Arbaeen marks the zenith of the revolution that started in Ashura

By Shabbir Hassanally

In His Name, the Most High

Peace be upon the intimate friend of God and His beloved!

Peace be upon the close friend of God and His confidant!

Peace be upon the choicest confidant of God, and the son of the choicest confidant [of God].

Peace be upon Husayn, the oppressed, the martyr.

Peace be upon the hostage surrounded by the tightening circle of sorrow and grief, killed by a horde of savages.

A portion from Ziyarat[1] Arbaeen of Imam Husayn[2]

Arbaeen marks the zenith of the revolution that started in Ashura. It is a culmination of the victory of blood over the sword.

But what does this even mean?

Why is it that nearly 1400 years after an event, you have tens of millions of people, gathering, marching, moving – not just Muslims or Shia, but from all denominations – what drives these people? What is located in the city of Karbala that attracts all these millions?

Those who are unable to visit Karbala in these days, get together in their mosques and gathering halls, and commemorate the events of Karbala and seek to learn from these events. But why? After 1400 years – what makes this event so powerful and so eternal?

In order to understand this, we have to first understand a basic human trait. By default, the human being is attracted towards beauty, towards truth, towards righteousness – even if the person being attracted doesn’t actually know or comprehend that this is what they are being attracted to; they just know they are being attracted.

In a world that is rife with corruption, that lacks any sort of morality; that declares that which is a lie to be true, and the truth to be a falsehood.

In such a world, we see the politicians and governments, rule with coercion, with lies with corruption.

The governments who hold dominion over the population of their countries under the guise of so-called democracy[3] live in opulence; while the people – who according to the definition of democracy have the authority in theory[4] – live in abject poverty and squaller.

Where the rich usurp the rights of the poor; and where we know that a tiny group, known colloquially as the 1%[5] control 99% of the world’s wealth and resources. Where the strong bully the weak, and where the basic milk of human kindness, where a person helps his/her brother/sister up when they have fallen is considered something that breaks the social order.

Yet all the while, we see the people being fed a lie – as I’ve said – they are fed a lie which they are told is the Truth, and they are told that what they consider to be the Truth is, in fact, a lie.

This situation that the world is in; is the same situation that was described by Imam Husayn when he rose to make his revolution in Karbala, back in 680CE. He said:

“Do you not see that the truth is not acted upon and falsehood is not refrained from?”[6]

Imam Husayn also categorically stated in his letter to his brother Muhammad ibn Hanafiyyah:

“I am not going out for merry-making and amusement or to create mischief. I am also not perusing the path of oppression. I have come out to reform the followers of my grandfather”[7]

Therefore, we can see that Imam Husayn was compelled to make his revolution and was compelled to stand up for the Truth, to stand against tyranny, oppression and injustice.

A mere 50 years after the passing of the Prophet Muhammad, the situation of the Muslims had become dire and problematic.

The government was held by a despotic tyrant who didn’t care about the situation of the people, and who manipulated and corrupted the divine teachings of Islam; who usurped the rights of the people and acted with contempt for all decency and morality.

As a result, Imam Husayn had no choice, but to rise up, to take a stance, and to ensure that Truth was always understood as Truth, and falsehood was always exposed as falsehood.

This stance by Imam Husayn and his very few companions[8] against the overwhelming military might of the illegal Ummayad Caliph Yazeed was a stance of the Pure, the Righteous, the Truthful and the Good, against the Unjust, the Tyrannical, the Despotic and the Evil.

The fact that on a temporal level, Imam Husayn and his companions were massacred brutally, after having been forced to endure great thirst and hunger for three days on account of being blocked from the waterways by the forces of Yazeed; the fact that even to the last breath, Imam Husayn continued to try to advise and reform the enemy, and to educate them and teach them; this is a great and powerful and indeed eternal event.

An event that laid the foundation of what it means to rise up and stand firm against injustice and tyranny, and to always side with the Truth, regardless of the consequences[9].

