Mourning for Injustice: From Ashura – 9/11*
By Kevin Barrett
Today is Ashura, a major Muslim holiday.
But don’t say “happy Ashura.” At least not to a Shia Muslim.
For Shia Muslims – and anyone else who chooses to lament the martyrdom of the Prophet’s grandson Hussein on this day – Ashura isn’t about happiness.
A holiday that isn’t about happiness?!
That’s a hard concept for Americans to grasp. Here in the USA every holiday is a celebration of the “pursuit of happiness”: We say happy Fourth of July, happy Halloween, happy Easter, happy Veterans Day, happy President’s Day, and happy Thanksgiving, happy Groundhog Day, happy National Secretaries Day, you name it. The only non-happy American holiday is Christmas – not because we’ve officially admitted that most people are miserable from seasonal affective disorder or being forced to interact with their families or whatever, but because for some reason we always say “merry Christmas” not “happy Christmas.” And “merry” basically just means “sufficiently happy while drunk on eggnog to tolerate ones relatives.”
So for Americans, every holiday is ostensibly happy or merry. An unhappy holiday is an oxymoron.
There are only two exceptions to this rule, and both are unofficial holidays: September 11th and JFK Day. Every time 9/11 and 11/22 roll around, people remember America’s two greatest-ever national tragedies: The killing of the last real President, and the final death of the Republic. 9/11 and JFK day are a bit like Ashura: They commemorate evil, unjust, murderous coups d’état.
Shia Muslims commemorate the slaughter of a good ruler, the Prophet’s grandson and legitimate heir Hussein, by the evil S.O.B. Muawiyya, by beating their chests and backs with light chains. I wouldn’t mind seeing Americans likewise beating themselves every November 22nd to commemorate the murder of a relatively good leader, JFK, by a bunch of evil SOBs including LBJ, Allan Dulles, George H.W. Bush, Cord Meyer, James Jesus Angleton, Meyer Lansky, and very likely David Ben Gurion. And I wouldn’t mind seeing Americans beating themselves with HEAVY chains every 9/11 to mourn the murder of the American dream by a bunch of neoconservative scumbags who make the Elders of Zion look like small-timers.
The same neocon propagandists who brought you 9/11 are trying to make you hate Ashura – so watch out for made-in-Israel reports about “Crazy Shia fanatics beating themselves bloody.”
Alongside the self-flagellating processions, Shia Muslims also stage theatrical re-enactments of the Passion of Hussein on Ashura. Maybe Americans could borrow that idea too, and have a parade re-enacting the doomed Dallas motorcade in every American city, town, and village. Now that Sherwood Ross and Jim Fetzer have identified every one of the six shooters who fired at JFK in Dallas, we can outdo the Shia by featuring a whole slew of villains in our re-enactments: Deputy Sheriff Harry Weatherford firing from the top of the County Records Building; US Air Force marksman Jack Lawrence firing from the south end of the Triple Underpass; George H.W. Bush’s protégé Tony “Nestor” Izquierdo, supervised by Bush himself, firing the only unsilenced bullets from the Dal-Tex building; CIA asset Roscoe White firing from the Grassy Knoll; LBJ’s personal hitman Malcolm “Mac” Wallace firing from the Texas School Book Depository; and CIA asset Frank Sturgis firing from the north end of the Triple Underpass.
Alongside the shooters, Kennedy Day re-enactments could also feature the “big villains”: the psychopaths LBJ, Bush, and Dulles; the paranoid-psychotic schemer Angleton, the genocidal fanatic Ben Gurion, and the mobster scumbag Lansky.
And alongside the martyred hero JFK, they could feature smaller heroes including Lee Harvey Oswald, a federal informer who was trying to stop the assassination; and Abraham Bolden, the Secret Service Agent who exposed a parallel Chicago plot to assassinate JFK.
If we really work at it, JFK day could be bigger than Ashura – and more dramatic than Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
And I won’t even get into what we could do on 9/11 day.
Though I will say that if we beat ourselves with heavy chains for going along with such a transparent, and transparently evil, coup d’état as 9/11, we should also make sure to beat the neocons with some really, REALLY heavy chains.
Getting back to Ashura – and I know this has been a long digression, but hey, we Americans have our heads you-know-where and mostly only talk about America – as I say, getting back to Ashura, there is something truly beautiful about a huge public holiday that mourns the murder of a good, just, pious, holy, legitimate leader by a psychopathic scumbag and his henchmen.
Though Shia and Sunni Muslims generally observe Ashura differently, there is no disagreement whatsoever about the bottom-line issue: The murder of the good, holy, just, and legitimate ruler Hussein by the psychopathic scumbag Muawiya was a cosmic tragedy and a terrible turn for the worse in human history. All Sunni Muslims agree with their Shia brothers and sisters about that. The Sunnis just don’t go around beating their breasts about it.
But maybe they should. Maybe we should all make a point of beating our breasts once a year in mourning for horrific injustice in general, and the slaughter of good leaders by bad ones in particular.
