The Holy Quran is replete with examples of men who stood for the truth and those who opposed it. The former sacrificed everything they had to defend the truth and the latter was ready to destroy everything around them to satiate their greed and selfishness.
The Book of Allah invites us to reflect upon personalities, nations, and events of the past. Whether it is pure men like Prophet Ibrahim (AS), Prophet Musa (AS) and Prophet Isa (AS) or evil men who opposed them and their mission like Nimrood, Firon (Pharoah), or Bani Israil, all of them have a lesson for us. These are not just stories to read and move on, they contain messages for our lives. And rightly so, we read in the Holy Quran:
"There is certainly a moral in their accounts for those who possess intellect. This [Quran] is not a fabricated discourse; rather, it is a confirmation of what was [revealed] before it, and an elaboration of all things, and a guidance and mercy for a people who have faith. (12:111)
Similarly, Imam Ali (AS) says: Learn lessons from past events for future events, because they are similar to one another. (Nahjul Balagha Letter 69)
One such incident of the past that changed the history of Islam forever, is the event of Karbala. No mention of Karbala is complete without Hurr ibn Yazid Ar-Riyahi. He is an example for those who reflect upon his journey, his actions and his martyrdom. He encourages, inspires and motivates the believers through his actions in Karbala.
Hurr literally means a freeman in Arabic, and truly so he lived up to his name.
Hurr Ibn Yazid Ar-Riyahi was the general of the Ummayad army dispatched from Kufa, (Iraq) to intercept Imam Al-Hussain (AS), the third infallible Imam. Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad, the newly appointed governor of Kufa issued the command to guard all entrances and exits to Kufa in order to intercept al-Hussain for an oath of allegiance to Yazid. Hurr was ordered along with his 1,000 soldiers to intercept Imam Hussain(AS) and his followers before they reached Kufa.
When he intercepted Imam Hussain (AS) at Dhu Hussam, Hurr and his men had ran out of water. The Imam(AS) ordered his companions to satiate Hurr and his army, including the cavalry. Hurr and his men offered their prayers with the Imam and listened to his sermons. However, on subsequent orders from the tyrant governor of Kufa, Ubaidullah Ibn Ziyad, Imam Hussain and his family were forced to encamp in Karbala. Hurr was of the notion that the Imam (AS) will not be killed in Karbala, he would somehow persuade him to go elsewhere. But he was perturbed when he realized that Umar Ibn Sa'ad who was sent by Ubaidullah had come with orders to kill Imam Hussain. On one hand was his position, family and wealth and on the other hand was the grandson of the Holy Prophet(PBUH&HP) and the son of Imam Ali (AS) and Lady Fatima (SA), supporting whom meant a certain death. These were the two options left for Hurr, just as the Holy Quran says:
"Indeed We have guided him to the way, be he grateful or ungrateful." (76:3).
Despite all odds, Hurr left the Army of Yazid, joined Imam Hussain (AS) and won the honor of being the first martyr of Karbala. All the glitter of the world, his power, rank, wealth and children did not stop him from joining his master Hussain(AS).
Ashura and Karbala were not be bound by time or geographical location. Almost 14 centuries have passes by but human beings from different parts of the world, belonging to different races and religions continue to mourn for Imam Hussain(AS) and take inspiration from him and his mission.
Just as Karbala continues to inspire us, the magnanimous personality of Hurr continues to inspire and guide us. Hurr chose good over bad, truth over falsehood, hereafter over the transient world. If we claim to be followers and lovers of Imam Hussain(AS) we need to turn towards the Hussain of our time and follow the teachings of Imam Hussain(AS). Imam Hussain(AS) gave everything he had to protect and preserve the teachings of Islam and by helping Hussain(AS) in his cause, Hurr achieved this lofty position of being Imam Hussain's(AS) helper. Thus, if Hurr truly motivates us, we need to mend our ways and make ourselves capable of helping Imam Mahdi (AJ) the true inheritor of Imam Hussain's (AS) legacy.
The Hurr of Karbala teaches us that true love is incomplete without sacrifice.
But, is the Hurr inside us ready to listen?
- A Probe into the History of Ashura, Ibrahim Ayati
We keep hearing arguments about Islam from different people. Some question Islam as a real religion, and others try to prove that Islam is the true religion sent by God. However, I think that there is a major problem with these types of arguments. In fact, many people who undermine Islam by questioning it are not usually in search of truth. Rather, their sole goal is to humiliate Islam and make themselves happy with whatever belief they have.
Although Islam encourages people not to accept anything without understanding, when it comes to the point where arguments and discussions have no learning point, and become only a waste of time, Islam orders Muslims not to argue with people who have no intention to learn and improve; “do not dispute concerning them, except for a seeming dispute”. (18: 22)
Therefore, in this text, I would not try to justify the validity of Islam for those who have no intention to consider Islam as a path in life. But I would like to share my amazing experiences of being a Muslim with those who are looking for a safe path in life. Also, I will explain why I believe that Islam is the most complete religion and guideline in the world.
