Recalibrating ‘Azā

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Recalibrating ‘Azā
By: Agha Shabbir Abbas

As we are in the days of mourning, Ayyām ‘Azā, it is important for us to reflect on the purpose of ‘Azā and to recalibrate it if necessary. The supreme sacrifice of Imam Husayn (‘a), his family, and companions, is such that the world has never seen before and it has unleashed a torrent of emotions that has flowed non-stop for over fourteen hundred years. In the midst of such a deluge, the maqsad (purpose) of the sacrifice is ever at risk of being lost, therefore it is obligatory to return to the Imam himself for guidance, to understand his motive.

When asked why he decided to leave the comforts of his home in Madinah, why he placed his entire family at risk, he answered succinctly:

“…وإنّما خَرَجْتُ لطَلب الإصلاح في أمّة جدّي رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم، أُريد أن آمر بالمعروف وأنهى عن المُنكَر…”

“And I have left my home only to seek reformation in my grandfather’s nation. I desire to enjoin goodness and to forbid evil.”

The Imam explains that his only objective was to rectify the straying nation of his grandfather, the noble Messenger Muhammad (s), and to command upon righteousness combatting the forces of injustice. Therefore, as this was the core motive behind our Imam’s stand at Karbala, it too needs to be the core theme of our ‘Azā; and this is so because our Imam, nearing his final moments, exclaimed:

” هل من ناصر ينصرنا هل من معين يعيننا هل من ذاب عن حرم رسول الله صلى الله عليه واله؟”

“Is there any helper who can help us, is there any supporter to support us, is there anyone who defends the sanctity of the Messenger of Allah?”

The historians and scholars largely agree that this final plea of the Imam was not to anyone on the battlefield, for he was then all alone facing the enemy who slaughtered the likes of ‘Ali al-Akbar and Qāsim – and no humanity could the Imam expect from such savages, it was instead an eternal invitation to his lovers not present, specifically in the future generations to lift the banner of Aba’l-Fadl al-’Abbās and to continue the movement of reformation and justice.

Hence, every strike on the chest, every verse of poetry sung from the mouth, and every tear fallen on one’s cheeks must agree with the objectives of the Imam; and if it does not it must be recalibrated as such. The practices of ‘Azā now are not the same as a hundred years ago, and the practices a hundred years ago are not the same as the practices two hundred years ago, and the trend is continuous till its very advent. ‘Azā has evolved and adjusted based on time and space, language and culture, the spirit has however always remained the same; a movement of reform, garbed in the robes of sadness, nourished by the tears of the believers.

(This article was originally written for the Masjid-e-Ali Newsletter)

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