REFLECTIONS BY SHEIKH FAIYAZ JAFFER: THE MONTH OF MUHARRUM

REFLECTIONS BY SHEIKH FAIYAZ JAFFER: THE MONTH OF MUHARRUM

What Does it Mean to be Husayni?

When the crescent is sighted marking the first of the sacred month of Muharram, a veil of intense grief overcomes our hearts, blinding us from every reality other than the man who stood alone in Karbala. It’s as if we can feel the pain of the family of the Prophet…hear the cries of the children…and bear a thread of the patience of Zaynab. But alas, as the days and nights pass, and we approach the day of Ashura, and the tragedies build up to the 10th day…we are heartbroken with the fact that our master, Imam Hussain, was butchered in the most horrific of manners.

When the crescent is sighted marking the first of the sacred month of Muharram, a veil of intense grief overcomes our hearts, blinding us from every reality other than the man who stood alone in Karbala. It’s as if we can feel the pain of the family of the Prophet…hear the cries of the children…and bear a thread of the patience of Zaynab. But alas, as the days and nights pass, and we approach the day of Ashura, and the tragedies build up to the 10th day…we are heartbroken with the fact that our master, Imam Hussain, was butchered in the most horrific of manners. Indeed, the days of Ashura are upon us again, and by God, there is no tragedy or episode in human history that shakes the souls like Karbala. So as we cover ourselves in black garments and melt our heart in the way of Imam Hussain, it’s vital to use the sacredness of the days and nights in doing just that…giving every ounce of our love to the King of Martyrs and transforming our very existence in what it means to be a Husayni. No, Hussain doesn’t need my tears, nor my walking to Karbala, nor the food I distribute in his name, nor my wails of grief…but I need it, to remind myself that one man, on one day, illuminated every manifestation of beauty and perfection.

Over the course, our lives, (for those of us who have had the absolute privilege and honor of having shared in the mourning ceremonies for Imam Hussain), our perception of what these ceremonies and services mean is naturally going to change. It’s a time to learn, it’s a time to meet members of our community, it’s a time to reconnect, it’s a time to reflect…the institution certainly serves many unique purposes. But today, when I take a look at where I am in the world, a Muslim in America, being surrounded by social and political upheaval, the message of Karbala and the tragedy of Imam Hussain calls me and my community to action beyond anything else. Racism, bigotry, poverty and homelessness are just a few of the characteristics of the society that we are surrounded by.
And when I compare these characteristics with that which Imam Hussain stood to represent, they are evidently at odds. In days like these, we take a look back at the words of the Imam himself as he speaks to the reason why he decided to depart Hijaz—“I am not leaving for [any reason, except for one]…surely I am [starting this mission] to reconcile the affairs اصلاح] ] of the community of my grandfather…” Thus, the mission of the Imam was clear from the beginning—to reestablish a community grounded on higher principles and values that descend from the heavens. In other words, to reestablish a prophetic community.
Once we are in a state to recognize the depth of the rise of the Imam, his family and companions, we need to again evaluate what it means to be Husayni. Thus, we need to take a look at our rituals and see if they are bearing the fruit of what was intended when they were established. Without a doubt, and I say with certainty with the traditions of the Ahlul Bayt my witness, that with every tear we shed for Hussain, there is a reward that cannot be counted. And every time we recite a line of poetry in his name, or every time we serve food, water etc in his way…there is a reward that is only in God’s knowledge. But I am not reflecting on reward, but rather I pose the question to myself: am I internalizing the message of the Imam and working to establish a society that emanates
his divine values and qualities? Isn’t that what the Imam himself was trying to do? During these days if Muharram, I will be in a state of contemplation, and hopefully, as a community, we will be able to make another incremental step to being a Husayni at heart and in action.

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