By: M.K.

Arba’een, meaning “forty” in Arabic is the fortieth day that marks the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (a.s) in the Shi’ite Islamic sect. It is also commonly referred to as ‘Chehelom’ in Urdu or Persian. In commemoration of the third Shi’ite Imam (a.s), Arbaeen constitutes of a large gathering that usually occurs in the Islamic month of Safar. In Muslim traditions, Arba’een or a period of forty days is also the customary time frame that is spent in mourning a family member who has passed away and the fortieth day then marks the loved one’s death anniversary. However, Arba’een of Prophet Muhammad’s (s) grandson is no ordinary gathering. It neither the Islamic Hajj nor the Hindu Kumb Mela, it is the world’s most crowded gathering one would ever come across. Surpassing the statistics of Mecca pilgrims annually and Kumb Mela that only occurs every third year, Arba’een holds millions of visitors each year at the shrine of Imam Hussain (a.s) in Karbala, Iraq. Briefly accounting historical data, the visitors had been 8 million in the year, 2009 with the numbers increasing rapidly each year. Last year witnessed a hefty population of 20 million pilgrims in Karbala with the numbers expected to increase this year following the escalation trend. Arba’een being unique in light of its large population of visitors particularly encompasses intriguing attributes that are worth mentioning. Iraq, a region with political disturbances and home to terror groups such as ‘Daesh’ or ‘Islamic State ‘ host Arba’een’s visitors year after year. The Daesh view the Shia as their mortal enemy, however nothing deters the faith of these pilgrims who passionately carry out their commemoration surrounding the grave of Imam Hussain (a.s) despite the danger lurking in the shadows. Let us now examine a few more attributes of Arba’een. While this commemoration event is Shia-dominated, other groups including the Sunnis, Christians, Yazidis and Zoroastrians as well as Sabians also partake in the Arba’een pilgrimage (ziyarat) in addition to attending other customs, namely serving of devotees. The preceding attribute is remarkably exclusive in its religious ritual nature and articulates the following fact: regardless of religion or color, people see Hussain (a.s) as a symbolic evidence of universal, unconfined and meta-religious portrayal of freedom as well as compassion.

The Arba’een is truly amazing. The ziyarat itself constitutes a long trek to the shrine of the Holy Imam (a.s). There is a 425 mile distance to be covered from the southern port city of Basra to Karbala. Long as it is by car, it is even more difficult on foot. Pilgrims perform this journey within a full two weeks’ time frame and groups include all age groups. Whether it is the sun’s scorching heat during the day or the night’s bone-chilling cold, the pilgrims perform the ziyarat with sheer love for Hussain (a.s). Therefore, the rough regional terrain, uneven roads, dangerous marshlands and terrorist strongholds are no game against the compassion of Hussain’s (a.s) visitors who show unmatched devotion for their martyred Imam and Master. Moreover, the food served by the locals as part of Arba’een ritual is a sight to witness. For a comparative perspective, let us consider the aid offered by major organizations such as the UN World Food Programme and the military-based Operation Unified Response by United States to victims of natural disaster following the Haitian Earthquake. While the UN delivered half a million meals as their maximum effort, the collaborated efforts by United States had managed to deliver 4.9 million meals to Haitians. At Arba’een, 50 million meals per day are offered to the pilgrims with a total of 700 million covering the pilgrimage duration. And these meals are not offered by any world aid agencies; rather the Iraqi locals including poor laborers and farmers compile these meals by starving themselves the entire year in order to save food for Hussain’s (a.s) pilgrims.

Fourteen hundred years ago, the son of Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s) was martyred in an attempt to erase traces of all teachings of Ahlul-bayt (a.s) with his followers suffering a tragic end at the hands of the Umayyad empire and yet fast-forwarding the time clock, Hussain’s (a.s) mourners inspiringly gather from all walks of life in astonishing numbers every year. Therefore, if the world understood Hussain’s (a.s) message and his sacrifice, they will be enlightened about the Daesh’s ancient roots as well as its motto of death and destruction. Hussain’s (a.s) presence on the other hand has been and continues to be solidly marked by Arba’een. His legend is not only encouraging and inspiring but it challenges the greatest of champions in patience, dedication and strength to heroically serve a mission – all for the sake of his love for the divine God.



