More on Ashura

“Sayyed Nadeem Kazmi’s quest to find out what devotion to Hussein means for those who participate in the ceremonies is documented in his film Ten Days. Here, he explains why he thinks Ashura is yet to be properly understood.”

Sayyed Nadeem Kazmi at the BBC:

_41313540_ashuracrowdsHussein ibn Ali was the beloved grandson of the Prophet Muhammad through the Prophet’s daughter, Fatima, and her husband, Ali ibn Abi Talib. Imam Hussein’s martyrdom 14 centuries ago was a turning point in the history of Islam.

It is a tragedy that resonates today among all Muslims, Sunni as well as Shia, for whom love for the Holy Prophet and his immediate family is an unwritten article of faith. But it is particularly important to the Shia who interpret Hussein’s sacrifice as an enduring ethical and moral legacy from which all humanity can take lessons.

Some years following the death of Muhammad, the temporal leadership of Islam turned away from its spiritual roots and became what many view as a corrupt dynasty. During the time of Hussein, Yazid bin Mu’awiya was de facto “king” of a now evolving Muslim military empire.

Screenhunter_4 For Yazid, it was essential that the blood descendants of Muhammad, whom he saw as his own family’s historical enemies pledge allegiance to him. Yazid’s own grandfather was Abu Sufyan, the most notable enemy of the Prophet, who embraced Islam only after several battles with and severe persecution of the Muslims.

Hussein was a threat not only because he was the grandson of the Messenger of Islam but because he insisted on Yazid renouncing what he saw as the corrupt and cruel form of government that he believed had hijacked the pristine Islam of his holy grandfather.

Both parties refused to yield and Hussein, along with about 70 of his kith and kin (which included women and children), was besieged at Karbala where an unprecedented massacre occurred at the hands of an army numbering thousands.

During the 10-day siege, Hussein’s camp suffered unimaginable tortures, including the cutting off of water supplies and the killing and wounding of infants.

Screenhunter_3After losing his own children to Yazid’s forces, Hussein was himself beheaded and his body mutilated. The few who survived were taken on foot to Damascus (some dying along the way) where Yazid’s dungeons awaited them.

It is said that many bystanders along the route recognised what had happened and began to beat themselves, some even weeping to death. This event was probably the beginning of the self-flagellation rituals we see today.

More here.  [Thanks to Husain Naqvi.]