The Manifestation of the Culture of ‘Servanthood’ in the Epic of Ashura From The Viewpoint of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi

The Manifestation of the Culture of ‘Servanthood’ in the Epic of Ashura From The Viewpoint of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi

Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) performed his prayers in congregation even on the day of Ashura. This shows us that the prayers must be performed even in the most extreme and difficult of condition. Thus, in order to highlight this lesson and show its importance, it is very important that we offer the Noon Prayer of the day of Ashura in congregation.‌

Without any doubt, the prayer of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) on the day of Ashura is one of the most beautiful manifestations of worship and supplication before Allah (swt). The prayer which the Imam (ʿa) engaged in before his final moments at Karbala, in light of the difficult circumstances that he was in, shows us how deeply the Imam (ʿa) loved worship and how at-tached he was to it. In light of this, the Imam (ʿa) is a complete and perfect role model for us to follow in regards to prayer. Let us now delve in to some of the more subtle details in regards to the issue of ‘servanthood’ which is reflected in the struggle of Karbala as explained by Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi:

A Reflection on the Reality of the Term ‘Servanthood

According to Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, the term servanthood (ʿUbūdīyat) is defined as the ultimate stage of completion for the soul of an individual. It relates to their proximity to Allah (swt) and their absolute submission before their Lord. This concept is not limited only to acts of worship such as prostration, genuflection, and other stages of prayer. It is rather a type of unconditioned and absolute submission before the Supreme essence of Allah (swt). This is a type of servanthood which is free from any defect or deficiency,  and it forms around the essence of lordship.[1]

The Epic Struggle of Ashura as a Reflection of the Highest Stage of Devotional Service of Allah (swt)

Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has explained the culture of servanthood as seen in Karbala. He has mentioned in this regard that: The history of humanity has very rarely seen anything much like what happened on the Ashura of the 61AH. This was an event with widespread implications and consequences, and it proved to be an event which was essentially history changing in nature. Just like a coin, Karbala also possesses two sides which are completely different to one another. One side speaks of treachery, disloyalty, cowardice, oppression, wretchedness, hard heartedness, a complete lack of mercy, and the killing of one’s guests. The other side though speaks of loyalty, sacrifice, dauntless courage, the rejection of oppression and tyranny, patience, submission before the commands of Allah (swt), and a complete and lofty level of servanthood before Allah (swt).

The Love of Devotional Worship of Allah (swt) as the Secret to the Manifestation of Servanthood

Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has mentioned that an intrinsic love for worship and for supplicating Allah (swt) is one of the lessons which we see manifested in Karbala. He has made the following remarks in this regard: On the evening of the day before Ashura, ʿUmar ibn Saʿad had been given the order to either immediately take the pledge of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) for Yazīd or to attack and kill the Imam (ʿa) and his companions. The call to war had been announced the enemy was preparing to attack the Imam (ʿa) and his companions. When Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) saw this, he told his brother ʿAbbas: Oh ʿAbbas… go and see if you can delay the battle until the rise of dawn tomorrow; try to get tonight’s reprieve so that we can spend it praying, supplicating, and asking forgiveness from Allah. God knows that I love prayer, the recitation of his Book (the Quran), and abundant supplication and the seeking of forgiveness from Him.

Servanthood as a Key Criterion in Distinguishing the Truth from the Falsehood

Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has explained the various devotional lessons taught by Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) on the night before Ashura. He has mentioned in this regard that: Indeed in Karbala there were two groups of fighters facing one another. One of them was composed of some of the purest and most sincere individuals from the human race, while the other was composed of some of the most wretched followers of Satan. One group sought a night’s reprieve in order to spend their last moments on this earth praying to their Lord, as they prepared themselves for their ultimate meeting with their creator. The other group did everything they could in order to lower and utterly destroy themselves. These were the two groups which were now face to face, standing on opposing sides.

When we look at the night before Ashura, we find a scene that was truly exceptional in nature. It was a most strange night. The murmuring of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa)’s companions could be heard as they supplicated and prayed to their Lord. The entire landscape was filled with this humming like sound. In this amazingly spiritual environment, the hearts beat with the love of martyrdom and they were all waiting for the coming of the dawn, when the time for their final meeting would arrive.

