Remembering Hussain on Ashura (DW#454)

Today marks the Day of Ashura, the day when Hussain ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed (saw) was martyred on the plains of Karbala (present day Iraq) in the year 680AD. 

Millions of people around the world commemorate this day with solemnity and a renewed commitment to stand for social justice.
In Islamic spirituality, there are many narrations from the Holy Prophet (saw) regarding the merits of remembering Hussain, his family and his companions. It can sometimes be challenging to understand the status that Hussain has with God and with people.

Here is a story which might help:

It is said that there was once a King who was fighting a battle and in the midst of the battle, a storm descended, and he came to be separated from the rest of his troops and found himself in a jungle.

Hungry and dishevelled, he was near panic when he saw a modest hut. He approached the hut and found that an old woman lived there.

He explained that he was lost and hungry and requested shelter for the night. The old lady welcomed him in and explained that she lived with her son who had gone hunting for food. She told him that things had been very challenging economically for them since her husband had died some years ago. Now the two of them lived alone and from hand to mouth. If he brought food home, they would eat. If he did not find any game that day, they would go to bed hungry.

As they were talking, the old lady’s son walked in and explained that because of the rain storm, he was unable to procure any food for them that day.

The woman took him aside and explained:

"Shh son, we have a guest today and we must feed him and offer him shelter for the night".

"Offer him what Mother?", asked her son. "As I told you, I was able to procure any food today".

"We have a goat, don’t we?", replied his mother? "We will milk her as we do, and then slaughter the goat for food tonight".

"Mother! The goat is our only possession in this world. If we slaughter it, there will be no milk and no more food. How shall we survive?"

"I am not sure of that son. All I know is that we have a guest who is hungry, and we must feed him".

The mother and son proceeded to milk and slaughter the goat and invited the King to dine with them.

The next morning dawned clear and the King was well fed and well rested.

He bade farewell to the mother and son and said:

"You do not know this, but I am the King of the land. Yesterday I was lost and hungry and you gave me shelter and food. I am forever grateful for your kindness and generosity. Please promise that you will visit me at the palace should you ever need anything".

The old lady made her promise and wished the King well.

Some months passed and things went on as they were.

One day, the woman arrived at the Palace. Her son was injured, and their circumstances were dire indeed. She desperately needed help.

After gaining admission through the Palace gates, she found herself in the presence of the King at Court.

The King spoke to his advisors:

"What do you think is fair recompense for this woman? What should I give her to repay her kindness to me?"

The courtiers started offering their advice:

"You are the King, Your Highness. You must be generous too. Give her some land".

"Give her money and land Your Highness for that is what she deserves".

"Give her money, land and a title Your Highness – this is what your status demands".

And so it went on . . .

The wisest of the advisors remained silent.

"Why do you not speak?" The King asked. "I await your opinion".

"The fact is, Your Highness, if I may speak, that it is impossible to repay her kindness.

She made the first move, without knowing who you were. And she gave you everything that she possessed in this world.

Even if you give away your entire Kingdom to this woman, you cannot recompense the fact that she did it first".

And so, my friends, this is the story of Hussain. He gave everything he had for the love of God. He held nothing back. His friends, his companions, his homeland and his life were all sacrificed to uphold the greater truth.

And it only befits the King of Kings, the most Generous and Beneficent Lord to repay him with love and glory for time immemorial.

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