Life lessons from Imam Hussain (as)

Far away from the turmoil in Yemen, the sectarian killings in Pakistan, and from the new questions arising in North America regarding Imam Hussain’s mission, I am trying to keep Imam Hussain and Karbala alive for my children.

It really bothers me when I read about youth in the West now raising questions about whether Imam Hussain “failed” or “succeeded.” Did it ever occur to those same youth that the only reason you are able to talk about him at all is because he succeeded.

But my children are young, and I try to teach them the basic life lessons that Imam Hussain taught us while fighting Yazeed and his army in Karbala 1,400 years ago.

  1. Importance of prayer – While Imam Hussain and his army were fighting, time came for the noon prayers. Imam and his followers asked for a break in fighting to pray to Allah. Yazeed’s army did not pay heed and continued fighting. A few of Imam’s comrades guarded him and the others while the rest prayed. No matter when the going got tough, Imam Hussain taught us that remembering to show Allah gratitude is of utmost importance.
  2. Importance of faith/Tawheed (oneness of Allah) – Imam Hussain taught us to do everything purely for the sake of Allah. His mission, his stand against Yazeed, his inviting others towards good deeds and telling them to refrain from bad deeds, his traveling to Karbala – it was for Allah and all to save Islam. For this faith, he and his companions were rewarded with shahadat.
  3. Loyalty – It is said that Imam Hussain had the best companions. There is hadith that he claimed “I have the best followers, even better than the ones my grandfather, the Holy Prophet, and my father, Imam Ali, had.” The night before Ashura Imam Hussain sat with his camp and told them that by coming this far and intending to fight with him they had already been assured Paradise. But since Yazeed’s army was really after him, they could leave now and save their lives. He blew out the lanterns so as to save anyone from embarrassment. But when the lanterns were lighted again, everyone remained.
  4. Sacrifice – In their own ways, each member of the camp of Imam Hussain (as), even the women and children, sacrificed something near and dear, with the understanding that this was all for a higher purpose. If not their lives, then their peace and comfort, children, were sacrificed to keep Islam alive.
  5. Standing up for what is right, no matter what – When Qasim, nephew of Imam Hussain (as), was asked how he saw shahadat, he replied “I find it sweeter than honey.” When Hazrat Zainab (sa) faced the enemies of Imam Hussain and was asked “What do you see in how Allah treated your brother and your family?” She replied: “I saw nothing but beauty.”

I don’t have to indulge my kids in the horrific details of the Battle of Karbala. Unfortunately most of the time we mostly dwell in these issues – how Imam Hussain was killed, how Imam Hussain’s brother Hazrat Abbas was slaughtered, how the enemies shot an arrow through the 6-month-old Ali Asghar’s neck, how the tents were burned after the battle, etc.

While it is important to know about these tragic details, I like to focus more on the lessons. I like to reiterate important concepts with my children, like the importance of living with dignity and not selling away our beliefs for material gain. Or the importance of sacrifice, be it small even. Learning how to live for the higher purpose. I want them to see how the actions of those in Karbala saved Islam.

In the end, I want my children to see the same beauty that Hazrat Zainab (sa) saw on that fateful day, and be confident in their beliefs.