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:
“Anyone of you who sees wrong, let him undo it with his hand; and if he cannot, then let him speak against it with his tongue, and if he cannot do this either, then (let him abhor it) with his heart, and this is the least of faith.”
Since the time of Muawiya, Muslims have often found it difficult to raise their hands to defend good leaders against bad ones; and to strike down bad leaders in favor of good ones. This problem, of course, afflicts all of humanity, not just Muslims. But since Islam was the seal of prophetic revelations, containing a blueprint for social as well as spiritual order, it experiences the problem in especially acute form.
Shia Muslims, through their rites of Ashura, are hating injustice with their hearts…and speaking out against injustice not just with their tongues, but with their whole bodies as they act out the tragedy of Kerbala. Though I am not Shia myself, and definitely not into self-flagellation of any sort, no matter how good the reason – and Lord knows I have done a few things that merit expiation – I find the Shia celebration of Ashura beautiful and inspiring.
So today – Ashura, the Tenth of Muharram, the 1,375th anniversary of the martyrdom of Hussein – my heart is with everyone who is mourning the cosmic tragedy of Kerbala, and vowing to fight for truth and justice with heart, tongue and hand, come what may.
By Mustapha Sesay
Muslims in various parts of the country on 3rd November, 2014 observed Ashura Day with fasting and prayers in various mosques.
Ashura which is the tenth day of the month of Muharram, the first month on the Islamic calendar, reflects the period in which Imam Hussein (AS) the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (S) and the son of Imam Ali (AS) and his 72 companions were martyred in a heroic confrontation that not only became the defining moment for Islam, but also the exemplar of valiant struggles against overwhelming forces of oppression and injustice for all time.
According to Imam Lansana of Taiama Up Junction Community Mosque, after the death of Imam Hasan’s by poisoning at the hands of Muawiyah in 671, Imam Hussein (AS) assumed the leadership role. Before the death of Muawiyah, he chose his son Yazid as khalifah instead of returning the leadership to Imam Hussein (AS) as per the terms of the treaty made with his older brother. The people of al-Kufah had written numerous letters to Imam Hussein (AS), who had already left Medina for Mecca to avoid swearing loyalty to Yazid, inviting him to come there to be their spiritual leader, so he left Mecca on September 8, 680 (8th Dul Hijjah) for Iraq, pursued by Yazid’s forces which blocked any chance of his return.
The Imam had sent a letter with Qays bin Mashar Saidawi to notify the people of his impending arrival, but Ibn Ziyad, Yazid’s appointed governor in al-Kufah, had Qays arrested, and when he lauded Imam Hussein (AS) and refused to curse Imam Ali (AS), Ibn Ziyad had him thrown off a roof, breaking all of his bones, in a deliberate attempt to terrorize the citizens of al-Kufah. The terror tactic worked, and when the news of Qays’ death and the people’s reaction reached Imam Hussein, he lamented, “Our supporters have withdrawn their support from us. Whoever wishes to leave us and go his way should do so.”
When Imam Hussein (AS) arrived with his band of 72 companions on the plains of Karbala, Iraq on October 2, 680 (2nd of Muharram 61 AH), Yazid had already amassed a huge army of troops at al-Kufah, with 4,000 under the command of Amr ibn Hajjaj blocking access to the water of the Euphrates. By the 9th of Muharram, the day before Ashura, the Imam’s camp was encircled by over 20,000 of Yazid’s troops who had been ordered by Ibn Ziyad to either obtain the oath of loyalty from Hussein (AS) or kill him, and in spite of these terrifying circumstances, the Imam continued to speak to his companions with composure and confidence. Throughout the evening and night of the 10th of Muharram (October 9, 680), Imam Hussein and his followers prayed to Allah, sought forgiveness and prepared themselves for the battle the next day, Ashura, with Yazid’s army, which by then numbered over 30,000.
On the morning of the 10th, Imam Hussein (AS) addressed Yazid’s army at length, pointing out that he was the grandson of the Prophet; that he had neither killed anyone from among them giving cause for revenge, nor had he usurped anyone’s wealth. Concluding the Imam declared, “I will not swear allegiance to these people … I seek refuge in Allah from the mischief of you people and of every arrogant person who does not believe in the Day of Judgment.” When the Imam had finished speaking, Umar ibn Sad shot an arrow towards the Imam’s followers and arrogantly announced, “I have started the battle before anyone else.”
Lady Zaynab, daughter of Imam Ali (AS), was especially eloquent. Condemning Yazid in his own court in Damascus, she asked him, “Do you think that by killing the godly persons you have become great and respectable and the Almighty looks at you with special grace and kindness?” Near the end of her brilliant oratory she swore to Yazid, “I swear by Allah that the shame and disgrace which you have earned by the treatment you meted out to us cannot be eradicated.”
In short, the members of Ahlul Bayt and their loyal followers transformed the narrative of Imam Hussein’s martyrdom at Karbala into a timeless message that has inspired oppressed people to revolt against tyranny and oppression over the course of history.