I was saddened to hear of the violence in Iran during Ashura, in which Ali Mousavi (the nephew of reform candidate Mir Hosein Mousavi) was among the protestors who were shot and killed by the security forces.
Police denied however that anyone had died in the clashes, which witnesses said came as tens of thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets of Tehran for a second straight day to use rituals of the Shiite Ashura ceremony to stage protests.
Police, according to witnesses, had first used batons and tear gas in the crackdown, which followed stern warnings by the authorities that they would crush attempts to use the Ashura processions as a launch pad for protests.
This is a tragedy indeed. But the fact that the protestors were trying to use the Ashura processions as a vehicle for their political protest disturbs me a great deal as well. The argument I object to is well summarized at Andrew Sullivan’s blog, in an email to him by a reader (and friend of mine):
Ali was a seyyed … of the line of the Imam.
Western analysts do not actually understand the importance of the twin mantles of heredity and scholarship to the Shi’ia. This will start the martyrdom remembrance cycle … with Ali Mousavi as the Shaheed, the martyr. I predict this is the single event that will crush the tyrant regime of Khamenei and ‘Nejad.
Killing a seyyed during Ashura? Gasoline on the fires of revolution. If Qom was not in the Green Wave before this will submerge them.
This is a martyrdom of far greater import than any killings so far….this is an exact parallel to the martyrdom of Imam Ali at the hands of Ummayyads.
Emphasis mine – and no, it is by no means an exact parallel at all, in fact it is the furthest thing from it indeed.
Imam Husain’s AS sacrifice at Karbala was definitely intended as an inspiration to all mankind, and sent a message of defiance to those who would seek to hide Ultimate Truth. This was an act of piety, resisting an enemy who sought not mere political power but the obliteration of the very salvation of humanity itself – the Message of Allah to humankind, as promulgated from the prophets Adam AS, Nuh AS (Noah), Ibrahim AS (Abraham), Musa AS (Moses), Issa AS (Jesus), and Mohammed SAW. Husain AS did not seek political power but rather the simple right to practice and preach the faith whose guardianship he was entrusted with – and the price he paid, willingly, was that of the blood of his entire family, including his six-month old son who died in his arms, thirst unslaked.
The Iranian reformists meanwhile are engaged in a political struggle, with the aim of replacing Ahmadinejad with Moussavi as President of the Iranian regime. It is right that they seek inspiration from Husain’s AS sacrifice, but wrong for them to wrap themselves in Husain’s AS mantle. The day of Ashura is to commemorate Husain’s AS sacrifice and to use that sacred and solemn moment to agitate for ther goals is to place deen above dunya, to value the short term over the eternal. The axis of struggle between Yazid LA and Husain AS was for the future of mankind, for Islam, and for God. not just about which mullah gets promoted to top mullah in some bureaucracy.
Imam Husain AS won his struggle by losing his life. The goal, and the destiny, of Husain AS was always to die at Karbala, and in his own words “meet his Lord while he is right. Thus I do not see death but as happiness, and living with tyrants but as sorrow.” Living under Yazid’s tyrannny was sorrow to Husain AS, not because of mere political repression, but because the Ummaiyads were trying to eradicate Truth, Islam itself, from within. It was by death that Husain AS could change this, and he succeeded, by reminding muslims what Islam really was.
I have long been sympathetic to the reformers’ cause. But for me to sanction how they have usurped Husain AS in the name of their struggle, on the very day devoted to his martyrdom, just because I agree with their cause? That would make me a hypocrite indeed, because I have faulted the likes of bin Laden and Al Qaeda for doing much the same thing. Religion isn’t a took to promote political struggle. Well, I guess it is – but it shouldn’t be.