2020: Now more than ever, the world needs hope

All the darkness in the world right now might cause you to feel listless, to feel lost, to feel bereft of hope. In these difficult moments, we turn to the story of Hussain for inspiration and direction.

2020 continues to see a world in disarray. The coronavirus pandemic has swept throughout the entire globe, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths. It has brought the world to its knees.

And yet COVID-19 is not the end of the world’s problems. The civil war in Yemen has pushed the country to the brink of a devastating famine. China continues to intern and abuse millions of Uighur Muslims, with little substantive action from the global community. Israel is poised to annex parts of the West Bank, in breach of international law. Right now, the environmental crisis is forcing desperate people to flee their homes – tens of millions will do the same over the next decade.

All the darkness in the world right now might cause you to feel listless, to feel lost, to feel bereft of hope. In these difficult moments, we turn to the story of Hussain for inspiration and direction. Despite the horrors that Hussain was faced with and despite the brutality that was rained upon him, he never gave up. It is a lesson we should all learn from, and it is a lesson that we need now more than ever.

Hussain never lost hope, and nor should you.

Hussain: a beacon of hope

Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, took the ultimate stand for moral justice. He refused to bow down to the corrupt rule of Yazid, the Umayyad ruler of the time. He was killed in the Battle of Karbala for doing so, along with members of his family and his closest companions.

Many of us would have regarded Hussain’s situation as utterly hopeless. He was completely outnumbered – he faced an army of up to 30,000 men, with only dozens on his side. Yazid cut off supplies to his camp, so he and his companions were without water and food for three days before the final battle. And once the battle began, he was forced to watch his closest family members and friends killed all around him.

Despite all of this, he remained steadfast right up until his death. It is a testament to the endless power of hope. You can read the full account of Hussain’s story here.

How did Hussain manage to keep his faith?

Hussain never lost hope because he had the strength of his convictions behind him. He was confident in his stand for moral justice. It was this strength that allowed him to retain his faith, despite the hardships that came his way.

An unwavering belief in his principles is what kept him going. In the end, the result of the battle was meaningless, because he was on the side of justice. He was always going to be victorious, despite what happened on the day. He lived and died by the principle that those who are silent when others are oppressed are themselves guilty of oppression.

By refusing to be complicit in oppression, he was able to cling onto hope, even when his world collapsed around him. Even when his demise became certain. “Death with dignity is better than a life of humiliation,” he proclaimed.

What does Hussain have to teach us about hope?

Hussain’s story didn’t have a Hollywood ending. It wasn’t a tale of hope triumphing over all immediately, of the good guys beating the bad guys. Hussain and many of his family and friends were brutalised on the battlefield. On the face of it, Hussain’s hope and conviction came to nothing. If we think about “hope” as desiring for an immediate positive outcome to come true, clearly that didn’t happen here.

However, what if we paint a broader picture of hope? One that doesn’t fade away immediately. One that even lasts beyond our lifetime. One that might require short-term suffering in exchange for a longer-lasting reward. If we did, then we would see that Hussain’s story is undoubtedly a tale of great vision. The killing of Hussain was horrific, but it exposed the corrupt and immoral rule of Yazid. It led to several popular uprisings against the Umayyad regime and ultimately resulted in their downfall.

1,400 years later, Hussain has been immortalised as a figure synonymous with moral justice and selflessness. Every year, tens of millions of people take part in the Arba’een pilgrimage to commemorate his journey to Karbala. Yazid on the other hand? His memory has been cast into obscurity.

You can learn more about the legacy of Hussain here.

How can we use the parable of Karbala today?

So when we talk about hope, we’re talking about a powerful and forceful concept. It requires a great deal of faith and patience to see its reward. And it requires incorporating fairness and justice into its remit – if Hussain has taught us anything, it’s that there is no dignity in striving for immoral outcomes. Hope demands virtue at its core.

Today, when we are surrounded by a world that seems more cruel and unfair by the day, only strong convictions and principles will guide us. By remembering the example of Hussain, we can be sure that even if we do not see results today or even tomorrow, the journey towards moral justice is inevitable.

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