How Arbaeen Walk Revitalises Imam Hussain’s Message About Resisting Oppression
Arbaeen walk is recognised as the largest peaceful gathering all over the globe where millions of people walk to the shrines of Imam Husain Ibn E Ali (A. S) and his half-brother Hazrat Abbas (A. S) in Karbala on the 20th of Safar. It is marked with great significance as people on 20th Safar commemorate the 40th days of mourning the 10th of Muharram and pay their tribute to the martyrs of Karbala. It was on 10th of Muharram 61 Hijri, when Hussain ibn Ali (A. S), the grandson of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was slaughtered along with his family members and companions by the army of Yazid, after being deprived of food and water.
Even after 1381 years since this tragedy, the incident is still fresh in our minds and inspires all of humanity in numerous ways. Karbala will keep on being the flagship of inspiration for generations to come. Imam Hussein (A.S.) does not belong to a single community, or nation or religion. He is a universal and borderless epitome of freedom and social justice. Arbaeen depicts a positive narrative of devotion, solidarity, and resilience against the worst atrocity in humankind history.
Arbaeen is no doubt a commemoration of Imam Hussain (AS)’s revolution. A revolution which was aimed at fighting against social injustice, oppression, and people’s unawareness. The tyrants at the time of Imam Hussain (AS) did everything to abolish the limits that distinguish right from wrong and aimed at redefining the religious and social values according to their own will for the society of that time. But Imam Hussain (AS) stood against them and did not allow them to be successful in their evil plans by sacrificing himself and his family to revive Islam. He firmly believed that living under a tyranny was the same as living in hell:
“To me, death is nothing but happiness and living under tyrants nothing but living in hell.”
The Arbaeen walk indeed is a symbolic demonstration of the social message that Imam Hussain (A.S.) has taught all of humankind irrespective of their religion, belief, or nationality. Through his martyrdom, Imam Hussain showed us that we should always stand against the oppressors of our times and not with them. We should not remain silent in the face of injustice and oppression in spite of all the difficulties that might come our way. Therefore, despite the passing of many centuries people from all around the globe attend the annual walk of Arbaeen to honour and revitalize his everlasting message of peacefulness, truthfulness, and social justice.
Another dimension that Arbaeen highlights is the moral/ ethical perspective of Imam Hussain’s (A.S.) revolution, which is about promoting good, truth and justice and not only standing against but forbidding evil and injustice. As rightly put by Imam Hussain (AS) himself:
“I seek to enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil and follow the traditions of my grandfather (Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.)) and my father (Imam Ali (AS))”
Courage, according to modern thinkers and many philosophers like Plato and Aristotle, is one of the most vital human virtues. For Plato, courage is “what allows reason to rule, both in the individual and in society.” It takes a lot of courage to live by principles and moral values in this world. Because if you are alive, then it is criminal on your part if you do not raise your voice against the oppressors and their atrocities and for the oppressed. Whether it is for the oppressed people of Kashmir or the oppressed Palestinians, Yemenis or Syrians, rape culture or Shia genocide, one must stand up and act. Unfortunately, many of us are not bothered by these oppressive practices and are not affected enough to take any action. This is because most of us are afraid and are waiting for some superhero to come as our savior and save us from all the existing social injustices. We must remind ourselves that the superhero resides within us; all we have to do is recognize it. So, in the present status-quo, the least we can do is raise our voices because every voice and every word of ours has the potential to make a difference! Instead of being the voiceless sheep submitting to corrupt and unjust rulers, it is high time for us to muster the courage to stand up against oppression, discrimination, to stop violence against women, to preserve the earth, to stand up against rape culture and genocide.
The Arbaeen walk also sheds light on the social message of peacefulness by Imam Hussain (A.S.). It gives a clear message to the world that Islam is a religion of peace, human solidarity, social cohesion, and love for others. The sight of doctors and physicians offering their services for free, the largest number of volunteers facilitating the pilgrims, poor people feeding the hungry and sick ones are serving the healthy. It is an event that symbolizes women empowerment as women are walking fearlessly with pride and dignity with their children for three consecutive days from the city of Najaf Ashraf to Karbala. One can witness a beautiful glimpse of an amalgamation of so many emotions of the Zayireens (people walking towards the shrines) filled with hope, love, kindness, and sacrifice.
Indeed, there are so many lessons and values to be learnt from this spiritual walk in which people from all over the world participate irrespective of their sect, profession, social status, and religion. Thus, depicting that Imam Hussain (A.S.) does not belong to just one sect but the entire humanity. To follow Imam Hussain (as) does not only mean to stand against the oppressors of Imam Hussain (A.S.)’s time who ordered to kill the Imam (A.S) and his followers. To follow Imam Hussain (as) in today’s time is to resist against the collective “Yazid” of our time who are oppressing the oppressed and are the embodiment of social injustice and to remain steadfast on this virtuous path. I hope that the values that we learn from Imam Hussain (A.S.) revolution – the lantern of social justice can be embraced in our daily lives. All it would take is a little effort on our part to make Imam Hussain and Karbala a part of our lives. Let us all make a promise today, a promise that we will use every opportunity to display a strong will to denounce social injustice and arrogant powers. Rabindranath Tagore, an Indian philosopher, and poet, said “In order to keep alive justice and truth, instead of an army or weapons, success can be achieved by sacrificing lives, exactly what Imam Hussain did”