We are currently meditating upon the value of our soul. In yesterday’s meditation, we discussed how Allah (SWT) has created us to work hard, as we strive to meet him. We concluded our meditation by looking at the Islamic purpose of why we work hard and how this has been lost in our modern world. In today’s meditation, we will analyze this further, as the very root behind this is closely related to the mission of Imam Hussein (AS) in Karbala.
When we were young, we all looked forward to our school holidays. As we work, we all look forward to the weekend and to the days we have as holidays. Towards the end of our working life, we look forward to our retirement. However, have we ever thought about why we look forward to them?
In the Quran Majid, Allah (SWT) gives us the answer to this important question. In the third ayat of Surah al-Insan, Allah (SWT) says that he has guided us onto the right path and then allowed us to choose to be grateful or ungrateful, to do right or wrong.
When we look at this ayat, we find that as humans, Allah (SWT) has given us two things that he has not given to any other creation. The first is to think critically and the second is to choose for our self.
When we look at the animal kingdom, for example, many animals migrate throughout the year to where their food and water will be. This for them is fixed. As humans, however, we can critically think about all of the places that we want to live in and, consequently, choose where we want to live, at any time of the year. This is just one example of a way in which we can apply this unique ability that Allah (SWT) has given us, that he has not given to any other creations.
As this is something that is so unique to us, it is also something that is so important to us, to think for our self and to make our own decisions. This is the real reason why we look forward to our holidays and our retirement, as we can then make our own decisions about what we want to do and when we want to do so, as opposed to this being dictated by others and by a schedule.
When we look at this at this from a philosophical level, we see that those decisions when we have ‘free time’ are only shallow decisions. We may choose the time we wake up, but do we understand the reason why we wake up? We may choose where we want to go, but do we reflect on the very essence of why we are here? Whereas those periods of time are ‘free time,’ what we truly crave is freedom.
As we are reflecting on Imam Hussein (AS) and the events in Karbala, it is important that we discuss what true freedom really is. After all, Imam Hussein (AS) is known as the Aba Abdillah (the father of freedom) and his mission was to ensure that we have this freedom, so what exactly is this?
In order to answer this very deep question, let us reflect upon some of the events of the Day of Ashura so that we can then fully understand this.
On the Day of Ashura, the angels came to Imam Hussein (AS) and asked him if the angels could destroy the enemies. The Imam (AS) gave a very important response in which he said that if the angels destroyed the enemy, then those who were at Karbala would lose the ability to choose.
When we look at Abbas (AS), he chose to go to the river to get water for Sakina (AS). When Abbas (AS) was at the river, he chose not to drink the water whilst the Imam (AS) was still thirsty.
When we look at Ali Akbar (AS), he chose to fight for his father, even though the enemy were calling them to their side.
When we look at Hurr (AS), we see that he chose to leave the enemy and join Imam Hussein (AS). When Hurr (AS) was martyred, Imam Hussein (AS) said that his mother had not made a mistake by calling him Hurr (AS), as he was free in this world and the next. Hurr’s (AS) name meant free man.
In all of these instances of choice, we see how the true meaning of freedom was expressed.
When we look at Abbas (AS), we cannot even imagine how thirsty he must have been. When we reflect upon when we fast for a few hours, we truly appreciate how sweet that first sip of water is when we break our fast. Abbas (AS) was thirsty for three days, in the heat of the desert. How tempting would the sweetness of that water have been?
Abbas (AS) was free as he had control over his very important need for water. His freedom from this need, however, ensured he did the right thing, by staying thirst because his Imam (AS) was also thirsty.
When we look at Ali Akbar (AS), we see a young man who made the right choice. When we are young, we often make the wrong choices as we do not have enough experience of the world to know better. Ali Akbar (AS), however, made a choice that was above his years. He (AS) chose to sacrifice himself for truth, even though he had his full life ahead of him.
When we look at Hurr (AS), we saw that he had the choice of being offered riches by Yazid (LA) in this world or offered Jannah in the next world, by Imam Hussein (AS). Hurr (AS) chose rightly.