Is that true to say all prophets from Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them) were Muslims? Or is it just a tool that Muslims use to justify Islam as the best religion? To find the answer to this question, we must first understand what Islam is.
The word Islam means submission, and Muslim is the person who is submitted to God and His divine orders. Now, let’s have a look at the following verses of the Quran that state all religions that have been sent by God were sent to make humankind submitted to God (Muslims).
In Chapter Baqarah when the story of Abraham and his son Ishmael (PBUT) is narrated, while they are making the house of God in the current city of Makkah, they pray God to make them Submissive (Muslim) to Him:
“As Abraham raised the foundations of the House with Ishmael, [they prayed]: ‘Our Lord, accept it from us! …. ‘Our Lord, make us submissive to You, and [raise] from our progeny a nation submissive to You …” (2: 127-8) And then in another chapter of the Quran, Allah informs believers that Islam first came from Abraham; “The faith of your father, Abraham. He named you ‘Muslims’.” (22: 78)
Also God orders the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to emphasize the fact that the religion he brought is the same as the religion of Abraham (PBUH): “(O Prophet!) Say, ‘Indeed my Lord has guided me to a straight path, the upright religion, the creed of Abraham, a Hanif, and he was not one of the polytheists.” (6: 161)
Prophet Josef (Yusuf) (PBUH) prays to his lord to take his soul while he is a Muslim: “Let my death be in submission [to You], and unite me with the Righteous.” (12: 101)
“And Moses said, ‘O my people! If you have faith in Allah, put your trust in Him, if you have submitted [to Him].’” (10: 84) The last part of this verse in the Quran is written as “if you are Muslims.”
“Say, ‘We have faith in Allah and in what has been sent down to us, and what was sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that which Moses, Jesus, and the prophets were given by their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him do we submit.” (3:84)
According to what we discussed so far, we release that “all Prophets irrespective of the fact whether they had or did not have an independent code of law, had the same mission and preached the same message.”  The prophets came with the same message from God to guide human beings to the right path, and the nature of human beings in all eras are the same; “So set your heart as a person of pure faith on this religion, the original nature endowed by Allah according to which He originated mankind (There is no altering Allah’s creation; that is the upright religion, but most people do not know.)” (30: 30)
And in another verse, it is explained that: “Indeed, with Allah religion is Islam, and those who were given the Book did not differ except after knowledge had come to them, out of envy among themselves...” (3:19)
Therefore, the guideline that is sent for human in all eras should be the same, as the nature of human beings in all periods has been the same. There are some rulings in the Quran that may change according to the conditions of the time. Since, Islam is a universal religion, not a contextual one.
“Should anyone follow a religion other than Islam, it shall never be accepted from him, and he will be among the losers in the Hereafter.” (3: 85)
Now that we discussed all the prophets were Muslims, and the only religion sent by God was Islam, why do we say that the religion of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) should be followed, not the religion of Prophet Moses (PBUH) or Prophet Jesus (PBUH) or even prophet Abraham who was the father of Muslims?
It is said in the Quran that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was a role model for humankind: “There is certainly a good exemplar for you in the Apostle of Allah—for those who look forward to Allah and the Last Day.” (33:21)
While it is also stated in the Quran that Prophet Abraham and his followers such as Prophet Lout (PBUT) were role models for mankind: “There is certainly a good exemplar for you in Abraham and those who were with him, when they said to their own people, ‘Indeed we repudiate you and whatever you worship besides Allah.” (60: 4)
As mentioned before, Islam started with Prophet Abraham (PBUH), and he is named in the Quran as the father of Muslims. While in the above verse he is mentioned as a role model for Muslims. The same is with Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who is called a role model for Muslims. Therefore, one can conclude that the only thing that makes the religion of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) the last and most complete religion is the growth of this religion throughout the time.
People’s intellectual immaturity was the main reason why God renewed his message and developed it over time. However, by the advent of Islam and revelation of the holy Quran, humanity had passed the period of its childhood and had become mature enough to preserve its intellectual heritage, i.e., the religion of God .
There are many scientific points in the Quran that has been mentioned about 1400 years ago. These issues have been discovered by scientists only during the past 200 years. I would mention a few examples and will leave the rest for you to study in the Quran.
Issues regarding embryology have been mentioned in the Quran: “Certainly We created man from an extract of clay. Then We made him a drop of [seminal] fluid [lodged] in a secure abode. Then We created the drop of fluid as a clinging mass. Then We created the clinging mass as a fleshy tissue. Then We created the fleshy tissue as bones. Then We clothed the bones with flesh. Then We produced him as [yet] another creature.” (23: 14) and in another chapter, it is said: “created man from a clinging mass.” (96: 2)
With regards to Big bang as the start of this universe, Allah says: “Have the faithless not regarded that the heavens and the earth were interwoven and We unraveled them, and We made every living thing out of water?” (21: 30)
Many years ago people believed that the shape of the earth was flat and they had a fear of falling down the edge of the earth at a point when the earth is finished!  While 1400 years ago in the Quran Allah says: “It is He who created the night and the day, the sun and the moon, each swimming in an orbit.” (21: 33) “Thereafter He spread out the earth” (79: 30), but He mentions that although the earth is not flat, we have created in a way that you can walk on it without the fear of falling down: “Allah has made the earth a vast expanse for you.” (71: 19)
One of the reasons that some people stand strongly against Islam is that they say there are some rules in the Quran that are against human rights. In answer to such arguments, one should ask ‘Who defines human rights?’
