The Day of Ashura is the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar, which marks the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (AS), the holy Prophet’s (PBUH&HP) grandson, and his companions in the battle of Karbala. They were all slain in such a horrific way that it is difficult to find such cruelty alike in the history of humankind. They were violently martyred after they were besieged and prevented from obtaining water to drink, and so they departed this life thirsty- this was for no crime other than their refusal to swear allegiance to Yazid, the notorious tyrant of the time .
Imam Hussain (AS), along with his family members and companions, showed the highest degree of moral standards in dealing with calamities they went through. He made any effort to clarify the truth and goals for which they rose up and were ready to sacrifice their lives. This article focuses on some of the most prominent virtues Imam Hussain (AS) and his companions displayed on this day; the ones that –if practiced- will finally lead to the salvation of humankind:
Imam Hussain (AS) taught the faithful believers, in practice, that they should not hesitate to sacrifice everything for the religion of Allah to protect it when it is at risk. He rose up against Yazid when he noticed this dictator openly violated the commandments of Allah.
He announced: “Don't you see that truth has been replaced by falsehood? We must be prepared to sacrifice everything precious in support of Truth!”. Ali Akbar (AS), Imam’s eldest son, asked him in this regard if they were on the right path. Imam (AS) replied in the affirmative. Ali Akbar (AS) then said: “Then, it makes no difference if death comes to us or if we approach death.”
Imam Hussain (AS) believed that living under a tyranny was nothing but living in hell:
“To me, death is nothing but happiness and living under tyrants nothing but living in a hell” .
In Karbala, when Imam Hussain (AS) was placed in a dilemma by the oppressors to be humiliated by swearing allegiance to Yazid or to fight and die with glory, he said he would not accept humiliation and obedience to mean people .
In another famous narration, he said: “If you don't believe in any religion and don't fear the Resurrection Day, at least be free in this world” . In other words, if you do not follow a specific religion or believe in the Hereafter, at least be humane in your worldly affairs. This saying of Imam (AS) invites the whole world to reject submission to oppression; to practice freedom.
The most important social message of Imam Hussain (AS)’s revolution is fighting against people’s unawareness. The tyrants of that time had done everything to diminish the limits between right and wrong, and Imam Hussain (AS) intended to redefine that for the society:
“I never revolted in vain, as a rebel or as a tyrant, but I rose seeking reformation for the nation of my grandfather Muhammad (PBUH&HP). I intend to enjoin good and forbid evil, to act according to the traditions of my grandfather, and my father Ali ibn Abi-Talib (AS)” .
Imam Hussain (AS) and his loyal companions were all patient in the face of traumatic events, among which are: being surrounded in the hot desert and prevented from obtaining water for three consecutive days by the enemy, martyrdom of his six-month-old infant son, his young son, Ali Akbar (AS), his brother Abbas ibn Ali (AS), his relatives and companions before his eyes, etc.
Imam (AS) never complained about these and instead would say: “We, the household of the Prophet (PBUH&HP), are subservient to whatever Allah has destined us. We will be patient on this calamity, which has happened to us. Of course, Allah the Almighty will give us the reward of the patients. We will be surrounding the Prophet (PBUH&HP) in the Paradise” .
On the day of Ashura, when the battle was in full swing, he told his companions: “Be patient O ' the son of the nobles. Death is only a bridge that takes you from misery and loss to the vast Paradise and the eternal graces” .
Imam Hussain (AS) and his blessed companions were living examples of what the Quran taught: “So be patient, with a patience that is graceful” (70:5); patience which was not out of helplessness or weakness but was a demonstration of steadfastness and bravery.
Fidelity and promise-keeping was the other prominent feature of Imam Hussain (AS) and his companions. See how Imam (AS) described his companions on the night before Ashura: “I do not know companions more loyal and better than my companions” . That night when Imam (AS) told them they were free to leave and give up before the battle, his brother, Abal-Fazl al-Abbas (AS), said: “Why should we do such an act? To live after you, never! May Allah forbid such a day!” The others, too, unanimously said they would never betray their Imam.
Or, in another example we see, on the day of Ashura, after Abbas (AS)’s right hand was cut off by the army of Yazid –when he had gone to get some water for the children and women- he bravely recited these epic verses: “By Allah, if you cut my right hand, I will never stand back, and I will protect my religion, and I will support the Imam who stands firm in his belief and is the grandson of the pure and truthful Prophet ”.
These were only a few examples of what made Ashura and Imam Hussain (AS)’s uprising an epic that will never fade from the memory of humankind. Every year, millions of people around the world commemorate this tragedy, express their sorrow, and remind themselves to firmly stand against tyranny as Imam Hussain (AS) did. This has also affected the people of other faiths, as Mahatma Gandhi has said:
“I learned from Hussain (AS) how to be wronged and be a winner, I learned from Hussain (AS) how to attain victory while being oppressed ”.
