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Lessons From Ashura: The Afterlife

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Belief in the Hereafter

Belief in the hereafter is the most important motivation for jihad and sacrifice in the way of Allah Almighty. Without it, you won’t find a fighter who willingly and eagerly engages in war, seeing themselves as triumphant even in the face of martyrdom. What other motive could prompt someone to embrace jihad, make sacrifices, welcome it, and eagerly pursue it if not the belief in the afterlife?

From this perspective, such a belief played a pivotal role and had a strong presence in the words, speeches, and discussions of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) and resonated beautifully in his poems, as well as in the verses of his supporters and their elegies.

When Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) saw his sister distressed, he reminded her of this profound belief and high faith, saying, “O my sister! Seek solace in the consolation of Allah and be content with His decree. The inhabitants of the heavens perish, and the people of the earth die, and all creatures shall cease to exist, except His face. To Him is the judgment, and to Him you shall return. Know that, for me, you, and every believing man and woman, there is the example of Muhammad (peace be upon him) …”[1]. In another speech, he says: “… and know that the pleasures and pains of this world are transient, and the real attention should be focused on the Hereafter, where those who triumph shall be rewarded, and the wretched shall be miserable …”[2].

On the night of Ashura, he addresses his companions, reaffirming the same belief, saying, “… and be aware that the delights and afflictions of this world are but a dream and the attention should be towards the Hereafter, where the successful shall be rewarded and the unfortunate shall be doomed …”[3].

Belief in the Hereafter severs the roots of human attachments to this worldly life, allowing them to easily and willingly sacrifice themselves while fulfilling their duty.”

In the meeting of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) with Farazdaq at one of the stations along his journey to Kufa, Farazdaq informed him about the martyrdom of Muslim bin Aqeel (peace be upon him). In response, Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) recited poetic verses that indicated his profound belief:

“If this world were considered precious,

 Then the abode of Allah is loftier and nobler.

 And if bodies were created for death,

 Then to be killed for Allah is the most excellent deed.”[4]

Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) had already said to Farazdaq, with tears in his eyes before reciting this poem, “May Allah have mercy on Muslim Ibn Aqeel. He has returned to Allah, His fragrance, and His pleasure. He fulfilled his duty, and what remains is ours.”

In light of this belief, he was certain that his martyrdom, along with that of his supporters and family, would lead to eternal bliss and tranquility in the company of Allah’s mercy. They would meet the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his family) and attain the highest levels of paradise.

All these affirmations of divine reward, success, and enjoyment of the delights of paradise, and the eternal divine blessings, served as a motivation for striving and sacrificing. Thus, the martyrs of Karbala, driven by this faith and conviction, saw death as the beginning of a blessed life in the company of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his family), not as a final end or extinction, but as an eternal existence.

When Ali al-Akbar (peace be upon him) went to the battlefield and engaged in intense combat, he later returned to his father (Imam Hussain, peace be upon him) telling him about the severity of his thirst. The Imam (peace be upon him) said to him, “My dear son, fight a little, and you will quickly meet your grandfather, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family). He will quench your thirst with a cupful drink, and you will never thirst again.”[5]

After Ali al-Akbar (peace be upon him) was martyred, Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) placed his son in his lap, wiped away the blood, kissed him, and said, “My son, you have been relieved of the worries, sorrows, and hardships of this world, and you have joined the souls of ease and comfort. Your father remains, and how quickly he will follow you!”[6]

It is also narrated that when Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) saw his nephew, Ahmad, the son of his brother Hassan (peace be upon him), return from the battlefield, his eyes were bloodshot due to extreme thirst. Ahmad called out, “O uncle, is there a drink that could quench my thirst, strengthen me against the enemies of Allah and His Messenger?” Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) replied, “O son of my brother, be patient a little longer until you meet your grandfather, the Messenger of Allah. He will give you a drink from the water of paradise, and you will never thirst again.”[7]

In these instances, we observe the manifestation of this belief that martyrdom on the battlefield is immediately followed by meeting the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his family) and being quenched with the drink of paradise.

Based on this strong conviction, the warriors of the camp of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) saw their enemies as departing from the path of religion and abandoning the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his family), destined for humiliation in this world and the Hereafter, and deserving the punishment of Hell.

