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August 19, 2021

Hussein… what it means to love deeply?

*Editor’s Note: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal opinion, view or experience of the authors, and can not reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here. 

By Yusur Al-Bahrani

A destiny that Hussein was aware of, but to the common person that destiny was hidden. No one knew Hussein would be beheaded. After all, he was a saint. Was he a warrior too? I don’t believe that he intended to fight, but he loved deeply… and he had to face his destiny. It was on October 10, 680 (10 Muharram 61 AH) when the Battle of Karbala was fought. The day is known as Ashura. But I don’t want to refer to it as a battle. In a battle, there are usually two armies. But in the Battle of Karbala, there was only one army, and the other side was Hussein, his family, children and companions. They all loved deeply, annihilated to eternity and consequently, truth was reborn. Their physical bodies faced annihilation, but their spiritual essence exist today.

What raged the drums of Karbala’s battle or Ashura? Hussein, the grandson of Mohamed (the Prophet of Islam) was asked to publicly display allegiance to Yazeed (the Umayyad Caliph). During that time, Yazeed was the tyrant of Arabia. Oppressed people in Iraq and elsewhere, where the Umayyads Caliphate had a strong grip, asked Hussein to help them and show solidarity as they suffered from Yazeed’s atrocities. He refused to have any allegiance to Yazeed and publicly said: “Yazeed is a murderer. And someone like me will never have any allegiance to someone like him.”

On the days of Muslims’ pilgrimage to the Holy City of Mecca, he left, not performing pilgrimage to the House of Allah. Allah, God, the Creator or the Spirit is not confined to a place or city. Hussein would perform pilgrimage every year. But this time, his pilgrimage was not in Mecca. He turned his back to home and asked his family if they wanted to join him on his journey to Iraq. They did. His wife, children, brothers and sisters all joined his caravan— migrating to those whom Hussein received messages from: “Come help us, stay with us in Iraq.” They thought that having a saint on their land might turn it to safe haven— a safe refuge to all those who were oppressed.

Any sound man or woman, would not take their children to a battlefield. Hussein wasn’t going to war. His intention was to seek peace. He didn’t organize any army. It was a gesture: we are a family, and we’re on a journey to make this world a better place with acts of kindness. On their way, Hussein attracted companions. They joined his caravan, and became one family despite their diverse racial, gender, political and religious backgrounds. They were in a higher spiritual journey, in which all differences made no sense to them. Those differences brought them closer to each other. By the time they reached Iraq, Hussein’s caravan was just over a 100 with women, men and children having one common cause that united them: to seek peace.

The Caliph felt threatened by peaceful families traveling together: ‘What if they take over and show people that there is another way to live life peacefully and with no tyranny?’ Hussein’s messenger and his brother (cousin) to the city was betrayed, killed and thrown to the ground from the high Caliphate fortress. Thousands of armed men marched to interrupt Hussein’s journey.

Hussein realized that he would be killed. He had to face his destiny. He had to be brave. But he was worried about his family and friends. He went to each one saying: “Please leave. Here is the night. It’s dark and no will notice you leaving. Escape.” But they all knew that if they left, he would stay alone. They stayed: “We would not leave, until our blood finds the way to your blood.” That’s love, being ready to die, but not leaving your beloved.

They were besieged, starved and deprived from water. On the morning of Ashura, Hussein spoke his well-known words to the army reminding them of his mother— Fatima. Reminding them of his Holy mother had the potential to change their minds, but they were determined to kill him. Omar bin Sa’ad, the leader of the army admitted: “I was promised a piece of land if I hand your head to the Caliph.” The piece of land was more precious than a human’s life. “If you have no faith, at least live your lives as free people,” Hussein addressed them. Instead of responding to his words with words, they shot him with arrows. And the battle started. Each one of the companions, brothers and male family members appeared individually chanting before being killed. They chanted eloquently, bravely and with beautiful spirits. Someone had to be with the children when all the men face beheading. The path of love must not go extinct, and women had to hold on to life and spread the message of Hussein. Not all of the women were keen on staying away from the battle ground. Those who fought back defending the men, were all killed.

The cries of his toddler broke his heart more than anything else. Hussein turned from being a brave warrior, one man facing thousands, to his true self: a loving father. He asked all to stop. Stop the killing: “My child is thirsty. Can’t you see he’s a toddler? If I’m guilty, the child has nothing to do with this.” The answer was an arrow targeting the toddler in his father’s arms.

They all were killed: Hussein, most of his family and companions. A massacre. Children and women, the survivors, were taken as prisoners walking on the harsh deserts to the Caliph.

I can’t encapsulate Ashura within few paragraphs. Hussein and those who were with Hussein, knew their destiny: either being killed or taken as prisoners. They fell to the ground, while their spirits took another journey to travel through time.

Ashura is a day observed around the world. Many celebrate Hussein as the brave warrior, Zainbab (his sister) as the symbol of strength and companions as the determined faithful friends (or disciples in the spiritual sense). However, I sense the need to celebrate them as messengers of peace, not confined to religion. They gave a lesson to never start a war and to stay peaceful even if it means facing your destiny. If someone is in desperate need of help, help them even if that means taking all risks just like Hussein. Celebrating Ashura means celebrating values that are eternal: peace, love and care for one another. Celebrating Ashura means creating the same caravan that Hussein created even if it means a handful of people. His caravan had people who loved one another and they all raced to scarify their lives to each other. They loved deeply.

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