Last Updated on 12th September 2020
Sabahat Ali, Missionary, USA
Every year, on 10 Muharram, the first month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar, millions of Shia Muslims from around the world commemorate a truly horrific bloodbath. Hardly 30 years after Prophet Muhammad’ssa demise, his blessed grandson, Hazrat Imam Hussainra and several of his family members were brutally killed in a harrowing event that has come to be known in the history of Islam as Karbala.
However, it must be noted that the manner in which many Shia Muslims seek to honour the blessed fallen – from the bloody lacerations made upon the backs of young men at their own hands, to the hundreds of thousands that take to the streets all over the world wailing in anguish and torment – is actually in contrast to the teachings of Islam and the Islamic spirit of mourning and remembering the fallen.
Before the advent of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, the attitude towards the death of a loved one by both men and women was so toxic that women would slap their own faces, wailing and screaming out of hopeless despair, pulling away at their hair and announcing that all was lost. Men would, on the other hand, think it an affront to their masculinity to show any emotion at all and would drink heavily for weeks on end, forgetting about their present and their future, howling the good qualities of the deceased into the night.
Prophet Muhammadsa strictly forbade the act of wailing, beating oneself and the pulling of hair at a loved one’s demise. For instance, Hazrat Ibn Abbasra narrates that the Messengersa of Allah said:
“Wailing over the dead is one of the affairs of the days of ignorance, and if the woman who wails does not repent before she dies, she will be raised on the Day of Judgement wearing a shirt of tar, over which she will wear a shirt of fire.” (Sunan Ibn-e-Majah, Kitab-ul-Jana‘iz, Vol. 1, Book 6, Hadith 1582)
The Islamic spirit of commemorating the dead
Instead, the Holy Quran spells out with precision and clarity how it is that believers react to a loss of life. God Almighty states:
“And We will try you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives, and fruits; but give glad tidings to the patient, who, when a misfortune overtakes them, say, ‘Surely, to Allah we belong and to Him shall we return.’” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.156-157)
Particularly with respect to those who have been slain in the way of Allah, the Holy Quran states:
اَحۡیَآءٌ عِنۡدَ رَبِّہِمۡ یُرۡزَقُوۡنَ
“They are living in the presence of their Lord, and are granted gifts from Him.” (Surah Al-e-Imran, Ch.3: V.170)
The spirit of honoring one’s deceased loved ones in Islam is centred around praying for them. Prophet Muhammadsa once said:
“A father in paradise shall receive bounties and blessings from whence he could not have imagined and shall submit before God, ‘O my Lord, from whence are these? I have not earned any of this’, to which God Almighty shall reply, ‘This is from your children who pray for your forgiveness and the elevation of your spiritual status after you.’”
The status of martyrdom – dying in the cause of Allah and His religion – is so lofty and sacred that in the time of the Holy Prophetsa, the Companionsra used to hail those who were crowned with this honour as heroes. They knew full well that the angels of God had now taken them under their wings and that they were enjoying the unfathomable spiritual favours of God for which they had died in the first place.
Hence, the Ahmadiyya Community’s love for the family of the Holy Prophetsa and anguish for this appalling tragedy is not in any way muted by the painful silence that they demonstrate; rather, our love for the blessed family members of the Holy Prophetsa demands that we follow the perfect example of Prophet Muhammadsa, who knew that the greatest expression of love in the face of loss was to indignantly practice patience and channel one’s pain through prayer.
We have his shining example before us. Once, when Hazrat Jabirra bin Abdullah’s father was martyred and his aunt, Fatima, began weeping loudly, the Prophetsa remarked, “Regardless of whether you weep or not, the angels are shading him continuously with their wings.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitabul Jana‘iz, Vol. 2, Book 23, Hadith number 336)
Hence, it is abundantly clear from authentic Islamic sources that remembering the deceased in the form of prayer directly benefits them, soothes them and grants them greater and greater merit and reward from God Almighty Himself. It is of vital import to clarify here that Islam does not at all condemn or discourage the natural stages of bereavement and agony that follow the loss of a loved one; rather, it acknowledges the human condition and humankind’s emotional fragility at every step.
