Some of the Aspects of Imam Husain's Character
Imam Husain's Relationship with Allah
We can better understand the depth of Imam Hussein's (a.s.) relationship with Allah, the Most High, if we don't lose sight of the fact that the Prophet (s.a.w.) himself taught him the ideology of Islam and brought him up spiritually as he had done with his father, Imam Ali, his mother, al-Zahra', and his brother, Imam Hassan (a.s.). By so doing, his path was defined and his character was formed.
One day he was asked, "How great is your fear of your Lord?"
"No one would be secure on the Day of Judgment except those who feared Allah in this life," he replied.
His face would turn pale, and he would tremble at the time of doing his ablution. He was asked about this and answered,
"Whoever stands in the presence of the Almighty Allah is not to blame if his color turns pale and his limbs shake."
On the night before the tenth of the month of Muharram, Imam Hussein (a.s.) asked the Ummayyad army to delay the battle till the following morning. He said, "This night we want to offer our prayers to our Lord, and we want to ask His forgiveness. He knows that I love to offer my prayer to Him, recite His Book, and pray much asking f or His forgiveness."
During the most critical and horrifying hours of the last day of his earthly life, he realized that it was midday and he had to perform his prayer. The battle of Karbala' was in full swing. He asked the enemies to stop fighting so as to let him and his followers offer their prayer. No better testimony than this can reflect the depth and strength of his relationship with Allah and his love for Him.
He used to recite this supplication, "O Lord! Grant me the desire for the other world, till I realize that it is a real thing in my heart, through my apathy to this world. O Lord! Grant me perception with regard to the other world so much that I will seek the divine reward with acute longing, and flee from the bad deeds out of fearing You, O Lord...".
Imam Husain's Relationship with People
A look at the ethical side of Imam Hussein's (a.s.) character would be enough to shed light on the vividness of his relations with the ummah, for he was the most perfect and exemplary leader during his time. We don't mean that Imam Hussein (a.s.) was different from the other Imams in this respect. The nature of the relationship between the Imam and the ummah is actually outlined by the Divine Message. Imams represent it, as personified in their daily life.
Following are some examples of that great, high and brilliant relationship.
Imam Husain's Humbleness
Once Imam Hussein (a.s.) passed by poor men eating crumbs of bread on a mat. He greeted them and they invited him to their meal. He sat among them and said: "If your food were not alms, I would have eaten with you. Come home with me," he asked them. There, he fed them, clothed them and provided them with money.
One could easily detect the depth of his humbleness through examination of this vivid testimony, particularly when we take into consideration that Imam Hussein (a.s.) was the political and ideological figure who was appointed as the legitimate leader of the Muslims by Allah, through His Messenger (s.a.w.).
As for his social position, he was so matchless and unique, that Ibn Abbas, the revered companion of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), used to hold the stirrup of his horse when he would mount it. Ibn Abbas was older than Imam Hussein (a.s.), but he did this out of his respect for him.
It is because of his glorious social status that the people would dismount from their horses and camels, on the way to Mecca to perform their pilgrimage, as long as he would travel on foot.
Another example reflecting his humble nature is that of his acceptance of an invitation to having food with the poor. He encountered a number of poor men. Having had their food they hastened to ask him to share with them. He dismounted from, his horse saying, "Surely, Allah doesn't like the haughty." He partook of their food and said: "I have accepted your invitation. Won't you accept mine?"
"Certainly, we Will," said they. He took them to his house and said to al-Rabab, his wife, "Bring us what you have been storing."
He did care for the people. He would always help them, even though, for the most part, they wouldn't recognize his legitimate right. Shu'aib bin Abdul-Rahman is reported to have said: "On the way of al-Taf (battle of Karbala', wherein he was martyred) a mark was seen on the back of Hussein bin Ali (a.s.). Imam Zain al-Abideen (a.s.) (his eldest son, and the son who survived the battle) was asked about it. 'It is the trace,' he replied, 'of the bag, which he puts on his back (carrying food) to the house of the widows, orphans and the poor."
This fact attests to his remarkable humbleness, his care for the ummah, his awareness and deep feeling of his responsibility toward the people.
Imam Husain's Forgiveness of the Wrongdoers
This is another one of his key attributes. Once a young servant of his did something which deserved punishment. When Imam Hussein (a.s.) wanted to punish him, the servant said:
"Who curb their anger." "Let him go", said the Imam.
