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Inserts / Messages
- Basic Education
- Interesting Articles
- Religious Lectures
- Wiladat Celebrations
- Questions about Iman
- Healthy Living
Reference, taken from:
Dr. Ali Shariati’s writings.
The word: martyr
In Western culture, the word: martyr stems from ‘mortal’ which means ‘death’ or ‘to die’. One of the basic principles in Islam and in particular in Shiite tradition however is ‘sacrifice and bear witness’. So instead of martyrdom, i.e. death, it essentially means ‘life’, ‘evidence’, ‘testify’, ‘certify’. These words: martyrdom and bearing witness show the differences which exist between the vision of Shi’as. Islamic tradition and the other cultures of the world.
To view Al-Husain (a.s.) and the battle of Karbala as isolated from historical and social circumstances would force us, as indeed it has for many of us, to view the man and the event purely as an unfortunate, if not tragic occurrence in the past and something for us to merely cry about (and we certainly do continue to cry) rather than as an eternal and inspirational phenomenon. To separate Karbala and Husain (a.s.) from their historical and ideological context is to dissect a living body, to remove only a part of it and to examine it in exclusion of the living system of the body.
There is only one religion and its name is Submission “Islam”. The Prophet of Islam is the last messenger of this religion of Submission, which throughout history, as the Quran has repeatedly shown, the Prophets came to bring. Their message consisted of wisdom, the Book and justice for the world. The Prophet of Islam is the last messenger of this world and human movement who, in the name of Submission (Islam) called the people to serve God and the One so that they would be freed from obeying and serving any other than Him.
The Prophet of Islam
The Prophet of Islam came to confirm the universal view of Unity (Tawhid) and even to bring that unity into human history, to all races, nations, groups, families and social classes and to eliminate the discord brought by polytheistic religions. The slogan of Islamic unity was a slogan which gave freedom. Before intellectuals, scholars, the educated and philosophers became aware of it, slaves, the tortured, hungry and the belittled were sensitive to and aware of it. It is because of this that the group which gathered around Mohammad in Mecca were among the most deprived, who had been belittled and were among the most debased elements of society. The Prophet of Islam was scorned by his enemies because only the dregs of humanity surrounded him.
The Prophet of Islam had been appointed in order to complete the movement which had existed throughout history against deception, falsehood, polytheism, creation of discord, hypocrisy, aristocracy and class differences which were all made an object of the spiritual struggle and by announcing that all of humanity is of one race, one source, one nature and one God, to declare equality for all, with philosophical explanation and by fighting an economically powerful regime to maintain social equity.
Take the model society of Medina
Take the model society of Medina as an example where Bilal, a debased slave was recognized as more noble and of greater value and was treated with more respect than the aristocrats of Arab society. Everyone accepted his position. Suddenly the inhabitants of Medina, the Arabs, Jews, the Quraish find themselves greeting the young slave of Hudhayfah as an equal, he who had once gone about in the narrow streets as a debased and deprived slave, now, in the Qubaa. Mosque standing for prayer in front of the noble Emigrants of the Quraish, is one of the dearest, most radiant figures. The most distinguished personages of the pre-Islamic era and even of the present ones are praying behind him.
One day an old woman, who had for many years heard of the greatness and magnificence of the Prophet, came before him. She stood tongue tied in awe of his presence. The Prophet softly, kindly and simply took her by the shoulder and said, “Why are you afraid? I am the son of that Quraish woman who milked sheep. Who are you afraid of?”
When this son of that Quraish woman who milked sheep, who was the last appointed Prophet, the last messenger for those who suddenly arose out of silent deserts and assaulted the lords of power, wealth and deceit in the cities, died, suddenly everything was different. Discrepancies appeared immediately upon his death. The path of historical events did not deviate from the true way more than a centimeter at first. The angle which appeared between the School of Islam and the History of Islam, between the truth and reality was narrow at the beginning. But after the Prophet died, the gap between them grew wider and wider. It was like the angle between two lines which are at first close together (no more than a thousandth of a centimeter apart) but gradually the distance expands as history moves forward. The two lines widen so that in an eternity there are kilometers of space between them. If other factors and causes become operative as they do, we may see that the two lines which extend from an angle move apart as the line of history from the line of the truth of Islam has done in this case.
