There are many cruel incidents in the history of humankind, in which millions of people have been violently killed. Two of the deadliest and the most notorious wars in the history each of us know and have heard about are the First and the Second World Wars, with an ultimate death toll estimated at over 100 million people. An indisputable fact about the Second World War is that it wiped out around 3 percent of the world population at the time. Some other gruesome conflicts the world has ever seen, with large numbers of casualties, include: Chinese Civil War (1850-1864,25 million deaths), Qing Conquests (17th Century, 25 million deaths), War of Three Kingdoms, 2nd & 3rd Centuries CE, 38 million deaths), Mongol Invasions (13th & 14th Centuries, 55 million deaths), and etc.
Have you heard the names of the latter wars before? If yes, can you recall who the oppressors and the oppressed ones were? Why don’t people commemorate the anniversary of these important battles each year? Why isn't there so much passion, excitement, or motivation to honor the heroes that fought courageously in those wars?
There is one battle in the history of the human race, however, that has not faded from the memory of humans yet- after about fourteen hundred years-, is still commemorated and celebrated year after year with more passion, love, and excitement. That is the anniversary of Imam Hussain (AS) and his companions’ martyrdom at the battle of Karbala on the 10th of Muharram of the year 61 AH.
Why do you think the reason behind Imam Hussain's (AS) movement was that made it endure so long? Whereas many other wars throughout history during which millions of oppressed people have been killed, have been forgotten?!
While for many leaders and commanders of wars, the only purpose is to gain victory by any means, for Imam Hussain (AS), the end does not justify the means. What mattered to him more than anything else in the battle of Karbala was the values, not the victory in its apparent sense. He never disregarded human values or committed even one minor sin to achieve his purpose.
He did not also seek out a large army to fulfill his aim, whereas most of the other commanders always try to increase their troops in wars. It is narrated in an account, on the night before Ashura, Imam Hussain (AS) asked all his companions to leave Karbala without any restrictions to save their own lives.
If you take a look at the general overviews of why wars happen, you will clearly see people have been involved in wars for some common reasons over the years. Some of these reasons include: economic gain, territorial gain, nationalism, taking revenge, etc.
Imam Hussain (AS), however, fought in the battle of Karbala for none of the reasons above. He did not want to invade or conquer a city or a country, nor did he want to impose his beliefs and religion upon people. The only thing he aimed in his movement was not to be oppressed by a cruel tyrant. He was unwilling to compromise with the tyrant of his time because he had violated their very fundamental human rights. He put his life and his family at risk to recognize and maintain human dignity.
As mentioned above, while many warriors of either side of the battle have different motives to fight, like financial gains, promotions, etc., Imam Hussain (AS)’s companions in the battle of Karbala fought for no other reason than sincerely following in their Imam’s footstep and remain loyal to him. They didn’t even long for Heaven or the rewards of Hereafter. In an account, on the day of Ashura at noon prayer, one of Imam Hussain (AS)’s companions -named Saeed bin Abdullah Hanafi- saved Imam’s life, shielding him against arrows and spears thrown to him and other prayer performers. He continued doing this until the prayers finished. He then fell down before his Imam (AS), saying: “O son of the Prophet (PBUH&HP) of Allah! Have I fulfilled my promise?” “Yes! You have,” the Imam replied. Saeed bin Abdullah then left this world smiling.
And on the night before Ashura Imam Hussain (AS) once again gave all his companions the opportunity to rethink their choice and freely decide whether to stay or leave. However, they not only did not leave or escape –as many other warriors in different battles- but insisted on staying with the Imam (AS) in spite of all the dangers that were threatening their lives and families. They resisted to the last drop of their blood, and courageously declared their loyalty to their Imam (AS).
And finally, when it comes to the way different sides of a battle deal with their enemies, the only things that come to your mind are probably humiliation, disrespect, foul language, etc. But these are not even close to how Imam Hussain (AS) treated his enemy. He recognized his enemy’s dignity as a human being in the most challenging situations, never insulted or disrespected them, and seized every opportunity to invite them to peace and stop the war.
So these were very few reasons why Imam Hussain (AS)’s movement has not faded from our memory; because this historical event is an enlightening and life-giving truth that nurtures self-sacrificing, honest, and moral people who treat everyone with dignity and respect even when confronted with the enemy. That’s why when Arbaeen comes, about twenty million people head for Karbala since Imam Hussain (AS) and his companions did not fight for worldly desires. They fought for eternity, and for the sake of their creator, Allah Almighty.
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
In different cultures or religions, people pay special attention to some specific numbers. For example, numbers 7, 40, and 70 are amongst lucky numbers, and number 13 is known to be a cursed number in some cultures. However, the significance of the number 40 among many cultures and religions is very noticeable. Therefore, this question may arise that what is so special about this number? Can number forty bring luck and happiness to people? Is it a fact or just a superstition? Let’s have a quick look at the background of the number forty in different religions.
Number forty has been mentioned in the Bible in different verses:
1- Jesus (PBUH) fasted "forty days and forty nights" in the Judean desert. (Matthew 4:2, Mark 1:13, Luke 4:2).
2- Forty days was the period from the resurrection of Jesus to the ascension of Jesus (PBUH). (Acts 1:3).
3- Rain fell for "forty days and forty nights" during the Flood (Genesis 7:4). 
Number forty is mentioned in the Quran four times:
1 & 2- Prophet Moses (PBUH) spent 40 days on Mount Sinai, where he received the ten commandments (2: 51, 7: 142).
3- Prophet Moses (PBUH) and his people were lost in the desert for forty years. (5: 26)
4- As mentioned in the Quran, It seems that the age of forty should be the time when a human being is supposed to reach his/her intellectual perfection and understanding of life. This is the time when one can plan the rest of his/her life in a way to gain the most from this world for the hereafter:
“… When he comes of age and reaches forty years, he says, ‘My Lord! Inspire me to give thanks for Your blessing with which You have blessed my parents and me, and that I may do righteous deeds which please You, and invest my descendants with righteousness. Indeed I have turned to you in penitence, and I am one of the Muslims.” (46: 15)
It is narrated from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH & HP) that “When one becomes forty years old, Allah tells his two guardian angels, ‘From now on, be strict on him and note every small and big deed he does’” . The narration emphasizes that the age of forty shapes the personality of a person, and if he/she is still unable to manage his/her life, it is his/her fault for having wasted his/her life in the wrong way.
There are so many narrations from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH & HP) that mention number forty. Here we list a few of these narrations:
1- “He who purifies his faith for Allah for forty days, Allah will flow the springs of wisdom from his heart to his tongue” .
2- “The prayers of the one who drinks wine are not accepted for forty days unless he repents”  [i].
3- “The prayers of a person who gossips would not be accepted for forty days and nights” .
Some scholars say that number forty is used to emphasize the significant amount of something.
4- “One who leaves his house to gain a gate of knowledge by which he deviates the wrong towards righteous, or deviance to guidance, his deed is equal to forty years worship of a worshipper” .
In some cultures, it is a tradition that forty days after a passed-away person’s burial, close relatives and friends gather in a place with the family of the late person and remember the passed-away person and wish peace and patience for his/her family. In this manner, they show the family of the deceased person that they are not alone, and people will help them and support them when required.
It is based on this tradition, taken from the conduct of the Prophet (PBUH & HP) and his Progeny (AS) that Muslims travel to Karbala on the 40th (Arba’een) martyrdom commemoration of Imam Hussain (AS) and his companions; Not only to sympathize with the household of Prophet (PBUH & HP) on this event, but to show their gratefulness for their courage in preserving the true Islam and the conduct of the Prophet (PBUH & HP). More importantly, Muslims show that the aim of Imam Hussain (AS) is still observed and taken care of.
Based on the importance that some verses of the Quran and narrations of the Prophet (PBUH & HP) give to number forty, Muslim scholars, especially those who are fond of Islamic mysticism and self-purification, pay special attention to number forty in their conducts and life-style.
Therefore, there is nothing wrong with trying to benefit from the blessings that the number forty may have. And it is trustworthy because Allah and the Prophet (PBUH & HP) have mentioned it. However, normal human beings do not have a real knowledge of numbers and the wisdom behind them.
As mentioned in a narration earlier, the Prophet (PBUH & HP) says that if you purify your faith for forty days, you will see a great result.  The reason is that if one works so hard on his/her spirituality to be able to purify his faith for forty days, it will become a habit for him. Allah says in the Quran, “Be wary of Allah, and Allah will teach you, and Allah has knowledge of all things” (2: 282), which is very much relevant to the mentioned narration. Therefore, one interpretation of doing something for forty days is that whatever you do for this long period, with persistence, will become your habit, and after something becomes a habit, you can easily go on with it for the rest of your life.
To sum up, there is no such thing as lucky or cursed numbers. And instead of trying to find luck in numbers, one should work hard to develop his personality, spirituality, knowledge, and wisdom.
But the reason number forty has been mentioned by the Prophet (PBUH & HP), and Islamic scholars might be a symbol of enormousness, meaning that if you persist in doing something for a considerable amount of time, it will become your habit. However, the reason why they insisted on number forty might be because they wanted to spread unique conduct and a specific discipline among the believers.
[i] Some may think that if praying and fasting are not accepted for forty days after drinking, then it will be OK if they do not pray or fast for forty days after they drink. It should be noted that praying and fasting are still compulsory for the person who drinks. However, the sin is counted so huge that they should repent from it, deciding not to commit it again, and say their prayers and perform fasting and other obligations.
- number in religion
Al-kafi, Vol 8, P. 108
Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 67, p. 242
Mustadrak al-Wasa’il, vol. 17. P. 57
Al-Kafi, Vol. 6, p. 400
Amali- e Tousi, p. 118
Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 67, p. 242