Karbala: A clash of ideologies

Therefore, by revolting against the authoritarian rule of Yazid, Imam Hussain apparently tried to preserve certain democratic traditions in the Muslim polity.

There has been a perpetual conflict between the forces of virtue and evil since the creation of this world. The Battle of Karbala is indeed an iconic symbol of this sort of conflict. This battle was not merely a conflict between two individuals- Hussain ibn Ali (AS) and Yazid ibn Muawiya. But it was essentially a clash between two conflicting ideologies i.e. Hussainism and Yazidism. This clash of ideologies lies at the very root of what has been dubbed a “Resurrection of Islam”. Yazidism posed an existential threat to Islam. It tried to supress and subjugate the Muslim polity. So Hussainism instantly appeared to confront and counter Yazidism. It came forward to rescues Islam. It also endeavoured to prevent the Muslim polity from plunging into darkness. Noticeably, Hussainism has eventually outshined Yazidism.

Primarily based on the principles of accountability, transparency and consultation; the institution of Khilafat (Caliphate) was evolved following the death of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in 11 A.H. But unfortunately, this institution of Khilafat was abolished altogether in a period less than 30 years. Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan, the first Umayyad ruler, played an instrumental role in transforming Khilafat into Malooqiat (monarchy). He nominated his son Yazid as his successor. This practice gave rise to certain un-Islamic, autocratic and totalitarian tendencies in the body politic. Resultantly, the foremost principles in Islam like Amr Bil Maroof (enjoining good) and Nahi Anil Munkar (forbidding evil) were wholly abandoned. There was a tyrant despot Yazid to resurrect pre-Islamic wrongful and sinful traditions which have been buried by Prophet Muhamad (PBUH) after a long struggle. He was also openly ignoring the dos and don’ts prescribed by the Islam. There was no one to confront Yazid except Imam Hussain (AS) and a small group of his companions. Therefore, Imam Hussain refused to pledge allegiance to Yazid which ultimately resulted in the tragedy of Karbala.

To consolidate the rule of Umayyed dynasty, Yazid ibn Muawiya also started denouncing Islam after defaming Banu Hashim, the very clan of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). “Neither has there been any Messenger nor any revelations (of God). This (Islam) is nothing but a clever ploy orchestrated by Banu Hashim to grab power”, he maintained. So, he attacked and tried to destroy some underlying symbols associated with Islam and its founder. To begin with, he mercilessly slaughtered the progeny of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the Battle of Karbala in 61 A.H. Secondly, he perished Madina (the city of the Prophet) besides killing thousands of Sahabah (companions) in the Battle of al-Harrah in 63 A.H. Later, he also damaged Kaaba (the most sacred site in Islam) by setting it on fire during the Siege of Mecca.

There is another aspect of the Battle of Karbala which essentially relates to what is generally called a political Islam. One of the primary reasons for Imam Hussain’s refusal for pledging allegiance to Yazid Ibn Muawiyah was latter’s unjustified and irregular appointment as the Caliph of Muslims. This appointment was made in utter violation of a peace treaty earlier concluded between the Umayyad Caliph Muawiyah Ibn Abu Sufyan and Imam Hassan, the elder brother of Imam Hussain, who had step down in favour of the former. Under this treaty, Muawiyah was supposed not to nominate his successor during his reign, thereby allowing the Muslim community to choose their next Ameer (head of state). However, Muawiyah arbitrarily nominate his prodigal son Yazid as his successor who was a known violator of Islamic injunctions. Therefore, by revolting against the authoritarian rule of Yazid, Imam Hussain apparently tried to preserve certain democratic traditions in the Muslim polity.

Imam Hussain (AS) was declared “Prince of the Paradise” by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). There is also a Saying of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that “Hussain is from me and I am from Hussain”. But Yazid was an immoral, sinful and wicked person. This is the reason Imam Hussain (AS) just refused to pledge allegiance to Yazid when he was asked to do so by saying that “how can a person like me pledge allegiance to a person like you?” In accordance with the saying of Prophet Muhammad (PBHU) that “the best Jihad is to speak the truth before a tyrant ruler”, Imam Hussain (AS) decided to confront Yazid in the Battle of Karbala. This battle was the most bizarre asymmetrical war in the world history. Imam Hussain’s army was composed of only 72 soldiers, whose ages ranged from 6 months to 80 years. They had been denied food and water for 3 days. Nevertheless, in the Battle of Karbala, this small army courageously confronted a detachment of Yazid’s army comprising as many as 30 thousand regular well-equipped soldiers.

Hussainism is an ideology which calls for strict adherence to a set of absolute principles no matter whatever be the consequences, and whatever it costs. It essentially maintains that it is not the power but principles that always matter and make all the difference. It also represents an unwavering resolve to not to submit before the evil forces of the time under any circumstances. At the same time, it also stands for an optimism and hope in the face of utter despondency and darkness.

The battle of Karbala has shown that one can defeat individuals but can’t defeat ideologies by means of force. Hussainism is currently inspiring tens of millions of people across the world. This ideology attracts more than 30 million people to Imam Hussain’s shrine in Karbala in Iraq on the eve of Arba’een every year. This is the world’s largest annual human gathering. Moreover, on the Day of Ashura every year, hundreds of millions of people around the world solemnly commemorate this incident by paying homage to the martyrs of Karbala. This ideology was also instrumental in transforming a chaotic country like Iran, ruled by a despot, into a model and modern Muslim welfare state. Dr Ali Shariati, the ideologue of the Iranian Revolution, urged to launch a Jihad for achieving the goal of social justice, even to the extent of embracing martyrdom like the Imam Hussain (AS). In this context, he maintained that “every day is Ashura and everyplace is Karbala.” On the other side, having remained the official state ideology of despotic Umayyed and Abbasid regimes for centuries, Yazidism has devolved upon several Non-State Actors in the contemporary world. So, reviving the barbarism and brutality associated with the Battle of Karbala, they are now beheading Muslim in the name of Islam.

At present, darkness and despair engulfs the entire Muslim Ummah. No one in the world cares about the feelings and rights of Muslims. In Afghanistan and Iraq, their blood has been spilled like water in the name of ‘War on Terror’. The bloody civil war has torn Syria apart. Numerous non-state actors from different terrorist outfits like Al-Qaeda, Daish, TTP etc. are slaughtering Muslims. The ‘ethnic cleansing’ of hapless and stateless Burmese Rohingya Muslims by the Myanmar government continues unabated. The violent sectarian and ethnic strife have also rocked Pakistan. Iran has been facing unjustified and harsh sanctions imposed by the West arbitrarily. The suppressed people of Kashmir have been denied their basic right of self-determination for a long time. Palestinians are also being denied the state, which was promised to them under various peace deals. Kashmiris and Palestinians are being persecuted and ruthlessly killed by the occupied forces.

To overcome current hardships faced by it, the Muslim Ummah direly needs to exhibit patience, determination and force of character which have only been the hallmarks of Hussainism. This ideology simply represents a courageous resistance against the tyranny and oppression. Therefore, this ideology will continue to inspire the oppressed and suppressed people in the world, from Kashmir to Palestine, and elsewhere.


n          The writer is a lawyer and columnist based in Lahore.

The writer is a lawyer. He can be contacted at mohsinraza.malik@ymail.com. Follow him on Twitter

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