A question that gets asked a lot is how is it a man who was slain in battle can claim to have been victorious?
It is a fair question to make. After all, Hussain and his brave band of 72 companions were hopelessly outnumbered by Yazid’s army of 30,000 and were hopelessly overrun. They were slaughtered, their dismembered bodies paraded.
Unquestionably, therefore, the military affair was no contest.
Yet in every other way, Hussain was victorious.
Hussain’s stand was never about achieving success through strength of arms. It was about choosing a side and refusing to bow down to an oppressor. Hussain chose morality, justice and liberty and those values lived on. Yazid’s oppressive and autocratic reign soon ended, as Hussain’s challenge gave others the courage to make their voices heard.
Today, Yazid and his mercenaries are forgotten; and if they are remembered then it is only as a blood-stained footnote in the history of the times. Hussain’s shrine is the site of the largest peaceful gathering across the globe. Year in, year out 20 million wayfarers travel from near and far to pay their respect to him and his loyal companions.
As Dr Mahmood Datoo says, “Yazeed is notoriously remembered for… killing the Prophet’s Household, looting the people of Madinah, desecrating the Prophet’s mosque and burning the Kabah.”
But Hussain “is lovingly remembered as a role model for standing up against corruption, oppression, falsehood and injustice; he achieves this by a supreme sacrifice for no personal motive or gain.”
And therefore though the military battle was lost, the ultimate war was won. Word of Karbala was carried on by the women of Hussain’s family and his son, Zainul Abideen.
Hussain’s way of life, his principles, his message all remain with us today, fourteen centuries on. That is a true victory.
Gandhi: I learnt from Hussain how to be wronged and be a winner; I learnt from Hussain how to attain victory while being oppressed.”