Generosity is such an important virtue in the religion of Islam that the holy Quran says with regard to it: “You will never attain piety until you spend out of what you hold dear, and whatever you may spend of anything, Allah indeed knows it” (3:92).
As perfect exemplars of this great ethical virtue, the holy prophet (PBUH&HP) and infallible Imams (AS) always recommended their followers to be unconditionally kind and bountiful with people. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) stated: “A generous person is closer to Allah, to the people and heaven” 
Allah says in the Holy Quran:
“As for him who gives and is Godwary, and confirms the best promise, We will surely ease him toward facility” (92:5-7)
Generosity is one of the qualities of the soul which Allah bestows upon His beloved ones, who are not concerned about material wealth and willingly give to others to make the world a better place and reach God’s satisfaction.
In return, The Bountiful Allah has promised to provide the generous with ease and facility both in this world and the hereafter. Under God’s promise to generous people in the verse above, scientific studies also confirm the ease and happiness generosity would bring about. “A huge review of 40 studies on the effect of volunteering on general health and happiness was published in the journal BMC Public Health. The results? Volunteering not only improves well-being and life satisfaction, but it is also linked with decreased depression and a lower risk of dying early” .
One of the most eminent characteristics of the holy infallible Imams was their generosity. It has been narrated that Imam Hassan (AS) granted his whole wealth twice in his lifetime to win Allah’s satisfaction and improve the life of his fellow human beings. He also divided his property with the poor three times, granting half his wealth to the poor altogether, including his own shoes . Money was only a means for him to help the needy. “Once, he was asked: ‘We do not see you disappoint a beggar. Why?’
He replied: ‘I am asking Allah for His favors, and I love to be near Him. I am ashamed, as I am myself in need of Allah, to repulse a beggar. Allah got me used to a habit; to shower me with His bounties, and I get Him used to me showering His bounties on the people. I fear that should I stop my habit, He may stop His habit.’” 
This implies the verse of the holy Quran that says:
“Be good [to others] just as Allah has been good to you” (28:77)
It is noteworthy, however, that the infallible Imams never sought excessive asceticism. Neither did they ordain absolute abstinence from worldly delights [i]. Although they were sometimes rich, they willingly wanted to lead the life of the poorest people in the society. So that they could sympathize with them, and show the nothingness of the perishable earthly wealth compared with other eternal values.
But does it mean that Muslims have to give all their wealth away generously like their leaders? In fact, this kind of behavior mostly suits the leaders of a community. What Islam expects from the rest of the people is moderation in generosity.
Along with the social and individual benefits of the generosity in Islam for the giver proven by the researchers, ranging from a better outlook on life to having a lower risk of early death, the Quranic verses also name some more spiritual effects of this act of benevolence:
Generosity and charity make us receive the unlimited, immeasurable blessings and mercy of God:
“Those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah and then do not follow up what they have spent with reproaches and affronts, they shall have their reward near their Lord, and they will have no fear, nor will they grieve” (2:262)
God has guaranteed multiplied reward as the replacement of donation and generosity in this world and the hereafter:
“… and He will repay whatever you may spend, and He is the best of providers’” (34:39)
“The parable of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is that of a grain which grows seven ears, in every ear a hundred grains. Allah enhances several fold whomever He wishes, and Allah is all-bounteous, all-knowing” (2:261)
God showers his endless blessings upon generous people. He makes it easy for them to follow the path of obedience and charity until they are granted a life free from any fears or difficulties:
“Those who give their wealth by night and day, secretly and openly, they shall have their reward near their Lord, and they will have no fear, nor will they grieve” (2:274)
“Indeed, those who recite the Book of Allah and maintain the prayer, and spend secretly and openly out of what We have provided them, expect a commerce that will never go bankrupt” (35:29)
“Those who are patient for the sake of their Lord’s pleasure, maintain the prayer, and spend secretly and openly out of what We have provided them, and repel evil [conduct] with good. For such will be the reward of the [ultimate] abode” (13:22)
In the next part of this article, we will introduce 6 Etiquettes of Generosity and Almsgiving.
[i] Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) says: “there is no monasticism in Islam” .
