Imam Husayn’s message for humanity

Dr Sheikh Shomali at Arbaeen procession - Rotterdam, 12th Nov 2017 (Special Interfaith Edition issue 65 March 2019)

Originally published on issue 55 January 2018

Firstly, I would like to thank you all for taking the time to be part of this programme and to show your love and dedication to the message of Imam Husayn(a). May God accept your efforts in the most generous way and may God Almighty write your names on the list of those visiting Imam Husayn(a) this Arbaeen.
What I would like to share with you and our non Muslim friends is a quick review of what Imam Husayn(a) has done and see what humanity can get as lessons now and in the future from his message.
First of all we know that God the Almighty had special plans for humanity right from the beginning of creation. From the time that human beings were created God wanted us to live with honour and dignity. God says: “We have honoured all children of Adam.” (Qur’an 17:17)
Honour and dignity are what every human being deserves. And there is nothing more important than having an honourable and dignified life.
When division and conflicts appeared, God sent us the Prophets and the Messengers to guide us towards unity, peace, justice and solidarity so that we would be able to have an honourable life.
Unfortunately, throughout history we human beings passed through different stages and phases of conflicts and disagreement after we had become united. We become united and then we get un-united. This has repeated again and again. Even the Qur’an tells us that Prophets came to unite people by bringing a unifying message but their followers after a while became divided over the same message (2: 213) therefore God sent new Prophets to stress again the unifying factors.

Abraham(a), who was a key figure in the history of mankind, a meeting point between Christianity, Judaism and Islam, had a special role to play in the plan of God for humanity. He is the one who demonstrated in the best possible way the significance of the unity of God. He was also a caring father and the patriarch for all humanity. A man who was very hospitable, a man who was concerned about everyone and was finally chosen by God as His friend (khalil). And then through the children of Abraham(a), we had all the messengers and prophets. We have Isaac and all of the Israelite prophets until Prophet Jesus(a) and through Ishmael, we have the Prophet Muhammad(s) and Imams including Imam Husayn(a). In the Bible, Genesis, chapter 17, verse 20, and some other chapters of the same book, God refers to his plan of giving a great nation to Abraham(a) through Ishmael and Hagar. In chapter 17, verse 20 God says to Abraham that through Ishmael he is going to give a very large nation and 12 rulers in that nation. That nation is Islam and that is a branch of an Abrahamic tree. Abrahamic religions constitute already more than half of the population of the world. But unfortunately, not long after the demise of the Prophet Muhammad(s) who was the last Prophet and the one who brought the message of peace and love as the Qur’an says, some power-seeking people hijacked Islam and took Islam away from the Prophetic message. They claimed the name of the successors of the Prophet but they had no interest in true Islam. In the personal, social or political life there was no spirit of Islam and therefore a separation started to emerge in the Islamic community between power and the real faith, between state and religion. Imam Husayn(a), the grandson of the Prophet, was not happy to be part of an unjust system and kept himself separate from the power. He lived for 10 years during the time of the reign of Muawiyah. A peace treaty had been already agreed by his brother Imam Hasan(a) and Muawiyah. Both grandsons of the Prophet, Hasan and Husayn, tried not to be associated in any way with that so-called Islamic Caliphate or Islamic government of their time. Unfortunately, when Muawiyah was about to die he asked everyone to pay allegiance to his son Yazid who was by any standard a corrupt and immoral person. Nobody was happy with Yazid as an ordinary member of the society, let alone as the leader of the Muslim community.
A major problem started when Yazid took power and wanted to force Imam Husayn(a), a man from the progeny of Abraham(a) and Ishmael and Muhammad(s) to pay allegiance to him and to accept his authority.
This is when Imam Husayn(a) gave a lesson for all history – that you cannot be silent when the dignity and honour of humanity are under threat. You can avoid violence even if you are going to lose your legitimate power to other people who are not legitimate and are taking over the power if this serves the interests of the community keeping unity and peace. But when they want you to be become a part and parcel of a corrupt and unjust system and use you to give legitimacy to their corrupt actions, you should not accept or tolerate. Imam Husayn(a) proved this by sacrificing his life, as did his dear companions and family members – 72 men in total. Imam Husayn(a) gave his life bravely refusing to endorse an unjust system and unjust Caliph, and this is the lesson for us.

The best gift we have from God, more valuable than even our lives, is our honour and dignity. Imam Husayn(a) said: “Life is very important but life under the flag of the unjust people, without dignity, when you are being humiliated is not worth living”. So this is the message we have to take from Imam Husayn(a). It is a message that is ever more relevant to humanity, calling for honour and dignity for all the children of Adam. From the East to the West, from the North to the South, men, women and children should be able to have a dignified life and they should be able to be free and decide for themselves what kind of life they want to live.
I hope God Almighty enables us to learn in different ways the message of Imam Husayn(a) and share it with all of humanity. I would like to conclude by saying that Imam Husayn(a) is the icon of justice and dignity and a role model for the whole of humanity.

Islam Today issue 65 (Special Issue) is dedicated to the interfaith work undertaken by the Islamic Centre of England over the past few years. Download the full pdf here:

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  1. Trip to the Netherlands
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