There are a few individuals in history who have left such a legacy that their names have become synonymous with virtues such as justice, peace and freedom — people such as Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Rosa Parks.
These are people who have become famous because of their determination to reform society.
Then there are those who have left their mark on humanity to an even further extent, yet their names are not as well known. But these individuals have left an impression because of their struggles and sacrifice, and their popularity increases each year among all groups of people regardless of race, religion or ethnicity.
A specific case is Hussain. For some, his name is already well known. The campaign, whoishussain.org, has been organized to educate the masses on Imam Hussain, who was the role model for the likes of Gandhi, Mandela and Carlyle, to name a few.
Hussain is the son of Imam Ali and Lady Fatima and the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. However, his claim to fame is not due to his lineage, but rather his character and actions.
Imam Hussain was an advocate for social justice. He stood against the Ummayad dynasty by refusing to legitimize their corrupt rule and withholding his allegiance to them. As a result, Yazid I, a despotic ruler, sent an army of 30,000 to obtain his allegiance or kill him. Imam Hussain stood by his principles of righteousness; therefore, along with his supporters of less than 100 in the land of Kerbala in October 680 AD, the 10th day of the Islamic New Year called Ashura, they were inhumanely martyred. Their women and children were taken as prisoners.
Yazid claimed victory; but not long after, his reign fell.
Centuries later, millions pay homage to Imam Hussain from all walks of life. On the 40th day after Ashura, called Arbaeen, people travel to Kerbala to pay their respects to Imam Hussain. It has become the largest peaceful gathering in the world annually.
People from various ideologies honor Imam Hussain because he stood for the rights of all humanity. He sacrificed his life so that others may live freely, similar to a candle that burns itself out so that others may see beyond the darkness.
The grandson of the Prophet was unwilling to succumb to oppression. He showed the world that one's integrity is dependent on the principles he abides by. Imam Hussain said, "Death with dignity is better than life with humility."
With the same principles, but in different circumstances, Imam Hussain's older brother, Imam Hasan, also preserved the faith from extinguishing by using diplomacy with the Caliph, Muawiya. Imam Hasan, whose death anniversary falls on Monday, was the second Imam or Saint after Imam Ali.
Muawiyah, who was the father of Yazid I and the second Caliph from the Ummayad dynasty, did not wish to wage war against Imam Hasan. Imam Hasan's method of establishing social justice was by accepting a treaty.
Consequently, from both brothers humanity can take lesson. Imam Hasan taught that the pen can be powerful in promoting unity and guidance, while Imam Hussain taught that when there are no other alternatives, sacrificing for the truth is the ultimate empowerment.
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