After all the will that Imam Husayn left to his son Imam Ali ibn Al-Husayn Zayn al-Abedeen (and indeed the wills of all of the Saints, the Imams and Prophets to their sons and daughters) have all said:

“Stand for Truth even if it is bitter”[10]

This is clear instruction, that to the honourable person, the Truth is the most important element. Even if that truth testifies against themselves.

In the Quran, God says clearly:

“O you who believe! Stand firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even if against yourselves, or your parents, or your relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, God takes care of both. So do not follow your desires, lest you swerve. If you deviate or turn away—then God is Aware of what you do.”

– Quran, Chapter 4 (An-Nisa / The Women), Verse 135[11]

There is a necessity for the Truth[12].

This necessity was not bound only for the time of Imam Husayn, and only against the despotic and Neronian rule of the Ummayad Caliph Yazeed, not at all.

Truth is a universal element and is not bound by time or space.

Rather Truth is something that is for all time and all places. The same is the case with Justice, which in reality is connected to the Truth, for without Truth there can be no justice; and without justice, there can be no Truth.

As a result; this message delivered by Imam Husayn and the martyrs of Karbala in 680CE resonates even in 2019 and will continue to resonate through the universes for as long as the universes and time exist.

This stance by Imam Husayn and his few companions on the plain of Karbala was the most perfect and pure stance of Truth against falsehood and stands as an eternal example of how to stand against falsehood and injustice.

However, there is a problem.

Given that Imam Husayn and his few companions were all massacred on the plain of Karbala, how can this be considered any form of victory?

How did the message of the event get to the wider population, and indeed to us today?

How is it that people know about this event, and indeed as has been said, march in their tens of millions towards Karbala, especially in this time of 40 days after the massacre of Ashura, also known as Arbaeen?

This is where the second and key component of the revolution of Imam Husayn comes into the equation.

The movement for Truth has two core components:

  1. The Husayni Component; and
  2. The Zaynabi Component

While the Husayni component reached its zenith on the 10th of Muharram 61AH (680CE) with the massacre of Imam Husayn and his companions; the ongoing path, the ongoing task which was made up of the Zaynabi component continues to this day.

But what is the Zaynabi Component? What does this mean?

The Husayni Component can be understood, it was the stance of Imam Husayn against the forces of terror and oppression led by Yazeed the Ummayad Caliph, but what is the Zaynabi Component?

The Zaynabi Component was what ensured that the message and sacrifice of Imam Husayn and his companions in Karbala were not wasted; that it’s lead up, it’s raison d’être[13] was made known, and that the movement towards Truth and Justice was always active and was understood.

The Zaynabi Component ensured that the despots and tyrants knew that they would be opposed and resisted, and it gave the oppressed the impetus and strength to resist. It proved that while on the temporal level, those who resist tyranny and oppression might be killed, the ultimate victory is for the Truth, and as the Quran also tells us:

“Do not consider those killed in the cause of God as dead. In fact, they are alive, at their Lord, well provided for.”

– Quran, Chapter 3 (Aal-i-Imraan / the Family of Imraan), Verse 169[14]

The message of Lady Zaynab, the sister of Imam Husayn, who was along with members of his household and his ill son, Imam Ali ibn al-Husayn, who were captured, bound in chains and paraded through the streets of the various towns between Karbala (in modern-day Iraq) to Damascus (in modern-day Syria) via the city of Kufa (in modern-day Iraq)[15]; is what ensured that the victory of blood over the swords on Ashura became a reality; and that the event of Ashura, the stance of Imam Husayn was not lost to the passage of time.

During this arduous journey of more than two thousand (2000) kilometres that the family of the martyred Imam and his companions had to endure, they were stopped and paraded in the streets of a number of cities and villages along the way. At each of these steps, no matter how injured and harmed, upset and broken, these heroic personalities – led by Lady Zaynab the sister of Imam Husayn and Imam Ali ibn al-Husayn al-Sajjad, the son of Imam Husayn – the people were informed of the reality; the news of what had transpired and more importantly WHY it had transpired was delivered to the people.

