Dr Augustus Norton,a professor in department of political science at Boston university writes in his theses that ” the vents of Karbala provide a way of cementing peoples political identification ,and have also secede as a focal point for mass political mobilization in
Lebanon, Iraq and Iran”. Contemporary Shia leaders shaped Imam Hussein’s martyrdom as preeminent spirit of heroism and sacrifice for all be to emulate in their struggle against oppressors and A standard by which all acts of martyrdom is analogized.
In contemporary form several incidents come to my mind amongst them.
In October 1983, during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon an Israeli military convoy desecrated the Ashura commemoration in southern Lebanon town of Nabatiya. Lebanese Shiite leader Mufti Mohammed Mahdi shams al din issued a fatwa calling on all Muslims to initiate total civil opposition to the Israeli occupation whose oppression was easily cpmpared by Lebanese Shiites with the tyrannical Umayyad ruler Yazid. The Nabatiya incident was a milestone in the resistance against occupation, inflaming their passion and setting off the resistance and subsequent hurried withdrawal from south Lebanon by Israel.
The most important politicization of Karbala occurred in Iran and the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini with the full opposition to the self styled king of kings – The Shah Pahlavi- who ultimately fell from power in 1979 after Islamic revolution. Here again Karbala and the resistance of Imam Hussein was a cornerstone in grouping the masses to topple tyranny.
In Iraq where imam Hussein is buried his shrine attracts millions of pilgrims every year the Shias have high expectations. The removal of Tyrant Saddam has brought a tremendous shift of balance of power in the Middle East and the theme of martyrdom and unjust usurpation of power that was all too evident has once again ignited the theme of Karbala and Imam Hussein’s resistance.
All in all the relevance of struggle of Imam Hussein was an attempt to humanize power, to align it to gentle spirit of humanity. The nature and exercise of power has remained unchanged throughout the centuries, yet the struggle against tyranny an injustice remains unshakable.
A conscious human race today understands on a mass scale the compulsions of fair play and compassion that is why the world today requires a renaissance one that can redefine the culture over power and politics veneering it towards humanism that cuts across all religions and ideologies.
Karbala is little understood but it offers a scholarly insight for theologians and layperson alike that needs to be explored and pondered upon in the present world situation where oppression and injustice is the order of the day.
With the passage of time and centuries down Imam Hussein has come to symbolize, more and more the integral sense of justice and courage of conviction because his martyrdom represents an enduring lesson to humanity and a legacy of initiatives for tolerance and religious pluralism arising from within Islamic tradition.
The supreme sacrifice offered by Imam Hussein is not for specific group; it is for entire humanity and particularly for the oppressed.
And so he came, he fell and he conquered….