For the past few days all roads led towards Karbala for commemoration of the 20th of Safar. According to reports, devotees have converged in millions at the rendezvous of martyrs from all over Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, the Republic of Azerbaijan, India, Africa and other parts of the world. A majority of pilgrims have trekked to Karbala on foot – some of them barefooted, as a mark of respect to the sufferings of the children and ladies of the Blessed Household of Prophet Mohammad (blessings of God upon him and his progeny). It is an irony of Islamic history that following the Tragedy of Ashura, the survivors were dragged in chains towards Kufa, and thence to Damascus in Syria to the court of the tyrant Yazid – through an arduously circuitous route that traversed what are now the border areas of Turkey and Lebanon, in order to avoid towns and cities where people were sympathetic to the Ahl al-Bayt.
Today, clad in black and chanting “Ya Husain (AS)”, the roaring sea of the faithful assembled in Karbala, is not afraid of the dastardly terrorists who have threatened to target them with bombs and missiles. A testimony in this regard is the presence of women, children, toddlers in prams, the elderly in wheelchairs, and even physically handicapped persons moving slowly but surely on their disabled feet with whatever strength that is left in their out bodies. The eyes of the world are glued to this greatest ever annual congregation, which is remarkably disciplined, cognizant of the Omnipresent Creator, obedient to the instructions of the Prophet, brimming with love for the Ahl al-Bayt, punctual in performing the obligatory 5-times-a-day ritual prayers, observing hygienic rules, and overflowing with fraternal affection for fellow pilgrims, for whose rest and refreshments, the general public, under supervision of the Iraqi and Iranian governments, is vying with each other to provide necessary amenities.
What is the philosophy behind observance of the 40-day period? It is a good question, and the answer could be found by a study of the holy Qur’an and hadith literature. In Ayah 51 of Surah Baqarah, God Almighty says: “And when We made an appointment with Moses for forty nights.”
God also informs us in Ayah 142 of Surah Anaam: “And We made an appointment with Moses for thirty nights, and completed them with ten [more]; thus the tryst of his Lord was completed in forty nights…”
A study of these Ayahs make us realize that there is some Divine Wisdom behind the figure 40, otherwise Prophet Moses would not have spent forty days in seclusion on Mount Sinai. Those in doubt regarding the wording of the Final and Universal Revelation of God for all mankind, the holy Qur’an, are advised to browse through the Old Testament, where despite the havoc of interpolation over the past three millenniums, it seems certain facts still remain. For instance in the Book of Exodus, Chapter 24, Verse 18 we read: “Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.”
Interestingly, the New Testament also seems to have retained some of the truth in spite of the additions and deletions of the past two millenniums, when it says in the Gospel of St. Mathew, chapter 4, verse 2: “And when he (Jesus) had fasted forty days and forty nights, he felt hungry.”
Regardless of the fact that this quote from the Gospel is a firm refutation of the Christian claim of Jesus being a godson (a deity neither has the human appetite to eat nor the need to fast and feel hungry afterwards), it again proves the dynamism behind the figure of forty days.
Peace upon you O Aba Abdullah al-Husain (AS). Peace upon the millions of pilgrims who have converged on your holy shrine in Karbala from all over the world to commemorate your Arba’een – the 40th day following the anniversary of your martyrdom.
At a time, when none of the self-acclaimed followers of the Qur’an, the Evangel, and the Torah, have any idea of the Divine Wisdom behind decreeing a 40-day period for sacred missions, each year your mourners, despite the attacks of the dastardly terrorists, have kept alive God’s fixing of this specific period. The followers of the Ahl al-Bayt, in all their humility, are proud to remember the famous saying of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA), who had said: “Indeed the earth laments over the death of a true believer for the period of 40 days.”
So, if the earth mourns for forty days for an ordinary believer, then how about the lamentation for the Prophet’s grandson and his 3rd Infallible Heir, Imam Husain
(AS), who in order to keep alive Islam and all humanitarian values sacrificed not only his life, but the life of his dear and near ones, including sons, brothers, nephews and companions?
The Martyr of Karbala’s grandson, Imam Mohammad Baqer (AS), who as a 4-year boy was present in Karbala on the bloodcurdling day of Ashura, has informed us of the aggrieved state of the sky as well for this same number of days, following Imam Husain’s (AS) sacrifice: “Indeed the sky lamented over the death of al-Husain for a period of 40 days.”
So why do the Zionists, the imperialists, and the Takfiri terrorists, are opposed to our commemoration of the tragedy of Karbala, when the earth and the sky lament for the martyrdom of the grandson of the Almighty’s Last and Greatest Messenger? Didn’t Imam Husain (AS) by courting martyrdom, rather than acknowledging the illegal rule of a Godless libertine, taught humanity how to stand firm in the face of injustice, moral decadence, and attempts to distort the laws of God? Isn’t the 40-day period for divine causes, specifically mentioned in the revealed scriptures?
The answers are obvious. They are against truth, justice, peace, moral virtues, and humanitarian values. A brief radio programme cannot do justice to Imam Husain (AS), who along with his elder brother, Imam Hasan (AS) was hailed by the Prophet as the Twin Leader of the Youths of Paradise – as confirmed by the authoritative works of our Sunni brethren. As the Successor of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA), Imam Ali (AS) and Imam Hasan (AS), the son of the Noblest-ever Lady Fatema Zahra (SA), he could not endorse Yazid’s illegal and ungodly rule, because this would have thrown cold water on not Islamic teachings but the legacy of the prophets of the past, including Abraham, Moses and Jesus.
In view of these facts, Imam Husain (AS) had written a lengthy letter to the Omayyad usurper of the caliphate, Mu’awiyyah ibn Abu Sufyan, warning him of the consequences of nominating Yazid as successor, in violation of the holy Qur’an and the ethereal teachings of Islam. Here we cite only one single paragraph from this historic letter:
“O Mu’awiyyah! Be prepared for divine retribution and be sure of the accounting before Allah. And know that the scroll of deeds has a record of every small and big sin. Nothing is omitted from it. Allah will never excuse your act of arresting people on mere suspicion. You accused wrongly the saintly people with baseless allegations and slaughtered them. You made them abandon their houses to be homeless in strange lands. You forcibly extracted allegiance from the people for your drunkard and dog-loving son.”
The Day of Arba’een thus refreshes our grief, and renews our aspirations for peace, security, moral virtues and justice when we travel to Karbala, or with faces turned towards this holy city in Iraq, we recite every year the famous Ziyarah for this day, which is one of the five signs of a true believer. Here is a passage from it. “And I bear witness that you kept your promise made with Allah, and strived in His way until what was certain came upon you, so curse of Allah be on those who killed you, and curse of Allah be on those who oppressed you, and curse of Allah be on the people who came to know of it and approved (of all of it).”