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Ashura from the Viewpoint of Great Thinkers of the World - The English author and explorer, Freya Stark

In her famous book entitled, “The Faces of Baghdad” [Suwar Baghdadiyyah], Freya Stark has assigned a short chapter to the event of ‘Ashura. At the beginning of that chapter she says, “Shi‘ahs from all corners of the Muslim World remember al-Husayn and the site of his execution.

They publicly follow up on this event for the first ten days of the month of Muharram. Sorrow and grief is so predominant over them that on the last day, they parade mourning dramas and engage in public wailing and group weeping…”1

In a separate chapter of this book, and in a more detailed manner, she has talked about the holy city of Najaf. She recounts, “And at a distance not far from the mausoleum, his son al-Husayn arrived from the other side of the desert. He rode his horse and crossed the desert until he reached the land of Karbala.

There, he pitched a tent. His enemies surrounded him and closed all access to water from him. The events which came to pass have been retained in the memories of people. Detailed accounts about the sad events that occurred at Karbala have been passed from one generation to the next for the last 1257 years.

There is no possibility of deriving benefit from this holy city unless one has enough knowledge and information about this event, because the tragedies which befell al-Husayn penetrate and seep through every existing being to the extent that it shakes the very roots of their inner conscience and the foundations of their beliefs. This event is one of those rare occurrences which make men shed tears involuntarily.”

She then says, “When these tragic events came to pass, history stopped at Karbala and Najaf because people migrated to settle in these two cities with the intention of renouncing Yazid and washing their hands of the enemies of al-Husayn, the oppressed.”2

Notes:

1. Suwar Baghdadiyyah, pp. 145-150.

2. Ibid., as narrated by Mawsu‘ah al-‘Atabat al-Muqaddasah.

Adapted from: "The Uprising of Ashura and Responses to Doubts" by: "‘Ali Asghar Ridwani"