Imam Ali Ibn Al Hussain, Zainul Abedeen (a.s) – A Brief Biographical & Historical Overview

The Shi’ite Imam, Ali Ibn Al Hussain Zainul Abedeen (a.s) was born on 5th Shabaan (year 38 of Hijra) to Imam Hussain (a.s), the third Shi’ite Imam and Shahr Bano, the daughter of King Yazdjerd III who was the last Sasanid persian emperor. Imam Zainul Abedeen’s (a.s) first two years of infancy were spent in the lap of his grandfather, Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s) and the following twelve years were spent with his uncle, Imam Hasan (a.s). In 60 Hijri, his father, Imam Hussain (a.s) left Medina for Mecca in order to carry out the journey to Karbala. And, Imam Zainul Abedeen (a.s) accompanied his father for this journey. In Karbala, all male children of Imam Ali (a.s) and Hussain (a.s) were martyred with the exception of Imam Zainul Abedeen (a.s) who survived the massacre due to not being able to participate in the holy war (jihad) as a result of being ill. Imammate had to continue and so, on 10th Muharram (61 Hijri), he became the fourth Imam.

The brutality of the oppressive Ummayad ruler, Yazid had Imam Zainul Abedeen (a.s) being taken as captive and brought to Kufa, and then Damascus in chains along with other Karbala survivors. It is worth looking into the dialogue between the Imam (a.s) and Yazid post-Karbala tragedy. When Imam Zainul Abedeen (a.s) faced Yazid in his court, Yazid insulted him by saying that the Imam’s father, Hussain (a.s) had wasted his life by refusing to pledge allegiance to Yazid. However, despite being ill and confronting this manner of humiliation by the Ummayad ruler, the Imam (a.s) replied that his father’s sacrifice in Karbala was for the sake of saving the religion of Islam. To this, Yazid wondered how Islam had been saved and once the time for prayer had set in, the Adhan came and a Muezzin called out from the minaret (mosque tower), “I bear witness that Muhammad (s) is the Messenger of Allah.” The Imam (a.s) then said to Yazid, “This is the way Islam was saved.” Yazid ordered his swordsmen to murder the young Imam (a.s), however he was saved again by the intervention of his aunt, Zainab (a.s). Yazid’s cruelty did not stop here however and the Imam (a.s) along with his family (a.s) was imprisoned thereafter for a year. Consequently, the Imam (a.s) spent his first year of Imammate in a prison where he was cut off from the followers of his father and unable to carry out his religious affairs.

Holy Imam Zainul Abedeen (a.s) lived for thirty-four years after the martyrdom of his father, Hussain (a.s). And throughout his life, he established a meritorious status, which was true of a divine infallible. Most of his time was spent praying and supplicating to God and for this reason, he acquired the title of ‘Sajjad’ (Worshipper of Allah). These prayers and supplications were later compiled into a book by his companions, which was named ‘Al Saheefa el Sajjadiya.’ During the reign of the Ummayad ruler, Quranic teachings and those taught by the Prophet’s (s) family (a.s) were not allowed. Therefore, via supplications, the followers of Imam (a.s) learned about the relationship between God and His people. Enhancement of knowledge about God cannot occur in ordinary language but in the language of prayer, man is able to relate himself to his Creator in humility.

Imam Zainul Abeeden’s (a.s) spent his entire life helping people of Medina. He was witnessed stepping out into the night with a sack of bread to feed the hungry. Those people never found out the identity of their helper until after the Imam (a.s) passed away. His account for pilgrimages in the holy city of Mecca is admirable as well for all believers. In his lifetime, he performed thirty pilgrimages after the Karbala event, sometimes on a camel’s back and other times, solely on foot. In addition, his life after the massacres in Karbala was spent in grief. He was seen weeping and crying for the atrocities that had been committed to his family members. In fact, it is said that sometimes when he would fill a glass with water to drink, the water would soil with his tears so much that he was unable to drink it. When people asked him why he wept profusely, the Imam (a.s) replied that the Ahlul-bayt (a.s) have got martyrdom in their inheritance.

The Imam (a.s) and his aunt, Zainab (a.s) held gatherings (Majlis) in the city of Medina to spread awareness among the people about the tragedies that took place in Karbala. This method threatened the Ummayad’s cruel regime as people became more aware of Yazid’s heinous acts and the message of Imam’s (a.s) father, Hussain (a.s). And so, the Imam suffered a death via poisoning and passed away on 25th of Muharram (95 Hijri).