After the death of the Prophet
Thus after the death of the Prophet, the deviation, so very slight at first, developed and generation after generation, the distance between honesty, decency, truth and justice progressed so that after 14 or 15 years when we reach Uthman he, like a magnetic pole, attracted all of the counter-revolutionary agents who were scattered here and there. He gathered them at the center of Islamic power and the Islamic movement. Uthman served as a link between the mentality of the age of ignorance and the Islamic revolutionary period. His link was the Caliphate which served as a bridge for the most despicable elements of the rejected aristocracy who still lingered on. They seized the positions which had been gained through the spiritual struggle of the Emigrants and the helpers.
Uthman allowed the faithful children of the Revolution to be devoured. Those who wielded their swords and pursued their jihad with faith, self-sacrifice, devotion and endurance were destroyed by the oppressors and grabbers of power, government, the rights of the people and the heritage of the Revolution. The founder of the movement and the first sacrifice of Uthman and the Benu Ummayya who dominated him was Ali (a.s.), a victim of the revival of the Age of Ignorance by the surviving counter-revolutionaries. The political, social and international make-up of Ali was the representative par excellence of a new struggle, a struggle between the leaders and the loyalists of the new set of values, of the new faith, who rose up with new and true slogans of Islam and found themselves confronting the greed and worst elements of the revival of the rule of ignorance which was imposed with a new fervor. These power grabbers, with new vigor, both openly and undercover, launched their struggle against the noblest figures of the Islamic Revolution.
The Prophet is the manifestation of the struggle of an age in which, on the one hand, true, believing Moslems confronted foreign enemies who were known to be antiMuslim, while Ali is the manifestation of an age in which an bloody struggle took place between the loyal, faithful and anti-movement elements who had donned the masks of faith.
The struggle between the Prophet and Abu Sufyan [who as an opportunist only accepted Islam when his party was finally defeated] was an external struggle, a battle purely and simply between friend and foe. Whereas in contrast, the struggle between Ali and Mu’awiya, the son of Abu Sufyan was an internal affair between friend and pseudo-friend or should we say, ‘internal enemy’, theoretically supporting the movement. The battle on the foreign field, the struggle with the external foe, resulted in victory whereas the internal struggle with the internal foe ended in defeat. This is what is described in Islamic terminology, in the language of the Quran, as ‘hypocrites’ (munafiqeen) – those who are more base and more dangerous than an out and out atheist (Kafir) or even a polytheist (mushrik). The Prophet is thus the manifestation of Islamic victory on the foreign front, over outright atheism and polytheism, whereas Ali is the manifestation of Islamic defeat within the ranks, at the hands of hypocrisy.
Confronting the ‘neo-ignorance’ and ‘neo-aristocracy’, which comes to life within the context of Islam under the cover of Truth and the very heart of the justice seeking Revolution of Islam, Ali is the base of resistance. For many years, Ali struggles and strives against polytheism within his ranks, a polytheism which has cloaked itself in the dress of Unity (tawhid). He has to grapple with the atheist who has assumed the mantle of Islam and who has positioned the Quran on the point of the lance [at the battle of Siffin]. In the end, Ali is killed by pious but unconscious people who always become tools at the hands of a sharp enemy.
As we move forward in time, the true base of the Islamic Revolution becomes increasingly weakened, while in contrast, the base of neo-ignorance and the internal enemies grows ever stronger until we reach the age of Imam Hasan (a.s.) (660 A.D., 40 A.H., the eldest son of Ali (a.s.) and Fatima (a.s.)).
