“Is there anyone who will help me?”

A line that reverberates throughout time in a challenge to humanity to choose either dignity or humiliation when faced with oppression. This line was spoken by Imam Hussain (as). He was the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh), and is a prominent and cherished figure amongst all Muslims. Yet, Hussain, his family, and his dearest companions were massacred in cold blood, on the day of Ashura by the orders of the tyrannical Muslim Caliph of the time, Yazid I.

Every person in the world who possesses a sound intellect and judgment regardless of religion, education, race, and culture wishes to see justice prevail. Hypocrisy finds no space when some tyrants are defended whereas others are slandered. Injustice is injustice. Without justice and punishment of oppressors, this world will surely turn into a jungle of beasts leaving no difference between animals and human beings.

Imam Hussain (as) refused to surrender to falsehood, misguidance, tyranny, corruption, oppression, and dictatorship of rulers who have deviated from the path of righteousness.

Yazid was a tyrannical leader. He was known to rape, imprison and steal; he was swift to silence those who dared question his legitimacy as Caliph. Through propaganda and fear-mongering, he was able to assume power, and many people felt there was no choice but to accept him as leader. Hussain, on the other hand, was a man who believed in dignity and freedom; he refused to pay allegiance to Yazid, a person who had little respect for his fellow man. Despite the oppressive pressure mounted against him and the almost certain promise of being killed, Hussein remained defiant in his stance and famously said – ‘Death with dignity is better than life with humiliation.’

When it was evident that there is no other way than to fight, Imam Hussain (as) said to his small army “You witness the existing state of affairs. The life has changed, evil advanced, and its good has retreated. Now, what is left of it is like little sediment that has remained in a pot. Do you not see that righteousness if abandoned, while no one forbids falsehood?! So let a true believer desire the return to his Lord, for I do not see death now but happiness and life with oppressors but torture.

”Then he turned to the army of Umar ibn’ Saad and said “Woe be to you! If you disliked us, then let us go! You prepare for fight without careful thinking. You rushed against us like birds to its food or like butterflies! Shame on you! You are supporting the oppressors of the Ummah (nation) and you are disregarding the book of Allah, you are whispers of the devil, you are the gang of sins, you are the changer of the divine book and the eliminator of the Sunnah (traditions of the Prophet), you are the killers of prophets, their progeny, and exterminators of the Guardians (Awsiyaa) Household, and you are the falsely claimer of parenthood to an illegitimate child, and you are bringing harm to believers and widespread the message of misguidance through anti-Islamic leaders who nullify the Quran.

You support Yazid and his followers, and fail us? Yes, I swear by Allah, treason is well known trait in you! You were raised on it and you inherited it generation after generation. It covered your hearts and your chests until you became the worst supporter of the enemy of Allah and the tyrants! Curse of Allah be upon those who return back their oath and do not respect their agreement after confirmation. You made Allah be a witness upon you, you are those people. Verily, the illegitimate son whom his father was also an illegitimate son too (Ibn Ziyad) offer us only two choices, either the sword or humiliation, and no way that we accept humiliation! Allah, his Prophet, good ancestors, purified mothers, and dignified souls which preferred an honorable death over obeying tyrants, all of them reject that for us!”

In the year 680AD, Hussein, his family, and 72 of his companions found themselves stranded on the desolate plains of Karbala (in modern day Iraq). They were surrounded by Yazid’s army of at least 30,000 men, who had cut-off their water supply, the Euphrates Rive. On the Caliph’s orders, a brief battle of several hours commenced, ending in the killing of Hussein, and all the men in his camp. The remaining women and children were taken as prisoners of war. Yet amongst all this carnage and destruction, a revolution had ignited.

The Battle of Karbala, in statistical terms, was hardly significant, but the story of Hussein’s sacrifice has inspired people for centuries. Hussein’s message is universal and ever-resonate, because it embodies liberation and renounces injustice. Mahatma Gandhi once said – ‘I learned from Hussein how to achieve victory whilst being oppressed.’ Today, several million people converge at Karbala to commemorate the day of Ashura. Undeterred by the very real threat of violence and terror, they come to relive and replay the message of a very distinct, free human being.