Ya Imam Huseyn! Ya Sayyeda Zaynab! Ya Zain al Abidin and the Martyrs of Karbala

In Allah’s Infinite Mercy and Love

In the great book of Irshad, by Muzaffer Ashki, rahmetullah aleyhi, we have the address of Imam Huseyn to his companions on the field of Karbala, his words preserved and transmitted by so many generations of faithful guardians:

“ ‘O my companions, relatives, friends and fellow members of the Prophet’s household! You see the state of affairs we have reached. The world has changed and turned its face from us. Its goodness has retreated and very evil days lie before us. You must surely see that the truth is no longer put into practice. Falsehood is by no means at an end. Let those who are believers desire to meet Allah. For me there is no doubt that death is a blessing. I count it a crime to live in the company of tyrants.’

In the last moments of his life, after all attempts to reason with the oppressors failed, he begged the leader of the army that had surrounded them and prevented them from receiving water or food, the one who was about to take his life, for his children to be given mercy:

‘You made me and my children wander thirsty in these desert wastes. You gave me no water and I know better than to expect any from you. But at least give my children a drop to drink, so that I may forgive you for the great wrong you have done to us.’

That deluded one refused, retorting, ‘If earth and sky were full of water I would not give one drop to you and your children.’

And then the most noble Husayn, living vessel of the Prophetic light, responded, ‘You have denied me water and refused my children even one drop. But at the place of Resurrection we shall not behave like you. When the water of life from the fountain of Kawthar will be in our hands we shall not let you go thirsty as you have let us go thirsty. The owner of Kawthar is my grandfather, Muhammad the seal of Prophecy, may Allah’s divine peace shower upon him, and the pourer of that water of life is my father, the blessed Ali, may Allah be pleased with him. You shall not be denied by them as you have denied us today.’

At that point he kicked the ground and a spring of water came gushing forth. He pointed to it and said, ‘ Now you see the nature of our patience. Water was in our power to have, but we have taken on this suffering so that the Community of Muhammad will understand and be prepared to sacrifice everything in order to overcome tyranny and oppression. We refrained from quenching our own thirst so that the Ummat would understand the nature of self-sacrifice.’ As soon as he had uttered these words, the wine of martyrdom quenched his thirst.

O Lord do not deny us the intercession of Huseyn…”

This is the faithful report of our blessed Muzaffer Ashki, may Allah sanctify his secret, a blood descendent and a spiritual inheritor of the great Imam Huseyn, who stood for all of us on the field of Truth at Karbala, may Allah be pleased with him, his household, and all the martyrs who passed away with him, their departure leaving the earth and sky and all their inhabitants in tears and mourning.

After these events, as a survivor of the tragedy of Karbala, the sister of Huseyn and daughter of Hazreti Ali, the venerable Sayyeda Zaynab, may Allah be pleased with her, inherited the Prophetic light and became the representative of truth for the Prophetic message. Again we refer to Muzaffer Effendi’s account:

When her noble brother Husayn was martyred, Zaynab screamed through her tears at the murderer, “You tyrants! You do not know what you have done, whom you have martyred and whom you have caused to weep. How will you answer the glorious Prophet if he asks you on the coming Day of Resurrection, ‘What have you done to the people of my household and my children after I was gone? Some you made captive, some you enslaved and some you steeped in blood.’ How will you look him in the face and how can you expect his intercession if he says, ‘Is this how you displayed your gratitude to your Prophet? Is this how you show your affection?’ Will you not be ashamed of yourselves if he says, ‘Would you dare to drink water from my fountain when you condemned the people of my household to go thirsty and refused a single drop of water to my beloved Husayn and his Innocents?’ ”

The noble Sayyeda Zaynab did not fear for her life when she stood in the court of the oppressor Yazid in Damascus, after having been brought there as a captive with the small group of surviving women and children. Rather she feared for the fate of the Community, and she addressed the Community in such words and with such passion that had such a powerful effect on the people’s hearts that it brought about the downfall of that tyranny not long afterwards. Together with her was Zayn al Abidin, her nephew, son of Husayn, still a child but soon to become the future Imam of the faithful.

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As we contemplate this holy day we wonder how we, in this modern age of the West, living in countries without war, with the assumption of religious tolerance and relative economic abundance, can understand and feel the tragedy and greatness of the events of Karbala and those that followed? How can we align ourselves with the magnificence of the souls who were there and with the weight of their sacrifice? How can we manifest an atom of the meaning of Karbala in our lives? How can we ever offer in return an atom of its nobility? How can we receive a glimpse of what occurred on that field of Truth? How can we ever repay the merciful Prophet and his household, may Allah’s most loving peace be upon them all, for what they have given to us? Imam Huseyn was the beloved of Allah, the beloved of the Messenger, the beloved of Hazreti Fatima and Hazareti Ali, the beloved of the Ummat, the beloved of the angels and subtle beings. How can we ever be grateful enough to Imam Huseyn and the companions of Karbala for their lives? How can we ever be grateful for all the succession of noble Prophets, Mothers of the Faithful and martyrs of truth who gave their lives to humanity, so that we could attain to the time of the fulfillment of prophecy? How can we transform our own lives into the Truth, seeing past the illusion of this modern age with its surface secularity and worldliness? How can we go deeper into the eternal reality of our souls which also stand in their own Karbala?

The only way that I see is by turning to the Truth, and by living truthfully day to day, moment to moment, becoming sincere in our intentions, thoughts, actions and speech – and by turning and remembering and recommitting when we realize that we have forgotten and become unaware, whether it be for a moment or for a day or for longer. The way is by keeping in mind that we too are heading rapidly for the other world and that our life here is but a blink of the eye. The way is by knowing with certainty that Allah, Knower of all things hidden and open, only gazes at our heart as the gift we bring upon our return – and that we have come to this earth to discover our heart and to fill our heart with light and to offer this light to as many hearts as possible. The way is by bringing into practice the momentous spiritual knowledge that we have been given, making it alive in us and becoming real through it. The way is to contemplate every day in our hearts La ilahe ilallah Muhammad rasulallah. The way is by becoming gracious and kind, as the Prophet was gracious and kind, and offering kindness and love to others, inwardly in our thoughts and outwardly in our actions. The way is by serving the creation which is Allah’s family. The way is by serving our Sufi community so that it becomes the strong vessel of Truth that it is intended to be, the refuge for the lovers of Allah and the ‘poor in spirit’, the faqirs, the ones empty of all but Allah. The way is by cultivating love in our hearts, and by becoming love, knowing that it is our essence. The way is by merging into the Truth and becoming Truth.

As I write this letter to you it is just before sunrise. The air is wrapped in a mist and the mist is tinged with the color red. Ya Imam Huseyn! May all of Allah’s greatest blessings pour upon you, your family, the lovers who stood by your side and all those whose hearts are merged in you! Ya Effendi, Ya Hazreti Pir, Ya Nur!

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