This is the soul of Imam Al-Husayn’s (A) slogan. This is the truth behind the slogan of Ashura. Hence, the slogans raised in our gatherings, Al-Husayniyahs and processions must be strong. They should awake and not make people sleep. One who raises meaningless slogans would actually take us away from Imam Al-Husayn (A).
The heart should be so much filled with the sorrow of Shabbir
That my eyes remain colored with the blood of my heart. (Ghalib)
Weeping for Imam Al-Husayn (A) has a great reward but with a condition that Imam Al-Husayn (A) is alive in our hearts. It is narrated that the love of Imam Al-Husayn (A) is hidden in the hearts of the believers.16
If there is faith in someone’s heart it is not possible that he does not have the love of Imam Al-Husayn (A) because Imam Al-Husayn (A) is faith personified.
The slogans raised by the companions of Imam Al-Husayn (A) are also amazing. The Karbala tragedy occurred in such a way that people were forced to think that the Divine hand had drawn this picture in such a way that it can never be wiped out from the minds of people. How amazing it is that Imam Al-Husayn (A) introduces himself as follows:
“I am Al-Husayn Ibn Ali. I would not throw away the sword at any cost. I would support my Ahl al-Bayt and remain steadfast on the religion of our prophet.”17
Couplets of Imam Al-Husayn (A) are of different emphases. When he stood on the battlefield, he recited heavy verses as follows:
“I am the son of Ali, who is from the pure progeny of Hashim and it is enough for my pride that the blood of Ali flows in my veins.”18
As Josh Malihabadi says:
“In whose veins flow the fire of Badr and Hunain That brave warrior is named Al-Husayn.”
The valour and calmness of Imam Hussain as was such that he had left everything aside. He displayed such courage that all Arabs were confounded. A narrator from the enmy side says, “I swear by Allah that I have not seen a person who has suffered so many calamties that all his Ahl al-Bayt, children and companion are killed in front of himand he remains so calm”.19
“I swear by Allah iam confounded that what a courage he had! What a power he has that his calmness was not affected even after being heart broken when his loved ones were cut into pieces in front of him! Such a brave heart cannot be found anywhere even though you may search everywhere”.
Imam Al-Husayn (A) had selected a spot as his center on the Ashura day. He used to come at that place, stand and address the enemy and then return to his camp. It is a fact recorded by all historians that no one dared to fight Imam Al-Husayn (A) in one-to-one combat.
Whoever came in front of Imam Al-Husayn (A) did not return with his head intact. In the beginning a few persons came forward for one-to-one combat and were dispatched to hell. Seeing this, Umar Ibn Saad shouted, “What are you doing? The heart of his father, Ali, is beating in his chest.
You must know whom you are fighting with.”20 After that, one-to-one combat came to an end and those malicious ones started throwing stones and arrows from all sides. Just imagine! An army of thirty thousand had surrounded a lone person from all sides and started raining arrows and stones on him!
When Imam Al-Husayn (A) attacked this army, it started running like a pack of wolves flees on seeing a Hon. Imam Al-Husayn (A) did not chase them long because he did not want to go far from his camp. His honour did not permit that the respect of his household be attacked while he was alive.
That is why he used to attack the enemy, drive them away and return to his center. It was a place from where his voice can easily reach the camp. Although his Ahl al-Bayt would not be able to see but they could hear him easily. Hence, Imam Al-Husayn (A) used to recite:
There is no power and might except by Allah the High and the Mighty, loudly so that Lady Zaynab (s.a.) gets calmed, Sakina is assured and his children retain hopes that he would return to them alive.
Whenever he reached his center, he used to move his tongue over his dry lips and recite: There is no power and might except by Allah the High and the Mighty.21 Al-Husayn wanted to show that the power given to him belonged to Allah.
On one hand the Imam was raising the slogan of monotheism and on the other he was informing Lady Zaynab (s.a.) that he was alive. He had instructed his household that no lady should come out of the tent as long as he was alive.
Imam Al-Husayn (A) came to the camp to bid farewell twice. He bid farewell once before going and then came back when he was successful in reaching the Euphrates. No sooner did Imam Al-Husayn (A) enter the river that someone shouted, “O Al-Husayn! You are drinking water there and the enemy is moving towards your camp.” Hearing this, Imam returned from the Euphrates and went to his camp and bid farewell to his household once again.22
At that moment, the Imam made an enlightening statement to his Ahl al-Bayt: “O my Ahl al-Bayt! Remain calm. Do not panic. Look, you would be taken captives after me but do not forget your religious duties in prison.
Do not utter a word, which would reduce your reward. Also remember that this is the enemy’s last attack. It would be a cause of disgrace and destruction of the enemy. Be calm, for Allah would grant you salvation from the mischief of those unjust and would keep you away from disgrace.
After that, there is elevation for you.”23 This is an important statement of Imam Al-Husayn (A), “O my Ahl al-Bayt! You would surely be taken captives but Allah would not let you be disgraced i.e. prison is not disgrace for you; instead it is a cause of honour and pride.”
That is why when people of Kufa offered bread as charity to the hungry children of the captives,24 Lady Zaynab (s.a.) stopped them from taking it. Even though they were prisoners, they did not accept disgrace. If a lion is encaged perpetually then too it is a lion and if a fox is free even then it is a fox.
Thus, when Imam Al-Husayn (A) came to his camp the second time, his Ahl al-Bayt became happy. Imam Al-Husayn (A) bid farewell to everyone and came out of the tent but his household members did not come out in compliance of his orders.