Imam Al-Hasan is the inheritor of Ali’s administration and becomes commander of an army in which hypocrisy has developed affecting even his closest friends. His best commanding officers are secretly tied in with the plotting of the Benu Ummayya in negotiating with the tender of money, power, and promises. Those officers are bargaining their souls with Mu’awiya and his court, purchasers of humanity and honor, in Damascus. From the administrative point of view, Hasan has no authority over one of the most powerful, dangerous and sensitive sections of the Islamic domain (the province of Syria) which has entirely fallen into the hands of the enemy. In Iraq, the various factions are in dissention. The masses are neglected and indifferent.
The Khariji, who are from amongst the most fanatic zealots and a dangerous power in the populace, confronted Imam Hasan who is the manifestation of the last struggle of the dearest, most aware and most progressive companions of the new Islamic movement. The ranks of the hypocrisy of the internal enemy is growing stronger day by day until the agonizing and catastrophic moment of the last struggle to defend the Islam of justice against the Islam of aristocracy. The only alternative is to make peace. He has been defeated. A defeated party does not specify the terms of a peace treaty. They are imposed upon him. Hasan is broken.
Al- Hasan (a.s.)
Thus, Hasan, who is the leader and manifestation of the spirit of the struggle of the Revolution, sits in resistance to the reawakened neo-ignorance. He is disarmed and like an ordinary soldier when we see within the very household of the Imam and leader of the people, turncoats and Benu Umayya spies, those who had broken bread with him, turn against him. They even buy off his wife and, through her, have Hasan poisoned. We can see to what extent the justice, freedom and the people have weakened. It reaches the point that the power of Imam Hasan, the leader of a force which is still resisting today and defending the name of Islam, has so dwindled that when he dies, he can not be buried next to the Prophet (his grandfather) in Medina, the city of his grandfather, father and mother and the city of his family, the city of the Emigrants and Helpers of the Prophet of Islam. Imam Hasan is buried in the public cemetery of Baqi.
Imam Hasan, the manifestation of loneliness and isolation in Islamic society, even in the Medina of the Prophet, clearly shows how the Truth-seeking party in Islam is utterly shattered. The new force of revolution completely overwhelms every one and every thing and conquers in every domain. Now it is Al-Husain’s turn.
Husain (a.s.) inherits the Islamic movement. He is the inheritor of a movement which Mohammad has launched, Ali has continued and in whose defense Hasan makes the last defense. Now there is nothing left for Husain (a.s.) to inherit, no army, no weapons, no wealth, no power, no force, not even an organized following. Nothing at all.
It is now around the year 60 A.H. (680 A.D.), fifty years after the death of the Prophet. Each Imam chooses the form his struggle will take. The form of the struggle of each Imam and each leader is not based upon his own personal tastes, but it has to take shape to fit the circumstances, and evaluate the factions, and the nature of the enemy’s strength and formation.
Thus the shape of the struggle which Husain (a.s.) chooses cannot be understood without taking into account the nature of the circumstances in which Husain (a.s.) launches his particular revolt. Now, when Husain (a.s.)’s turn comes, the times and the people are looking for a man. How difficult it is when such a situation arises – sometimes the fate of a nation, the fate of a faith, an idea, a society, a generation is looking to an individual or several individuals in anticipation of how they will act.
Now the responsibility of safe-guarding the revolution has fallen upon Husain (a.s.)’s shoulders at a time when the last bastions of resistance have been lost. Nothing has remained for him from the power of his grandfather, his father, his brother, the Islamic government or the party of Truth and justice, not a sword, not a single soldier.
The Benu Ummayya have occupied every base of society. For years, the Quraish, in their neo-ignorance, dominated the values and misappropriated the fruits of the Islamic Revolution.
Now Husain (a.s.) appears but the central base of the power of the Revolution has been lost. The companions of the Resistance struggle have either been killed off or silenced. The faithful Companions who had not sold themselves, sought the security of devotion in out-of-the way corners rather than be bothered with the battling for that which is right and the risks involved in social and political struggle, to liberate the people and free them from their oppressive lot. They have slipped into the shell of respectability, piousness, self-centeredness and remaining silent.
