I am a dweller of Kufa. I am indecisive, disloyal and unfaithful. I betrayed three Imams, and the fourth shook me with his heart-aching oratory. I am the one that was wished ill upon by the daughter of the divine lady, Fatima Zahra (peace be upon her). I wear the mask of a devout follower. My land is torrid; no rain falls here, and neither is there vegetation. I am the one over whom a Masoom said would reign a just ruler to take revenge on the killers of Hussain (peace be upon him), the oppressors of Hussain, those who helped them, and those who stayed silent. Though I repent, my heart is full of love of this dunya. I can be sold and bought. My allegiance has a price. I am a dweller of Kufa. I betrayed my Imam.
This year I took a proactive approach telling myself I must finish watching the series about Mukhtar ibn Ubaidullah Thaqafi, called The Mukhtar Narrative. I thought it would help me gain a deeper understanding of the events of Karbala, what happened before, and what happened after.
What I learned was the difficult conditions our Imams went through: the propaganda against Imam Ali, the betrayal of Imam Hasan, the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, and the terrible trials of Imam Sajjad and the Ahlul bayt (peace be upon them all). However, it was what I learned about their so-called followers and the determination and faith of their true followers that really opened my eyes. Bani Zubair, under the guise of loving and seeking justice for Imam’s martyrdom in Karbala, were conniving, ruthless, and unimaginably greedy. Bani Umayyah were no doubt worse in their crimes but lacked the real brains for politics. Though neither had a very strong political hold of Kufa – the city of Imam Ali’s followers, lovers, and companions – their cheap tricks like bribery, fear, and mockery worked like a charm in deceiving the dwellers of the city of Kufa. The betrayal and lonely martyrdom of Muslim ibn Aqeel serves as an example. Hani bin Urwah and the sons of Muslim met a similar fate.
Today I see my brothers and sisters in Muslim countries being killed and oppressed. Today I see Muslims in the West selling out their Muslim identity and obligations in exchange for worldly comforts and “peace” in this dunya. My Prophet and Imams say that if one stays indifferent to oppression, then it is like (s)he is on the side of the oppressor. How can those who cry for the Chief of Martyrs not cry out for the oppressed in this time?
When Sayyida Zainab returned to Kufa, she addressed the people in a way that shone a light to their true character. She said, “You have broken your pledges by deceit, and there remains nothing in you except pretense, self-conceit, exorbitance, and dishonesty. You have adopted the flatter of maids and coquettishness of the enemies as your customs. Your similitude is of that of the expanse vegetation or jewelry in the graveyard.” (Nafsul Mahmun)
She warned them, “Beware! What an evil have you brought forth for yourselves that has invited Allah’s wrath upon you, and you have earned a place of fury in the hereafter. You weep for my brother? Verily, yes, by Allah! You should weep, for you deserve it. Weep abundantly and laugh less; thus, you are tainted with disgrace and trapped in contempt that you shall never be able to wash off.” (Ibid.) Her words bore so heavily on the Kufans that the Fourth Imam himself had to ask her to stop, for no amount of wailing and lamenting of the Kufans would return back those who have passed away. But then he questioned them, “How shall you face the Prophet of Allah when he shall say to you, ‘You killed my progeny and violated my sanctity, you are not from among my nation!’?” (Ibid.)
When Mukhtar tried to assemble the Shia heads of Kufa in preparation for his revenge, they suspected his motives, disbelieved in him, and shunned him away. This was even after he showed them the permission from Muhammad Hanafia, the representative and uncle of Imam Sajjad. Our Fourth Imam was not just trying to show us the importance of following his representative in that age, but his general representative, the Marja’iyyah, in our age too. But they were hesitant. In the end, having gathered their support, killed the killers and oppressors of Hussain, and successfully fought against the Bani Zubair and Umayyah, they again wavered in their faith and left Mukhtar alone with a select few in his final battle against Bani Zubair, leading to his martyrdom. The surviving disloyal followers he gathered were tricked and killed by Bani Zubair.
Time and again, Mukhtar reflected upon himself, fighting with his nafs, continually purifying his heart of anything but Allah, and making sure what he was doing really was for the sake of Allah. How easily we betray our leaders. We see the purity of their character, their faith, their strength and belief in Allah, and still Shaitan is able to whisper powerful doubts in to our ears, hearts, and souls. Having seen his praiseworthy justice, his sacrifices, and his successes in revenge of Imam Hussain, people were still blind to the truth.
This is what makes me afraid for myself. I am a dweller of the last times. I am indecisive, disloyal, and unfaithful. I am the one who is praised by all of the Infallibles yet feared for, because I live in the most difficult of times. Still, I live and breathe in a land very few people have the luxury to be in. I await an Imam who already cries tears of blood. In reality, I do not wait for him; instead, he waits for me. For him to bring about his revolution, he needs me to bring about revolutions in myself – to reform, repair, and really truly remove the rust that has settled on my heart. When I stay silent, I am the Kufan who sent letters to my Imam, saw the luminous heads on bloody spears and the most pious heads without Hijab, and stayed silent. Though I repent for my silence and unfaithfulness, my heart is absorbed by love of this dunya. Can I be sold and bought? Does my allegiance have a price? Did I call upon my Imam, inviting him but refuse to actively prepare for his arrival? Is this betrayal? What is the difference between me and the dwellers of Kufa?
A few years passed, and news of Mukhtar’s success reached Imam Zainul Abideen. He prayed for him and thanked Allah for every enemy that was killed. Still, his grief and sorrow did not cease. He did not smile, nor did the women and children. How could they?
The commander of the enemy’s army, Umar bin Sa’ad, was executed by order of Mukhtar. His head was sent to the Imam on the 9th of Rabi al-Awwal, and on this day, he smiled. In the years to follow, the Ahlul Bayt, their lovers, and followers also smiled and commemorated this day as Eid al-Zahra. It was the day that marked the end of the constant mourning of the Ahlul Bayt and brought a minuscule amount of peace to their hearts. Different traditions mention that it was the head of Shimr or Hurmula, but regardless, it was one of the last of the enemies to be killed and that made the Fourth Imam happy.
This day was not just significant because of the reaction of our Fourth Imam to the gift presented to him by Mukhtar, but also because it marks the first day of the Imamate of our last and living Imam. Perhaps the day’s significance is also reflected in the fact that the ultimate justice upon the killers of Hussain will be carried out by this very Imam. It is no coincidence that these two events have fallen on the same day.
Just as Mukhtar was able to stand up to the oppressors and present to the Imam of his time the heads of the killers of Hussain by fighting with his nafs, killing his ego, and perpetually binding himself to the commitment to obey Allah, we too should present a gift to the Imam of Our Time in the same manner. The followers of Yazid and his ideologies exist to this day. They poison the minds of those seeking peace and justice in the world. They are the ones holding hands with the oppressors and allowing innocents to be killed. The message of Imam Hussain too is alive, and so are his followers, lovers, and friends. By doing what Mukhtar was able to do and standing against oppression, for peace and justice, we can make our Imam smile as well.