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On the occasion of
the first of Muharram (the Muslim New Year and the beginning of 10 days
of mourning for the grandson of the Prophet (s.a.), slain at Kerbala)
A new year signifies renewal, birth, new beginnings. While the 1st of Muharram marks the new year celebration for many Muslims - for others it marks a time of mourning and contemplation. But this is not an inappropriate activity for a new beginning.
It is a time of looking back at what has passed with the intention of setting right that which has gone astray within ourselves and our society. This is a serious task and a weighty duty, but one which, if approached with the correct intention and attitude, is a deeply satisfying and rewarding activity.
A new year is a new beginning and a beginning is a time for taking great care that one's aims are correct, one's intentions are pure, and that one's energies are correctly directed and not wastefully spent.
What better forum is there than the majlis held to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (a.s.) for such an activity. Here, we gather as a community for a common cause, all of us in a state of mind receptive to the lessons to be learned from from this incident that we come here to commemorate - an incident that serves all the purposes that a new year is truly meant to serve - to renew us - to provide fresh purpose and a new beginnning.
Kerbala is a microcosm. In the events of 10 days, in that one spot on earth, all the great lessons of the Qur'an were brought to life in front of the witness of history - and all those who were (or are today) in doubt that the highest ideals of the Qur'an could be lived up to - all those who felt that the highest Qur'anic ideals were beyond the reach of humans - were in that place on Earth, that Kerbala, proved wrong. Doubts were shattered, and the jewels of Qur'anic truth were brought out and displayed in the desert of Kerbala, shining with such a light that even today, so many centuries later, our vision is dazzled by those human gems.
Kerbala is the Qur'an in action - at Kerbala is to be found a most profound tafsir of the Qur'anic ayats (verses).
And Kerbala came at a time when the islam of the Muslim state had deviated dramatically from the Islam of the Prophet (s.a.). It came at a time when the very foundations of the religion were under attack, when the government of that time had become so emboldened, so full of spite for the truth, so drunk with their worldly power and so blind to their own faults and limitations, that they aimed their spears at the hearts of the dearest members of the Prophet's family. The Prophet was gone so they would vent their hatred at his family and at any who stood with them - this while they claimed the Prophet's Islamic heritage for themselves and declared the Prophet's closest family members and companions to be disobedient rebels.
This was a time of great despair for believers. The beauty, justice, and mercy of Islam had been cast aside, the dazzling societal structures created by the first generation of Muslims seemed to be in ruins - the Prophet's former enemies, the Umayyads were kings over the Muslim empire - their self-declared caliphate a mockery of what that office was meant to be and of what it had once been. They were at the summit of their power so they did what they willed, while the Prophet's family were made strangers in their grandfather's own home, disinherited and removed from all worldly power while their spiritual authority was falsely challenged and called into question.
But the Qur'an says: "And we wished to show favour unto those who were oppressed in the land, and to make them Imams, and to make them the inheritors." (Qur'an 28:5)
And at the beginning of the Muslim New Year in the year 61 AH, the greatest act of renewal was begun. The events of the first 10 days of Muharram marked the point of a new beginning for Islam - when what was deviated was set right - when what was wrong was exposed in such a way that the shame of the wrongdoers has been manifested to every succeeding generation - and a weakened Islam was revived, restored, and reconnected with its spiritual and intellectual roots.
"Good is not that your
possessions, wealth (and power)...increase, but good is that your
knowledge increases and your insight grows more powerful, and that the
people are proud to serve God. For when you do good, you praise God...."
For us too, this New Year, this Muharram, should be a time of renewal, for setting right what has deviated in us, for strengthening the bonds of community, for looking closely at the deep and profound spiritual and intellectual roots of Islam - and a new beginning with a pure intention for the year to come.
- Irshaad Hussain
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"The Imam asked of the name of this place. Zuhayr said, "It is known
as Taff." - Taff means 'bank of a river.' - The Imam asked, "Does it
have another name?" The reply was, "It is called Sahil al-Furat." -
Sahil al-Furat means 'the bank of the Euphrates.' Again the Imam asked,
"Is it known by any other name?" Zuhayr answered, "Yes, it is called
Karbala'." On hearing the name of Karbala', the Imam descended from his
mount as he said, "O Allah! We seek refuge with you from karb (sorrow)
and bala' (tribulation)."
(from "Kitab-al-Irshad" by Sheik Mufid)
Burayr ibn Hudayr, a companion of the Imam, sought permission to go
and speak with 'Umar ibn Sa'd regarding the blockade to prevent the
Imam and his companions from obtaining water. On being granted
permission Burayr walked straight to 'Umar's tent and sat down in front
of him without offering salutations. Umar... said, "Am I not a Muslim
and yet you did not greet me as one?"
Burayr replied, "If you had been a Muslim, you would not have raised
your sword against the family of the Prophet.... Even the wild dogs
consume the water of the Euphrates. Yet you prevent the son of Fatimah
and his family from having access to it.... What right do you have
after this to assume that you are a Muslim?" 'Umar lowered his head and
paused for thought. Then raising his head, he said "O Burayr!... how
can I abandon the governorship of Rayy? (this was offered to him as a
reward for moving against Husayn) Should I leave Rayy for others to
take? By God! My heart will not accept that!"
(from "Kitab-al-Irshad" by Shaik Mufid)
"O Time! Fie on you as a friend!
At the day's dawning and the sun's setting,
How many a companion or seeker of yours will be a corpse!
Time will not be satisfied with any substitute.
Indeed the matter will rest with the Mighty One,
And every living creature will journey on my path."
(from "Kitab-al-Irshad" by Shaik Mufid)
"I have abandoned the creation in Your love
I have orphaned my children so that I may see You
If the swords were to cut me into pieces in Your love
Even then my heart would not long for other than You"
"O' God, You are my trust in every sorrow and my hope in every hardship. How many a heavy burden which weakens the heart and baffles the mind I brought before You with my complaint and You did relieve me of it thereof. You are truly the bestower of every bounty, the source of every blessing and the goal of every desire. You have guided me and shown me the significance of all matters which I face."