What would Hussain ibn Ali think about ISIS?

Nausheen, a teacher who lives in London, offers her thoughts on what Hussain ibn Ali would make of the self-proclaimed ‘Islamic State’.

Hussain – a single name that positively impacts the lives of millions; all seeking to emulate the characteristics of a noble, righteous man who stood up for what was right against all odds. Amidst the social and political atrocities we are facing across the world today – of which there is no more savage culprit than ISIS – to me, Hussain offers a genuine hope that at the deepest level, goodness will always prevail.

Hundreds of years ago, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, refused to swear allegiance to the regime of Yazid, the Umayyad caliph, as it was unjust and oppressive. Because Hussain and his followers were greatly outnumbered, they were brutally massacred. Interestingly, the day Hussain was martyred was the very day he was reborn, for the revolution that followed ignited such an intense passion for justice, which has continued to be embedded in the hearts of millions 1400 years later.

As a young British teacher, I often wonder about the impact I can make in my school with the children I teach – beyond merely the academic realm. There is no doubt that I have a responsibility for preserving Hussain’s incredible legacy and encompassing those crucial values of truth and freedom. This is so that the next generation of children, no matter what their faith or background, can too be proud of actively challenging oppression in any form. I want my pupils to come to school every morning being able to recognise injustice and be empowered to do something to stop it. Why? Because they are the future and they can. If we ignite a spark of passion in them – even a tiny spark of passion – it could trigger a phenomenal revolution.

Although some may argue that Hussain cannot be pieced into a modern-day context, today, he is as relevant as ever. Indeed, there is a notable similarity between modern-day struggles against ISIS and Hussain’s own battle against the tyrannical regime of Yazid. Followers of Hussain ibn Ali were brutally beheaded for challenging oppression. It is a case of history sadly repeating itself when the innocent victims of ISIS are also being savagely killed for refusing to pledge allegiance to their fanatical agenda.

There are two tragic ironies when talking about ISIS. Firstly, ISIS are perpetuating their crimes in the homeland of Hussain. So in the very place Hussain fought (and died) for peace and justice, ISIS are killing and pillaging to further their devilish aims. And secondly, all of this is being done in the name of religion, and ‘Godly values’. Let’s be clear. If Hussain ibn Ali was alive today, do you think he would encourage the actions of callous murderers in Europe and North America? Would this man of great love and compassion encourage the Taliban attacks on the Army Public School in Peshawar that claimed the lives of 132 innocent school children? This noble figure – – a fearless promoter of social justice and someone who made the ultimate sacrifice – would openly condemn any such act of unprovoked, cowardly violence.

As a supporter of human dignity and freedom, Hussain was not bound by concepts of class, ethnicity or ideology. He was and is for everyone.

Recently, my beloved father passed away. Mourners gathered to offer their condolences and recite prayers for his soul. Looking back, it shocks me to think that as Hussain was massacred, there was absolutely nobody to assist him. When he boldly chose to sacrifice himself for the sake of justice and goodness for all, he was completely alone without any help. Surely, his selflessness and humility is a lesson for us all, regardless of sex, colour or faith?

ISIS adopt an attitude of “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” – a crime which bears the punishment of death. But what Hussain taught us, and ultimately for me, it is irrelevant if you are a Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu or an Atheist. What defines each and every one of us is our attitude, our mannerisms and how we treat even those individuals who can do absolutely nothing for us.

This is more important than ever, as we are living in uncertain times where there is a lack of trust amongst communities. Undoubtedly, Hussain is the perfect depiction of beauty and faith. He was martyred for nothing but freedom; today, the very same thing is happening. Given Hussain’s overtly universal message, it stands to reason that his name will never be left consigned to the history books.

If Hussain were here today, he would be at the forefront of the anti-ISIS campaign. Let’s learn from his timeless example, and battle tyranny wherever we see it.

Let’s start with ISIS.

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