The real qurbani / sacrifice in Islam happened on the 10th Muharram at Karbala with the Martyrdom of Hussain, whom the beloved Prophet (s) said, "Hussain is from me and I am from Hussain / Husaynun minni wa ana min Husayn."
The devil rejoices at the fact that the Muslims have replaced the memory of sacrifice with eating animal fat and animal flesh and fooling themselves at calling this act of gluttony as 'qurbani' / sacrifice. If any individual Muslims had intelligence of only few ounces then they would have not acted this way and this testifies that for long we have lost our ability to think and we also have lost our leaders, our guardians, our guides who could guide us towards haqq, towards truth, towards what is real.
Once someone understand the situation in which Imam Hussain, knowing fully his imminent martyrdom, went ahead to sacrifice his life and his entire family; one should also understand that there is no comparison really between an animal sacrifice and the noble sacrifice of Imam Hussain and the rest of the family of Muhammad (s).
The majority of Muslims for surely have lost their mind because in every cycle of their prayer they send their blessings upon the family of Muhammad, and yet they fail to recognize the sacrifice of that very family, particularly the price of sacrifice, Imam Hussain. In their prayer Muslims send salutation of peace and invoke blessings upon Prophet Abraham and his family and on the same level they do the same to Prophet Muhammad and his family in durood-e-Ibrahim . This alone should suffice them to understand the real status of the family of Muhammad, the holy family in Islam. The righteous family members of Abraham was elevated to the ranks of Prophets, from that very progeny of Abraham God sent guides and nabi (informers) to humanity. Similar or dare I say, even greater is the status of the progeny of Muhammad (s).
A narration of the Prophet (s) attributed to Tirmidhi reports:
"I am leaving among you something which is very important and should be followed, you will not go astray if you get hold of it after I am gone, one part of it being more important than the other: Allah's Book, which is a rope stretched from Heaven to Earth, and my close relatives (qurba), who belong to my household. These two will not separate from one another till they come down to the reservoir, so consider how you act regarding them after my departure."
Narrated in Muslim collection of hadith:
"I am leaving among you two weighty things: the one being the Book of Allah in which there is right guidance and light, so hold fast to the Book of Allah and adhere to it. He exhorted (us) (to hold fast) to the Book of Allah and then said: The second are the members of my household I remind you (of your duties) to the members of my family."
In the Qur'an God addresses the Prophet to tell the believers that no other compensation he need to ask the believers, except the love of his near ones (qurba).
Say O Messenger: I do not ask of you any reward for it but love for my near relatives (mawaddata fil qurba). (42:23)
Today is 10th Muharram, the Day of Ashura. A day full of spiritual significance. It is the day when Moses and his followers were saved from Pharaoh by God by creating a path in the sea. According to a Hadith which is reported from Ali claiming it was on that day the God forgave Adam, Noah's Ark rested on dry land, the Israelites were saved from Pharaoh's army, etc.
On the most immediate significance in terms of history's unfolding, it marks the climax of the Remembrance of Muharram and the martyrdom of Imam Hussain and Prophet's family.
"And Remind for verily a reminder benefits the believer"(51:55)
In a talk titled The Martyrs of Karbala and the Legacy of Sayyidah Zaynab by Shaykh A. Nooruddeen Durkee, may Allah preserve him, reminds us some of the central events and the teachings from the Martyrdom of Imam Hussain at Karbala.
Aisha reported that the Prophet (s) went out one morning wearing a striped cloak of the black camel's hair and hat there came along Hasan b. 'Ali. (a) He wrapped him under it, then came al-Husayn (a) and he wrapped him under it along with the other one. Then came Fatima (a) and he took her under it, then came 'Ali (a) and he also took him under it and then recited the newly revealed revelation: "Allah only desires to take away any impurities from you, Oh people of the household, and purify you (with a thorough purification)." (33:33) [Shahih Bukhari, 31:5955]
Quoted by Umm Salma (a) as having said, "These verse, 'Oh People of the Prophet's House..." was revealed in my house and Fatima, Ali, Hasan and Husayn (a) were in the room. The Prophet spread his cloak on them and said: "These are the members of my family. (Oh Allah!) Remove impurities from them and make them pure."
