I didn’t have a clue what my fellow sisters were talking about. Still, from my basic reading, I did understand that the tragedy of Karbala had happened in the month of Muharram.
I began to attend the evening Majalis (gatherings), where I found myself sobbing every evening and even more when I got home.
The following day, I would start weeping before I left my home and on the way to the majalis. My empathy level grew almost from zero to ten.
I remembered my first tears on the first night of Muharram in November 2012 It placed me in a position where I envisioned myself as the Catholic that I had been six months prior and I told myself that I should have shed tears for Jesus too as a sign of my love and appreciation for his sacrifice.
Muslims mourn the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad(s), Al-Husayn, son of Ali(a), every Muharram and in other practices of faith such as when they visit his holy shrine in Karbala. When drinking water it is recommended to remember the thirst of Imam Husayn(a).
These tears of mine made me realise how fortunate I was to easily find myself part of this humble congregation that mourned the loss of the protector of their faith. Furthermore, my tears reassured me that I had chosen the right religious denomination.
Once the ten nights had ended. I asked one of the organisers if we would do this again next year. She said: “we don’t remove our black clothes yet, until Arbaeen”. Little did I know what would happen to the women, children and son of Husayn(a), Ali(a) in the following days, weeks, months and years to come.
I went on to read about Arbaeen, which marks forty days after the martyrdom of Husayn on the hot burning sands of Karbala. The aftermath of the tragedy of Karbala involved the women and the children being taken as captives. They were dragged to Kufa in modern day Iraq, shackled in a procession facing the severed head of their loved one on the spears held by the soldiers of Ibn Ziad, the governor of Kufa.
Lady Zainab(a), the sister of Imam Husayn(a) became the sole flag bearer of Islam, after Ali(a) , son of Husayn(a) fell into ill health. History tells us that Zainab(a) was persistently taunted but still responded with dignity. In one instance Yazid asks her: “How did you find the way God treated your brother and our family?” She responded: “I saw nothing but beauty”.
They were taken to Shaam- modern day Damascus – where Yazid, a caliph of the Umayyads, ridicules these family members of the prophet saying “If my venerable ancestors who fell at Badr fighting Muhammad had witnessed how the supporters of Muhammad’s faith were thrown into confusion with thrusts given with my spears, they would be blessing me today.”
With which Lady Zainab replied: “Do you think that by killing the grandson of the Holy Prophet and bringing us to your palace as prisoners, you have scored a victory against Islam?”
What is very interesting about her captivity in Shaam is that Lady Zainab(a) organised the first Majalis (gathering) to remember the martyrs of Karbala.
The women of Damascus poured in to offer their condolences and Bibi Zainab and the other ladies would tell them of how the martyrs had been killed, how they had been denied water, how young children had been crying for water, how the baby Ali Asghar had been slain. These majalis took place for seven days.
Finally, the caravan of tears was taken back to Madina, but through Karbala where the bodies of their relatives and loved ones were now resting having been buried by the people of neighbouring villages surrounding the city.
It is customary to pay tribute for a deceased forty days after his death by doing acts of righteousness on his behalf, by eulogising him and enumerating his merits.
Some Christians hold mourning ceremonies forty days after the death of their loved ones. They gather at a church and repeat a special prayer that they call a funeral prayer service. They do likewise six months after his death and then one year after his death.
Jews hold a mourning service thirty days a loved one’s death, again after nine months and again after one year.
Hence, one must make an effort to commemorate the forty days that followed the martyrdom of Imam Husayn(a) , as it is a legitimate cause to reflect and apply the lessons in our daily lives.
The message of Karbala will never end – it’s a living message. Therefore every year I ought to commemorate the saints and martyrs of Karbala with an outlook that reforms me to a better human being.
“Surely, there exists in the heart of the believers, with respect to the martyrdom of Husayn, a heat that never subsides. ” Prophet Muhammad(s)
by Veronique Khasa