This was to ensure that the deluded and duped people, were not misled by the media machine of the Ummayad regime, a regime that professed to be operating on Islamic principles, but that had nothing to do with Islam.

At this juncture, I am reminded of an event that happened on the day of Ashura (10th Muharram 61AH (680CE)), that is pertinent to narrate here; and which shows the reality of the lies being pushed by the Ummayyad regime.

During the battle on the day of Ashura, the time for the afternoon prayers arrived. From the camp of Imam Husayn, the sound of the call to prayer was heard. Those in the midst of battle from the side of Imam Husayn called out to the enemy generals and said:

“It is time for prayer. If you agree, we can have a brief ceasefire, while we go and pray and you can catch your breath, and then let us continue this battle after prayers.”

To this the forces of Umar ibn Sa’d[16] agreed, and a ceasefire was called.

As the soldiers and commanders of Yazeed’s army returned to their side, a senior commander from them named Shimr ibn Dhiljawshan[17], returned to Umar ibn Sa’ad and advised him that they had broken the battle and agreed to a ceasefire, so that those in Imam Husayn’s camp could complete their prayers.

Umar ibn Sa’ad initially agreed to this ceasefire, but he was approached by his son Hafs (or perhaps another one of his senior soldiers or advisors[18]), who asked him:

“Have you really given them permission to pray? If that is the case you have already lost the battle!”

To which Umar ibn Sa’ad said:

“Prayer is a mandatory component of the religion of Islam, and you cannot obstruct someone from performing their prayers.”

Hafs responded to this:

“Well then you have totally lost this war, because you gathered all these soldiers and convinced them to fight against Husayn, by telling them that Husayn had left the fold of Islam; if they come to learn that you have now agreed to a ceasefire with Husayn so that he can pray, then they will leave you, since they will realise that the reason you used to recruit them was a lie”

Umar ibn Sa’ad and Shimr ibn Dhiljawshan looked at each other and declared:

“What a remarkably mature mind this young man has, he is right, if we let them pray, then the army will desert as they will realise we had lied to them!”.

Umar ibn Sa’ad then instructs Shimr to not agree to the ceasefire and to attack the camp of Imam Husayn, even though they might be praying; and of course, then, that which should never have happened sadly happened.

Now, the reason for narrating this portion from the events of Ashura was to show the strength of the media machine; the strength of lies, when information is either unavailable or inaccessible; or that people choose to not seek out the information, choose to not seek out the truth.

In this case, the forces ranked against Imam Husayn – and accounts vary as to their size, but the consensus seems to be around the figures of between 10,000 and 60,000, with the most reliable accounts being that of 30,000[19] – were conscripted and many were made up of regular people from the city of Kufa and it’s surrounding areas.

These people were given a story, propaganda if you will, that they had to rank themselves against someone who had come out in open rebellion against Islam and against the Caliph Yazeed, they were further told that they were standing against someone who had departed from, and had left Islam.

Unfortunately, many of these people didn’t verify the information; and of course, there was great coercion on the part of those recruiting for the army being raised by Umar ibn Sa’ad, but the people accepted the narrative they were given and failed to make any sort of resistance.

This was a fear that the Generals of the army of Yazeed had, that should the people realise that Imam Husayn and his companions had not left Islam, but that they had risen up against the despotic tyrannical Ummayad Regime, there was every possibility that the people – for the most part – would have refused to fight against him; and worse yet, they would have joined ranks with Imam Husayn’s cause and fought against the despotic regime of Yazeed.

This is a similar case to what we have in our time, and what has been the case across generations.

Today, we have the media, declaring one person or group as a “terrorist”, whereas others are declared “freedom fighters”. When a group serves the interests of the despots, they are declared as “freedom fighters” but when a group stands against the injustices of the despots and calls them to account, and makes resistance against them, they are immediately declared as “terrorists”.