Hadiths: (1) Lamentation for Imam Hussain (a.s)- (2) Words of wisdom by Imam Hussain (a.s)

By: M.K

(1) The sacred significance of Imam Hussain (a.s) has been mentioned in many hadith, some of which will be explored in the following article. The Holy Prophet (s) has said that, “Those people from amongst my ummah, who memorize forty traditions pertaining to those issues of religion, which they are in need of, Allah shall resurrect them on the Day of Judgment as jurisprudents and scholars.” Here, a reference is being made to Imam Hussain’s (a.s). The Prophet (s) says, “Surely, there exists in the hearts of the Mu’mineen, with respect to the martyrdom of Hussain (a.s), a heat that never subsides.” In another tradition, the Prophet (s) makes reference to Hussain’s (a.s) martyrdom again, “O’ Fatimah! Every eye shall be weeping on the Day of Judgment except the eye which has shed tears over the tragedy of Husain (a.s) for surely, that eye shall be laughing and shall be given the glad tidings of the bounties and comforts of Paradise.”

The month of Muharram is a grievous month that has been dedicated to the martyrdom of Hussain (a.s) and Imam Reza (a.s) highlights its importance by saying, “With the advent of the month of Muharram, my father Imam Kazim (a.s) would never be seen laughing; gloom and sadness would overcome him for (the first) ten days of the month; and when the tenth day of the month would dawn, it would be a day of tragedy, grief and weeping for him.” The Imam further highlights the grief for the day of A’ashura in particular, “The one for whom the day of A’shura is a day of tragedy, grief and weeping, Allah The Mighty, The Glorious, shall make the Day of Judgment, a day of joy and happiness for him.” In addition, the Imam (a.s) has mentioned the reward of the martyred companions of Karbala with the following words, “If you desire that for you be the reward equivalent to that of those martyred along with Hussain (a.s), then whenever you remember him say: ‘Oh! Would that I had been with them! A great achievement would I have achieved.”

The customary mourning has been made reference to by the infallible Imams (a.s) in many instances. Once, Abu Haroon al-Makfoof approached Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (a.s) and the Imam (a.s) said to him, “Recite for me a poetry.” When al-Makfoof recited, the Imam (a.s) said, “Not in this manner. Recite for me as you recite poems and elegies over the grave of Hussain (a.s).” Imam al-Sadiq (a.s) further says that, “All praise is for Allah, who has placed amongst the people, those who arrive in our presence, eulogizing us and reciting elegies about us” and “There is none who recites poetry about Husain (a.s) and weeps and makes others weep by means of it, except that Allah makes Paradise incumbent upon him and forgives his sins.” A similar tradition to al-Makfoof has also been displayed in another instance by the interaction between Imam Reza (a.s) and De’bil who was a devoted poet to Ahlul-bayt (a.s). Imam (a.s) said to De’bil one time, “I desire that you recite for me poetry, for surely, these days (of the month of Muharram) are the days of grief and sorrow, which have passed over us, Ahlul Bayt.” The Shi’ites therefore spend the month of Muharram in lamentation and for this, Imam Ali (a.s) has said that, “Surely, Allah has chosen for us followers (Shi’ites), who assist us and are happy at our happiness and are sad in our sadness.”

(2) Imam Hussain (a.s) acts as the perfect role model for Muslims across the world with his character, divine knowledge and wisdom. Some of his wise sayings that depict superior intellect will be shared in the following section. Sinning is undoubtedly a disgraceful act in the eyes of Almighty Allah for whom we should live our lives in piety and to help us differentiate between the good and bad influences in our lives, Imam Hussain (a.s) has said that, “The one who loves you will prevent you from sin and the one who is your enemy will provoke you towards sin.” Following this theme, the Imam again says that, “Weeping from the fear of God delivers a person from the fire of hell.” Another element that ties up with sinning is oppression that has been encountered by many through out history and especially by the Imam (a.s) himself during Karbala. Imam (a.s) says, “Beware! Do not oppress the one whose helper is no one except God, the magnificent and the powerful” and “Beware! Do not be among those who are concerned about the sins of others while neglectful of their own sins.”

Imam Hussain’s attributes of generosity and kindness have been depicted in the following words, “The most generous of the people is the person who gives to those from whom he has no hope of return” and “The one who relives a believer from distress, God will deliver him from the distress of this world and hereafter.” In yet another narration by the Imam (a.s), it has been said that, “Know that the requests of people towards you for seeking help is among the blessings of God upon you. Therefore, don’t grieve this blessing (by grieving those who request for help) as it may turn into wrath.” Attaining knowledge has been a pursuit of many, everyday individuals and scholars alike. For this, simple yet powerful words to keep in mind by the Imam (a.s) are, “Wisdom reaches perfection only by following truth.”