Human rights that we have in our era is created by human beings and does not go any higher than human understanding. When a human mind tries to create human rights, with the best considerations, they may always forget about some other aspects of human being and the atmosphere around him. Therefore there is no doubt that in many cases, human rights that are written by human beings may be against real human rights.
Having discussed all the above points, I sometimes come to a point where I cannot understand some points of the Holy Quran according to my logic. What to do at these times?
I assume that a sound mind would say that when most of something makes complete sense to you and amazes you for its incredibility, then for that one percent, maybe I should think that the problem is not with the book, but with my understanding.
In the end, I would like to invite people to wisely think about their way of life, their goals, and aims in life. I would like to ask every human to read the Quran as a book that would definitely have many pints for human growth in it; shall it be scientific, moral, social or lifestyle points, it can help all of us to experience a better personal and social life.
Fasting is one of the most important rituals of Islam, and Muslims are required to fast during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
“O you who have faith! Prescribed for you is fasting as it was prescribed for those who were before you, so that you may be God wary” (2:183).
Now, as Ramadan is around the corner and the novel Coronavirus is continuing to spread globally, many Muslims worldwide are wondering if fasting could pose a higher risk of catching the COVID-19 virus, due to dehydration. They may raise some more questions, as is it safe to fast during this global pandemic? Doesn’t it weaken our immune system? And some wonder if they could be exempted from fasting to prevent catching this disease and remain healthy.
Let’s have a look at this question -to fast or not to fast? - from two different aspects: Science-based and religion-based.
According to the WHO and health experts’ recommendations, people are advised to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration and stay healthy. Still, it will not prevent anyone from catching the new Coronavirus.
“Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious-diseases expert at Vanderbilt University, said the claims are incorrect. While medical professionals typically recommend keeping up fluid intake, Schaffner said drinking more water will not keep anyone from catching the virus. “We always caution anyone healthy and people who are sick to keep up the fluid intake and keep mucus membranes moist,” he said. “It makes you feel better; there is no clear indication that it directly protects you against complications.” 
No, in fact, many scientific studies have shown the wide-ranging health benefits of intermittent fasting in boosting our immune system and living a longer life. The New England Journal of Medicine has recently published a review of research on the beneficial effects of intermittent fasting on health, aging, and disease:
“Evidence is accumulating that eating in a 6-hour period and fasting for 18 hours can trigger a metabolic switch from glucose-based to ketone-based energy, with increased stress resistance, increased longevity, and a decreased incidence of diseases, including cancer and obesity.” 
Even more interestingly, although some study claims that prolonged water fasting could have a slightly detrimental effect on the immune system, it also shows that immunity returns to a better state soon after eating and drinking again. 
First of all, the obligation of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan is an individual duty, and anyone who has the conditions to do so must fast, regardless of whether it is obligatory for others or not. According to Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Sistani, one of the well-known Islamic jurists, if a Muslim fears that he/she will catch Coronavirus, even if he/she takes all precautionary measures, he/she will be relieved of the obligation for each day he/she remains in fear of catching the disease – if he/she were to fast. However, if he/she can reduce the probability of catching the disease so that it becomes reasonably insignificant – even by staying at home and not mixing closely with others, using a mask, medical gloves, frequent disinfection and so on – such that it does not cause unbearable difficulties for the individual, his/her obligation to fast is not waived. 
Another Islamic jurist follows the same line and adds that if a doctor forbids someone from fasting, due to the high risk of getting this virus, that person is not allowed to fast. But this should not lead to disrespecting others that fast and eating in public . Many other Islamic jurists also confirm the fact that one should decide if fasting is risky for him/her or not. If “an individual has a reason to believe that fasting will cause illness, intensify or prolong an illness, or delay one’s recuperation,” he/she is not obliged to fast. But he/she should make up for the missed fastings later in the year . However, some other Islamic jurists consider fasting an obligatory practice whose obligation is not lifted in this period, except if one thinks there is a high probability of getting the disease by fasting .
After all, it is essential to note that fasting in Islam is expected of those who are healthy enough to do so: “Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire hardship for you” (2:185)
And sick people who fear that fasting may make them worse, risk their health or slow down their recovery are permitted not to fast:
“But should any of you be sick or on a journey, let it be a [similar] number of other days. Those who find it straining shall be liable to atonement by feeding a needy person” (2:184).
In conclusion, regarding the feedback received from the World Health Organization, fasting has nothing to do with the possibility of an increased risk of catching coronavirus. On the other hand, it is not easy to say for sure whether fasting offers some level of protection and immunity against the COVID-19 virus during this global crisis, so we’d better stick to the things we know would work: social distancing, avoiding gatherings, performing rituals separately, hand-washing, hygiene, and self-isolation.