On the other side, however, we saw tens of thousands of enemies who had chosen wrongly. They had restricted the family of Muhammad (SAW) from having water, knowing that they would be denied the water of Kauther in Jannah.
Many were elder to Ali Akbar (AS), with much more experience of this world than Ali Akbar (AS), but they made a decision that was more naïve than the decision that Ali Akbar (AS) had made.
Many even knew the fate that awaited them on the day of judgment and wanted to be like Hurr (AS), but their love for the duniya prevented to do so.
From these examples, which are just a handful from the Day of Ashura, we see the true meaning of freedom. Freedom is the ability to make the right choice for the pleasure of Allah (SWT). This is why Imam Hussein (AS) is the father of freedom, as he made the hardest choice possible, to give both his life and that of his family, for the pleasure of Allah (SWT).
The reason why the events of Karbala are still as relevant to us today, nearly 1400 years after they took place, is because this need for freedom is an eternal need. It is just as relevant today as it was then and will be just as relevant in another 1400 years. This freedom that was displayed by Imam Hussein (AS) and his family and companions was the true freedom of choice, to make the right choice, in the eyes of Allah (SWT), even in the hardest situations.
When we look at what makes this choice difficult, a love for this duniya in all of its forms, like greed, a lust for power and the need for position and prestige and, most importantly, a tyrannical leader that was moving people away from making the choices that would most please Allah (SWT), we see that all of this is what Imam Hussein (AS) stood against.
We often hear the words ‘every place is Karbala and every day is Ashura’. When we truly understand this, we know that we are constantly having to choose the right decision in the eyes of Allah (SWT), no matter where we are or what day it is. This is a daily, lifelong battle that Imam Hussein (AS) has taught us how to fight.
In today’s age, the biggest opponent we find is the need of the ego. In a social age, where we are more connected to others than ever before, we are also more connected to their opinions about us than ever before. As a result of this, we are more motivated to please others than ever before, regardless of whether that pleases Allah (SWT).
Imam Jaffar-us Sadiq (AS) stated that if every person in your town came in front of you and said something bad about you, that should not affect your opinion about yourself. Likewise, if everyone in your town came in front of you and said something good about you, that should also not affect your opinion about yourself. This is the true characteristic of a mumin.
In this social age, we must always remember this example from our Imam (AS), so that our choices and our decisions remain towards pleasing Allah (SWT), as opposed to the opinions of others in this world.
As humans, we will naturally have times in our life when we do not make the right decision and do not please Allah (SWT). When this happens, we must remember the conversation that Adam (AS) had with Allah (SWT) as he was leaving Jannah and coming to this world. Adam (AS) asked Allah (SWT) that if he knew that he would eat the apple and commit this sin, why did Allah (SWT) allow him to do so. Allah (SWT) explained that it was to show that everyone would sin, but it was the actions that happened after the sin that were important. Would we repent? Would we learn from this and not repeat the sin again? Whose wasilo would we take to repent for this sin?
As we come towards the day of Ashura, where we remember Imam Hussein (AS) and repent for our sins, we see how the Imam (AS) has both shown us how to make the right choice and how to repent from making the wrong choice. We see that Imam Hussein (AS) has shown us how to please our Lord and how to ask him for forgiveness for when we displease him.
This is the true meaning of freedom that Aba Abdillah (AS) has shown us. The freedom to make the right decision in our heart and in our mind, which is the decision that pleases Allah (SWT). Just as importantly, the freedom to turn to Allah (SWT) when we have made the wrong decision, always remembering that he is the most merciful.
May Allah (SWT) give us the understanding, through remembering Imam Hussein (AS) to remember the two greatest gifts that Allah (SWT) has given us, the freedom to think critically and to make the right choice. May the example of Imam Hussein (AS) and those who stood with him inspire us to make the right choice and may the dua mubarak of Imam Hussein (AS) in his shahadat always remind us of who to turn to when we make the wrong choices May the niyat behind our choices, our choices themselves and the way in which we correct our wrong choices always increase the value of our soul. Aamin.