By Suehaila Amen
There was a quiet beauty in the South of
Lebanon this weekend as villages prepared for the commemoration of Ashura and
remembrance of Imam Hussain’s (as) stand against oppression.
Driving through the villages, I watched as
communities came together to decorate for the activities that will stretch over
the first ten days of Muharram.
At two locations, I stopped to take in the
immensity of the moment. Men and women,
young and old, quietly working together to erect flags, raise banners and post
Sending up a silent Dua (supplication), I
asked God to bless the men and women working on such a meaningful occasion.
This is the first time that I am in Lebanon
during such a sacred month. There is so
much to absorb and learn during this time and I am grateful I get to be here
for the experience.
It’s Not About Your Attendance
Before I talk about Ashura, Hussain (as),
the Battle of Karbala and the work being done to live out his legacy, let me
share my own thoughts on spending this time in reflection.
Admittedly, I do not often attend nightly
lectures during Ashura. While living in
America, I would do my best to attend lectures, especially when speakers came
from other communities.
Having worked in the sphere of non-profits
and community leadership, I would pick and choose where I frequent and have my
reasoning for it.
That is my choice and my business. I do not feel that others have the right to
interfere in my decision making.
Just because you do not wear black or
attend a house of worship or lecture hall, does not mean you are not following
the faith or living the legacy of Ahl ul Bayt (family of the Prophet) or
neglecting the commemoration of Ashura.
Ashura is more than a ten or forty day time
frame for people. For the Shia’a
community and those who observe the mourning of this period in Islamic history,
it is a time of remembrance, commemoration, and opportunity.
During this time, people re-evaluate their
efforts in the fight against tyranny and oppression.
As a globally conscious Muslim and
activist, I live the legacy of Hussain (as) each day.
Working throughout the years, I made every
effort to fight against oppressive policies, laws, and governments.
Protesting injustice, persecution, and
discrimination, I and countless others have devoted decades of our lives to
helping others overcome adversity and oppression.
This is what it means to commemorate
Hussain’s (as) life and live his legacy.
It is so much more than ten days of lectures, lamentation, and
It’s a Personal Choice
People do not have the right to police
others when it comes to their commitment to knowledge of faith or attendance in
places of communal worship.
A person’s relationship with God is personal.
Oftentimes we get caught up in socializing
in public settings. I find I am more
focused when I am alone.
Wherever I choose to be, whether listening
to supplication and Qur’an, reading books on the faith or moments in history,
or watching a lecture by a scholar abroad, I am connected to God and His
Keep doing what makes you happy and content
in your relationship with God. He knows
and sees all.
“ALLAH knows (all) that is in your hearts.”
– Holy Qur’an, Chapter 33, Verse 51
Living the Legacy Of Hussain (AS)
“If Husain had fought to quench his worldly
desires…then I do not understand why his sister, wife, and children accompanied
him. It stands to reason, therefore, that he sacrificed purely for Islam.” –
The legacy of Imam Hussain (as) is so much
more than ten days of Islamic supplication and lamentation. It is more than simply standing for what is
right and just.
Hussain (as) was a man of immense faith,
compassion, high moral standards, and exemplary ethics.
His empathy for humanity and commitment to
fighting tyrannical regimes and oppressive rulers is recognized throughout
history and by extraordinary global leaders and academics.
The praise of Hussain’s (as) stands against
Yazid and the inspirational and outspoken leadership of Sayeda Zainab (as) that
followed, marks the path of Ahl ul Bayt (as) within the Muslim
The Battle of Karbala and stand of Hussain
(as) was recorded in countless history books and would inspire generations to
“I learned from Hussain how to be wronged
and be a winner, I learned from Hussain how to attain victory while being
oppressed.”? Mahatma Gandhi
The story of Hussain (as) is a time that
invokes abundant grief and sadness among the Ummah (nation) who remember the
Battle of Karbala and heinous acts of Yazid’s army.
Today, tens of millions continue to visit
the shrines of the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) beloved family.
On the 40th of Muharram, 20-25 million
people, Muslim and non-Muslim, will be found in Karbala, Iraq, commemorating in
what is the considered the largest, most peaceful gathering in the region and
As a Muslim following the path of my
Prophet and his progeny (pbut), I ask myself each day, “What have I done to
live out the legacy of one of the most celebrated and revered revolutionaries
Who is Hussain Ibn Ali (AS – Peace Be
Ashura marks the death of a revolutionary
leader, revered for his social justice and stand against oppressiveness and
Hussain ibn Ali (as) was a righteous and
The beloved grandson of Islam’s holy
Prophet, Muhammad (pbuh– peace and blessings upon him), he is the inspiration
behind movements pushing back against injustice and tyranny for centuries.
Killed in the Battle of Karbala in the 7th
Century, Hussain (as) is honoured by hundreds of millions around the globe.
His valour and stand against the
corruption, injustice, and tyranny of Ummayad ruler, Yazid, the illegitimate
and oppressive ruler of the time, is respected in history.
Hussain (as) stated that “I will never give
Yazid my hand like a man who has been humiliated, nor will I flee like a
slave. I have not risen to spread evil
or to show off… I only desire to enjoin good values and prevent evil.”
