*this question was asked to neverabandonthestruggle, and since I couldn’t reblog it, I’ve pasted it here. The response was well-written and well-informed and is well-worth reading.
I’ve been getting quite a few questions about this lately and I finally have time to answer it from Islamic sources as well as give my personal insight into why the commemorations of Muharram are so significant to us, as followers of the Ahlulbayt (a.s.).
For us Muharram is not only about Imam Hussain (a.s.), it is a time of spiritual renewal and personal reflection- as well as a chance for us to continue the fight against oppression and inequality in the world around us. The traditional saying is that “every day is Ashura, every land is Karbalah”. We believe that the lessons of Ashura should not just be left in our places of worship, they should become a reality as we contemplate the reality of tyranny in our own societies. For us, Hussain (a.s.) himself represents the very pinnacle of our existence- the embodiment of truth and justice that Islam serves to uphold. His martyrdom represents the capability of evil to destroy even that which is firm in imaan (faith), compassion, social equality, and steadfastness in following truth. Hussain (a.s.) knew which side he was on. One one side, autocracy, injustice, and oppression, whilst on the other, the oppressed masses, their struggle for justice and their yearning for liberation. Surrounded and outnumbered, our Imam (a.s.) chose his side and paid for it with his life. With everything stacked up against him, Hussain stood up for the people and their freedom, siding with what he knew was right. He didn’t allow any biases or preconceptions to come in the way of his ultimate choice. He objectively analysed the reality around him, recognized the truth, and made his stand.
The position of Imam Hussain (a.s.) himself in Islam, regardless of what school of thought or sect we follow, is something that alone should be reason enough to commemorate the month in which he and his followers were granted istishhad (martyrdom).
The Prophet Muhammad (s) said, among other ahadith:
“Hussain is from me, and I am from Hussain”. (Jami Tirmidhi)
“ I saw the Messenger of God pitch a tent in which he placed ‘Ali, Fatima, Hasan, and Husayn. He then declared: ‘O Muslims, I am at war against anyone who wars against the people of this tent, and am at peace with those who show peace toward them. I am a friend to those who befriend them. He who shows love toward them shall be one of a happy ancestry and good birth. Nor would anyone hate them except that he be of miserable ancestry and evil birth.” (Al-Riyadh an-Nadhira)
“When God’s Messenger was asked which member of his family
was the dearest to him, he replied, “Al-Hasan and al-Hussain.” He used to
say to Fatimah, “Call my two sons to me,” and then would sniff and
cuddle them.” (Tirmidhi)
“Al-Hasan and al-Husain are the chiefs of the youth of Paradise and Fatimah is the chief of their women.” (Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, al-Tabarani)”.
To remember the death of Imam Hussain (a.s.) and his companions is to remember the day that the rights of the Prophet Muhammad’s (s) holy and purified family were robbed from them- and their companions oppressed and slaughtered. He set out towards Kufah with one message:
“I will never give Yazid my hand like a man who has been humiliated, nor will I flee like a slave… I have not risen to spread evil or to show off – nor for spreading immorality or oppression. Rather, I have left to restore the teachings of my grandfather Muhammad. And I only desire to spread good values and prevent evil.”
When Hussain (a.s.) was deserted by many of his supporters, he issued a cry that implored future generations and one which still echoes in the hearts of the oppressed and those seeking justice until today: “Is there anybody to help us?”
To us, Imam Hussain (a.s.) and the tragedy of his oppression and death at the hands of the dictator of the time represent the battle for compassion, truth, equality, justice, moral strength, and courage. When the majority would have ran away and would have backed down from confronting Yazeed, our Imam (a.s.) was willing to stand up for justice no matter what the cost was- even his life. He was the man who saved Islam as a religion from being destroyed by corrupt powers, the man who stood up for the rights of the impoverished and oppressed, and the man who continues to inspire hundreds of millions across the globe to this day. His message cuts across class divides, ethnic lines, and even religious divides.
The Salt March, in which Mahatma Gandhi marched for justice and independence in a revolutionary act of civil disobedience across the plains of Gujarat, India- was inspired by Imam Hussain (a.s.).
“I learnt from Hussain how to achieve victory while being oppressed.”
The Syrian Christian historian Antoine Bara said:
“No battle in the modern and past history of mankind has earned more sympathy and admiration as well as provided more lessons than the martyrdom of Hussain in the battle of Karbala.”
There’s so, so, much more I could say about the significance of Imam Hussain (a.s.) and the importance of mourning/commemorating the day of Ashura but this should give you a basic idea.
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