Islam encourages that these justified sentiments be channeled through prayer, so that the supplicant finds tranquility while also growing nearer to God Almighty, Who is the source of peace and the Healer of hearts.
The status of Hazrat Imam Hussainra
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community hails each one of the blessed Muslim family members of Prophet Muhammadsa as great saints and among those who are the beloveds of Allah. The writings of its founder, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiahas, are replete with words of wonder and amazement regarding their spiritual status.
In his Arabic work, Sirr-ul-Khilafah, he describes Hazrat Alira as “an incredibly righteous and pure man” and goes on to say that “he is among those whom the Gracious God loves the most of all people.”
Prophet Muhammad’ssa legendary prayer for his grandson, Hazrat Hussainra, sheds ample light on his spiritual eminence. He used to state, “O Allah! I love him, so You too love him.” Then, about both his grandsons, Prophet Muhammadsa declared, “Whosoever loves these two grandchildren of mine shall love me, and he who shall love me shall love Allah, and for loving Allah, a person shall be admitted into paradise.” (Al Mustadrak lil-Hakim, Kitab Ma‘rifat al-Sahabah)
The ones to carry out this unspeakable evil claimed to be Muslims and love Prophet Muhammadsa, but actions simply speak louder than words. Evidently, these were no lovers of Prophet Muhammadsa.
Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa delivered a Friday Sermon in 2010, in which he recounted from the books of history the harrowing moments leading up to the assassination:
“When Hazrat Hussain’s soldiers were overcome by the enemy, he turned his horse towards the Euphrates. Someone said, ‘Block his way to the water!’ So people obstructed his path to the river. A man flung an arrow at Hazrat Hussainra, which struck under his chin. Hazrat Hussainra had been fighting the enemy on foot like a brilliant rider, attacking while evading arrows.
“Prior to the end, he was heard saying; ‘By God, you will not murder anyone from God’s servants after me whose murder will infuriate God more than mine. By God, may He humiliate you and thus, bless me. He will take my revenge in a way that will astonish you. By God, if you murder me, God will create a warring situation among you and your blood will be spilled. God will not suffice at this, to the extent that a grand retribution will be increased manifold against you.’
“After martyring Hazrat Hussainra, the people of Kufa [the enemy] started pillaging their tents and even forcefully removed the coverings from the heads of women. A man cried out, stamping on the body of Hazrat Hussainra with his horse. 10 riders responded and trampled his body further with their stallions, crushing his chest and back. Hazrat Hussainra sustained 45 wounds from arrows on his blessed body. Another tradition relates he had 33 spear wounds and 47 sword wounds. The height of cruelty was that the head of Hazrat Hussainra was sent to the governor of Kufa the next day who had it affixed in Kufa.” (Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa, Friday Sermon, 12 December 2010)
While words simply cannot convey the ineffable torture that this grave massacre evokes, it also does not justify using un-Islamic means to revive the memory of those who died for Islam. The fact is that these were the same backward mischief mongers who had orchestrated the martyrdom of Hazrat Usmanra, the third Khalifa of Prophet Muhammadsa as well. He was also a member of the house of the Holy Prophetsa and a grand saint among the companions. Yet, there exists no customs of momentous and outward expressions of grief at his martyrdom to this day. Dozens of Companionsra of the Holy Prophetsa took on the mantle of martyrdom in the Prophet’s life, who were extremely dear and beloved to him. Yet, he never once took to the streets, leading processions of explosive grief nor ever struck himself in agony.
The spirit of Muharram in Ahmadiyyat
The practice of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is and always has been in keeping with the Holy Quran and the way of Prophet Muhammadsa. Throughout his life, the Holy Prophetsa prayed in earnest for those who had passed away and would mention their virtues and excellences on different occasions. Beyond this, it was the way of his Companionsra to try and immortalise the memory of the deceased by adopting their good works and actions.
Once, the Promised Messiah, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas received word that someone had spoken ill of Imam Hussainra. He was so disappointed and hurt by this that he published an advert to the following effect:
“The love of the world caused [Yazid] to go blind. However, Hussainra was both pure and purified. Without a shadow of doubt, he is among those select ones whom God Almighty purifies with His own hand and saturates with His own love, and is, without a doubt, among the chiefs of Paradise. To harbour a modicum of malice against him is a road to the destruction of one’s faith.