After some time Imam Al-Husayn’s (A) horse. Zuljanah, started to neigh and Imam Al-Husayn’s (A) family members thought that he was coming back to bid farewell for the third time (Martyr Mutahhari cries). However, when they came out, they saw Zuljanah standing without its rider (Martyr Mutahhari cries more intensely).
Everyone surrounded the Zuljanah and started talking to it. Sakina said, “O Zuljanah! I only ask you whether someone gave water to my father or killed him thirsty?”25 (Martyr Mutahhari cries aloud).
One of the scenes of Karbala really shatters the heart of the Imam of the Time. The Imam of the Time says:
“Zuljanah swiftly returned to the camp neighing and crying aloud. When the ladies saw Zuljanah without a rider and his saddle hanging, they came out of the tents with unfurled hair and slapping their faces.”26
The Imam of the Time recites the Nauha:
O holy grandfather! The people of your household did not come out of tents as ordered by you. However, when they saw Zuljanah without a rider, they unfurled their hair and ran towards the battlefield.” (Martyr Mutahhari cries).
The calls of ‘O Al-Husayn’ and ‘O Muhammad’ were heard everywhere.
- 1. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 44, Pg. 192; Mausuat al-Kalimat al-Imam al-Husayn, Pg. 499.
- 2. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 45, Pg. 19 and 83; Mausuat al-Kalimat al-Imam al-Husayn, Pg. 423.
- 3. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 45, Pg. 83; Mausuat al-Kalimat al-Imam al-Husayn, Pg. 425.
- 4. Ziyad had arrested Shias of Kufa and Basra. He cut off their hands and legs and thrust iron rods into their eyes and hung them at the door (Sharh Nahjul Balagha, Ibn Abil Hadid, Vol. 11, Pg. 44; Al-Futuh, Vol. 4, Pg. 320). This filthy one was the first to start the custom of tying hands and feet and killing in Islam. He buried Abdur Rahman Ibn Hissan alive for his love of Ali (A) as narrated by Ibn Khaldun and Ibn Athir; Shifa as-Sudoor, Vol. 1, Pg. 315.
- 5. In Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 44, Pg. 245 it is mentioned: “...when he looked up to the sky, it was like smoke...”
- 6. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 45, Pg. 351; Mausuat al-Kalimat al-Imam al-Husayn, Pg. 500.
- 7. Mausuat al-Kalimat al-Imam al-Husayn, Pg. 495.
- 8. Damaus Sujum, Pg. 295; Maqtal al-Husayn, Muqarram, Pg. 111.
- 9. Ustad Mutahhari is talking about that matam with chain, which is practiced in Iran. Blades are not attached to those chains. These chains are not hit on bare back instead it is hit on the back while wearing shirt or coat and blood does not flow because of it (Rizwani)
- 10. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 44, Pg. 381; Muntahai ul-Amaal, Vol. 1, Pg. 613.
- 11. Lohoof, Pg. 79; Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 44, Pg. 381.
- 12. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 44, Pg. 329; Mausuat al-Kalimat al-Imam al-Husayn, Pg. 291.
- 13. It is written in Tanqihul Maqal, Vol. 3, Pg. 112 that Allamah Hilli replied to Muhanna Ibn Sunan that Muhammad Ibn Hanafiyyah could not help Imam Husayn (A) because he was ill while Ibn Numa Hilli’s words at the margin of Maqtal al- Husayn, Muqarram, Pg. 135 are: Muhammad Ibn Hanafiyyah had got such an injury that he could not accompany Imam Husayn (A).
- 14. O people! The Holy Prophet has said, “If someone sees an oppressor permitting whatever is prohibited by Allah and is breaking the promise made to Allah and going against the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet and having enmity with Allah and the person does not oppose him in spite of having hands and tongue, Allah will put him in hell along with that oppressor. They are following the Shaitan and disobey the Merciful Lord. They are spreading mischief openly. They have crossed the limits specified by Allah. They are using Muslim treasury unlawfully. They are prohibiting what Allah permitted and permitting what is prohibited by Allah. In such a situation, I am more responsible than others to stand up against him.” (Tarikh Tabari, Vol. 5, events of 61 A.H.) (Rizwani)
- 15. Muntahai ul-Amaal, Vol. 1, Pg. 68; Maqtal al-Husayn, Muqarram, Pg. 183 whereas in Tarikh Tabari, Vol. 4, Pg. 266 it is mentioned with a slight difference.
- 16. Khasaisul Husaynia, Pg. 48.
- 17. Muntahai ul-Amaal, Vol. 1, Pg. 695; Mausuat al-Kalimat al-Imam al-Husayn, Pg. 499.
- 18. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 45, Pg. 49; Muntahai ul-Amaal, Vol. 1, Pg. 694; Mausuat al- Kalimat al-Imam al-Husayn, Pg. 498.
- 19. Lohoof Pg 119, Tareekh e Tabri vol 4, Pg 245, Muntahaaiul Amaal, Vol 1, Pg 695.
- 20. “This is son of Ali who has killed brave Arabs. Attack him from all sides.” Muntahai ul-Amaal, Vol. 1, Pg. 697; Maqtal al-Husayn, Muqarram, Pg. 275.
- 21. Muntahai ul-Amaal, Vol. 1, Pg. 295; Mausuat al-Kalimat al-Imam al-Husayn, Pg. 496.
- 22. Maqtal al-Husayn, Muqarram, Pg. 276.
- 23. Mausuat al-Kalimat al-Imam al-Husayn, Pg. 491.
- 24. Muntahai ul-Amaal, Vol. 1, Pg. 728.
- 25. Masaib al-Masoomeen, Pg. 320.
- 26. Damaus Sujum, Pg. 200; Muntahai ul-Amaal, Vol. 1, Pg. 706.