This is no different now as it was then. It is a deliberate covering up of the Truth; and feeding of the population interest-based information, that is divorced completely from the Truth and indeed from reality.

The truth is extremely inconvenient in this regard; as it will expose the despots for what they are. So the people are kept deluded.

The mainstream media constantly either refuse to cover the crimes of the despots, or it glosses over them, and passes the blame onto others.

Recent examples can be found in the way the mainstream media has covered the situation in Syria and the crimes of the despots in Washington, London and Tel Aviv in Syria while blaming the Syrian government and people.

In Occupied Palestine, the situation is the same, when the Zionist occupiers commit atrocities against the occupied people – even if the people are only coming out in peaceful protest – the crimes of the Zionists are glossed over, and the blame is constantly passed onto the Palestinians and those who support the righteous Palestinian cause of resistance against the illegal occupation.

With Yemen, once more the scenario is repeated; when the Yemeni people rise up and make a resistance against the Saudi American terrorism being inflicted upon them, the blame is passed onto the Yemeni people and those who support them, even if it is by just narrating their tale and speaking of their plight to the global population; in this case, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Indeed, the Islamic Republic of Iran seems to constantly get the blame for anything which harms the despotic regimes, that have no interest in the rights of the people; though they talk about and pay lip-service to the idea of human rights incessantly.

This media war, this soft war, has been explained in great depth by Imam Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution and indeed the Husayn of our time[20].

It is the same style of a misinformation campaign that was raised by the forces and allies of Yazeed against Imam Husayn. Indeed it was akin to the campaigns of disinformation raised by the father of Yazeed, Muawiyyah ibn Abi Sufyan[21], during the time of the Caliphate of Imam Ali, the fourth of the Rightly Guided Caliphs[22].

The situation at that time became such that, when Imam Ali was martyred on the prayer mat in Kufa by an extremist terrorist, Ibn Muljim al-Muradi[23] from the Khawarej terrorist faction (similar to DAESH/ISIL in our times)[24], the people in Damascus, where Muawiyyah had his seat of power, declared that when told that Imam Ali died on the prayer mat in the Mosque of Kufa:

“Oh did Ali pray?”[25]

This illustrates, that the Truth, as in a reality, was upturned and made into a falsehood, and that falsehood was made to prevail. A primary reason for this was that people didn’t ask questions, they didn’t investigate when they were given information – regardless of the source and what biases that source may or may not have.

They didn’t think critically and analyse the information they were given, rather they accepted it blindly and without question; behaviour that is beloved by the despots and hated by the Truth-seekers.

Imam Husayn, and Lady Zaynab and indeed the Epic of Ashura and Arbaeen deliver this key lesson, that we should know where the Truth lies and where the Falsehood lies so that we cannot be duped and manipulated by the despots who seek to harm us, by feeding us lies as truth and telling us the truth is a lie.

This is a clear situation in today’s world.

A pertinent example is that which is transpiring in the United Kingdom today, with the issue of the Brexit fiasco. People were encouraged to vote in a referendum on whether the United Kingdom should stay in the European Union or not, but there were campaigns of disinformation telling the people that it would be good to leave, and that no harm would come, and that staying was harmful and so on[26].

My point is not whether Brexit is a good thing or a bad thing, that is not relevant here; what is relevant is that the leaders and elites of a country, blatantly lied and manipulated the Truth in order to get the people to act in a particular way[27].

Something very similar to what was done by the forces of Umar ibn Sa’ad in recruiting his forces to rank against Imam Husayn in Karbala.

So, coming back to the Arbaeen commemorations, the march as well as commemorations made at various centres and mosques across the world, and the Zaynabi Component of the Ashura Movement.

We can see in one of the locations where Lady Zaynab and the caravan of prisoners were taken, in this case in Kufa, when she was accosted by the governor of Kufa, an ardent supporter of Yazeed and responsible for a great deal of oppression and terror in Kufa, Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad[28], who asked her (Lady Zaynab)[29]:

“How do you see that which God has done to your brother?”

