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“Rising Against Oppression” at York University

Display set up by the TMA The key point that the TMA ensured was to propagate the message of Imam Hussain as a universal one. They referred to him as the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny); they spoke of Yazid as a tyrant by all standards; they spoke of the Imam’s refusal to pledge allegiance as a way of standing up against injustice; most importantly, they spoke of the utter peaceful nature of Imam Hussain’s stance.

Display set up by the TMACreative displays attracted the attention of passers-by amid the crowd making their way around the campus of Toronto’s York University. The banners in the populated halls that read, “Rising Against Oppression” drew people of all different backgrounds to find out what the group of Muslims was doing.

From Monday, February 1, to Thursday, February 4, the Thaqalayn Muslim Association (TMA) at York found ways to campaign during Islam Awareness Week. Focusing on the tragedy of Karbala, they publicized it as “Ashura Awareness Week” to spread the universal message of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him).

As the week progressed, responses from students, faculty members, and guests were very positive. Shias, Sunnis, non-Muslims, and atheists of many ethnicities were all intrigued by the peaceful yet captivating campaign. What attracted so many people was the wise decision to use the general theme of “Rising Against Oppression.”

There was information about oppression all over the world in all its forms. Flyers about oppression against the Haitians, oppression in South Africa, oppression of various Native Peoples, and oppression of the Pashtun in Pakistan were handed out as examples. A strong source of inspiration for the concept of rising against such oppression was then traced back to the message of Imam Hussain.

The key point that the TMA ensured was to propagate the message of Imam Hussain as a universal one. They referred to him as the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny); they spoke of Yazid as a tyrant by all standards; they spoke of the Imam’s refusal to pledge allegiance as a way of standing up against injustice; most importantly, they spoke of the utter peaceful nature of Imam Hussain’s stance.

Everything was tactfully phrased so that the message was not limited to Shia Muslims. Not only that, but the message of Karbala was also spoken of in relation to current-day events. The combination allowed for Imam Hussain’s message to reach a vast audience at the University. Many also attended the dinner on Wednesday evening in which guest speaker Br. Wael Zain spoke about the youth in Karbala, followed by a Q&A session.

Many people have gained inspiration from Imam Hussain, and the displays were decorated with quotes from individuals of diverse backgrounds. One of the main people whose quotes were promoted was Gandhi. The main display board had a title which read, “I learned from Hussain how to be oppressed yet victorious.” Such quotes from Charles Dickens, Thomas Carlyle, and other well-known people of different backgrounds and of past centuries gave support to the fact that the Imam’s teachings are not limited to one time or one group of people.

Keeping in mind that “Women in Islam” has always been a popular topic, a portion of the set-up was devoted to discussing the crucial role of Sayyida Zainab (peace be upon her) and other women in the tragedy of Karbala. Emphasis was put on the fact that it was the women who spread awareness of the atrocities that took place against the Ahlul Bayt. The fact that many of the volunteers during the week were young women also strengthened the importance of women’s roles in Islam.

Besides the focus on Ashura, other parts of the display addressed issues in relation to Islam. The event sparked healthy discussion about many topics, and some of them became heated and went on for quite some time – yet throughout the four days, the volunteers maintained their composure during discussions with others. At the end of the week, it was apparent that the volunteers had done their utmost to be examples of the very message of peace which they were promoting.

While there was no one taking count, the turnout was still visually portrayed since many people around campus were seen to have green ribbons pinned in support of standing up against oppression. Also pleasing was the sight of people carrying the water bottles which had the label of “Rising Against Oppression” on it. It also had a quote by Charles Dickens that read, “If Hussain fought to quench his worldly desires, then I do not understand why his sisters, wives and children accompanied him. It stands to reason therefore that he sacrificed purely for Islam.”

Despite this being the first time holding such an event, the TMA managed to put together a successful campaign that stood out from the usual myriad of two-people sign-up tables of other groups. Creative display boards, large banners, pamphlets and brochures, card hand-outs, a PowerPoint presentation, and Islamic literature all made up the impressive set-up.

Ashura Awareness Week was a great success: not only was the tragedy of Karbala conveyed to a huge population, but so many misconceptions about Islam were cleared through the discussions which took place because of the open-minded nature of the campaign. It illustrated how the peaceful example of Imam Hussain lives on as a universal message for all of time.

The event served as an excellent example of how to organize such presentations in a way that gets the message out to as many people as possible. Someone once asked the Imam Ali Ridha (peace be upon him) how the message of the Ahlul Bayt could be kept alive. In response, he said: “He (can) learn our sciences and teach them to people. In fact, if people knew (the merits and) the goodness of our statements, surely they would follow us.”

The event opened up doors to many topics ranging from Sunni-Shi’a issues, Shia sub-sect issues, authenticity of the Qur’an and Hadith, religious pluralism, gender issues, modest dress, marriage in Islam, the perception of good and evil, intercession by the Ahlul Bayt, the philosophy of Azadari, the Hereafter, the spread of Islam and so much more! When organized in a proper manner, such events are beneficial and should take place at other institutions when possible. For others who wish to hold a similar campaign, the organizers of the event can be contacted for more information at info@yorku.thaqalayn.org.

About Huda Jawad

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3 comments

  1. Asalam Alaikum Sis!

    Masha’Allah the TMA have done a WONDERFUL job with promoting azadaari and the message of Imam Hussain (a.s) under a more universal banner than than the traditionally one!

    I salute all of the volunteers and organisers for their noble efforts, and thank you sis for the informative review. May Allah (swt) bless more of the followers of Imam Hussain to engage in tabligh in such creative and beautiful ways as the TMA have done, iA. 🙂

  2. Salaam, MashaAllah very impressive work done by the TMA and thanx alot for spreading this beautiful article….

  3. MashAllah, keep up the good work TMA! Promoting Islam and raising awareness
    in such atomosphere should always be implemented as it is necessary to show
    our obligation as Muslims. Allah says, invite people to the right path.. and this is
    the best and ultimate way.
    Thank you very much sister for sharing such article.
    May Allah give us the strength to be able to propagate islam in such way.

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