Monday, March 10, 2008,1:12 am
Kullo yawmin Ashura. . .
Out of the cluttered recesses of timeless clichés rises one phrase that, pushing through the dirt of falsehood to let glow the irrepressible light of truth, shines its beacon upon the human contemplation.

“Every day is Ashura, every land is Karbala.”

It is a simple slogan whose controversy exceeds its unimposing construction of a mere eight words. Certain origins unknown, the phrase is most widely known to have been coined in a speech by Ayatullah Khomeini and is most properly attributed to him. More controversial guesses cite our sixth Imam (AS) as the initial voice behind this saying, but many 'ulema deny this claim due to a lack of textual evidence. Origins aside, the greater controversy that surrounds the popular slogan is its acceptability. Some Shi’a place the saying at the center of their lifestyles; as a reminder to keep the mission of Imam Hussain (AS) in mind at every moment, while others passionately oppose its use; feeling it undermines the true value of Imam Hussain’s (AS) sacrifices on the tragic occasion of Ashura, a day infinitely dissimilar to any other. No matter what side of the fence one sits on with regards to this debate, striving to truly understand and consider the deeper meaning behind the well-loved motto is a worthwhile action for every person who counts him or herself among the cherishers of Imam Hussain’s (AS) cause.

Firstly, we must consider: what is the slogan truly intended to convey? At first glance, one may be tempted to think that it means simply what it says; that the challenges of every day life can themselves be compared to those challenges faced by our third Imam (AS) and his loved ones (na'udhubillah), and that such difficulties can take place anywhere, whether in Karbala or otherwise. But as we consider the incomparable sanctity of the land of Karbala and the holy ones slaughtered upon it unarguably possess, how can we bring ourselves to think such a thing? What those both in favor of and against the use of this saying must realize is that such a meaning that potentially jeopardizes and undermines the sacred position of the holy day cannot logically be taken for fact. If we allow ourselves to draw such an unjustified parallel, we should immediately stop and question: what other land bears the honor that the sands of Karbala got when they were cleansed with the blood of Al-Hussain (AS) and his dear ones? What day before or after Ashura has ever borne witness to the degree of unspeakable injustice against sanctified innocents that befell the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his dear ones on that revered tenth day of Muharram?

If not in this most obvious manner, however, one wonders what interpretation can be given to the motto at hand? It is hence at this point that the world must learn to see Karbala as more than a nonpareil tragedy of unbearable grief and suffering and see it also as a live-action manifestation of every Qur’anic value, filled just as the unspeaking Qur’an is with allegorical guidance for all of mankind.

It is on the day of Ashura each year that the peace-loving heart rips apart upon hearing of the indignities inflicted upon the purest of living beings… It is on this commemorative day that every knowledgeable mind delves into the infinite store of lessons that Imam Hussain (AS) died to preach and preserve… It is on this day that the floodgates of human tears open simultaneously with the gates of heaven; the precious testaments to humanity which spill from our eyes becoming the tickets by which our entrance into that Jannah may someday be earned. Undoubtedly, Ashura marks the occasion for millions of human beings worldwide to rediscover their understanding of humanity and truth as they reflect upon the struggle of the holy Imam (AS) who sacrificed all dear to him to uphold those very values. So given the capacity for spiritual improvement within us rememberers of Hussain (AS) in the span of this one single day, would it be ridiculous to wonder if perhaps the ongoing need for such change is the real meaning behind the phrase “every day is Ashura, every land is Karbala”? Could it be that the speaker of these words was merely asking mankind to revive the same sense of humanity, compassion, and justice as arises in the hearts of the commemorators of Ashura every single day rather than merely once a year? Perhaps it was a message to the drowsy consciences of the ones who stop their entire lives for the singular 24-hour remembrance of Ashura yet leave abandoned on that same farsh-e-aza all the potentially life-changing lessons the remembrance is meant to teach us, with the coming of the next day? Could it be a plea to humanity to stop thinking of the tragedy of Karbala as an event pertaining only to a small piece of land centuries and centuries ago, and recognize it for the eternal and boundless revolution it truly is? Perhaps this motto is a universal outcry against passivity and nonchalance; perhaps it is a call to action ringing with a purpose akin to Imam Hussain’s (AS) legendary cry of “halmin nasirin yansuruna”?

Maybe some searching soul looked upon the story of Karbala, and enthused by a spark of true understanding, turned back to the world to beseech those who had lost all hope of redemption, to look one more time upon the allegory of Hazrat Hur (AS)? Perhaps he frowned at the stark contrast between the thankless attitudes of today and the eternally grateful attitudes of those present on that day… Upon which mothers greeted the worst affliction a woman’s heart could possibly endure- the loss of her beloved children- with nothing but thanks? Perhaps this stranger sought to ask humanity what excuse it could give for its constant greed and ingratitude in the face of such blaring paragons of humility as Lady Zainab (AS) and Umme Laila (AS)?

No one is denying that the events of Karbala are and always will be absolutely nonpareil… But perhaps it is this very inability for comparison that some unknown speaker was pointing to as proof of his reflections; that if those faced with every extreme tragedy the human imagination could possibly fathom were able to forsake every material need in order to embrace, defend, and uphold truth- even upon the weakened frame of armless shoulders, even upon an infantile neck- what, what is OUR excuse for not at the very least sincerely embracing this truth as well, when most assuredly the conditions of our daily lives will never even be thinkable before those of Karbala?

Alas, how easy it is to dismiss the lessons of a day which becomes a distant memory until the next year it is ceremoniously commemorated. How easy it is to say that not a sin must be committed, not a wrong must be done, for the length of a single day… Yet how paradoxical to avoid renewing this pact for EVERY day of one’s Islam-bound life...
Whether we are in absolute rejection of the slogan, or inject its essence within our very bloodflow…

Let us never stand silent against oppression, against whomever and within wherever it may arise. Let us always uphold the values exemplified by Imam Hussain (AS) and whole-heartedly go about honoring his teachings in not merely one, but in all 365 days of every year we live. Let us think no cost too dear for the preservation of the truth. Let us confront our every problem and every grief not with complaint or regret, but with the faithful conviction of the pure ones in Karbala who met even the gravest tortures with unceasing thanks to Allah (SWT). Let us never go a day without shedding tears of consolation for Lady Fatima (AS), upon whom the wounds of Karbala will incur their agony until Qiyamah.

If we can simply promise to uphold such pledges, then it becomes irrelevant what words we use to revive them- the point is, it is our duty to answer the call of Imam Hussain (AS) in the language of the heart and soul, every day of our lives.
posted by R
Permalink ¤