The supreme sacrifice rendered by Hazrat Imam Hussain (AS) and his revered family on the plains of Karbala continues to inspire humanity irrespective of caste, creed, and colour. Centuries have gone by since the epoch-making events on the 10th of Muharram, the relevance and centrality of the Imam’s message has only been growing.

By refusing to submit to the tyrannical and oppressive rule of Yazid, the great Imam drew a clear line between truth and falsehood. As we pay rich tributes to Hazrat Imam Hussain (RA), his family, and companions for their bravery, courage, and commitment to truth, it is also essential to make our young generations aware of the importance, and larger message, of their supreme sacrifices.

While the history of Islam is replete with the examples of martyrdom, the sacrifice of Imam Hussain takes precedence over all others, for the consequences that arose out of his martyrdom have shaped history and impacted the thinking and behaviour of individuals and societies.

The Imam’s refusal to take allegiance at the hands of Yazid represented the defiance of an immoral, illegitimate and barbaric regime that was bent on imposing a code of life that violated the basic teachings of Islam. Yazid’s manner of ascension to power and his conduct of the government negated the foundational principle of the spiritual democracy of Islam. The empire that Yazid and his cohorts presided over, challenged the Islamic values of social justice, peace, tolerance, and freedom of expression.

The Imam knew the corrosive implications of the Yazidi way of life and its adverse impact on the religion of his beloved grandfather (PBUH). He knew that he and his family apparently did not possess the material resources and the requisite number to defeat the might of despotic Yazid but silence at this critical juncture of history was not an option either.

The issues at stake were transformative in nature. More than anything else, this struggle needed to be waged to protect Islam from the threat of moral and spiritual decay. When he challenged Yazid and the order he lorded over, the Imam precisely knew the aims and objectives that informed his struggle and the heavy costs associated with the path he opted for himself, his family, and companions.

Centuries down the line, the world has continued to be inspired by the Imam’s sense of conviction and singularity of purpose in the face of imposing odds and manifest risks to his own and the lives of his loved ones. The Imam’s example has served to renew humanity’s faith in truth and justice, encouraging it to uphold the principles and stay resolute and steadfast in the way.

The Imam rendered the supreme sacrifice to uphold the banner of fundamental rights, human dignity, and the principle of self-determination that was later adopted by the United Nations in 1948. This right to self-determination has been at the heart of humanity’s march towards exploring their cultural, political, and civilisational identity. These rights derive their legitimacy and sanctity from the blood that was shed in the struggle of securing them with the Imam’s sacrifice showing the way forward as a shining example.

The fateful events that took place in Karbala on the 10th of Muharram have been the bedrock of moral order based on an ideological differentiation between right and wrong. The oppressed nations have assessed their struggle on the touchstone of the Imam’s adherence to the principles of truth and justice. His unwavering belief in his ideals and a deep sense of conviction has given the oppressed the courage to continue fighting for their rights.

The takeaway message one gets is that in the fight for one’s inalienable rights, the scarcity of resources and means cannot be a hindrance. The fight has to go on even when the odds are heavy and adversary powerful with the oppressive apparatus at its disposal. In a clash between the forces of truth and those of falsehood, it is truth that is the ultimate victor, a lesson imparted to us by history.

Former South African iconic leader Nelson Mandela paid a befitting tribute to Hazrat Imam Hussain when he said, “I have spent more than 20 years in prison, then on one night I decided to surrender by signing all the terms and conditions of government. But suddenly I thought about Imam Hussain and Karbala movement and Imam Hussain gave me the strength to stand for the right of freedom and liberation and I did.”

The Imam’s supreme sacrifice holds abiding lessons of perseverance, courage, and defiance for the people struggling for their fundamental rights around the world. Thanks to its obsession with terrorism, the present world order does not admit armed struggle as a means of the assertion of legitimate political rights against the state terrorism employed countries such as Israel.

The Imam’s struggle and the ideals he strove for are a beacon of light for the oppressed people such as Kashmiris and Palestinians. Following the annexation of Indian Illegally Occupied Kashmir (IIOK) by Modi in August last year, the Kashmiri movement has entered a critical phase whereby international media has taken a strong exception to the Modi government’s massive violations of human rights in the valley.

Despite the thinking in New Delhi that the ‘Kashmir question’ has been ‘settled’, the global spotlight on IIOK is likely to stay, thanks to the renewed risks that the change in the status quo has posed to peace in the wider region. The Kashmir freedom struggle has weathered a heavy storm of being pushed to the periphery of global conversation post 9/11. Their perseverance and sacrifices have brought them back to the mainstream.

Kashmiris and all other oppressed nations should derive inspiration from Hazrat Imam Hussain’s heroic sacrifices, legendary patience, and undying commitment to the ideals of justice, truth and human rights. The conviction with which they are battling a despotic and fascist regime and writing chapters of unimaginable sacrifices and bravery in the annals of history represents the continuation of the legacy of the great Imam.

Karbala will continue to be a metaphor of hope and light for people mired in the darkness of occupation, cruelty, and oppression. It will continue to reinforce our faith in the ideals of spiritual democracy, human rights and universal moral principles and above all in the potency of truth to defeat falsehood.

Defiance in the face of oppression and firm belief in one’s conviction is the Imam’s greatest contribution to humanity.

Amanat Ali Chaudhry

The writer, a Chevening scholar, studied International Journalism at the University of Sussex. He tweets 

@Amanat222 and can be reached at amanatchpk@gmail.com.