Imam Hussain (a.s) – A Brief Biographical & Historical Overview

Born on the 3rd of Shabaan (10.1.626 AD), Hussain (a.s) was Lady Fatima’s (a.s) and Ali Ibn Abi Talib’s (a.s) second son, and Holy Prophet’s (s) second grandson. Hussain (a.s) was therefore Shi’ite sect’s third Imam. He belonged to a family that the Prophet (s) honored by the name of “Ahlul-bayt” (people of Prophet’s house). And the Ahlul-bayt were entitled this salutation by Allah Himself during the revelation of Ayat al-Tathir’ or Verse of Purification (Holy Quran, 33:33) to the Prophet (s) at the event of Hadith Al-Kisa or the Narration of the Cloak that has been discussed in one of the previous articles. When Hussain (a.s) was born, the Prophet (s) took the baby from maidservant, Asma’s arms and recited the Adhan as well as the Iqamah in Hussain’s (a.s) right and left ear respectively. Here, the Prophet (s) himself familiarized his grandson (a.s) with the name of Almighty God for the first time.

The naming of this third Shi’ite Imam (a.s) is worth mentioning due to its eloquent anointment. On Hussain’s (a.s) seventh day of birth, an angel had come from Allah who said, “Just as Haroon was the brother, sympathizer, and helper in each and every difficulty of Moses (a.s), similarly Ali (a.s) is your sympathizer, helper and brother in each and every matter of yours. Therefore, keep the name of this child upon the name of Haroon’s son, Shabeer (Hussain).” Here, it is then seen that the Almighty God selected Lady Fatima’s (a.s) second son’s name Himself just as He did for her first son and Hussain’s (a.s) brother, Hassan (a.s). In addition, upon Imam Hussain’s (a.s) birth, the Prophet (s) mentioned the following Hadith (saying), “Hussain-o-Minni wa Ana Minul Hussain (Hussain is from me and I am from Hussain).” It should be noted here that the Prophets of Allah communicate spiritually and not materially. Thus, the Prophet (s) here has made a reference to Islam – the religion of Allah for which He assigned its establishment on Earth as a mission. Any diversion in this mission would have nullified Allah’s purpose of creation. The aforementioned hadith then refers to Imam Hussain (a.s) accepting the role of a savior who saves the Islamic mission from destruction via sacrificing his life in the event of Karbala.

Hussain’s (a.s) Imamate lasted for ten years, the last six months of which were spent encountering Ma’awiyah’s caliphate. The latter period had made the living conditions of the Imam and his people (a.s) difficult as a result of suppression and persecution. Religious laws and regulations had lost most of their worth and credibility due to the Umayyad government gaining superiority in authority and power. In addition, Mu’awiyah and his followers used all means possible to get rid of the Prophet’s household (pbut) as well as the Shi’ah in order to obliterate Imam Ali’s (a.s) and Ahlulbayt’s (a.s) influence in matters of religious power among the people. Furthermore, Mu’awiyah intended on strengthening the basis of caliphate for his son, Yazid. Yazid at the time faced opposition from majority of the Muslims due to his lack of principles and scruples. Quelling this opposition paradigm would have made Mu’awiyah stabilize his power with newer and severe measures. Thus, force and necessity had made Imam Hussain (a.s) endure this period and tolerate agony, and affliction both mentally as well as spiritually from Mu’awiyah and his followers until the event of Karbala (60 A.H) during which the Imam (a.s), his family members and his aides faced tragedious affliction under Mu’awiyah’s son, Yazid.

