“If Husain (as) had fought to quench his worldly desires, then I do not understand why his sister, wife, and children accompanied him. It stands to reason, therefore, that he sacrificed purely for Islam”―Charles Dickens
What is conviction? The Cambridge Dictionary defines its meaning as “a strong opinion or belief.” This implies that those with conviction are one hundred percent confident about its veracity and nothing can shake or cast doubts on their faith. In order to be absolutely convinced of one’s resolve, one must be possessed with extraordinary knowledge and have complete self-assurance about one’s abilities.
A very apt example in today’s world would be that of Philippe Petit, a French tight rope walker who, despite not being in a circus developed his talent with the aim of high-wire walking that no man had ever attempted before. He was so thoroughly convinced of his capabilities that he did not even care whether or not his act was legal. He shot to fame for his unauthorized high wire walks between the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in 1971 and of Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1973 but he was actually practicing to walk between the twin towers of the erstwhile World Trade Centre in New York City. This was the most treacherous idea since it meant being 400 meters (1,312 feet) above ground with no safety net and possibility of imbalance on account of winds at that height besides other factors. Petit’s conviction was unfaltering and on the morning of August 7, 1974 amid a dumbstruck crowd, he fulfilled his passion for a full forty five minutes, making eight passes along the 220 Kg. (440 pounds) cable. He called this feat “le coup.”
Such is the power and strength of conviction that propels people into doing things many may never dream of or even imagine. For them life and death are meaningless as long as they are certain about their beliefs. From an historical perspective, men and women of unyielding conviction have been and continue to be persecuted, tortured and humiliated but if they do not surrender they leave their footprints on the face of time. People hold them in awe. Says Ms. Barbara Boxer, an American politician: “When you take a stand out of deep conviction, people know. They may not even agree, but they ask, ‘Do I want someone who is willing to take a hard stand and someone I can trust to do that when the chips are down?’
The early chequered history of Islam—from peace-loving humane teachings to monarchist and ritualistic—had left many in doubts about its true ideology, the principal being tawheed (existence and oneness of the Al-Mighty) and definitely the concept of qiyamat (Day of Judgement). Despite the best efforts put in by the followers of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), a situation of confusion and anarchy had befallen on the Muslim nation that required immediate attention and who else but the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the third in line of Imamat took upon his shoulders to resurrect what was fast being lost to falsehood widely propagated by hypocrites dressed in the garb of Muslim clerics. Their mask needed to be ripped off, their hypocrisy had to be unveiled even if in doing so the entire clan of Imam Hussain (AS) had to lay down its life.
With a handful of men and women comprising his male and female relatives and his loyal friends, Imam Hussain (AS) set out to correct all wrongs. With this small band of ‘soldiers’, he ventured to stand up against a trained and well-equipped army. His intention was never to take on a fight which is why he prevented his beloved brother and Commander-in Chief, Hazrat Abbas (AS) from raising his sword. Famous Scottish historian, Thomas Carlyle is noted to have said: “Hussein illustrated that the numerical superiority does not count when it comes to the truth and falsehood. The victory of Hussein, despite his minority, marvels me.” He further says: “In the history of Islam, especially the life of Imam Hussein stands unique, unapproached and unapproachable by anyone. Without his martyrdom, Islam would have extinguished long ago. He was the saviour of Islam and it was due to his martyrdom that Islam took such a deep root, which it is neither possible nor even imaginable to destroy now.”
Imam Hussain’s (AS) conviction with reference to tawheed and qiyamat was absolutely insurmountable as evident from his sermons during the entire episode of Karbala. It also transpires from the sacrificial offerings that he gave of his children. No person who did not believe in Allah and justice on the day of judgement can ever think of having his infant killed but Imam (AS), confident of justice to be delivered on a prefixed day, vowed to appear before the Al-Mighty with his face covered in his child’s blood. This display of conviction is sufficient to cause any sensitive heart to start thinking and decide where actual strength lies. History has yet to record names of non-believers who sacrificed their lives for their conviction.
Imam (AS) persistently beseeched his enemies to open their eyes and to side by authentic principles and not be swayed by temporary attraction of wealth and status. Consequently, many from the opponent’s camp started moving towards him which impelled his enemy to silence him as quickly as possible before there was a total mutiny and thus ended the entire Karbala saga only to live on year after year after year. Walter Lippmann describes a genuine leader as: “The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.” Since 61AH, Imam Hussain’s (AS) message is being transferred from one generation to another which by itself has kept the flag of Islam flying high. It has defeated what Yazid was conspiring to destroy.
Those on the side of Imam Hussain (AS) are people who want to see depravity replaced with honesty and ethics. They will continue to fight all forms of corruption, injustice and malpractices. They will no doubt, suffer misery but the fact that one day justice will be delivered will keep their spirits high. Fulton J Sheen aptly says: “The refusal to take sides on great moral issues is itself a decision. It is a silent acquiescence to evil. The tragedy of our time is that those who still believe in honesty lack fire and conviction, while those who believe in dishonesty are full of passionate conviction.”
The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), member Advisory Board and Senior Visiting Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE).