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
There are many examples and stories narrated in the Holy Quran, such as the account of Prophet Moses in the Quran, the aim of which is not only to amuse us, but as signs for the “percipient” , for “those who think” , for those who “exercise their reason”  or for “those who possess intellect” . Therefore, after reading each story, those thoughtful and insightful people will gain profound lessons from each account that will be used as a guideline in their life.
The story of Prophet Moses (PBUH) has been mentioned in the Quran in more than 30 chapters, and more than 100 times in details, while the stories of most of the other prophets have been mentioned very briefly.
Going through a few verses of the Quran that narrate the story of Moses and his people will help us compare our life and condition in the society, with what happened at the time of Moses (PBUH), and from its lessons, we might be able to make positive changes in our lives.
The status of Prophet Moses (PBUH) in the Quran is very high: “And mention in the Book Moses. Indeed he was exclusively dedicated [to Allah], and an apostle and prophet.” (19: 51)
Before Moses was born, the Pharaoh of the time had a dream, based on which he ordered to kill all the baby boys who were born amongst children of Israel (Bani-Israel) [i] for a specific time . In such situation, Moses was born, and her mother feared his life. God revealed to her: “Nurse him; then, when you fear for him, cast him into the river, and do not fear or grieve, for We will restore him to you and make him one of the apostles.” (28: 7)
The events that happened to Moses as a baby were particular. When his mother leaves him in the river, and water takes him to Pharaoh’s palace, Pharaoh’s wife who, according to Quranic exegesis, had no children or had no sons and was a monotheist woman (who hid her beliefs) convinces Pharaoh to adopt him as their child . God had forbidden Moses to be suckled by any nurse. And therefore, he was returned to his mother and raised by her and Pharaoh’s wife (28: 12-3) .
The most prominent point in Moses’ childhood was that he was raised by faithful women. Quran describes his stepmother as a role model for believers: “Allah cites an example of the faithful: the wife of Pharaoh, when she said, ‘My Lord! Build me a home near You in paradise, and deliver me from Pharaoh and his conduct, and deliver me from the wrongdoing lot’” (66: 11).
It shows the importance of the status of mothers and their vital role in raising faithful children.
“When he came of age and became fully matured, We gave him judgment and knowledge, and thus do We reward the virtuous” (28: 15).
Unlike some narratives in the world that introduce Moses as a powerful and reliable man, but not very spiritual , the Quran presents him as one of those virtuous. It means that he had been righteous from childhood until his young age, and therefore, divine judgment and knowledge were given to him as a result of his good behavior.
One of the bold points that should be considered in this part of Moses’ life is his companionship with Prophet Khidhr. Although in most narrations it is said that the part of his life which is referred to in the Quran belongs to his old age, it is more logical to say that this companionship takes place when he was young and still a prince. Since he is being accompanied by a slave as mentioned in the Quran: “So when they had passed on, he said to his lad, ‘Bring us our meal. We have certainly encountered much fatigue on this journey of ours’” (18: 62).
Now, if we accept that his companionship with Khidhr took place at his young age, this also becomes a significant turning point for Moses (PBUH), in which he learned a lot from a prophet.
In the story of his youth, Quran mentions his positive attitude towards people and his support for the rights of the poor and the weak. Based on his beliefs, one time that he wants to defend a person from Bani- Israel, he unwantedly kicks his enemy in a way that he dies.
This act in the Quran is introduced as one of the significant turning points in his life. As when Pharaoh finds out, he sends someone to arrest him, and Moses runs away towards the city of Midian (Madyan) (28: 15-21).
“And when he turned his face toward Midian, he said, ‘Maybe my Lord will show me the right way’” (28: 22).
Moses defends Zipporah and her sisters at a rather medieval-looking well painted by Saraceni
When Moses arrives at the water of Midian (Madyan), he sees “a throng of people watering [their flocks], and he found, besides them, two women holding back [their flock].” He asks the reason, and they reply “We do not water [our flock] until the shepherds have driven out [their flocks].”
And to answer the probable question in Moses’ mind about why two women are doing the hard task of watering the flocks she continues: “our father is an aged man” (28: 23). So Moses waters their flock. “Then he withdrew toward the shade (of a tree) and said, ‘My Lord! I am indeed in need of any good You may send down to me!’” (28: 24) Moses does not even mention what kind of good he is expecting from God. But he leaves everything to God and asks Him to provide him with good .
After a while of resting under the shade of a tree “one of the two women approached him [Moses], walking bashfully. She said, ‘Indeed my father invites you to pay you the wages for watering [our flock] for us.’
So when he came to him and recounted the story to him, he said, ‘Do not be afraid. You have been delivered from the wrongdoing lot’” (28: 25). As he had left the borders of Egypt and he was now safe in Midian (Madyan). At that point, Moses realized that he had reached an insightful and knowledgeable man. The father of two women is Prophet Shu’ayb (PBUH), who, according to the Quran, was the prophet sent to people of Midian (Madyan): “And to Midian, We sent Shu‘ayb, their brother” (29: 36) .
Moses stays with Prophet Shu’ayb for a while. It seems like one of Shu’ayb’s daughters was interested in Moses and his manly behavior as she offers his father “Father, hire him. Indeed, the best you can hire is a powerful and trustworthy man” (28:26). Being powerful and strong as well as being trustworthy are mentioned here as two crucial criteria for employing a person .
Having heard his daughter’s interests, Shu’ayb (PBUH) then said, “Indeed I desire to marry you to one of these two daughters of mine, on condition that you hire yourself to me for eight years. And if you complete ten, that will be up to you” (28:27).
There are a few great lessons in this part of the story of Moses;
1- Unlike what is conventional in many societies, it is not bad for a reasonable girl to choose her husband and offer him marriage (of course, by adhering to correct manners) .
2- The dowry of Shu’ayb’s daughter (which is Moses’ working for Shu’ayb for eight to ten years) seems to be too much, but compared to the life and conditions that Shua’yb provides for Moses is not considerable .
3- This dowry was a necessity for Moses to stay with Shu’ayb and to be trained under his doctrines .
Moses marries Prophet Shu’ayb’s daughter, and they live in Midian for a specific time. Living with a prophet for many years is one of those blessings that were given to Moses to be trained for his primary mission in life.
Although living with Shu’ayb was a great blessing for Moses, he did not aim to stay a shepherd for the rest of his life, since he had seen significant responsibilities for himself to save the children of Israel (Bani- Israel). Therefore, he decided to travel to Egypt with his family .
In the next part of this article, we will follow Moses in his journey of prophethood.
[i] Children of Israel (Bani-Israel) were the generation of Prophet Jacob or Israel (PBUH), who at the time of Prophet Joseph (PBUH), migrated to Egypt and settled there for years. (12: 93-9)
- The Quran, Hijr (15): 75
- The Quran, Ra’d (13) : 3
- The Quran, Nahl (16): 12
- The Quran, Aal-e Imran (3): 190
- Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, p. 14
- Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, p. 30
- Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, pp. 34- 38
- Scott, R. (2014), Exodus: Gods and Kings, 2014, USA
- Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, pp. 56-58
- Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, p. 59
- Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, p. 67
- Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, p. 70
- Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, p. 74
The Holy Quran mentions about the Racism: O mankind! Indeed, We created you from a male and a female and made you nations and tribes that you may identify yourselves with one another. Indeed, the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most God wary among you. Indeed, Allah is all-knowing, all-aware (49:13).
"The issue of equality between all human beings, opposition to any type of racial, ancestral and class discrimination, fairness between all the children of Adam in relation to human rights and that no person is better than another due to his skin color, language, lineage or race - is one of the most important societal issues in the Qur’an which has been mentioned in various verses of this Heavenly Book. The Qur’an has denounced all sorts of superiority - whether it be of race, language, or skin color."
Likewise, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH & HP) says: Surely all of mankind – from the time of Adam until our time – are like the teeth of a comb (all equal to one another) and there is no greatness for an `Arab over a non-`Arab and no greatness for a red-skinned person over a black-skinned person, except due to one’s consciousness of Allah (taqwa).”
There are numerous verses in the Holy Quran and the teachings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH & HP) that invite human beings towards brotherhood and equality. Throughout his life, the Holy Prophet (PBUH & HP) taught people that all humans are one and the only difference that exists is in their God-wariness as mentioned in verse 13 of Surah Hujarat. We learn from the Holy Prophet (PBUH & HP) and the Ahlul Bayt (AS) that Islam has established equality for the entire human race and struck at the very root of all distinctions based on color, race, language or nationality. According to Islam, Allah has given man this right of equality as a birthright. Thus, no man should be discriminated against on the basis of the color of his skin, his place of birth, his race or the nation in which he was born.
Apart from conveying the pure teachings of Islam, the Holy Prophet (PBUH &HP) was also able to rouse hope in the hearts of the poor and the downtrodden section of his society. In many instances within his practical life, he was successful in eliminating bigotry and racism that was surrounding him. In order for him to reach his aim of equality between all human beings, he married the daughter of his uncle to a slave named Zaid. In addition, he gave Bilal, who was both a non-`Arab and an African slave (at one point in his life), the important religious post of being the Muaddhin, the one who calls to prayer. He also convinced Ziyad ibn Labid who was one of the richest and noblest men from amongst the Ansar to marry his daughter to an African slave named Jubair. This marriage between a nobleman's daughter and a slave, was the beginning of many such marriages that broke mental and social barriers among the followers of Islam. Islam is a practical example of how human beings and societies can fight racial discrimination and create a society based on unity and brotherhood.
The annual ritual of Hajj is an outstanding display of beauty and splendor among the followers of Islam and it is this very beauty of Islam that inspired (Martyr) Malcolm X to write the following letter after he made his first Hajj:
"Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races here in this ancient Holy Land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other prophets of the Holy Scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors.....There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and the non-white. You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought-patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. This was not too difficult for me. Despite my firm convictions, I have been always a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.
During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass and slept in the same bed (or on the same rug)-while praying to the same Allah with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of the blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the actions and in the deeds of the ‘white' Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana.
We are truly all the same-brothers.
All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds."
The Holy Quran tells us:
"Certainly, We have honored the Children of Adam, and carried them over land and sea, and provided them with all the good things, and preferred them with a complete preference over many of those We have created." (17:70)
The Holy Quran teaches us that Islam lays down some rights for man as a human being. Every man whether he belongs to one country or the other, whether he is a believer or a non-believer, whether he lives in forest or desert, whatever be the case, he has some basic human rights simply because he is a human being, which should be recognized by every human being.
Today, the world is struggling to come to terms with equality in true sense. Racial discrimination continues to be a challenge, even for the most developed nations. However, Islam has shown the way to fight racial discrimination and create a society based on amity, love and unity. InshaAllah, the world will very soon realize that the only solution to racism lies in following Islam.
- Islamic Moral System: Commentary of Surah Al-Hujurat Ayt. Jafar Subhani
- Malcolm X's letter http://islam.uga.edu/malcomx.html