When the month of Ramadan closes, thoughts naturally shift toward the pilgrimage and Muharram seasons, as the final journey of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) echoes in the unfolding dates of the yearly calendar. While thousands of inauthentic narrations in support of the illegitimate caliphate during the time of Imam Hussain have survived to the present, only a handful of concise narrations from the Master of Martyrs himself remain. Sensing a need for the public to benefit from the actual and contextual words of the Imam for guidance and inspiration, the late Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Husayni Tihrani created a compilation of some of these, titled Lama'at al-Husayn, now translated to English by Tawus Raja as Divine Flashes of Husayn and available from Kazi publication, Amazon.com, and similar sellers.
It is not enough to learn history from second, third and multi-generational sources; as much as possible, authentic primary source material must be engaged by the public and scholars so that the players' own words may ring in one's ears and resonate in one's heart, without layers of distortion and interpretation applied by others. Divine Flashes of Husayn is an excellent example to follow for making authentic primary documents available for public benefit. This book is very concise and written in clear, common English. It does not presuppose prior knowledge of the historical setting; the author and translator provide excellent introductions which in a few pages expose the history of the Wilayah (guardianship) of Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them) and the usurping caliphate.
Twenty-one excerpts of sermons, speeches, letters and poems from the last six months of Imam Hussain's life follow, in original Arabic and translation without commentary, aside from necessary context and notes in back matter of the text which cite sources and provide a few comments from the author and/or translator. Each passage is only a page or two of reading, making the whole work, notes and all, only about 75 pages. The appeal of short passages and small books is accessibility to a public which includes people who desire to learn and grow on the Right Path but lack desire, will, or ability to digest large amounts of text. The result remains very satisfying from a scholarly standpoint – the original Arabic and sources are provided, and footnotes offer some additional information for those wanting it. Additional back matter includes an appendix on people named in the text – an excellent idea, as the pure volume of names, some of which are similar, can become difficult for a lay person to keep organized in the mind.
If one reads the book in order, the compilation of words from Imam Hussain in essence shows a progression of events toward and including the climax of Ashura from the first person perspective. This perspective and progression not only educates the mind but pulls the heart of the reader. Poetry recited by the Imam, companions, translator, and author further allow access to love of Ahlul Bayt in the heart. While this is a book of primary source material, it is not just a document of history. The words of the Imam always serve to guide, not only the original audience but the modern audience as well. Thus, the reader learns history and also ethics and numerous other aspects of the religion. Reading the words of the Imam himself allows one to gain insight into his personality and character with an intimacy impossible otherwise.
Divine Flashes of Husayn seems modestly overpriced at the $12-$16 range, in light of its small size, but its content is worthy. The translation is excellent quality English, with only a few grammatical errors likely to be unnoticed by most readers. This book would be a nice gift for a young Muslim in addition to the standard adult Muslim audience. The cover has calligraphy of Bismillah, Allah, and Muhammad, and the original Arabic of Imam Hussain's words containing holy names is present, which causes the only caution for using this as a gift to a non-Muslim; aside from that issue, its content and presentation would be a fine introduction to Imam Hussain for anyone interested in learning about the Master of Martyrs.