Iqbal and the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (a.s); By Mohammed Akmal Pasha


To fathom the pedestal of Allama Iqbal necessitates predominance of not only a rational, just and broad mind, but also a passionate, mystique and spiritual heart. The duplet is often missing either in the hands of unorthodoxy as undercut in the name of modernity, or the prejudice as nurtured by myopic notions marred by indifference. The indifference in turn might stem from the ovum of modernity, as bred by weakened faith in the invisible Heavens and strengthened in the ubiquitous material world. Hence, on one extreme of the pendulum lie full believers in God and Prophet Mohammad (s.a.w) and on the other the disbelievers in the two altogether, and along the swing we find an admixture. Here are believers of God and those who have either entirely replaced prophet Mohammad (s.a.w); that is Ahmed-e-Madani (s.a.w) with some other i.e Ahmed-e-Qadiyan, or made a blend of teachings of the both. Those replacing Prophet Mohammad (s.a.w) have natural bias against Iqbal since they believe Iqbal was at the verge of conversion to Qadiyanism but he just swerved, hence their irrationality with respect to weighing Iqbal. The disbelievers in God and Prophet Mohammad (s.a.w) can be passionate but never mystique and spiritual, thus they also look justified in detesting Iqbal.
The martyrdom of Imam Hussein (a.s) is sometimes debated, this is akin to the case of Iqbal’s philosophy and it also is founded upon similar reasons as cited above. To add, a few believe that the martyrdom was justified since ‘Imam Hussein (a.s) proceeded with a lust to snatch rule from the legitimately orthodox caliph of Islam.’ First of all Yazeed was not a ‘legitimately orthodox caliph’, his father Muawiya himself was cognizant of the fact that his son will not be accepted as caliph once Muawiya passes away, hence his nomination was superimposed during Muawiya’s reign. Here, one can analyze as to why Muawiya was so scared about Yazeed’s caliphate? because he would be an orthodox caliph? Even the sermon of Muawiya bin Yazeed bin Muawiya (a pious son of Yazeed who unwillingly ruled for a couple of months and then died at the age of 21) can be consulted to understand the worth of Yazeed and Muawiya. In his historical sermon Muawiya bin Yazeed confessed that his forefathers were unjust in usurping caliphate from Ali (a.s), the father of Imam Hussein (a.s) and then in depriving Imam Hussein (a.s) from caliphate; hence the ‘legitimate orthodoxy’ of Yazeed as caliph.
Second, Imam Hussein (a.s) never had lust for rule otherwise he must have dropped his family at Madina and had set out to Koofa alone. More importantly, during his entire life of fifty six years, we do not find even an iota of avarice or love for material objects in him, neither we do in his elder brother Imam Hassan (a.s) nor in his father Ali (a.s) although Ali (a.s) remained caliph for four and a half years, thus the question of lust or snatching rule gets ruled out. Pathetically, a few Muslims especially in the Gulf region falsely struggle to justify Yazeed’s stance, and other believers in God and Ahmad-e-Qadiyan (instead of prophet Mohammad s.a.w) undermine the status of Imam Hussein (a.s), as they recite verse of their prophet, Ahmed-e-Qadiyan Mirza Ghulam Ahmed Qadyani: ‘sadd Hussein ast der graybanam’ (I have one hundred men like Hussein in my neck-band). Hence the plight and predicament of the irrational minds and unspiritual hearts, ‘for fools rush where angels fear to tread’ Shakespeare.