“The marvelous level of righteousness, love of Allah, patience and steadfastness he possessed; his saintliness and his worship are an excellent example for us …
“Ruined is the heart that is his [Imam Hussain’sra] enemy and triumphant is the heart that loves him through practice and actions and with regard to all aspects of [Imam Hussain’sra] faith – his morals, his bravery and his love for God, truly adopts them by way of reflection, perfectly emulating them, like the reflection of a beautiful person upon a spotless mirror.’ (Majmu‘ah Ishtiharat, Vol. 3, Advert 270, pp. 544-555 [Rabwah, Pakistan])
Hence, it is in fact by emulating, adopting and practicing the moral excellences of these spiritual stalwarts – which is far greater and difficult a task than simply remembering them – that Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya has always strived to honour the memory of these heavenly souls. And so, Ahmadis try keep the memory of these blessed souls alive by striving to adopt their virtues so that people for generations not only read about them but witness the moral excellence of their legacy for generations to come.
Just like the blood of righteous men has irrigated the holiest lands in history, the demise of spiritual giants also plant seeds in future generations to keep their blessed memories alive through adopting and immortalising their greatness. This is the true significance of Muharram for Ahmadi Muslims – not just to remember, but to endeavor to keep their genius alive even today and insha-Allah, forever more.
Praying for Prophet Muhammad – The Ahmadi response to Karbala
Even today, over 100 years later, the Fifth Successor to the Promised Messiahas, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaa continues to educate the Muslim world about the best way to respond to the evil of Karbala perpetrated 1,300 years ago. In his Friday Sermon of 12 December 2010, Huzooraa beautifully explained:
“We should normally remain attentive towards invoking Durood [praying for Prophet Muhammadsa] and especially in this month [of Muharram], we should turn our attentions to this … I again emphasise that we all should invoke salutations upon Prophet Muhammadsa profusely. This is the best expression there is for one’s sentiments about the incident of Karbala.”
Huzooraa went on to explain that “Durood invoked upon Prophet Muhammadsa is a means of solace and comfort for both his physical and spiritual progeny.” (Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa, Friday Sermon, 12 December 2010)
Hence, the Ahmadiyya response to the unjust and cruel martyrdoms of Hazrat Hussainra along with other family members of the Holy Prophetsa and a few other noble companions who were among them at the time, is to pray for Prophet Muhammadsa through Durood, which is the following prayer,
اَللّٰھُمَّ صَلِّ عَلٰی مُحَمَّدٍ وَّعَلٰی اٰلِ مُحَمَّدٍ کَمَا صَلَّیْتَ عَلٰی اِبْرَاھِیْمَ وعَلٰی اٰلِ اِبْرَاہِیْمَ اِنَّکَ حَمِیْدٌ مَّجِیْدٌ
اَللّٰھُمَّ بَارِکْ عَلٰی مُحَمَّدٍ وَّعَلٰی آلِ مُحَمَّدٍ کَمَا بَارَکْتَ عَلٰی اِبْرَاھِیْمَ وعَلٰی اٰلِ اِبْرَاہِیْمَ اِنَّکَ حَمِیْدٌ مَّجِیْدٌ
“O Allah; Bless Muhammadsa and his people, as You blessed Abrahamas and his people. You are indeed the Praiseworthy, the Exalted.
“O Allah; Prosper Muhammadsa and his people, as You prospered Abrahamas and his people. You are indeed the Praiseworthy, the Exalted.
The Arabic word for “people” here is “aal”, which connotes both physical and spiritual progeny and so, Ahmadi Muslims are constantly engaged in prayers for both blessed groups of people. This is a prayer that is offered in every single rak‘ah of obligatory prayer as well.
Hence, while Muharram is a special time for remembering and honoring the blessed family members of Prophet Muhammadsa who were martyred at Karbala for the rest of the Muslim world as well, through Durood, Ahmadi Muslims are constantly praying for these noble souls dozens of times a day, every single day throughout the year.