Hussain - the Universalist
Hussain (4-62 AH. - 614 AD.) was the youngest son of Ali (A.D. 600-661) by Prophet Mohammed's daughter Fatimah. Ali was the fourth Caliph of Islam. When Yazid, son of Muawiyah, became Caliph he demanded allegiance from Hussain. He refused because of Yazid's wayward ways. Ultimately he had to confront Yazid. It had to be done, to preclude any further deterioration and eventual disintegration of Islam. He had to clear up the damage -the transgression of Islamic values, the frivolous social behaviour, in the name of Islam - the sickening dashing of dreams about future glories of Islam. Hussain had no illusions about the extent of that damage. Was it to ask too much of Hussain to take the responsibility? Certainly not. He as the Prophet's grandson had to do his duty. But there was no easy option for him. He had to bear the brunt. When a situation of this kind arose, a very heavy burden fell on Hussain.
Atonality from Yazid's degenerated symphony
Little wonder that Hussain's patience snapped when the Caliph firmly demanded allegiance. He realised that the consequences of this prolonged anarchy in Islam and a shattering triumph for immorality would permanently deface and disfigure the true faith and a pseudo-religion would emerge under the guise of Islam. Blasphemy would be practised till it dulled the senses and mob psychology took over. Religion would be compromised and its long term effects disregarded.
But for the men behind Islam, with their eyes on the future, this was not to be tolerated at any cost. They had to act before it was too late to halt or reverse the inexorable decline.
Hussain intensified his campaign. He was determined to accomplish his mission by means more vigorous than had hitherto been used. He deserves full credit for the exemplary courage and aplomb with which he handled the ugly situation. He did not resort to aggression yet firmly resisted Yazid's bluster.
Can man stand up to these conditions? When the scene moved to the battle-field of Kerbala, Hussain managed to say daringly: "Man can - but not necessarily with ease He, and a small group of followers including his immediate family were mercilessly massacred. The day of this tragedy is universally commemorated every year and is called "Ashura" (10th Muharram, Islamic calendar) and is marked by processions and mourning. It is observed as a national in holiday certain countries.
Hussain is buried in Kerbala (Iraq). His holy shrine is visited by millions of people, from all over the world, as a mark of veneration.
It is in the very nature of great reformers that they belong to everybody, everywhere. Hussain's noble deed is so relevant to the entire human race, that I am sure there is a far bigger audience waiting for him somewhere than the one he has already. All that is required is to draw people's attention.
The contemporary society, irrespective of race and religion, would do well to have a closer look at the Hero of Kerbala as his message transcends the barriers of caste and creed, race and religion. Advocates of human rights, sociologists, reformers, theologians, all included, will find "delightful wisdom, sweet instructions, and a meaning suited to their mind", in his story. His message is certainly not an exclusive preserve of any particular group. It embraces the entire human race. It was not a power struggle. Hussain persistently and explicitly expounded: "what matters to me is to 'correct', not conquer" - an affirmation that he would die in the firm belief that a despot's idiosyncrasies could never be an effective instrument of religious policies.
Yazid became too big for his boots and assumed the characteristics of a despot who, almost as a condition of his position, made boastful and frivolous claims that he alone could lead the nation.
Hussain was, however, committed to redeeming Islam and maintaining the faith intact.
He hoped that matters will improve and kept a law profile to preserve amity. He had a clear choice: stand aside and let Yazid act according to his whims; (and thus join in and implicitly justify his abominable escapades) or counter his devious bluster. Hussain had to decide: to take the situation in its stride as a price worth paying for the "status quo"; or view it as an ominous foretaste of the consequences of the extensive damage done by the far-reaching anti-Islamic activities of Yazid, the mammon of unrighteousness, whose lust for power prompted him to beat the nation into the mould he favoured. He and his profane crew conspired to scuttle the ship of Islam by worse than heinous deeds, violating the aims for which Islam was born.
Hussain had no desire to live under such a corrupt Caliph. He wanted to act as quietly and "spontaneously" as possible so as to limit the possibilities of an open clash with the Caliph. But Yazid bargained hard. Hussain could not take his effervescent nonsense perpetually and did what was right.
If the moral standards of human behaviour were as high as they were in the person of Hussain the world would be a better place to live in, is the obvious inference. His incredible cool and superhuman moral courage to achieve his mission stirs our deepest emotions. His exemplary conduct, throughout, and adorable, conscience tore Yazid's monstrous designs to shreds.
