How Karbala Teaches Us the Way to Live Our Life

Before we begin this meditation, let me first explain the motivation for the themes that we are covering in this series of meditations. As a Muslim living in the West, I am often asked about whether Islam and the West are compatible and, as many of you are also Muslims living in the West, I am sure that you have thought about how to be successful in the West whilst being a good Muslim. We have shown, through Western Philosophy, the etymology of Western Words and through Hadiths and examples from Karbala that both of these are actually aligned. In essence, although it may be easier to practice Islam in an Islamic country than in the West, Islam is the truth and the truth is applicable and applies in any time and in place. May Allah (SWT) make it easier for us to understand this. Aamin.

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues that we are teleological beings as we need to have targets and goals to aim towards in order to be happy. Aristotle further states that the main target that we are all striving to achieve is eudaimonia, which essentially means good soul. In essence, whenever we are living the highest version of ourselves, our soul is happy and, consequently, we are happy. When we are not living to our highest potential, our soul is unhappy and so are we.

When we look at what we need to be experiencing eudaimonia, we see that it is many of what we have covered so far in our Muharrum meditations: being heroic, acting with courage and with love (for Allah (SWT) and the creations of Allah (SWT)), experiencing enthusiasm, having confidence and being of service. In essence, when we are performing these, our soul is satisfied with us and we experience eudaimonia.

Imam Jaffar as-Sadiq (AS) said:

 When we read these words of Imam as-Sadiq (AS) carefully, we see that our Imam (AS) is also describing eudaimonia. When our soul is satisfied with us and is certain that we are living the highest version of our self, we experience tranquillity and comfort. When our soul is not satisfied and doubtful that we are living the highest, we worry and experience sorrow, as our conscience gently nudges us back towards living as the highest version of our self.

When we translate the concept of eudaimonia into Islam, we see that it correlates perfectly with Nafsul-Muthmainnah, the perfected soul. In previous meditations we have discussed how Imam Jaffar as-Sadiq (AS) related Surah al-Fajr to Imam Hussain (AS) and, specifically the 27th and 28th ayats where Allah (SWT) says that to the righteous it will be said ‘O reassured soul, return to your Lord, well-pleased and pleasing to Him’.

On the night of Ashura, we see the perfect example a person choosing between Nafsul-Ammara, a worthless soul, and Nafsul-Muthmainnah, the perfected soul. We see a person choosing between continuing a purposeless life or experiencing, even for a short time, the experience of eudaimonia. Hur (AS) was with the enemy and was the one who led Imam Hussain (AS) to Karbala. However, before the Day of Ashura, Hur (AS) was outside the tent of Imam Hussain (AS) and Mohajer bin Ows (AS) asked Hur (AS) if he was here to attack. Hur (AS) said that he was stuck between heaven and hell and, consequently, Hur (AS) left the side of the enemies and joined the Imam (AS) and achieved martyrdom. 

Through the story of Hur (AS) we see that we are also stuck between heaven and hell. It is in this world that we either earn our place in Jannah or we are compelled to Jahannum. We earn Jannah through being the highest version of ourselves, by striving towards Nafsul-Muthmainnah and eudaimonia. We are compelled to Jahannum if we have Nafsul-Ammara and an attachment to this world that prevents us from becoming the higher version of our self that Allah (SWT) created us to be. Just like Hur (AS), by choosing Nafsul-Muthmainnah and eudaimonia, we will be free from doubt, worry and sorrow in this world and from the hellfire in the next.

May Allah (SWT) grant us all the wisdom to strive to be the highest version of our self, to pursue Nafsul-Muthmainnah and eudaimonia, just as the shohoda of Karbala did. May we, through this teleological pursuit, do good deed after good deed after good deed and, ultimately, leave this world reassured, knowing that we are returning to our Lord well-pleased and pleasing to him. Aamin.

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