Visiting the tomb of Imam Hussain (AS) has been popular among Shiites since the time of the Shia Imams who taught Shiites that this pilgrimage plays a significant role in a Shia’s life as quoted from regard Imam Sadiq (AS) in this regard:
Do not pull back from going to Karbala for visiting the shrine of Imam Hussain (AS) out of insecurity or fear because anyone who does, will regret it so much that he wished the grave of Imam Hussain (AS) was near to him. Don’t you like to be one of those for whom the Prophet (PBUH & HP) and Imam Ali (AS) and Lady Fatimah (AS) and the Imams pray? (1)
Having a significant impact on every aspect of our lives, the Shia Imams encouraged us to fulfill this pilgrimage. such a great event which has been discussed and studied through so many aspects for example its history, its political and social impacts and so forth; but seldom have its moral effects on our personality been examined. Arbaeen pilgrimage may change our individual and social life in so many ways from which we’re going to mention some in this text.
To purify soul in Islamic culture means changing our personality in a way that we obtain so many virtues and redeem our souls from bad habits or sins. Experiencing a very spiritual and calm atmosphere during this journey, anyone can revolutionize their lives and repent from all of their sins.
Imam Sadiq (AS) said:
Should anyone leave their house in order to visit the grave of Imam Hussain (AS) Allah blesses them with a reward for each step they take if they go on foot and forgives one of their sins. (2)
Imam Hussain (AS) himself is the emblem of patience and endurance as he sacrificed all he had for the sake of Allah even his own life but he didn’t surrender to the tyrant oppressors. He and Lady Zeinab (AS) showed us how much a human can be patient facing the intolerable hardship that happen in their life. Imam Hussain (AS) even chose his companions from the most tolerant ones so that they could accompany him on his journey. For that matter, once he said to his people:
Anyone who is able to resist the sharp edges of swords and the invective of tongues can come with us and anyone who doesn’t must leave us (3)
Nowadays although Iraqi people have made it so much easier for the pilgrims, taking this trip to visit Imam Hussain’s holly shrine (AS) is still full of dangers and hardships . When the pilgrims undergo these difficulties and think about the patience that Imam Hussain (AS) and his companions had, they can practice how to be patient in their own life.
When a pilgrim puts their heart and soul into reach a certain destination which is the land of Karbala to pilgrimage Imam Hussain’’s shrine on their way they endure so many problems and difficulties, they understand what a human is verily capable of. They can find out that life isn’t just the material world that we see around us but humans are able to see something more in this life and sacrifice all they have for it. It makes people value their souls, believe in themselves and raises their more self-esteem.
The Impact of Arbaeen Pilgrimage on our Social Life
In Islamic culture, “Infaq” means helping people by giving charity, spending your time for them or even teaching others for free and stuff like that .
During Arbaeen rituals , money isn’t an important issue for the pilgrims as people’s needs are mostly provided by others in Iraq. Most of Iraqi people even save money for a year so that they can help the pilgrims during the Arbaeen rituals with food, medicine and so forth.
This enthusiasm for Infaq roots in the Islamic teachings and the messages of the Quran where says:
The parable of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is that of a grain which grows seven ears, in every ear a hundred grains. Allah enhances severalfold whomever He wishes, and Allah is all-bounteous, all-knowing. (2:261)
Also about the importance of the Arbaeen walk Imam Sadiq (AS) says:
For each coin that they spend for the sake of Imam Hussain (AS) Allah will consider it ten thousand coins and rewards them as they have spent that much and Allah will be pleased with them and the Prophet (PBUH & HP) will pray for them and Imam Ali (AS) and the Imams will do so. (4)
The holy Quran says:
Cooperate in piety and God-wariness, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression, and be wary of Allah. (5:2)
Arbaeen walk is a symbol for a society in which people with different ideas, nationalities, ethnicity colors, age groups, and religions work together to reach one common destination. The objective of all these people is the same and it’s making Allah pleased with themselves by commemorating the sacrifice of Imam Hussain (AS). People respect each other and help just for the sake of Allah.
Pilgrims in this ceremony think more about the message of Imam Hussain (AS) which was justice and fighting against tyranny, violence, and doing sins. Imam Hussain (AS) himself says:
I didn’t start this movement so that I could achieve a status among people or to please my desires. I didn’t do it to create chaos or to oppress. I started this movement so that I could make the followers of my grandfather better people; I want to enjoin others to do good works and prevent them from doing sins and I do as my grandfather and my father did. (5)
This walk helps us change ourselves and the others and understand that sitting down and watching people being in pain and oppressed is not what Allah wants us to do. We all are responsible for the circumstances in our society.
- Kamil az-Ziarat, Ibn Qulavaih, Pg.127
- The same, Pg.143
- Yanabi’ al-Mavaddah, al-Qunduzi, vol.3, Pg.62
- Kamil az-Ziarat, Ibn Qulavaih, Pg.139
- Bihar al-Anvar, Allamah al-Majlesi, vol.44, Pg.329