In another occasion the Prophet (s) took 'Ali (a) by the hand and said, "Whosoever master (mawla) I am, 'Ali is his master, O Allah! Love him who loves 'Ali, and be the enemy of the enemy of 'Ali; help him who helps 'Ali, and forsake him who forsakes 'Ali."
The import of all that is quoted is that in accord with the Qur'an and 'Ahadith, 'Ahl as-Sunnah should love and support the family of the Prophet (s) and honor his will in regard to them in light of his request, "I ask you by Allah to take care of my family. I ask you by Allah to take care of my family." [Muslim]
When Imam Ali was assassinated, Mu'awiyyah was the strongest political and military candidate to assume the khilafah. For the peace and well being of the Muslim community 'Imam al-Hasan signed a truce with him and retired to private life in Madinah. Taking advantage of this time, Mu'awiyyah set out to establish the empire of Bani Umayyah, which was destined to become a hereditary dynasty, and he governed more like a king than a khalifah.
Mu'awiyyah wanted his son to succeed him. As long as Hasan was alive this was impossible. Accordingly Mu'awiyyah successfully eliminated al-Hasan through an ingenious intrigue in which the hand that dealt al-Hasan the deadly poison was none other than a disaffected wife of al-Hasan whom Mu'awiyyah had bribed with offers of money and marriage.
The rights of leadership, according to the treaty between Mu'awiyyah and al-Hasan, now passed into the hands of al-Husayn, but the Bani Umayyah would not leave him in peace. Within six years of the death of al-Hasan, Mu'awiyyah began to openly call upon people to swear allegiance to his son Yazid, and people met his desire willingly or unwillingly. al-Husayn numbered among the five men who, alone in the Muslim community, refused to pledge themselves to Yazid.
If the khalifah was to be based on heredity then none other than the grandson of the Prophet and nearest of surviving kin was more suitable. And if the right to rule was to be given on the basis of piety and learning, then to whom else other than al-Husayn could this position be rightfully apportioned since it was he who was proven and known to be possessed of untainted wisdom, complete knowledge of 'Islamic law, piety and devotion of the highest degree.
The day after his father's death he wrote to Walid ibn 'Utba inb Abu Sufyan, then governor of Madinah, asking him to pursue al-Husayn, Abdullah ibn-Umar, and Abdullah ibn Zubayr and compel them to swear allegiance to him. Again al-Husan refused.
It is one thing to look at outer events, but how to understand what must have gone on inside al-Husayn as he witnessed his whole world fall apart, bit by bit and mite by mite until the old Arab ignorance, conservatism, causal aggression, covetousness, naked ambition, vulgarity, lust, lewdness, drunkenness and debauchery finally manifested in the form of Yazid, a man who openly ridiculed the sunnah, had no time for the Qur'an and would, finally, upon the death of the beloved grandson of the Prophet openly declare "My ancestors who were killed at Badr have been avenged."
A man who, accordingly to 'ibn Kathir, "loved worldly vices, drank alcohol, listened to music, kept the company of beardless boys; played drums; kept dogs; made dogs, bears and monkeys fight. Who was drunk every morning and used to tie monkeys to the saddle of horses and make the horses race, gambling on the outcome."
Yazid once came to Madinah during the time of Hajj drunk on wine. Ibn Abbas and al-Husayn happened to pass by him and Yazid called his slave and ordered him to serve wine to al-Husayn, who needless to say, refused and left immediately.
Yazid came to power by sending an army to Madinah comprising of 60,000 horsemen and 15,000 foot soldiers. An army that for three days shed blood freely; 1000 women were raped and 700 named Quraysh and 'Ansar were killed. An army under ibn 'Uqba forced people to give allegiance to Yazid in such a manner than ten thousand women and children were enslaved and Yazid sold them as he pleased and no sahabi who was with the Prophet at Hudaibiya was spared.