A group of the most notable Companions of the Prophet, have been passing their time in the Green Palace of Mu’awiya helping themselves to the public treasury while the second generation had been defeated in their striving and struggling against the Benu Ummayya. The power of the tyrant, enforced with sword or with money or with position or with deception, brings a cloud of stifled silence upon everyone.
The mechanism of neo-stupefaction goes into operation along with the pressure of fear, money and fraud and the freedom of license and corruption along with the repression of ideas and faith and a sense of responsibility – we might say ‘the freedom of repression’ and ‘the repression of freedom’. In this way the regime brings about a decay of the moral fiber of society. They bombard and obliterate the real fundamentals, the truth of faith, the bases of the movement and Islam: They paralyze hearts and minds by making sly appeals to quietism.
The true heart of the danger and threat
The true heart of the danger and threat to the Benu Ummayya, the well-spring of these revolts is not in Medina where people are massacred, nor at the Ka`ba where people are stoned, nor at Kufa which is controlled by a coup d’etat, nor at the Mosque of the Prophet where people are trampled under the feet of horses and chopped down by their riders, nor even in the house of the Prophet which lies in ruins, nor in the house of Fatima which is now ashes, nor in the Quran which they pierce with spears. . . Then where, indeed, is the heart of the fire, where is the constant well-spring of danger? It is in the hearts and minds! If these two sources are not destroyed, all the victories remain without effect and all forces are endangered. So the attacks begin. Arms are gathered to destroy the two sources of danger, the two real sources of explosion and fire – hearts and minds.
In this surprise attack, the Quran is the arms, the customs of the Prophet (Sunnah) are the shields. Thought and science are the equipment, faith is the fortification, Islam is the flag and the army consists of commentators, exploiters, lecturers, religious theologians, scholars, judges and the leader. The leaders are the great Companions of the Prophet, the important clergymen and the great Moftis.
It is the first time that Islam, with the assistance of religious scholars, testifies to the elements and actions of the regime. The religious authorities compulsively believe that everything should be related to God.
Two horrible cancers fall upon the people:
The first horrible cancer falling upon the Ummah is the cancer of the religious authorities. They are the pseudo-Islamic scholars and clergymen. They are the speakers of Islam, religious scholars and leaders of the community. They have no official position or situation. They are not murderers. They study in the corners of schools, learn, and teach. Their thesis is that anyone, sinful or pure, anyone who has done a wrong, a deceitful thing, created a conspiracy or committed a crime must have hope for the mercy and forgiveness of God. He must have hope because God has said, “There are people who are hopeful to God’s command.” It is having hope that allows God’s forgiveness, mercy and compassion. God forgives and there is the hope that he will forgive any crime. Therefore, it is forbidden for any normal man who may himself be sinful to call such criminals bad names. You cannot call them bad names and fight against them.
On the other hand, when you call a criminal, an oppressor and conspirator and condemn him and on the other hand, call someone oppressed, or slave, it is as if you claim to be God because God is the chief commander and it is on this basis that God takes everyone’s actions into account and judges the behavior of anyone who is against the balance of justice. So, you do not have the right to judge the oppressor and conspirator. You want to establish the balance of the scales of justice here. Are you God? Do you want to accuse people and clear their accounts before God does so? No. It is not our duty to judge between a conspirator and a server. We are not allowed to condemn the criminal. We are not permitted to stand against this or that group. We should accept all of them. We must be patient and leave the punishment of everyone to God. It is the problem which arises from religious authorities in that they say, “Leave everything to God.”
This disease of hope or cancer of the religious authorities paralyzes the second generation of Islam, who have not had sufficient training in the school of Islam and who have not received the language of the Quran and Islam from the tongue of the Prophet, Ali, the Emigrants and the Helpers. Thus, they are obliged to receive their Islamic teachings second-hand from those who have sold their thoughts and ideas. It is for this reason that their awareness, findings and religious spirits are permanently poisoned with the propaganda of the religious authorities who are backed by the ruling regime.
