Muharram: At Karbala, Husain won after a defeat

Story by  Saquib Salim | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 22-07-2023
Imam Hussain's mosoleum at Karbala, Iran
Imam Hussain's mosoleum at Karbala, Iran


Saquib Salim

What would you think of a person who tells you a story where a large army of a King brutally killed a person and his family and then goes on to claim that the person killed had actually won the battle? Muslims across the world believe this story and the day is commemorated each year as Muharram. Imam Husain, grandson of Prophet Muhammad, sacrificed himself with his family members but did not lose the battle of truth.

Every year Muslims across the world mourn the deaths of Husain, his family members, and followers at Karbala (now in Iraq). A large army of Yazid, who had usurped the Caliph’s post illegally, killed Husain and his family in 680 AD. Husain was the grandson of the Prophet. Yazid wanted him to accept his rule to claim legal authority to his rule. Husain would not pledge his allegiance to him because he flouted all Islamic laws to become ruler.

A large contingent of Yazid’s army laid siege to Husain’s group of less than a hundred at Karbala and killed almost all the male members. Husain did not surrender and was martyred with his family. Fourteen centuries since people across the world still remember this event as a triumph of truth over deceit. For a rational mind, it seems bizarre that we celebrate this event as a victory of good. How can we claim victory when Husain was killed and Yazid ruled after that?

Poet Mohsin Naqvi wrote, “Victor must have bought historians as well, but who is being remembered every day in this world?” Of course, nobody knows Yazid except the fact that his army killed Husain. You won’t find men named Yazid but millions have Husain as their names. This is how Husain won. He gave hope to humanity.

His sacrifice inspired people to stand up against tyrants.

At Karbala, the family of the Prophet, old and young, sacrificed themselves to establish the truth; the truth of religion. This is a religion that teaches justice, compassion, love, mercy, and pity. With their sacrifice, family members of the Prophet established for ages to come that in a battle between truth and falsehood life does not matter. The truth, no matter how lonely, would never submit to a mighty tyrannical falsehood.

In fact, oppressed people need examples who stood up against the mighty. Here, winning does not matter but not bowing down is seen as the most courageous thing.

This is why in India people see a role model in Maharana Pratap. He couldn’t defeat Akbar but never accepted defeat. Similarly, Shivaji presents an example of a warrior who fought against a mightier army and never submitted.  Husain’s martyrdom is on the highest pedestal. He not only fought and sacrificed himself but also his family. This sacrifice gives us the courage to stand up against tyranny.

Should we care for our lives when the truth is at stake? Can death defeat us? Husain’s martyrdom answers all our questions.

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That is why Maulana Abul Kalam Azad writes, “The teachings of this sacrifice should always be taught and the spirit of this Holy martyrdom should be remembered at least once every year.”