How then, when this same Yazid had usurped, by the appointment of his father Mu'awiya, the station of the 'Amir al Mu'minin and the khalifah of the Ummah of Muhammad, could al-Husayn even even imagine putting his hand in the hand of Yazid in the sacred act of bay'ah mentioned by Allah in Surah al-Fath?
Unthinkable - how could he ever imagine doing such a thing?
Can a man of haqq put his hand in allegiance to a man of batil?
In physics we talk about the second law of thermodynamics, which is an expression of the universal principal of entropy, stating that the entropy of an isolated system which is not in equilibrium will tend to increase over time. In other words, everything is falling apart constantly, which on all levels: religiously, spiritually and socially, was exactly what was happening to the 'ummah which was suffering and, in many instances, was falling apart. Something or someone was needed to bring it back together.
Clearly some thing or some act was needed that would counter the forces of cynicism, political opportunism, personal wrangling, petty jealousies, deceits and outright corruption which had come to plague the ummah - then and now. Something that would make clear and obvious what was true and what was false.
And say, "The Truth has come and falsehood has vanished. Surely falsehood is forever bound to vanish. (17:81)
The true Deen (True Way of Life) and its spirit was needed to be restored. Just as the role of Prophet Muhammad (s) was to refresh Islam, surrender to God, which was eternally present from Adam to Noah to Abraham to David to Moses to Jesus; similar was the role of Hussain. He was the restorer of the Faith in his role of ultimate sacrifice. This is one of the reason why the Prophet (s) said, "I am from Hussain" along with "Hussain is from me," for the preservation of Muhammad Islam was best done by Imam Hussain through his steel like determination and unwavering stand from haqq.
What had happened in essence was that, from the time of the death of the Prophet (s), the old forces of the jahiliyyah were emboldened and had once again come to the fore. Both the message and the sunnah of the Prophet (s) was threatened at virtually every level by the cynical forces of reaction, corruption, political opportunism ad just plain business as usual.
The world of quid pro quo in which I get mine and you get yours and it's every man for himself and big dogs eat first, was back with a vengeance. Under Yazid it reached a point where, unless the forces of reaction were stopped cold, countered by some irresistible act of absolute purity and irreproachable honesty, business as usual would become the order of the day for the rest of time and nothing would be left that could counter it or stand out against these forces.
Again we emphasize - political machinations, military actions, war would never solve the problem, for all of those solutions, even had they been possible and given the people of veniality and deceit of his supporters in Kufa and Basrah they were clearly impossible - any move of that level would have been just one more event in the downward spiral of event that was infecting the entire 'ummah.
Something else was was called for and what was called for was this selfless sacrifice on the plains of Karbala - an act which was and is totally counter to the forces of entropy and disintegration - which persists in the present as a permanent proof of how the forces of corruption, expediency and mendacity can be overcome.
Understanding that sacrifice and achievement is what prompts us not just to mourn for al-Husayn and his family, but rather, to exult in what he and they did, which was to perform the precise necessary action which stands as a clear shining example for all time of how indeed Truth comes and how falsehood vanishes.
Husayn full well the brutal nature of the people he was up against. He knew they would not be content merely to kill him and his men, but would take the women with him captive, and he saw that they would be paraded before the people and they would become a caravan of captives, but that caravan and all in it would force the 'ummah to reflect deeply - that it would awaken their consciousness both in his time and in ours and the times to come.
Had he not done what he did at Karbala, the way of life of Yazid (and the all too many Yazid who have followed him in the present, and the one glance at the so-called Muslim world will reveal just how many Yazids sit on the seats of power in how many lands) would have been the norm and the accepted standard of behavior for Muslims.
If al-Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet, had put his blessed hand in the hand of Yazid, then surely little would be left of truth, of honor, of nobility, of chivalry, of selflessness, of decency and grace.
(to be continued)
* The Martyrs of Karbala and the Legacy of Sayyidah Zaynab by Shaykh A. Nooruddeen Durkee
Also see: The Martyrdom of Imam Hussain