The second cancer is the cancer of fatalism which also grows in this period. Fatalism is the first school of philosophy that comes into being during the Umayya times as a divine philosophy. We are going to see what corruption is hidden behind saintly and sacred faces. Divine Fate means, as the Quran tells us, “God is the Absolute Commander”. They extend this to mean that whatever suffering occurs in the universe is according to His wishes. Whatever one does is done according to the wishes of God. Whatever position one has, in whatever situation one be in, whatever choice one makes, in whatever action one takes – whether corrupt or pure, murderer or non-murderer, executed or executioner, reactions to God’s Will and Determinism. Whether one is a slave or a master, are all ruled or ruler belong to God. It is God that gives power and takes it away. It is God that kills and brings into being. It is God that gives honor or abasement. No one has any right whatsoever.
The correctness or attractiveness of this explanation of fatalism had a powerful effect upon the faithful Muslims who took the Quranic words into consideration together with the Traditions of the Prophet – Traditions automatically produced by people like Abu Hurairah ‘Tradition-making-machines’ until they reached 40,000 different Traditions in the name of the Prophet. The Prophet would have had to have lived 1000 years to have said all of them.
These teachings of the scholars have a paralyzing effect upon the thoughts of Muslims who live in obedience to God’s Will. It is explained to them that the Benu Ummayya ruled because God gave them this power. If Ali is defeated it is because God willed him to be defeated. Whether or not one is bad or good, if the good are destroyed and the bad, rule, it is all based on a higher wisdom that is not clear to us but depends upon God’s Will. It is out of our hands. Therefore, any rudeness, crime or plunder of any position or person is considered to be a protest and criticism of God’s Will, Power and Determination.
Now, Husain (a.s.) has come up against this power, the power which possesses the thoughts, religion, Quran, wealth, sword, propagation, public arms and heredity of the Prophet. Husain (a.s.) appears with empty hands. He has nothing. What can he do? Can he become an ascetic and run away to a corner to worship? Should he keep quiet rationalizing that since he is the grandson of the Prophet, the son of Ali and Fatima, therefore Paradise has been guaranteed to him? This argument does not hold with him. The other believers believe it but he is responsible, committed. Can he change his responsibility to perform the jihad into reaching nearness to God through reading and reciting prayers which is certainly easier?
The stand of Imam Husain (a.s.),
Imam Husain (a.s.), as a responsible leader, sees that if he remains silent, Islam will change into a religion of the government. Islam will be changed into a military-economic power and nothing more. Islam will become as other regimes and powers. When their power diminishes, when their army and government are destroyed, nothing will remain. It will be nothing more than a memory in history – an accident which occurred in the past and has ended.
It is for this reason that Imam Husain (a.s.) now stands between two inabilities. He can neither remain silent nor can lie fight. He cannot remain silent because time and the right opportunity are passing. Everything is being destroyed, abolished in the minds and deep consciences of the people – feelings, thoughts, schools of thought, goals, targets, meanings, ideals – everything brought by the message of Mohammad, all of the Islam that he brought and developed through jihad, great efforts and struggles. All of the others are obeying the ruling power. They are being; deceived. Their present atmosphere is one of complete silence, palpitations and surrender. He cannot remain silent because he has a duty to fight against oppression.
On the other hand, he cannot fight because he has no army. He is surrounded by the ruling, oppressive regime. He can neither shout out nor surrender nor attack. He remains with empty hands, yet the heavy burden of all of these responsibilities rests on his shoulders. He receives nothing from the power and the results of the struggles and efforts of his grandfather, the Prophet, his father, Imam Ali, and his brother, Imam Hasan, except an honor, a misery and a very heavy responsibility.
What is Al-Husain’s responsibility?