The Noontime Prayer of Ashura as a Manifestation of the True Meaning of Servant-hood

Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has mentioned that one of the most beautiful and meaningful elements in servanthood as found in Karbala can be understood with the following narration: Abū Thamāmah al-Ṣāʾidī went towards Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) on the noon of Ashura and he said to him: Oh Abā ʿAbdillah, may I be sacrificed for you! Since I am going to be meeting my Lord, I would like to pray this last prayer, whose time has now arrived, with you. 

The Imam (ʿa) looked towards the heavens and he said:[2] You have remembered the prayer, may Allah place you in the ranks of those who pray; indeed, this is now the best time for prayer.  At this point, some of the companions came and stood in front of the Imam (ʿa), making themselves a human shield, while the Imam (ʿa) prayed his last prayer as the enemy showered them with arrows.  [3]

Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has mentioned the following in regards to the aspects of servanthood found in the noontime prayer of Ashura: This historical prayer in reality revived the spirit of true prayer and it made clear the true meaning of prayer for those who were seeking the truth. This prayer showed us the true meaning of devotional service of Allah (swt) and it also showed how one must stay away from the false gods and idols of the worshippers of the worldly life. It is because of that call to prayer and also the blessed prayer performed by Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) on Ashura that today we can hear the sound of the call to prayer resonating from the various parts of the Muslim world (as well as the non-Muslim world).. Due to this reason, it is most beautiful when we see the groups, who have gathered for mourning on Ashura, stop their activities at prayer time and stand all together to perform the Noontime prayer on the noon of Ashura.

The Last Supplication

Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has explained various details in regards to elements of servanthood as expressed by Imam al-Husayn (ʿa), even during the last moments of his life. He has stated the following in this regard: The Imam (ʿa), during the last moments of his life, sup-plicated to his Lord with the following supplication- O’Lord! O’ He who is lofty in position. O’ He who possesses the great dominion. O’ He who is Almighty (to punish and seek vengeance). O’ He who is needless from his creation…  You are able to do whatever You wish. Your mercy is near and Your pledge is true. O’  He who is All-bounteous… Whenever you are called, you are near. You dominate over the creation. You are the one who accepts the repentance of the repentant. You are able in whatever You will… I call upon You with the call of one who is in need and I am eager for You as one who is needy. I seek Your refuge while I am in fear and take hold of Your threshold while I am in a state of sadness. I seek Your help while I am incapable, and I only rely upon You…  

Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has mentioned the following about the aforementioned supplication: In truth, this is a very beautiful and meaningful supplication. It is something which offers much for us to learn from. Imagine that this supplication was recited by the Imam (ʿa) during the last moments of his life, under the most critical and dangerous of situations. At this point, he was injured all over and his body was covered with blood. In the midst of his vast grief from the loss of so many brave and pious companions, and with the worry of what would happen to his family members, he began to recite this blessed supplication.

This supplication contains many lessons in regards to the divine and it expresses the lofty degree of the Imam (ʿa)’s satisfaction and submission before Allah (swt). One does not see the least amount of complaining, restlessness, hopelessness, or dissatisfaction. Throughout the supplication, one only finds words of patience, perseverance, contentment, and satisfaction for what Allah (swt) has asked of him. Truly the sacrifice of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) is unlike any other sacrifice!

A Final Word

Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has explained the unbreakable link between servanthood and prayer. He has said the following in this regard: Prayer is the best means of connecting with Allah (swt) and it is the loftiest symbol of being a servant of Allah (swt). This is because the clearest sign of servanthood and humility before Allah (swt) is exemplified by the act of prayer.  The fact that Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) performed his prayers on the noon of Ashura under such harsh conditions, teaches us that we must perform our prayers even during the most difficult of conditions.  Therefore, the people’s performance of the congregational prayer on the noon of Ashura should be considered as one of the very important actions, in line with the Imam (ʿa)’s actions on the day of Ashura. It is clear that Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) would be pleased with this type of mourning. Due to this reason, the eulogizers and lecturers must be careful to abide by the time of prayer and they should stop their programs at this time in order that the people can attend their congregational prayers.


Researched and edited at editorial deputy of his eminence office



[1]. Miṣbāḥ al-Sharīʿah, p. 536 (as narrated from Mīzān al-Ḥikmah, in the section on the word ʿAbd (servant)).

[2]. ذَكَّرْتَ الصَّلاةَ، جَعَلَكَ اللَّهُ مِنَ الْمُصَلِّينَ الذَّاكِرينَ! نَعَمْ، هذا أَوَّلُ وَقْتِها

[3]. ʿAyān al-Shīʿah, vol. 1, p. 606.