Story of unlimited resolve
“Life is a dream for the wise, a game for the fool, a comedy for the rich, a tragedy for the poor”— Sholem Aleichem
When any natural or man-made calamity strikes, most of the time it initially damages the scum of the earth before its harmful effects reach the rich and the powerful, if they ever do. As Jean-Paul Sartre said: “When the rich wage war, it’s the poor who die”. Check out the latest situation in Europe where an armed conflict has not left heads of warring states bleeding but has rendered the non-political people of Ukraine either dead, wounded or refugees. In a nutshell, the world apparently seems to run on lines that exploit the poor for the benefit of the wealthy. The reasons could be many but the principal one apparently seems to be one’s birth in a privileged background. ‘Children of lesser gods’ either lead miserable lives or are forced to bend over backwards to reach a respectable level of existence. As James Baldwin said: “Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor”.
The rags to riches stories are very few in number otherwise according to research conducted by Rosner & Ortiz-Ospina in 2013 and revised in 2019, 85% of the world would not be living on less than $30 per day whereas two-thirds on less than $10 per day while every tenth person lives on less than $1.90 per day proving the point that the earth revolves around the axis of the advantaged.
Considering this crucial reality, it may not be difficult to comprehend why and how, the majority is, either inadvertently or more so compulsorily, made to suffer for the sake of preferential treatment of 1.1% of the global population holding nearly half of the world’s total wealth, as per a report published in September 2021. To ease the restlessness of those well-off who are constantly grumbling without counting their innumerable blessings, a famous quote by an unknown person could be seen as a reminder: “If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of the world. If you have money in the bank, your wallet, and some spare change you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy”. Unfortunately, this particular group is so occupied with its life that it has no time to think or care about ones who fall below the poverty line or those who are forced to bear the brunt of its preponderance.
In this gloomy atmosphere some lucky ones born with a softer heart cannot but feel the pain of the suffering people and despite belonging to upper classes of society or holding a venerable position, throw themselves in the service of humanity to undergo similar hardships, giving them the feeling of oneness and togetherness. Their love for human beings is aptly depicted in St. Augustine’s following words: “What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like”. The selfless among mankind have no relation with prejudices and kinships. They are ready to embrace strangers and willing to sacrifice themselves when in clash with principles. They have the courage to bear witness against their own, choosing the righteous to side with. Again, these are no easy tasks for the feeble-minded. Only the strongest and courageous among humans are endowed with these amazing qualities.
Such examples are rare as of Sidharatha Gautama, popularly known as Buddha, who abandoned the luxuries of his princely life to seek answers to miseries faced by the people of his time and some of those unsung heroes who choose to become hermits to roam the jungles or who spend their lives in the service of mankind in the hope of seeking to please God or just out of love.
These are mostly cases of individuals and not their entire clan. One exception, however, is that of Imam Hussain AS who walked the path of truth, not alone but with his family, including women, children, and friends. He too could have left them in protection in a safe place and sent a proper army to battle with forces of obscurantism. He too like the earlier and modern generals, could have easily let the soldiers’ die while his near and dear ones survived but no—the nobility of his character reflects in the love he had for his companions and for willingness to subject himself and his family to the tortious consequences of battle. This is why, on the eve of 10th Muharram, he dimmed the lights in his tent where his small congregation of soldiers had gathered, openly and without any grudge, permitted them to leave in the cover of darkness that would have left him and his family to face the well-equipped Yazidi forces by themselves. Of course they were too devoted to give up the opportunity to earn martyrdom. The strength of Imam AS’s resolve dominated his fear and the depth of his faith conquered all inhibitions including his anxiety regarding after-effects of the battle, especially on the surviving members of his family.
How many men today would dare expose their kith and kin to a volley of arrows, sharpness of swords, piercing spears and the torments of imprisonment? The on-going political circus within Pakistan has fully unmasked the superficial faces of elected leaders who, after securing their wealth in foreign countries are bent upon destroying both the economy and the people of this country with their egoistic warfare to establish their hold over power. During this sensitive period, instead of setting aside differences and gathering under the common agenda of rescuing the nation and saving the country from an economic free-fall, all efforts are being directed towards salvaging their individual existence. In such circumstances one cannot but help appreciating Imam Hussain AS for whom his resolve was mightier than this temporary earthly life and this is why his sacrifice is celebrated with complete fervor every year since 61 AH,
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)