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Shi'a Pundit

Devoted to the viewpoint of Islam of Muhammad SAW and Amir ul-Mumineen, Ali ibn Abi Talib SA, in the Shi'a Fatimi Ismaili Dawoodi Bohra tradition.

March 4, 2003


The dawn of the new year is a poignant time for a Shi'a, for it heralds the beginning of the ten days of Ashara, the martyrdom of Imam Husain AS. I have chosen to pay homage by reproducing the intro to the book, A Story of Faith, by Rashidabhen Ghadiali of Mumbai, which tells the history and background of this event:

Rasulullah (SAW) himself had declared that the community of Islam would split into seventy-two fragments and one more, before the Day of Judgement. Hardly had Rasulullah passed away, when the first major split occurred when tempted by the wealth and power of the Islamic world, a large group of the Muslims acknowledged Abu Bakr as their leader, choosing to forget that Rasulullah had, in the presence of seventy thousand people sworn that Ali was heir to all that he, Rasulullah, was Maula of. The community of Islam reeled. Rasulullah had died. If that was not catastrophe enough, his companions had already betrayed the pledge. To maintain calm in a time of such distress, Maulana Ali AS refrained from the assertion of his rights, choosing forebearance, telling Maulatena Fatema AS as the muezzin's voice asserted that Rasulullah was the messenger of Islam, "Why do I keep silent? Because if I lifted the sword you would not hear your father's name in the azaan anymore."

Abu Bakr, Umar, Usman, died one after another. Maulana Ali had always been leader of the mumineen whether or not he controlled the Islamic empire. But now, he ascended the caliphate for four years until his death. After him, his son, Imam Hasan AS was designated caliph. Muawiya, son of Abu Sufyan, found this unbearable and violently claimed the post. Imam Hasan made peace with Muawiya, appearing to acede to his claim to political leadership while in Medina, he continued with his quiet work. Imam Hasan was poisoned and died a little while later, and Imam Husayn suceeded him as the second Imam of the Shias.

In Damascus, the political centre of the Umaiyyads, Yazid succeeded Muawiya. He was aware that in Medina Imam Husayn still called people to Islam and the Shias continued to follow and revere him whether or not he offered them a chance to rule the world. The deen of Islam showed no signs of weakening and day by day Husayn's strength grew. Incensed, he sent word to Imam Husayn to come to his court and offer him a pledge of allegiance in order to ensure that Imam Husayn would never be a threat to him. Husayn went to Syria and found Yazid drinking wine, playing with dogs, allowing the dancers to entertain him, and enraged and impassioned at the mockery of the faith, Imam Husayn swore that he would never pledge loyalty to this man.

Yazid threatened by the power of the son of Maulana Ali and fearing the wrath of the idealistic Shias, had Imam Husayn slaughtered by Shimr, with his two sons, sixteen other men from the family, and fifty-four others, after starving them all, depriving them of water for three days in the blazing heat, before outnumbering each one by a thousand in one of the most heartrending battles in the history of mankind.

And so Imam Husain was martyred, and that was on 10th Muharram - Yawm - e Ashura. Ya Husain!

I do apologise to any of my Sunni brothers for any offense they may take from these, my beliefs. But I must be true to my convictions and I will not be held back from my assertion of same, especially not during Muharram. This is a time for grief, reflection, and ibadat. Nothing else.

I remain steadfast in my respect of other muslims (except those whose interpretations lead them to violence against innocents. This I will never sanction). I ask that the same respect is accorded to me as well.

Mubarak to everyone for the dawn of this year, 1424 Hijri.

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Nahj-ul Balagha

About Shi'a Pundit

Shi'a Pundit was launched in 2002 during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The blog focuses on issues pertaining to Shi'a Islam in the west and in the Islamic world. The author is a member of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community. Bohras adhere to the Shi'a Fatimi tradition of Islam, headed by the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (TUS).

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