Saturday, March 22, 2008


The sky wept for Al-Husayn for forty days, during which the sky appeared ruby red in the morning and the evening - Attributed to Imam Al-Baqir (AS)

The courtyard of Imam Al-Husayn (AS) is completely packed. And by the time of the afternoon prayers, there is not even a square inch, and instead of the usual coming and going of the momineen, everything comes to a stand still. Loud lamentations, and Labbaik Ya Hussain punctuate the afternoon air, until it is time for the adhan.

After the prayers, the crowds begin to thin out, replaced by huge processions, with some groups consisting of hundreds and thousands expressing their love and grief. Some are subdued, others more intense, and one cannot but help join in with the maatam, and sounds of Ya Hussein.

The courtyard gets packed once again at the time of maghrib, and there is barely any space of prostration --- but the sense of devotion and sincerity is so beautifully clear in the air. And this being a Thursday evening, we had the opportunity to recite Dua Kumayl inside the courtyard of our beloved Imam Al-Husayn (AS). May Allah accept our prayers.

But I was also reminded of a hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings on him and his family):

“If an oppressive ruler violates the Divne codes, breaches the path of Allah’s Messenger, and rules the people with evil and tyranny; the person who sees all this and does not act for reform and change, then Allah will justly herd the complacent along with such a tyrant on the Day of Judgement”

Because I found it almost surreal to see the US puppet “prime minister” of Iraq give a speech on TV talking about Imam Husayn ---- the same guy who instead of clearly calling for an end to the occupation, sits and smiles with the occupier. And he barely utters a peep when the US army kills Iraqi civilians. Perhaps the guy is ignorant, or his understanding of Imam Al-Husayn is that of those Shias who will cry and remember the specific event of Karbala, but blind themselves to the criminal acts of the Yazeedis of our times – a kind of dead end ritualization that Dr. Ali Shariati called “black shiism” – something that is the vestige of the “shahs” and “monarchs” who wanted to strip Shi’a Islam of its tradition of protest, and active resistance to injustices and oppression.

Islam without justice and acts of beauty (adl wa ihsan) becomes little more than sentimental emotion at best, and hypocrisy at its worst. There is a strong tradition in Iraq of those ulema who recognized the necessity of the Islamic leadership to take an active stand against oppressive behaviors. Allama Baqir al Sadr being one of the foremost in this regard, but there are also ulema who followed the notion of “live and let live” --- who seem not to realize that shaytan’s way is to hood wink people into thinking that they are living, while it subverts the very foundation of society and community.

For those Shi’as who claim to be followers of Imam Husayn (AS) and who remember the stand taken by Sayyeda Zainab, being "quiet" and false notions of "live and let live" has never been an option. Especially not in this day and age while the yazeedis are on a rampage - destroying not only communities of humans, but also the very earth we live on.

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