As the tradition of prophet Mohammad (s.a.w) prescribes that the example of his family members (Ahl-e-Bait) is that of boat of prophet Noah (a.s) that whosoever rides on it will be successful in the eternal life of hereafter and whosoever detaches himself from it will be ruined. So Iqbal had immense reverence for Imam Hussein (a.s), as he had for Prophet Mohammad (s.a.w) and his family members. By the same token, he was a great admirer of the sacrifice of Imam Hussein (a.s) and quoted it severally and substantially in his poetic works both in Persian and Urdu. For example he claims to be the follower of Ali (a.s) and his family and believes that his predicaments would rather usher him towards his destination:
“Hoon Mureed-e-Khandan-e-Khufta-e-Khaak-e-Najaf
Mauj-e-Toofan aap laey jai gee saahil per mujhe
At times he boosts of his love for Ali (a.s) such that the shadow of Ali (a.s) would be longing for the enlightened spot of love that Iqbal has in his bosom:
Hey meray dil main firozaan dagh-e-ishq-e-Ahl-e-Bayt
Dhoondta phirta hey Zill-e-Daaman-e-Haider mujhe
At the same time he is self-assured that since he mourns for martyrdom of Imam Hussein (a.s), he is destined to get his destination:
Ronay wala hoon Shaheed-e-Kerbala key gham men main
Kiya durey maqsad na dengey Saqi-e Kausar mujhe”
Ultimately, Iqbal believes that if the mystery of martyrdom of Imam Hussein (a.s) could be unfolded, the Muslims would seek that the shrine of Imam Hussein (a.s) becomes their Qibla:
Baiyan sirr e shahadat ki gar tafseer ho jaey
Musalmanon ka qibla Roza e Shabbir ho jaey
Iqbal attaches a lot of significance with the sacrifice of Imam Hussein (a.s) and renders it equivalent to the self-sacrificing deed of prophet Ismaeel (a.s) when he comforted himself under the edge of knife. Iqbal finds strong connection between the two virtuous deeds, rather he reckons the sacrifice of Imam Hussein (a.s) as the end of the same story of Haram (Kaaba) that prophet Ismaeel (a.s) had initiated:
Gharib-o-sâda- o-rangi’n hay dâstân-e-Haram
Nihâyat iski Hussein ibtida hay Ismâil
Further Iqbal locates similitude in patience of Imam Hussein (a.s) and the selfless, God-assured virtue of prophet Abraham (a.s) when he was whirled into the fire; both types of patience are based on passion:
Sidq-e-Khalil Bhi hay ishq, sabr-e-Hussein bhi hay ishq
Mârika-e-wujud maiyn Badr-o-Hunayn bhi hay ishq
So what the message is, contemporarily, the spirit of the sacrifice of Imam Hussein (a.s) can only be internalized when a Muslim attempts to tilt towards rationality and spirituality only by following Quran and Itrat of prophet Mohammad (s.a.w) that is Ahl-e-Bait. The same prescription would serve should the Muslim community aspire to unchain itself from the clutches of internal despair and foreign dominance. Since the birth of Pakistan, the blind faith in the super powers has left the country no where. Most recently, the proxy war for example has garnered the nation a mammoth loss of Rs. 7 trillion and lives of 50,000 people.
Butoon se tujh ko ummeedain Khuda se nomeedi,
Mujhe bata to sahee aur kaafri kya hai
Here we need to embrace character of Imam Hussein (a.s) which is the eternal, though the gestures of brute and exploitation could vary. From Iqbal:
Haqiqat-e-abadi hay maqâm-e-Shabbiri
Badaltay rahtay hain andâz e Kufio-Shâmi
But to our immense regret, we as Muslims are oblivious of the grandeur of spirit of Imam Hussein (a.s), while the circumstances are similar to those ones:
Qâfilâ e Hijaz may ek Hussein bhi nahin
Gar che hai tâbdâr abhi wâdi ey Dajlao Furât
Such a sublime character calls for selflessness, we being carefree of all material world and focusing on the epitome of Imam Hussein (a.s); the real treasure, our heritage:
Ek faqr hay Shabbiri es faqr mayn hay meeri
Mirâs- e-Musalmâni, sar mâya-i-Shabbiri
‘His life was gentle and elements so mixed in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world; this was a Man’ (Shakespeare – Julius Caesar).


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