As the dust settles on the plains of Kerbala and the triumph which Imam Husayn struggled for – the safeguarding of the pristine teachings of Islam – which is recounted on the pulpits every year within the Islamic centers throughout the world culminates, a call made by the Imam reverberates within the hearts: “Is there anyone who will come to assist us? Is there anyone who will come to lend his support to the family of the Messenger of God?”
The first twelve days of Muharram are marked with the believers sitting at the feet of the pulpit of knowledge, learning more about their religion and grieving over that epic saga which took place over 1,300 years ago when the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and his small group of family and friends were massacred by those who called themselves Muslims.
This year, thousands of scholars throughout the world spoke on topics as diverse as: Friendship in Islamic Thought, Peace at Home, The Islamic Reformation System, Kerbala and its Relevance in the 21st Century, God and the Creation – A Comparison between Islam and the Materialist Views and other topics. Indeed the subject matter of these and other lectures do not only appeal to the ‘Muslim mind’, but rather, the followers of any tradition. However one question which we want to ask, first to ourself and then the readers is: “IF Imam Husayn’s movement was to free humanity from the shackles of servitude to others and to restore ‘freedom’, ‘justice’ and the noble moral traits which everyone seek in their lives, then where are the ‘non-Muslims’ during these life-changing lectures?”
Undoubtedly, the Qur’an, the Prophet and the Ahlul Bayt are not the property of the Muslims alone! When introducing His Book, God (Glory and Greatness be to Him) states: “…a guidance to mankind, with manifest proofs of guidance and the Distinguisher.” (2:185) The Prophet (prayers be upon him and his family) is introduced as being the one who: “…Relieves them of their burdens and the shackles that were upon them…” (7:157) and the Ahlul Bayt are compared to the Ark of Prophet Noah (peace be upon him) and that, “…Whoever accepts them shall be saved while those who reject them shall perish.”
So if the message is “universal” and open to all, then why are the over-whelming majority of the participants of the Husayni lectures in this and every other Muharram gathering, Muslims (primarily Shi’a)? I think a partial answer to this question can be found by stepping in front of a mirror…
When lecturing in South Africa during the month of Muharram some years ago, an elderly man approached me after my talk and with tears in his eyes, ‘protested’ to me about the fact that for over 50 years of his life, he never “knew” Imam Husayn and the Ahlul Bayt and that from birth, he had “wasted” his life following “others” who were considered as ‘leaders’ of Islam. He had now formally accepted the Ahlul Bayt into his life and taken them as his guides and intercessors with God and was struggling to capture as much of the Husayni spirit that he could in the little time he had left. In essence, he was complaining to “us” for not introducing the message of Kerbala to him and others like him.
I wonder how many others there are in the world like this new-found Husayni?
When asked to speak about the character of Imam Husayn, Antoine Bara, a Lebanese Christian, writes: “My own description of Imam Husayn (peace be upon him) is that he is “the conscience of religions”. Had it not been for him, all divine religions would not have continued to exist … Karbala was a turning point. Had Imam Husayn not carried out his revolution, the concept of monotheism would not have continued to exist and the new religion of Islam would have become tied to the practices of the rulers whose societies would have accepted and surrendered to their oppression under any circumstances because they were the rulers … Unfortunately, even though Imam Husayn (peace be upon him) is a holy character to you Muslims and Shi’a, you do not recognise his value and you have neglected his heritage and revolution. Today you must know how to support this great Imam by saying the truth, helping the oppressed, reforming society and achieving justice and freedom. You are supposed to be absolutely honest in delivering his scream on the day of Ashura to the world. This task requires you to study thoroughly the dimensions of his revolution. It is not enough to narrate and describe the outward aspect of the tragedy to the world.”
With Shi’a communities now comfortably settled in North America with their own centers and scholars who know and speak the major languages and the ‘ease’ with which we can propagate the message of Ahlul Bayt (through publishing works, InterNet, etc…), we need owe it to Imam Husayn to introduce him to our non-Muslim friends and colleagues and to inviting them to hear his passionate cry…