Imam Husayn is the force that changes us every year

Opinion Jul 18, 2023 4 min read

We live in a world where the erosion of meaning and purpose of life has become self-evident. The prioritization of external markers through the pursuit of individual success and wealth lead to a sense of emptiness as people find themselves chasing goals that do not provide lasting satisfaction or meaning. This sense of emptiness can be applied to all areas of life. In this situation actions taken, emotions felt, positive or negative experiences, are all ultimately for nothing. When asking ‘why?’ people are left in the darkness and have no clear answer.

Through Islam, Allah has historically provided people with a perfect guidance and wisdom to navigate life’s challenges, including the search for meaning and purpose to become their best version. It provides a sense of transcendence to God, connecting individuals to something greater than themselves. This connection to the transcendent gives individuals a sense of purpose, a deeper understanding of their place in the world and where they are heading to. It creates a spiritual shield to resist a world of uncertainty, materialism and nihilism. This shield is embodied by Imam Husayn and his Battle of Karbala in 680 CE. Imam Husayn is the energy, the force that changed the universe and keeps changing us every year. Are we paying enough attention to comprehend this reality?

The movement of Imam Husayn against oppression and falsehood, which ended in his martyrdom and that of his children, relatives and companions, is a special event with important characteristics and details. The fact that it is commemorated every year only proves the importance of this event and the continuous reflections on the deep layers of the battle since then. Imam Husayn’s movement has no parallel in the pages of history of world movements. It can be easily said that this event serves as the basis for the survival of Islam. Had this event not taken place, the Umayyads under Yazid would have wiped off the meaning of religion. Both Imam Husayn and Yazid were muslims who fast and pray, but the contrast between them lies in the true essence of religion. Imam Husayn’s motivation was transcendence to Allah, through which he sought to establish a just society based on principles of righteousness and social equity. Yazid’s understanding of religion on the other hand was purely material. He was motivated by power, control and personal ambition which led his rule to be fueled by oppressive structures. This caused him and his followers to lose the meaning of Islam, that came to connect us to God - not in a superficial way - but in a transformative way.

Imam Husayn’s Battle of Karbala came as a revolution in which he sacrificed everything to uplift the people from the darkness to the light, out of the yolk of ignorance, in order to reach internal purity: purity of heart, intention and mind, which is what separates those who support Yazid from those who support Imam Husayn. The companions of Imam Husayn on the battlefield were Muslims, Christians and Hindus who were all sacrificed due to their inner purity and determination, and this is how the Battle of Karbala teaches us the way in which the condition of our hearts will be judged. Before the battle, Imam Hussayn asked all his companions to leave Karbala without any restrictions to save their own lives, meaning that anyone who still had any worldly concerns in their hearts received the choice to go after them and thus leave the battle.

The companions of Imam Husayn that stayed were in minority: only around 72 were determined enough to achieve transformation and a true relationship with God. In the battlefield in Karbala the companions of Yazid, counting 4,000, resemble the many followers of the outer, superficial layer of religion. From the external and superficial point of view, Yazid’s army won the battle against Imam Husayn. If we look further however, we notice that Yazid’s army is a living structure of loss by which one can pursue worldly successes that is immoral and falls short of a true essence. In Ziyarat Arbaeen it is written that Imam Husayn “gave his life in God’s way, to save the people from ignorance and lack of knowledge, and the confusion of misguidance.” The confusion and lack of knowledge the Imam wanted to save people from are the same problems that we face today: the loss of meaning in one’s life in such a way that it causes confusion and a moral vacuum.

It is not a coincidence that the mourning of Imam Husayn’s martyrdom (Arbaeen) takes 40 days instead of just one. Psychological research has found that 40 days are required to change behavior, change a personality trait or 'retrain' the subconscious. Likewise according to Quranic science, the number 40 holds spiritual significance in the sense of transformation. The mourning of Imam Husayn’s martyrdom consists of 40 days for the same reason that the prophet Musa stayed 40 days in the desert to prepare him to meet his Lord.

The martyrdom of the Master of martyrs, Imam Husayn, surpasses worldly victories. His sacrifice provoked societal transformation and inspired generations to strive for justice. The annual remembrance of Imam Husayn helps to awaken and sustain the spirit of resistance against oppression and at the same time should serve as a catalyst for spiritual awakening and transformation, even in the darkest of times. Therefore let the remembrance of Imam Husayn's sacrifice during Muharram and Arbaeen be an opportunity to reconnect with your faith and purpose, purify your intentions, and to realign yourself with the teachings of transcendence to Allah!

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