In one of the poetic verses composed by Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) after the martyrdom of his brother and companion, Abbas (peace be upon him), he admonished the enemies for killing the family of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his family), saying, “You shall face the heat of a fire that is kindled.”[8]

The supporters of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) also expressed their dedication to these creedal principles, their connection of the battle to their doctrinal motives, their faith in the Day of Judgment, their hope for Allah’s pleasure, and their aspiration for the rewards of the highest heavens. For example, when Amr ibn Khalid al-Azdi appeared on the battlefield, he recited the following verses:

“Today, O soul, you journey to the Most Merciful, With delight and fragrance.

Today, you will be rewarded for the good deeds, As inscribed in the preserved Tablet of the divine laws.

Do not be distressed; every living being shall taste death.”[9]

Then his son, Khalid, came forward and said:

“Patience in facing death, O sons of Qahtan, so that you may be in the pleasure of the Most Merciful, The One with glory, honor, and evidence, The One with high status, greatness, and benevolence.

O Father, I have entered the Gardens, in a palace adorned with beautiful structures.”

Saad bin Hanzala al-Tamimi also stepped forward, reciting:

“Patience in the face of swords and spears,

 Patience is required to enter paradise,

With the pure-eyed Houris, gentle and serene.

O soul, strive for rest and comfort, and aspire to seek goodness.”[10]

When Muslim bin Awsaja came forward, he recited with zeal:

“If you inquire about me, know that I am from a noble branch of the Banu Asad.

 He who fights against us has deviated from the right path,

A tyrant who disbelieves in the faith.”

Amr bin Muta’al al-Ja’fi also appeared on the battlefield, reciting:

“Today, the battlefield has become delightful for us,

With the absence of Hussain’s striking and plundering.

We hope for victory and defense,

 Against the heat of fire with no escape.”[11]

There are many other examples that reveal the creedal and faith-based foundation in the struggle of the heroes of Ashura.

The mention of Islamic creedal principles in Karbala, on the lips of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) and his supporters, served as a means to disarm their enemies and condemn their attack on the household of infallibility (peace be upon them), an attack devoid of any logic, religious legitimacy, or righteous goal. It also served as evidence of the enemies’ departure from the true faith and their detachment from the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family).

Furthermore, the emphasis of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) on creedal fundamentals, from the beginning of his sacred uprising until the moment of his martyrdom, played a significant role in refuting the doubts that the Umayyads would fabricate later.

When the Master of Martyrs, peace be upon him, decided to leave Medina for Mecca, he called for paper and a pen and wrote a testament to his brother Muhammad bin al-Hanafiyya. This testament not only revealed the Imam’s oppression under the circumstances where Umayyad misguiding propaganda dominated social environments and people’s minds but also underscored the necessity for Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) to document and record the principles of his beliefs. This was to defend and refute any false accusations and fabrications that the Umayyads might later invent against him. The testament also included a brief overview of accepted creedal concepts.

The text of this noble testament was as follows: “In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful. This is what al-Hussain bin Ali bin Abi Talib instructed his brother Muhammad, known as Ibn al-Hanafiyya: that al-Hussain bears witness that there is no god but Allah alone, with no partner, and that Muhammad is His servant and messenger, who brought the truth from the Truth. Al-Hussein testifies that Paradise and Hell are true, and the Hour will undoubtedly come. Allah will resurrect those in the graves…”[12]

It is evident to the contemplator that after elucidating these creedal principles, Imam Hussein (peace be upon him) proceeded to mention the reason for his uprising, which was seeking reform, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and following the path of the Prophet and his successors, peace be upon him and his family. This was to leave no room for doubt or suspicion that could be raised against the noble purpose, objective, and sacred religious movement.


[1] Encyclopedia of Sayings of Imam Hussein, Peace Be Upon Him, Page 404-405

[2] Same reference

[3] Same reference

[4] Bihar Alanwar, V44, P374

[5] Al-Luhoof, Ib Tawoss, P49

[6] Encyclopedia of Sayings of Imam Hussein, Peace Be Upon Him, Page 463.

[7] Ma`ali Al-Sibtaeen, V1, P445.

[8] Bihar Alanwar, V45, P41.

[9] Al-Manaqib, Ibn SharAshop, V4, P104.

[10] Same reference

[11] Al-Manaqib, Ibn SharAshop, V4, P104.

[12] Bihar Alanwar, V44, P329.

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