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Friday, December 28, 2012

The Wedge Within

Original Article: Daily Times
Date: Published: November 29, 2012
Original link: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\11\29\story_29-11-2012_pg3_4

When Allama Iqbal dreamt of the unity of Muslims to protect the sanctity of the Holy Kaaba, he was not thinking of the ongoing suicide blasts of today. United we are for sure, in different factions with only one cause in mind: how to eliminate or annihilate the other. It is with a false hope that ours is the right one and the others are nothing but a bunch of heretics. As far as the Holy Kaaba is concerned, the One who owns it is fully capable of protecting it. From the very first stone laid by Adam to the present day monument, He obviously does not need a bunch of hypocrites like us to protect what has survived for centuries. It is a shame that we do not learn from the Holy Book where the chapter of ‘The Elephant’ narrates the triumph of tiny birds and their pebbles against an army of mighty elephants.

If you think the scribe is off base in opening with such scathing and critical remarks, then let me explain. Another Muharram is here and another bloodbath has begun. The people are at each others’ throats and processions of mourners commemorating the death of Hussain (AS) are being mourned. The bombs go off somewhere and the body parts of many scatter in the air. As the mourners of Hussain (AS) say ‘Labbaik Ya Hussain’, off they embark on their eternal journey. The gruesome footage of these horrific scenes and the beheadings of my Shia brethren transport one to the level of the deepest depression.

When my friends obfuscate and claim all Abrahamic faiths have divisions, whether Jews or Christians, I disagree. Yes, I disagree, because my Islam supersedes, because it is supposed to be the ‘final message’. This faith was finalised on the Mount of Arafat 1,400 years ago. No one is superior, neither an Arab nor a non-Arab, black or white, except the one who holds fear of God in his heart and possesses the inner wealth of piety.

But as soon as the Prophet (PBUH) departed, the wedge happened. The thrust of the difference very simply speaking was succession. Who leads the Ummah? By the way, people who think ‘democracy’ is a western concept ought to look at its nascent shape, in the form of ‘Bait’ that all of the Prophet’s companions had to have in order to lead. To say that Islam is incompatible with democracy is a major fallacy. But by the same token, pretending that Muslims cannot kill or harm another Muslim is another big one. The people who invited the grandson of the Prophet (PBUH) to Karbala were Muslims, and those who brutally murdered his family members were Muslims too. The bloodiest chapter of cruelty and inhumane acts was written at that battleground by none other than Muslims. It has created a divide so huge that hundreds of years later we are still where we began. The people who conspired and martyred Hussain (AS) have become the ultimate villains in history. Hussain (AS), on the other hand, by losing everything, including his life, to protect the will of his grandfather (PBUH) and his own legendary father Ali (AS) has managed to ensure his name in everlasting history.

With all due respect, in all these years what have we learned from his great sacrifice? We mourn and follow rituals to demonstrate our solidarity with the 72 oppressed members of his entourage. Yes, but is that enough? Why is the love for Hussain (AS) only evident in the month of Muharram? Because much like Ramadan, it is merely an annual ritual that we follow. To atone for sins, some do self-immolation, some walk on burning coals and some use knives and chains to inflict wounds on their bodies. My respects for all of those acts, as those acts are a testimony of unquestionable devotion and conviction. I still ask nevertheless: is that enough?

The message of Hussain’s (AS) martyrdom is to stand for what is just, stand for what is right. How many of us including myself have the courage to speak the truth, no matter what? How many of us love our God so much that we would prostrate in front of Him in the shadow of a creeping sword? The courage, the conviction and the strength of faith that Hussain (AS) demonstrated against all odds, we perhaps do not even have a fraction of a fraction within our souls. What we have done in essence is let Hussain (AS) and his sacrifice down by remaining divided into factions. His sacrifice was meant to teach us to be fearful of God and follow the path that his grandfather (PBUH) had charted for us. Hundreds of years later, we are doing exactly what the conspirators did to him. Kill the innocents, behead the unarmed, and label each other with the ultimate scorn of apostasy.

What has always amazed me is that hundreds of years later, we are perhaps waiting for a messiah to come and mediate our self-created differences. Or perhaps some think that the ulema should take charge and make the repairs. Again with all due respect to such aspirations, had that any merit or hope, it would have happened by now. And by the way, how irreconcilable are these differences?

The wedge between you and me needs to be filled by you and me. We have one God, one Prophet (PBUH), and one Holy Book. These are the biggest similarities to have and share. If we can only agree on these, then and only then we can claim to be real Muslims. If we remain divided by bigotry, intolerance and hatred then I am afraid we are doing a major disservice to the martyrs of Karbala each year regardless of what month of the lunar calendar it may be.

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