The great figures of history belong to all humankind. Does Plato belong to the Greeks? Is Nelson Mandela only a role model for South Africans? Can only African Americans learn from the example of Martin Luther King?
The circumstances of the life of Hussain, the grandson of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (a.s) are repeated throughout human history and touch all our lives.
What do we do when faced with injustice: cave in or take a stand?
What are the duties of a leader when everyone is looking to you for an example to follow? We can think of situations of tyranny and injustice around the world today as well; some of those involved call themselves Muslims. Hussain was faced with a tyrant, who had taken power and was demanding an oath of allegiance from all the prominent people in the Muslim community. To refuse meant certain death. Should he give in and save his life or should he take a stand for what he knew to be right?
He must have had in mind a saying from Prophet Mohammad (a.s):
“The greatest jihad is to speak the word of truth into the face of a tyrant!”
Hussain did not want to provoke civil war and the loss of many lives. He tried to avoid conflict but went willingly to his death rather than do what he knew to be wrong.
In this he set an example as ‘The Prince of Martyrs’ that others may follow. In the final battle, he and his companions, men, women and children experienced terrible hardships and yet he persevered. He witnessed the death, one by one, of his family members and closest friends before being slaughtered himself. This is the example that he gives to humankind. There are some things more important than preserving one’s own life. As he said himself on the day of battle:
“Death for freedom is happiness and life with unjust people is nothing but grief.”
Written by Dr Chris Hewer
Christian Theology & Islamic Studies