Hussain’s (a.s) character was exemplary. Being a Muslim and a follower of his father, Ali’s (a.s) path, he displayed determination for defending the truth with every opportunity from a very young age. He warned people about any alternations that may have been made to the religion of Islam following Prophet’s (s) demise. An example depicting Hussain’s (a.s) good manners along with his father, Ali’s (a.s) and his brother, Hassan’s (a.s) is the case of Abu Dhar who had been a close companion of the Prophet (s) and faced exile as a result of his complaints against Islamic deviations under the rule of the third Caliph at the time. Despite this Caliph forbidding everyone from bidding their farewell to Abu Dhar upon exile, Imam Ali, Hassan and Hussain (a.s) all went to bid their farewells and express their objections to the tyrant ruler. Upon departing, Hussain (a.s) faced Abu Dhar and said, “Dear Uncle, the Almighty Lord is powerful and able. He can change everything that has happened to you. These people seized your comfort, world, and life. Yet, you protected your religion from their deviations; truly you are not in need of this world and the people dependant upon this world. Their world has no value in your eyes, even though they are in great need of your way in life. Strengthen your heart and refrain from greediness and lowliness. Do not fear, and seek refuge in Allah, for perseverance is a sign of faithfulness and greatness.”

Hussain (a.s) had been an active participant in the society. His role as a witness in the Hakamiyah arbitration between his father, Ali (a.s) and Mu’awiyah is a clear example. Moreover, he was raised and trained by Islam’s greatest defender, Ali (a.s) in addition to learning courage and bravery from him. His good manners and respectful attitude has also been displayed via his interactions with his brother, Hassan (a.s) whom he obeyed and respected immensely. The historians have recorded this meritorious part of his pious character through a narration from Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s), “Due to the high respect that Imam Hussain (a.s) held for his brother, he refrained from walking ahead of or talking before his brother, Imam Hassan (a.s).”

Allah, in the Holy Quran has acknowledged Hussain’s (a.s) sacred existence via several verses that were revealed when the Imam (a.s) was still a child. An example constitutes Allah commanding all Muslims to love those closely related to His Apostle, “Say: I do not ask of you any reward for it but love for my near relatives?” (Holy Quran 42:32). When the Prophet’s (s) companions inquired from him about these ‘near relatives,’ the Prophet (s) responded, “They are Ali, Fatima and their two children.”



Ambassador of Justice: Lady Zainab Bint Ali

Breaking fear and tyranny (Lessons from Imam Al-Hussein – 2)

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

It is often believed that during calamities and hardships men are the ones that hold their emotions and help others adopt to the process of healing, which can be very traumatic and emotional. It is believed that men are able to make informed decisions rapidly and cope with any situations that presents itself. Therefore, majority of people tend to expect the highest expectations from men in calamities, hardships and abnormal situations. However, it must occur to any mind that, what happens when men are not able or present at times of hardships and afflictions, and who is able to guide through such times?

The answer to this question is presented in Ashura, and specifically after the Battle of Karbala, when Imam Al-Hussein and his companions where martyred and slaughtered in the most horrific and vicious way possible. The household of Imam Al-Hussein, were led by Imam Al-Sajjad (Shias 4th Imam), and Lady Zainab (Daughter of Imam Ali & Imam Al-Hussein’s sister). However, the condition of Imam Al-Sajad was very severe, as he was ill and weak to a point, where he was not even able to stand up in some cases.

Therefore, the actual leader of the remaining household, who were mostly widow women and children was Lady Zainab. This great woman had lost her two sons, her brothers, nephews and other family members in the Battle of Karbala, and she had to witness their martyrdom. She had to witness, how the army of Yazid let their horses run back and forth upon the body of Imam Al-Hussein. She had to witness how the killer of her brother sad down on his chest and beheaded her brother, and then left his head and ran toward his camp. She had to witness, the head of her brother being put and carried around on top of a spear. She had to witness the attack of Umayyad army on the tents of Imam Al-Hussein and his family, where they were burnt down, and she had to witness little children being beaten and lashed. She had to witness her 6month old nephew being killed with an arrow, while in his father’s (Imam Al-Hussein) lap. She had to witness, and witness, and witness things that would break a stone if it had a heart, but this woman did not break and bow to these calamities, and represented the cause of her brother in the best way possible, and in the fact of a brutal tyrant.

Lady Zainab showed the entire world and recorded in the history that when all hopes and routes are scares, the powers and ability of a pious woman, who fears nothing but her creator can shift the course of history. Lady Zainab did change the course of history, as she was the ambassador of Karbala to the world, where she let the entire world know, why Imam Al-Hussein sacrificed his life. Lady Zainab, showed the true power and place of a Muslim woman, as she was the voice of a universal and eternal revolution. Lady Zainab presented that the power of will and dedication to the cause can re-establish any institution. Therefore, let’s all learn from the greatest woman in the history and dedicate our lives to defending the mutual righteous causes we all cherish and hold valued.