Teachings and Messages from the Uprising of Ashura as Reflected in the Words of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi

Teachings and Messages from the Uprising of Ashura as Reflected in the Words of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi

We must follow in the footsteps of the martyrs of Karbala and we must also implement the teachings and messages which they left behind for us.‌

Looking in to the teachings and messages of the the uprising of Ashura is of the utmost importance, and through adhering to these essential teachings any potential problems can be solved within our country. In fact, it can be said that there are no problems which can be considered impossible to solve under the guidance of these teachings. The reason behind this is that the Ashura movement is intertwined with certain factors which are always relevant and will never become outdated.

The messages and teachings which Ashura contains are intertwined with the call of freedom and fighting against oppression; these are messages which only grow in scope day by day. These messages can be found in abundance in the sermons of the Imam (a) in Mecca and along the way to Karbala, in the war poetry of the Imam (ʿa)’s companions, in the Ziārat Nāmeh which has been handed down to us, in the sermons of Imam al-Sajjad (ʿa) and the Lady Zaynab (ʿa) in Kufah and Syria…  In order to better understand these key messages, we will utilize the insights of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi towards analyzing the more important of these messages.

The Principle of Religious Zeal

Without any doubt, having religious zeal in order to protect one’s religion and its values is one of the key teachings in the uprising of Ashura. For example, when the Qamar Banī Hāshim had his right hand cut off during the battle of Karbala, he said: Even though my right hand has been cut off, I will still continue to support the religion. These words show us that the martyrs of Karbala were willing to go as far as being killed in defense of the religion. This is a truly important lesson.

The Principle of Enj o i ning the Good and Forbidding the Evil

One of the important teachings of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) in the uprising of Ashura was the revival of two important religious obligations of enj o i ning the good and forbidding the evil which had been passed in to oblivion in that time.  Unfortunately, there are some people who wish to see the issue of enj o i ning the good and forbidding the evil become less prevalent in the society so that they are able to engage in certain activities which go against Islam without the fear of anyone saying anything to them.  When we look at the words of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) in regards to this issue, it becomes clear that we must utilize the mourning ceremonies in order to enj o i n the good and forbid the evil.

Although it is clear that we must strive towards increasing the scope and depth of these mourning ceremonies year by year , there is no point if the good is allowed to be forgotten and evil is allowed to be spread; in such a case, we will not have gained any benefit from these essential teachings which the Karbala revolution has to offer us.  Similarly, if the religious precept of enj o i ning the good and forbidding the evil spread throughout the society and become commonplace, then many of the problems which we face will be resolved. This is why the enemies are working so hard to depict this precept as something which is a negative attribute, accompanied by severity and harshness, while the reality of enj o i ning the good and forbidding the evil has nothing to do with harshness; it is rather something which is performed with gentleness and affection.

The Principle of Servanthood and Total Submission to Allah (swt)

Examining the last congregational prayer of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) and his companions on the day of Ashura at noon, and right before they were all martyred, one realizes that the people must offer their prayers even in the most difficult of circumstances.  If the congregational prayers are performed on time with a full presence of heart, then many of the social and cultural problems of our society will be resolved (or even prevented from taking place).

Therefore, it must be said that this historical prayer of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) and his companions was of such a nature that it awoke the people and it made clear to them the true reality of what prayer is. It furthermore taught us the real meaning of being a true servant of Allah (swt) and also what it means to not submit to any power other than Allah’s. If we hear the sounds of the Call to Prayer being recited across the various cities of the world, this is due to the blessings of the noontime prayer and call to prayer which were recited so many years ago in Karbala. It is most beautiful if the mourners stop whatever they are doing at noontime on the yearly mourning processions of Ashura and stand up in prayer just as Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) and his companions did all those years ago.

The Martyrdom of Ali al-Asghar: A Message of the Oppression Directed against Imam al-Husayn (ʿa)

The details of all of these valuable teachings during the uprising of Ashura shows us that all of the aspects of Karbala are worthy of deeper reflection and understanding. Out of all of these worthy aspects though, the most heart rending is the story of the martyrdom of Ali al-Asghar.  The first message of this story is that when one is fighting against the enemies of the truth, no one is safe. During the Battle of Karbala, both old and young would come forward and they were all martyred in turn. Even the still suckling child Ali al-Asghar was targeted and killed. When this took place, Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) took the blood which had pooled in his hand and he threw this blood towards the sky…

The soldiers who were fighting against Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) were so hard hearted that they did not have any mercy for the still suckling child of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) and they killed him while he was in his father’s arms.  The final message in all this is that tolerating difficulties and calamities becomes easy when it is done in the way of Allah (swt). The world belongs to Allah (swt) and He sees everything which happens…

The Various Facets of the Oppression which Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) Faced

The oppression which Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) and his companions faced was not simply one faceted; this oppression can be seen from different angles and facets. One aspect involves the invitation of the Imam (ʿa) by the Kufans and their disloyalty towards him. Others involve the killing of guests, the cutting off of water supplies to the Imam (ʿa), his companions, and his family members (including small children), setting the tents on fire, riding the horses over the bodies of the Karbala martyrs, cutting off the heads of the martyrs and setting them on spears, preventing the bodies from being buried, taking the women and children of the Prophet (ṣ)’s family as captives and parading them through various cities, etc… These are just some of the aspects of the oppression which Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) and his companions faced and they set this tragedy apart from other tragedies.

The Principle of Perseverance and Steadfastness

By reflecting upon the last words of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa), one finds that this great Imam (ʿa) possessed such spiritual certainty that the death which he was facing (and which was only a few steps away) did not bother him in the least. Even the martyrdom of his closest companions and family members did not faze him from a spiritual perspective (even though he was naturally affected emotionally). These difficulties only made the Imam (ʿa) more steadfast in his goal and it also made him even more eager for the final meeting with his Lord.

In these sensitive last moments, the Imam (ʿa) prepared his son, Imam al-Sajjad (ʿa) for his coming mission as the next Imam (ʿa)… his last testament was given to his son during those moments and he also told his sisters and daughters to obey their new Imam (ʿa).   The Imam (ʿa) also did not forget the followers of his school of thought during those last critical moments. He conveyed what had happened to him to his followers through means of his only son so that the Shias would know how to continue on his path.

The Principle of Honor and the Rejection of Compromise with Enemies

Another key lesson which we can learn from the uprising of Ashura is how to live with honor and how to reject any undue elements of compromise. This principle was well-demonstrated in the Lady Zaynab’s (ʿa) attitude towards the enemies. For example, when the Lady Zaynab (ʿa) stood before Yazīd in Syria, she openly told him that he was so unworthy that she did not want to even speak to someone like him. She also told him that he was something insignificant and incapable. She spoke with such courage even while she was being held as captive and after she had undergone long periods of unspeakable deprivation and hardship. This is an important lesson for us that we should never submit before the enemy irregardless of what circumstances we are in. We should never back down from our principles, for this would entail disgrace for us!

A Final Word

We must follow in the footsteps of the martyrs of Karbala and we must also implement the teachings and messages which they left behind for us.  The ones who claim to love and follow Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) can only make this claim when they have looked in to the corruption which exists during their time period and they have done their utmost in fighting against it. Whenever the general masses of the mourners make a logical and calculated decision for fighting against corruption and taking their society towards reformation, then there is no doubt that they will be successful in their endeavor.  Therefore, we must take careful heed of the message of Ashura which is disseminated during the mourning ceremonies of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa). Mourning is something which is positive and indeed necessary but alongside this mourning we must pay close attention the messages of this great event (and implement them in to our lives).


Researched and edited at editorial deputy of his eminence office