End the silence on Ashura

Developing Just Leadership

Salina Khan

Dhu al-Hijjah 16, 1433 2012-11-01

Islamic Movement

by Salina Khan (Islamic Movement, Crescent International Vol. 41, No. 9, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1433)

The sacred month of Muharram follows the sacred month of Dhul Hijjah. Salina Khan argues that the true significance of Ashura and the martyrdom of Imam Hussain must be addressed honestly to create awareness among Muslims about issues of legitimacy, justice, dignity and freedom in Islam.

Staff writer Salina Khan writes an open letter to the silent majority.

It will break my heart if I have to sit through another typical ‘Ashura gathering. That is why I have decided to write this letter appealing for full disclosure and impartiality from scholars lecturing at most masjids around the world. (Readers, please forward this to a relevant Islamic center near you!)

At many of these commemorations, much time is spent relating how Allah (swt) blessed a string of noble prophets on ‘Ashura, the 10th day of the sacred month of al-Muharram, as they spread the divine message on earth. But little to no time is given to discuss the ‘Ashura event that safeguarded this same message from corruption after the era of the prophets came to an end.

This event was the sacrifice of Imam Husayn, the grandson of the final prophet, Muhammad (pbuh), and son of Fatimah (one of the four perfect women), a courageous soul who stood up against an illegitimate regime to save Allah’s (swt) rule from the clutches of tyranny, corruption and oppression. As poet Allama Iqbal wrote,“The story of the Kabah is unfortunate, simple and colorful. It began with Isma‘il and ended with Husayn.”

So, respected scholars, when you remind us on the 10th of al-Muharram that on this day, that Adam (a) was forgiven after his exile, remember to talk about Imam Husayn as he is chief of the youth of those eternal gardens of Paradise.

…that Noah (a) was rescued on the ark, remember to talk about Imam Husayn as his family was likened to that ship of salvation. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Whoever embarked on it was saved, and whoever turned away from it perished.”

…that Moses (a) defeated Pharoah, remember to talk about Imam Husayn as he resisted the pharaoh of his time with faith, nobility and valor. Imam Husayn said, “I have not come out with the intention of violence and rebellion or in obedience to my passions, and it is not my object to create mischief on the earth or to oppress anyone. My only object is to reform the affairs of the Muslim Ummah and to act according to the conduct of my father and grandfather.”

…that Jacob was reunited with his son Joseph (a), remember to talk about Imam Husayn as he lost on this day his young sons, including a thirsty baby pierced by an arrow in the neck while being cradled in his arms.

…that Abraham (a) was protected from the fire, remember to talk about Imam Husayn as he was left the last man standing “under the blazing sun, on the parched land and against the stifling heat of Arabia,” in the words of historian Washington Irving.

Now, don’t stop short. Continue the narrative by reminding us what our own Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did on this fateful day. With dust on his head and dust in his beard, he was the first to propagate the plight of Husayn, the grandchild he once cuddled in his lap and rode on his back. “I have just been at the slaying of al-Husayn,” he told his wife Umm Salamah in a dream of hers, according to her tearful narration (recorded by al-Tirmidhi).

Respected scholars, I ask you to disseminate the story of Imam Husayn far and wide — not for the sake of historical truth or inclusiveness — but because it is the Sunnah (social convention) of the Prophet (pbuh) and exactly what the world needs right now!

People in all corners of the globe are finally wising up to the injustices being committed against them. It is from Imam Husayn they can learn how a small cadre of people dedicated to truth, peace and justice can undertake a successful struggle against tyrannical regimes with wide-reaching control. “Let humanity awaken and every tribe will claim Imam Husayn for their own,” predicts poet Josh Malihabadi.

The rest, as they say, is history.

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