"And those who forgive their fellow-man," added the servant.
"I forgive you," said the Imam.
"And Allah loves the charitable, sir," said the servant.
"I set you free, for the sake of Allah," said the Imam. "Henceforth I am going to give you the double of what I have been giving you."
These are only brief instances of the ethical side of the character of Imam Hussein (a.s.).
Aspects of Imam Husain's Thought
We deem it suitable to mention some of his activities in the field of Islamic thought. These texts testify to his great intellectual capacity, polished by the divine message and set on the right track by Allah, the Almighty.
Nafi' bin al-Azraq, the head of the Azraqis who were among the Khawarij (those who mutinied against Imam Ali (a.s.) after the Battle of Siffeen), once asked him to describe his Lord Whom he worshipped.
"O Nafi'!," Imam Hussein (a.s.) started, "Whoever uses symbolism in religious matters will always remain in confusion, deviated as he stumbles off the right path, sticking to deviation wherever he goes, straying off the right course, and saying bad, and worthless things. O son of al-Azraq! I can describe my Lord with the very words He used to describe Himself: Never recognized by the five senses. Never compared to man.
Very close but not to the point of being touched. Very far but not so far that He can't be detected. He is One and can't be partitioned. Known by His signs. Described by His attributes. There is no god but He, the Great, the Exalted."
At that point Ibn al-Azraq wept and said: "What beautiful words are yours."
On his way to Karbala', he assessed the general situation, pointing to the great deviation the ummah had been drawn into, and talked about his determination to win martyrdom, in the following words:
"Life has certainly changed disguises and its good has gone forever. This has continued till the remaining good in it amounts to the thin sediment at the bottom of a drinking utensil. Life is a mean food, a pasture covered with bad grass. Do you not see that the truth is not followed and falsehood not discouraged? The faithful must certainly desire to meet his Lord righteously. I do not deem death other than felicity and life among the unjust other than suffering and boredom. People are certainly enthralled with life. Faith is only something licked by them. They take good care of it as long as it secures their living. But once put to the tests of tribulation, religious men should be rarely found amongst them."
With his sharp awareness, he defines the different levels of the relationship with Allah. He says:
"Some people serve Allah desiring (His rewards). It is the worship of merchants. Some people serve Allah out of fear. It is the worship of slaves. And some people serve Allah out of gratitude. This is the worship of the free. It is the best kind of worship."
He addressed the people, prior to the battle of Karbala', defining the characteristics of the Ummayyad rule, and analyzing the political and administrative situation from an Islamic point of view He said:
"...O people! the Prophet of Allah (s.a.w.) had said: 'Whoever witnesses an unjust ruler considering the prohibitions of Allah as permissible, breaking the covenant of Allah, opposing the practices of the Prophet of Allah (s.a.w.), treating His servant sinfully and cruelly, and had seen all these misdeeds but did not oppose him bywords or actions, Allah surely will punish him as He wills.'
"Certainly these people have come to staunchly obey Satan, and given up obeying the Compassionate. They showed mischief, stopped acting in accordance with Islamic laws, took Muslims' property to themselves, made the haram designated by Allah, halal, and turned His halal to haram. I am more entitled than anyone else (to make the change). Your letters arrived, and your envoys came to me carrying your pledge of allegiance that you will not hand me over to my enemy, nor will you f ail me. Should you stick to your pledge of allegiance, you have surely made the right decision. I am Hussein bin Ali, and the son of Fatimah, the daughter of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.). I am, myself, with you, and my family is with yours. You find a good example in me. But, however, if you will not hold onto your pledge of allegiance, break your covenant, and throw off my pledge of allegiance, then, by Allah, it is not the first time you do it. You did it with my father, and you have done it with my brother, and my cousin Muslim bin Aqeel. He is certainly gullible who is deceived by you. You are missing your luck and losing your lot. He who breaks his oath, breaks it at his own peril. Allah will certainly compensate me if you leave me."
These are only scattered small examples of his great thought which occupies the center of original, serene Islam. Should the dear reader tend to know more about Imam Hussein (a.s.), he can refer to the books which dealt with his life. He will find out himself how deep and great were Imam Hussein's (a.s.) thought and faith.
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