Karbala and its relevance in the contemporary world


    The battle which took place 1,400 years ago on the arid land of Karbala, neither was a battle of any military significance (as it was between a group of old and young with a regular organised army) nor had any political implications. But the battle of Karbala, which was fought in 680 AD, certainly had a lot of socio-cultural, psychological and emotional influence over all, irrespective of caste, creed or religion.

    The battle between Imam Hussain, grandson of Prophet Mohammad, and Umayyaid ruler Yazid took place because the latter wanted Imam to accept him as a ruler so that his rule could be legitimised. This was conflict between two different ideologies, i.e. Hussainism and Yazidism.

    Hussainism requires utmost adherence to set principles no matter what it takes and not surrendering before the evil at any cost, while Yazidism stood for lust of power over principles.

    The real motive behind Imam’s uprising against Yazid can be better defined by the former himself when he said, “The purpose of my stand is the reformation of my grandfather’s nation. I intend to enjoin goodness and forbid evil. I want to emulate my grandfather, the Holy Prophet, and my father Ali bin Abi Talib.”

    The saga of Karbala, which is commemorated on the Day of Ashura every year, is something one can’t be neutral about. You are either on side of universal moral values or falsehood. There is no midway. The values, for which Imam stood, and the transformation he wanted in society are the need of the hour. He taught us the dichotomy between a profession and its actual practice. He lived a simple life and his priority was justice, equality, his people and their just rights, the things which are essence of a democracy.

    Standing upright for a right cause and risking one’s family’s and companions’ lives needs more courage than fighting on a battlefield. Imam did that with all his faith. Holding onto truth with come-what-may approach and tolerance towards all without any bigotry, social distinction and feudal hierarchy is what it teaches us.

    Even Zainab Binte Ali, Imam’s sister, stood like a rock in the face of every tyranny and spread her brother’s message, even in prison after being hounded up to Damascus. Yazid’s seat of power was far ahead of that age and we still don’t find any women of courage remotely close to her in any way.

    We live in a world today where there are lot of physical and ideological challenges. We try to shout to silence others, do wrong to prove right, become violent to teach love, boast to prove our status and force people to agree. We have become too materialistic in our approach that human values have gone to dusty confines of our mind and lives. In such an age, we must understand that the geometry of democratic society can’t be drawn with knives and forks of force and power, and the battle of Karbala teaches us that very clearly. The force of idea is stronger than the idea of force.

    The battle of Karbala is not only to be remembered  by a particular community or sect, in fact, it’s a cosmic event just like crucifixion of Christ or mental transcendence of Siddhartha, which unfolded many silent messages, relevant in today’s world. In the words of Iman Hussain, “If you do not believe in any religion and do not fear the hereafter, then at least be free in your present life.” He was talking about a free man, because a free man, no matter he is a believer or not, he will be definitely be free of all bias and prejudices.

    The receptivity to human suffering, pain, compassion, fraternity and brotherhood are the values, which should be cherished by all, and one should stand for what is right and not remain silent as Imam (A.s ) said, “Silence  against oppression  means siding with the oppressor”.

    German pastor Martin Niemöller, an outspoken critic  of Adolf Hitler, who spent the last years of Nazi rule in concentration camps, said, “They came for Jews and I wasn’t concerned since I was not  a Jew, then they came for communists, I was not worried as I wasn’t the one, then they came for gypsies, I was not a gypsy, then they came for Catholic, I wasn’t concerned as I was not a Catholic, then they came for me and there was no one to stand up for me and be counted.”

    So, we can’t live in isolation as that’s the relics of the past. We must be united and stand for truth and values and be against tyranny. This is what this sacrifice teaches us.

    Disraeli rightly said, “We must educate our master, the people, otherwise we would be at the mercy of a mob, masquerading as democracy.” So remembering these events and feeling pain for the sacrifices, he did only to protect us, can reinforce our faith in humanity, and boost us to make this fractured society a better place to live in.



    Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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