She replied, bravely and firmly, with words that showed her triumph against the despotism and terror of the Ummayad regime and its agents:

“I saw nothing but beauty …”[30]

This is because she understood, that no matter the difficulty, the Truth had prevailed, and been made manifest, she knew and was communicating – not only to the governor of Kufa, to his master Yazeed, but also to the world – present and future – that standing for the Truth will never result in defeat, because the Truth is something that cannot be stopped or blocked out.


[1] Ziyarat/Ziyarah means both visitation and salutation (from near or afar) and is a means for greeting/saluting special personalities – like Prophets, Saints, Imams, Righteous Islamic Scholars and such.

[2] Ziyarat Arbaeen (the Salutation of Arbaeen), Shaykh Saleem Bhimji –

[3] For the classical definition of democracy see which indicates that the authority in a democratic system is the people.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Forbes, One Percent by State Income Inequality

[6] See: Ashura: Research and Analysis on the Uprising of Imam Husayn, Shaykh Muhammad Mahdi Al-Asifi, translated by Umar Kumo –

[7] A Probe into the History of Ashura, Dr Ibrahim Ayati, Chapter 6 Muhammad ibn Hanafiyyah

[8] The Martyrs of Kerbala, WikiShia – also Statistics for Imam Husayns Companions, WikiShia –

[9] Discourse of Patience, Imam Khamenei, Chapter 2 – The Importance of Patience in Light of Traditions, First Narration –

[10] Ibid.

[11] See translation from Itani, Tanzil Online Quran –

[12] The Neccessity of Truth, Shabbir Hassanally –

[13] See the definition from The Free Dictionary –

[14] See translation by Itani from Tanzil Online Quran –

[15] A Probe into the History of Ashura, Dr Ibrahim Ayati, Chapter 25 Journey of Ahl al-Bayt to Kufa and Damascus –

[16] The Ummayad General who was leading the army against Imam Husayn in the Battle of Kerbala. He was the son of Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas a one time companion of Prophet Muhammad, and who was instrumental in the conquest of Persia in the time of the second caliph, Umar ibn al-Khattab. More on who Umar ibn Sa’ad was can be found on WikiShia –

[17] A commander from the army of Yazeed who was particularly brutal against Imam Husayn and his companions on the day of Ashura and subsequently was extremely abusive and nasty against the captives including Lady Zaynab and Imam Sajjad, more can be found on WikiShia –

[18] Historical accounts vary on these minor details

[19] WikiShia, Statistics for the Battle of Ashura, Statistics for Umar ibn Sa’ads Army –

[20] Soft war is an undeniable phenomenon, Imam Khameni, Official Website of Imam Khamenei –

[21] Muawiyyah ibn Abi Sufyan, WikiShia –

[22] The Rashidun Caliphs, WikiShia –

[23] Ibn Muljim al-Muradi, WikiShia –

[24] The Early Khawarej Sect and the Takfiris of Today, Abdul Qadir Baksh –

[25] I am unable to find an English language reference to this, but it is mentioned in some books of history and in the books of traditions in Arabic and Farsi.

[26] Here’s an A to Z of Brexit lies, GQ Magazine, 15th February 2019 –

[27] What Brexit should have taught us about voter manipulation, The Guardian, 17th April 2017 –

[28] Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad, WikiShia –

[29] Lady Zaynab, Badr Shahin, published by Ansariyan Publications, Qum, Lady Zaynab in Captivity, Before the Governor –

[30] Opinions on the Ashura Uprising, “I saw nothing but beauty”: Zaynab al-Kubra, Imam Khamenei speech February 8, 2010, Official Website of Imam Khamenei –


Shabbir Hassanally is a software engineer, and an Islamic Scholar, having studied in the Islamic Seminary of Qum. He contributes to various outlets as a political analyst.

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