The greatest tragedy in human history occurred in Karbala on the banks of the Euphrates River nearly 1400 years ago.
Imam Hussain (as), the grandson of the Prophet (pbuh), and his entirely family and supporters were brutally massacred by the army of Yazid, a corrupt and immoral tyrant.
Every year, Muslims throughout the world commemorate this tragedy highlighting the Imam’s struggle.
The tragedy of Karbala was also commemorated at the Islamic Society of York Region in Richmond Hill, a suburb of Toronto, on Friday July 28.
The Jumuah khutbah was also dedicated to this tragedy followed by an evening program.
Shaikh Hassam Munir in his Jumuah Khutbah narrated what had transpired in Karbala and how the exemplary character of Bibi Zainab (as), the beloved daughter of Imam Ali and Sister of Imam Hussain (as), upheld the dignity of the Ahl al-Bayt (the household of the Prophet (pbuh)).
Shaikh Hassam Munir, who has a masters’ degree in Islamic Studies and is one of the Imams at the Islamic Society, was also the speaker at the evening program attended by a large number of brothers, sisters and children.
While ICIT and Crescent International have always operated above sectarian considerations, just for the record, those attending the Islamic Society program were all Sunnis.
In Toronto, there were dozens of programs organized at other centres, attended largely by Shi‘a Muslims the same day.
Following recitation from the noble Qur’an at the Islamic Society, Shaikh Hassam outlined the revered position of Imam Hussain (as) in Islamic history.
Yaum al-Ashura (the Day of Ashura) derives its name from ‘ashara (meaning ten), or the tenth day of Muharram, one of the sacred months in the Islamic calendar.
Young Shaikh Hassam narrated in great detail how much love the noble Prophet (pbuh) had for his grandchildren—Hassan and Hussain.
Born to the Prophet’s beloved daughter, Fatima az-Zahra, they were raised in the lap of the noble Messenger of Allah (pbuh).
Quoting extensively from Prophetic hadith, Shaikh Hassam outlined what led to the tragedy of Karbala.
Yazid ibn Mu‘awiya was a usurper and a tyrant who was nominated by his father to assume power after him.
This was a clear deviation from the practice established by the Khulafa ar-Rashidoon—the four rightly-guided khalifahs—who assumed administrative responsibility of the people after the Prophet (pbuh) left this earthly abode.
Bay‘a—allegiance of the people given willingly to the successors of the Prophet (pbuh)—was subverted by Mu‘awiya and his successors.
They demanded allegiance at the point of the sword.
Imam Hussain (as) was not willing to pledge allegiance to such a man whose moral corruption and lowly character were well-known.
Imam Hussain (as) stated quite categorically: “A man like me cannot give allegiance to a man like Yazid.”
What was Imam Hussain’s objection to Yazid’s assumption of power?
It must be emphasized that it was not a power struggle.
Yazid was not fit to occupy the seat of power of the Muslims that had been occupied by such illustrious forebears as Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Imam Ali, may Allah be pleased with them all.
The leader of the Muslim Ummah is required to possess certain qualities, foremost among them being taqwa.
Sound knowledge of Islam, fairness in all matters and motivated by the desire to serve the people are other characteristics required of a person ascending to the position of leadership.
Yazid possessed none of these qualities.
His assumption of power itself was an illegal act—appointed by his father who had also usurped power through brute force.
In fact, Mu‘awiya’s act had created the first breach in Islamic polity established by none other the Prophet (pbuh).
Rejection of Yazid’s authority led to the gruesome massacre of the grandson of the Prophet (pbuh) and his entirely family at Karbala, 72 of them in all.
Shedding the blood of the Prophet’s family was a major sin.
The Qur’an is very clear: “If you kill one innocent person unless he is guilty of murder or spreading corruption on earth, it is as if you have killed the whole of humanity” (5:32).
The Yazidi army led by Shimr indulged in other gruesome acts: they cut off the heads of the victims.
This was a return to the practice of jahiliyya that the Prophet (pbuh) had abolished.
Following the mutilation of the body of Hamza (ra) by Hind (wife of Abu Sufyan), in the Battle of Uhud, the Prophet had vowed to avenge his uncle’s death and desecration by mutilating the bodies of the mushriks.
Allah revealed to His beloved Prophet (pbuh) that the bodies of the dead should not be mutilated.
Thus, the jahili practice of mutilating bodies, even of the staunchest enemies, was forbidden.
In Karbala, Shimr revived that jahili practice.
He wanted to present Imam Hussain’s head to Yazid.
In one narration, it is reported that upon seeing Imam Hussain’s head, Yazid is reported to have remarked, “Today, we have taken revenge for Badr.”
This was a reference to the crushing defeat the Muslims had inflicted upon the Makkan mushriks at Badr.
In particular, Utbah ibn Rabiah and Shaybah ibn Rabiah were killed by Hamza (ra) and Imam Ali dispatched Waleed bin Utbah to head.
The Prophet’s cousin, Ubaydah ibn al-Harith, who had confronted Utbah and wounded him, was struck on the leg, severing it.
The excessive bleeding resulted in his martyrdom.
Utbah was the father of Hind, Yazid’s grandmother.
Thus, Utbah was the maternal grandfather of Yazid.
While Yazid may have won in the physical sense by causing the martyrdom of the Prophet’s grandson, the real victor was Imam Hussain (as).
Yazid is universally reviled and cursed while Imam Hussain (as) is revered and remembered for his sacrifice to uphold truth and justice.
The commemoration of Ashura is proof of the great love Muslims of all background have for Imam Hussain (as) and his family.
One final point is in order since this reflects the hypocrisy of those who had killed the Imam and his family, as well as many Muslims even today.
After indulging in their barbaric practice, they went to offer Salat.
As part of Salat, every Muslim has to recite Durood-e Ibrahimi (or Durood for short).
It comprises sending salutations upon the noble Messenger (pbuh) and his family.
The exact words in Arabic are: “Allah humma sallay ‘ala Muhammad wa ‘ala al-e Muhammad…”
How could Shimr, Umar ibn Sa‘ad and the rest of the gang of murderers indulge in such barbarism and then stand and recite Durood in their prayer?
Unlike most Muslims today, they knew the Arabic language.
Did they even bother to reflect upon their conduct having perpetrated a horrific slaughter and the desecration of the bodies of the Prophet’s family and then send salutations upon them while standing in prayer?
Muslims must confront this hypocrisy and identify the Yazids of today, of whom there are far too many.
“Allah humma sallay ‘ala Muhammad wa ‘ala al-e Muhammad…”