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Imam Hussain AS

His message transcends all faiths

Huzaima Bukhari

“The sacrifice of Imam Hussain (AS) is not limited to one country, or nation, but it is the hereditary state of the brotherhood of all mankind”—Dr. Rajendra Prasad

Generally, we as human beings tend to be very orthodox about our ideologies and most of the time there is this judgmental streak in our minds that whatever we profess is the best and most superior while others are in a state of darkness. They try to convince the ‘wayward’ to abandon their paths and move towards salvation by following what is supposed to be their ‘righteous’ way. Thus, historically we know that groups of ideological zealots of various faiths have (and are still), travelled far and wide to ‘guide’ and ‘convert’ the ‘misled’. They feel perturbed to see activities that defy humanity and consider it important to rectify them. 

There is certainly no harm in inviting someone to a particular faith. In fact, it is the duty of every person to assist others in benefitting from the light of knowledge. However, the invitation and guidance should not be in a manner that hurts either the sentiments or seem too overwhelming. All the more distasteful is the concept of using weapons, harsh language or cruelty to pass on one’s message. A soft-spoken and pious person is more effective in propagating a faith, compared to a loud-mouthed and undisciplined follower. The same principle applies to anyone who is desirous of putting forward his/her opinion on any topic. Abusing, expressing hatred or disgust, teasing both physically and verbally, showing partiality and worst of all, treating others inhumanly on account of believing in something different; have never been acceptable norms. Great saints have attracted people with their compassion and love and greater the amount of these emotions, the greater is the number of followers. There are innumerable examples on this earth of such godly persons belonging to all types of ideological faiths.

When wars are waged in the name of religion, people of one faith gather under a single banner. Whether it is jihad or the crusades, rarely one sees warriors of other faiths and religions voluntarily fighting alongside one particular faction, unless they are on their payroll or under extreme compulsion. The situation takes a bizarre turn when two arms of the same ideology are poised against one another. Even in this case people are inclined to taking sides. Usually they choose to support the party that is stronger (in terms of wealth and power) either because they truly believe it to be right or to enjoy rewards once the conflict is over. Few would be seen moving in the direction of the weaker camp, although the hope of victory may be bleak.

The battlefield of Karbala was one such arena where the sitting so-called Muslim monarch along with his powerful military contingent stood poised against the grandson of the great Prophet of Islam, with a few close relatives (including women and children) and a handful of faithful followers. One would imagine that at the slightest call of help from the holy family of Hazrat Muhammad Mustapha (PBUH) Muslims from around the region would come pouring in, in large numbers to protect and express their solidarity. At that juncture in history, events unfolded in the strangest possible manner. While the majority Muslims were contemplating political exigency and weighing the pros and cons of supporting Imam Hussain AS, some non-Muslims eagerly stepped forward to stand by him at this crucial time.

According to the Mohyal oral history, Rahab Sidh Dutta was the leader of a small band of career-soldiers (some consider him as a trader) living near Baghdad around the time of the battle of Karbala. The legend mentions the place where he stayed as Dair-al-Hindiya, meaning “The Indian Quarter”, which is probably Al-Hindiya in existence as of today. He, along with his seven sons came to lend his support to Imam Hussain AS. There are many different versions of their role in Karbala but after the battle and distraught with separation from the Imam, they returned to settle in Lahore. Their descendants are now known as Hussaini Brahmins.

It is a known fact that other than the Hindu Rajputs of Lahore, the battle also witnessed a freed Christian slave of Hazrat Abu Zarr Ghaffari, John bin Huwai, who fought with valour and attained martyrdom.

According to the Islamic Lunar calendar, not only the Muslims but even non-Muslims would be commemorating 1381st year of shahadat of Imam Hussain AS and his followers. No event is celebrated with so much consistency, passion and with a renewed fervor each year.

While Muslims, mostly belonging to the Shia sect come out in multitudes to hold annual majaalis (congregations) and take out processions, “Hussaini Brahmins” carry out their own processions during Ashura. They claim to have spiritual links to both Hinduism and Islam. They believe that in the Kalanki Purana, the last of 18 Puranas, as well as the Atharva Veda, the 4th Veda, refers to Hazrat Imam Husain AS as the avatar of the Kali Yug, the present age and that the family of the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) is Om Murti, the most respected family before the Almighty. One of their representatives, Sunita Jhingran recites heart-wrenching elegies of Karbala martyrs.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India said: “Imam Husain’s sacrifice is for all groups and communities, an example of the path of righteousness”.

“If there is a calling, it doesn’t see your religion, but your love and your bond,” says Ravi Shankar, a Hindu from Tharparkar, Pakistan and a devotee of Imam Hussain (AS) who calls himself a part time ‘Zakir’. “Though I am a Hindu, my beliefs also make me an Ahl-e-Tasha’i.” He has visited Imam Hussain’s AS shrine in Iraq and travelled 80 Km on foot from Kufa to Karbala in 2017. Shankar, who is 65 years old, says that the martyrdom of Imam Hussain AS is a beacon of light for the entire humanity and has a lesson for everyone. “This message is for every generation to be learnt that we should sacrifice everything for the right path over wrong one.”

Chris Hewer, a devout Christian and author of the book “The Essence of Islam” writes in an article titled “Husayn, the grandson of Muhammad: contemporary reflections on the struggle for justice”: “Great religious figures do not belong to a particular religion, time or place. Their examples have something to offer to all humankind at all times and places. Such a figure is the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, Husayn ibn Ali, the martyr of Karbala.” While speaking in an interview he gave to Nasrtv, he says: “If we are to understand the meaning of Karbala, we need to take it out of an Iraqi context, the Shia context, out of the Muslim context and to see it as a piece of profoundly human drama….. Hussain (AS) died in the desert. His followers are killed with him. These are in the terms of the world, pretty insignificant acorns yet it reminds us that God’s acorn grows into mighty oak trees.”


The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)

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