Hussain’s valiant stand on the Day of Ashura is an example of how a single individual can stand up to corruption, no matter what it takes. Here are five inspirational lessons we can all learn from Ashura…
1. Staying loyal to your moral values
It was obvious as soon as the caliph’s army arrived in Karbala that the sides were massively mismatched. Hussain had been travelling with a small group of friends and family, in total less than 100, whereas the Caliph had sent an army of 30,000. There was no chance that Hussain would win a military victory and this was clear to both sides. Hussain knew that he was the only one the Caliph wanted, and so he urged his followers to leave him. On one occasion, he gathered them all together and told them in no uncertain terms that were they to stay, they would be killed. He told them all to leave. He even turned off the lights, so they could leave without fear of being embarrassed. When he turned on the lights again, not a single soul had left. The men, women and children accompanying Hussain were loyal, not just to him as an individual, but to everything he represented. They felt that to leave would be to betray not just a man, but to betray the principles they held dear: truth, integrity and honour.
2. Standing up for what’s right
Right until the end, Hussain had the choice to walk away from his impending death. The Caliph Yazid’s preference, from the beginning, was for him to sign a pledge of allegiance and submit peacefully. Had he done this, Hussain would’ve been handsomely rewarded, and have retired to a life of comfort and luxury in his hometown of Medina. Yet Hussain refused to do this. When Hussain said ‘a man like me could never give allegiance to a man like him [Yazid]’, this was not a statement of arrogance or pride, but rather one of fact. A man who was known for his justice and integrity, a man of honour, someone who people looked up to because of these traits, could not simply fold and give allegiance to a tyrannical ruler. So Hussain stood for what was right, till the end, and rejected any settlement that involved compromising his high moral standards. There was the easy way, and the right way, and Hussain chose the latter, knowing full well that it would result in his death.
3. It’s never too late to do the right thing
Hurr was the commander of one of the battalions of the Caliph’s army. He was the one responsible for intercepting Hussain and his companions and redirecting them towards the plains of Karbala. On the eve of the battle, Hurr began to pace his tent as the reality of what he was about to do sank in. He realised his conscience would not allow him to fight on the side of the Caliph and kill those who had done no wrong. Hurr crossed the front line and joined Hussain’s side, knowing full well that he it would cost him his life. He did not join because he thought he had a better chance of victory with Hussain; indeed he had left an army of 30,000 to join one of less than 100. Hurr’s story shows that it’s never too late to make the right choice, right till the end. He died that day, but he died a death of honour, on the side of truth.
4. Forgive people for the greater good
When Hurr switched sides on the eve of the battle, Hussain could well have blamed him for all his past wrongs. He would have been well within his rights to point out that Hurr was the one who was responsible for bringing them to Karbala, the one who had cornered he and his family. Hussain had nothing to gain by forgiving him; one more soldier would not have tipped the insurmountable odds in Hussain’s favour, he was still outnumbered by more than 300:1. Yet, Hussain forgave Hurr, because he saw his repentance was genuine. He welcomed him as a guest and they fought and died together the next day.
5. Remain steadfast in your struggle
It’s sometimes easy to start off on the right track, but to remain there in the face of tribulations is the true challenge. On the day of Ashura, Hussain saw his nearest and dearest killed in front of him. For one close friend to die is emotionally traumatic. Hussain saw his childhood friends, his brothers, cousins, sons, family members and his 6 month old child all killed in front of his very eyes. He had to gather their bodies. In the space of hours, his loved ones were all killed. He knew his women and children would be taken captive after his death. Yet he did not waver once. Right till the end, he could’ve given in and signed a pledge of allegiance and he would have been allowed to leave.