The virtuous people will continue to do their duty to maintain righteousness in this world and in this they are entitled to universal recognition and support. Hussain's acceptance of persecution in the cause of humanity was most convincing and moving proof of God's immanence in men. He was a man par excellence who maintained the highest standards set by the martyrs and heroes of all ages. With a courage that was more than human he managed to leave a message for the entire world: "Do not submit to exploitation, of any kind; maintain a tenacious grip on veracity; better die with honour than live in shame". He surely deserves universal recognition. "He is an immortal heir of Universal praise". Fourteen Hundred years have passed but the memory of that adorable hero, who resolutely faced the soul-searing trials and tribulations, has not diminished. On the contrary, it has grown in intensity. Imbued with exemplary fortitude, moral fibre and aplomb, Hussain has emerged as the most revered and meritorious martyr the world has produced, who established the highest standards of excellence of which humanity prides itself.
He was the odour of sanctity; the beauty of holiness. Here is a resolute hero, well past the prime of life, who is prepared to brace himself to confront the lurking menace and the acrimonious campaign of the powerful Caliph - to forestall a social and moral disaster. By this action he affirmed forever that it is both a social and moral duty to act when confronted with such situations and people who do not act have only themselves to blame if false values arc imposed on them. Virtuous people who were endowed with sagacity and foresight always disliked sitting on the fence just listening to scheming delinquent busybodies. They acted. They were people who valued rectitude.
And all they asked of the party in power was that they enunciated edicts which were not obnoxious and did not blatantly infringe the higher values of life. The society would indeed pay a heavy price if it ignores reformers and thus extrudes righteousness for good. Any social order, if it seeks continuous satisfaction with a bad regime, of lives in constant fear of it, when all is not well, is heading towards abject catastrophe and total disintegration. These are the situations where a "Hussain" is required. He positively had a clear concept of a healthy social order. His endearing story could not have survived without the impetus of a powerful personality behind it.
Faith and conviction prompted his motley band of men, women and children, of widely differing ages, to defy the stupendous odds. The youngest martyr was Abdullah, Hussain's infant son, the buoyancy of whose innocent brood refloated the sinking ship of Islam. It seems extraordinary that a handful of men, including small boys -some of them hardly eight or nine years - could produce results that were not only amazing but perfectly sustained through the long passage of time. It was an intense collective action - immaculate, controlled, restrained and selfless.
The conflict between good and evil remains perpetual. Both persist in their efforts to sustain. We are besieged by irresistible evil forces. We helplessly oscillate between the two and find ourselves pathetically bogged down in this quagmire. But somehow "the foot prints" of Hussain, "On the sand of time", show us the way. It is for us follow them or go astray.
Our society is swamped by mindlessness. We find ourselves perpetually obsessed by a nauseating craving for terrestrial and temporal gratification, beckoned by the primrose path of pleasure, oblivious of the values of life.
In this situation remember Hussain. Had he surrendered to Yazid, there was "bed or roses" for him but he opted for "bed of thorns".
Total abandonment of the worldly pursuits and progress, for ordinary mortals like most of us, (barring canoodling with debauchery and other frivolous sensual pleasures which are certainly execrable), is neither desirable nor feasible, in the present day world. But if we shift the stress from temporal to spiritual gains we will neither get "icebound" nor tossed around in the turbulent ocean of terrestrial life. This inexorable logic is perfectly rational and a readily accessible compromise. It would do us a deal of good. It would mean that we would be able to devote more time to honest activities. It has the simplest logical ways of making the world a better and more peaceful place to live in. It sounds rather a grandiose kind of idea but it is one that could be perfectly feasible, efficacious and irrefrangible. There is nothing really demanding about such an approach towards life, only a bit of self discipline and genuine introspection will serve the purpose. Our lives will be characterised by benevolence and magnanimity and through individual goodness a healthy society will emerge, peace and justice would prevail.
Finally: Hussain realised that no common beliefs held him and Yazid together. Hussain thought that Islam should be better acted, better practised and better observed. In short, better presented to comply with the holy text (Qur'an) and the divine will.
He administered a shock treatment, to achieve this aim, and the world of Islam came out of the deep slumber, with a jolt, as a direct result of his sacrifice. He deployed a singular strategy; lost the battle yet won the campaign. The total effect was immensely impressive all of which stemmed from his steadfastness that is to say faithfulness to the religious principles. Hussain established a new moral and religious consensus to which even (most of) his opponents felt constrained to make obeisance.
"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few" - Winston Churchill