What is his responsibility? He is responsible to fight against the elimination of truth, the destruction of the rights of the people, annihilation of all of the values, abolition of all of the memories of the Revolution, destruction of the message of the Revolution, and protect the most beloved of cultures and the faith of the people, for their destruction is the aim of the most filthy enemies of the people. They want to once again create the unknown, mysterious deaths, exiles, putting people in chains, the worshipping of pleasure, discriminations, the gathering of wealth, the selling of human values, faith, honor, creating new religious foolishnesses, racism, new aristocracy, new ignorance and a new polytheism.
The word shaheed, martyr means, being present, bearing witness, one who bears witness. It also means that which is sensible and perceptible, the one who all turn towards. Finally, it means, model, pattern, example.
Martyrdom: To arise and bear witness in our culture and in our religion is not a bloody and accidental happening. In other religions and tribal histories, martyrdom is the sacrificing of the heroes who are killed in the battles of the enemy. It is considered to be a sorrowful accident full of misery. Those who are killed in this way are called martyrs and their death is called martyrdom.
But in our culture, martyrdom is not a death which is imposed by an enemy upon our warriors. It is a death which is desired by our warrior, selected with all of the awareness, logic, reasoning, intelligence, understanding, consciousness and alertness that a human being has.
Look at Husain (a.s.):
Look at Husain (a.s.). He releases his life, leaves his town and arises in order to die because he has no other means for his struggle to condemn and disgrace his enemy. He selects this in order to render aside the deceiving curtains which cover the ugly faces of the ruling power. If he cannot defeat the enemy in this way, at least he can disgrace them. If he cannot conquer the ruling power, he can at least condemn it by injecting new blood and the belief of jihad into the dead bodies of this second generation of the Revolution revealed to the Prophet.
He is an unarmed, powerless and lonely man. But he is still responsible for the jihad. He has no other means except to die, having himself selected a ‘red death’. Being Husain (a.s.) makes him responsible to perform the jihad against all that is corrupt and cruel. He has no other means at his disposal for his jihad but his own death. He takes it and leaves his home only to enter the place of execution.
We see how well he carried this out with his accurate plans, reasoning, a glorious, accurate and well-planned departure, movement and migration. Stage by stage, he clears the way, explaining the aim which he is ‘moving towards’, with a unique selection of companions – men who had come to die with him – as well as all of the members of his family. These are all of the things that he possesses in this world and he leads them to be sacrificed at the altar of martyrdom.
The fate of the faith
The fate of the faith which is being destroyed, the fate of those people who are awaiting Islamic justice and freedom but have now been captured by an oppression and pressure worse than the period of ignorance, are now awaiting his action.
He who has no arms and no means has come with all of his existence, his family, his dearest companions so that the martyrdom of himself and his whole family will bear witness to the fact that he carried out his responsibility at a time when truth was defenseless and unarmed. He bears witness that nothing more than this could be done.
You have heard that at the battle of Ashura, on the tenth day of the month of Muharram, Imam Husain (a.s.) takes the blood flowing from the throat of his child, Ali Asghar, in his hands and throws it up to the heavens saying, “Look! Accept this sacrifice from me. Be my witness, my God!”
Martyrdom also has a special meaning
Martyrdom also has a special meaning in our humanistic philosophy. The creation of a mankind who is a blend of God and the devil, a mixture of the spirit and clay and the combination of the lowest and highest peaks, in the composition of religion and its recitals, devotions, prayers, jurisprudence, good-deeds, services, science and all of these are only struggles and exercises made by man in order to weaken his inferior being in favor of his superior being and his devil clay part in favor of his divine spiritual part. But martyrdom is the action which a man suddenly and in a revolutionary way performs and throws his inferior being into the fire of a love and a faith and turns it into a light and divine being.
It is for this reason that a martyr does not need to perform the ablution, has no shroud and does not need to give any account on the Day of Judgment. A martyr has already sacrificed the being of error and sin prior to death and now has arisen to bear witness.
السلام على الحسين
May Peace be upon Al Husain
وعلى اولاد الحسين
And the children of Al Husain
وعلى اصحاب الحسين
And the companions of Al Husain