Born Into a Righteous Family
Hussain (as) was born into a blessed
The son of Fatima Az-Zahra and Ali Ibn Abi
Taleb (as), the daughter and son-in-law and cousin of the Holy Prophet Muhammad
(pbuh), their strong character, righteous values, and nonviolent practices were
admired by all in the region.
It was the Holy Prophet who raised his
children and grandchildren to truly embody all the beautiful aspects of Akhlaq
(ethics) in Islam.
This is what we strive to follow and
This moral code serves as the foundation
for all Muslims, no matter their school of thought practice or nation of
The morality, piety, and compassion of the
Holy Prophet and his family (pbut) was model behaviour and defied the societal
norms of that time.
The Akhlaq of the Holy Prophet
Muhammad (pbuh) and his Ahl ul Bayt is a source of guidelines for all Muslims
May God keep us focused on striving to
achieve that kind of character.
Standing For What You Believe In
Hussain (as) witnessed the decline of
morality and rise of corruption within the Muslim Ummah under the rule of
Refusing to pledge allegiance to a tyrant,
Hussain (as) stood strong in his convictions.
He would not bow to Yazid and knew that in
failing to do so, Yazid would seek revenge and put Hussain (as) and his family
It was a stand that Hussain (as) was
willing to make for the sake and protection of Islam.
He refused to allow Yazid to desecrate
Islam and the teachings of his grandfather, Muhammad (pbuh).
Though he did not want violence, Hussain
(as) was prepared to stand against the unethical leader and followers.
He organized a group of 72 Muslims to
accompany him and his family as they traveled to Iraq.
Willing to sacrifice all he had and was,
Hussain (as) put Islam, the accurate path of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh),
He pushed back against the tyrannical
leadership that threatened the future of Islam and the Muslim Ummah (nation).
Their journey would mark a historical
turning point in Islam and would serve as one of the greatest schisms that
would impact the greater Muslim Ummah.
The Battle of Karbala
Yazid ordered Hussain (as) and his
companions to be attacked.
Still refusing to pledge allegiance to an
illegal and oppressive ruler, Hussain (as) forged ahead, remaining strong in
Valiantly fighting against a well-equipped
army, Hussain (as) did not back down from his principles.
As he and his companions were denied water
for three days, they knew that difficulty was ahead.
Yazid’s army killed Hussain’s (as)
Having endured tremendous wounds, Hussain
(as) was finally beheaded on the plains of Karbala by the oppressor, Shimr, who
was sent by Yazid.
He died fighting injustice with his
morality and ethics intact. It was a
tragic event and is still commemorated today.
The name of each martyr of Islam is
deep-rooted in the hearts of believers.
These are the people who stood for justice and the teachings of the
Prophet Muhammad (as).
“Death with dignity is better than a life
of humiliation.” – Hussain (as)
Standing Your Ground
A disgraceful people, the army of Yazid
took the family of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and Hussain (as) captive, parading
them, shackled, through the streets to the courtyard of Yazid. Hussain’s (as) head on display.
“Do not think of those who are slain for
the cause of Allah as dead. They are alive with their Lord and receive
sustenance from Him.” – Holy Qur’an, Surah Ale Imran, 3: 169
During these moments, the truth of Islam
and those who bear its flag and carry within them the Akhlaq of our beloved
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), was evident.
Sayeda Zainab (as), the sister of Hussain
(as), refused submission to Yazid and stood firm to the legacy and principles
of her grandfather, Muhammad (pbuh), and her brother, Hussain (as).
With conviction and valour, she criticized
and ridiculed Yazid and his counterparts in his own palace.
Berating the Ummayad dynasty, she inspired
and uplifted the oppressed and shocked those who stood and watched.
She held the oppressive leadership
responsible for the lack of principles within the community.
Her inspirational speeches would be what
laid the foundation for future uprisings against despotic leadership and
injustice that would come.
Can Read Sayeda Zainab (As)’S Famous Speech Here.
For some, this is the Ashura that most
people do not know about or have a limited understanding of.
Hold Tight To Your Convictions
How many of us are that committed to what
we believe in and stand up for?
Colin Kaepernick, an acclaimed athlete who
is known more for kneeling during the anthem to protest injustices in the U.S.
than his football plays is now the latest social justice rock star.
Nike ads show just how phenomenal and
inspiring standing against injustices can be.
Muslim activists like my dearest sisters,
Linda Sarsour, Zahraa Billoo, Dalia Mogahed, and Maysoon Zayid are among
countless others that fight each day against injustices around the globe.
These remarkable women and so many others
around the world exemplify the courage and bravery of Islam’s most esteemed
Whether the issue is Palestine, disabilities,
the environment, humanitarian crises, civil rights, or discrimination, there
are extraordinary examples of social justice warriors right here in our own
Each day, I pray for the safety of those
who are out there on the front lines, fighting hard against oppressive regimes,
legislators, big industry, lobbying firms, and sexual aggressors.
May God keep them strong, safe, eloquent,
and away from those who do harm. May
their bravery and courage be recognized and reinforced and their good deeds
Suehaila Amen is currently employed as the International and Diplomatic
Relations Consultant for the Union of Arab Banks.