A full circle once again. The new year brings with it the Season of Sorrow for all the Lovers of the Holy Household of the Prophet Muhammad (s). I’m not going to write about the history of this period (you can read about that here) or give a specific opinion (go here for that) or even start a campaign (there’s some here).
This year, what I want to share is the renewal of this journey for me, accompanied with a new partner. My little girl: Innocent, Untrained, A Blank Slate, she will only learn what I and those around her teach her and the burden of that knowledge bears greatly on me. More so in these days ahead.
Because Muharram and the Month of Husayn ibn Ali (a) comes only once a year, and while every day is truly Ashura and every land, Karbala, these two months that are upon us are special in their atmosphere and influence.
This is her first Muharram, and mine? I don’t dare count how many I have lived through because for the first time, I am approaching this season with a sense of dread.
For so many years, through my childhood and youth, Muharram was a time of revelation and revolution, a time for change and revival, for inspiration and spirit. I looked forward to the start of every year because there is so much to learn from the universities that our pulpits become in these days, because I knew I would be – for a while – a part of a bigger picture of change.
This year, I reflect on that and wonder – how much have I really changed in all this time? Has any one Muharram made me a different, better person? Or have I simply continued to live as I would have with or without attending the sermons and being reminded of what was sacrificed and achieved in Karbala?
If I haven’t changed, then how is it that I face my Imam (a) every year, shedding the same tears, making the same pledges, promising the same changes…and then not fulfilling any of it? How have I repeated this process over years and years without the slightest realisation of the shame my false claims bring? How have I held my head high and stated I am a ‘Lover’ and a ‘Mourner’ while all the while, my Imam (a) watches me and wonders at my blindness to my own hypocrisy?
More importantly, if I haven’t changed, then how can I expect to make my daughter understand the true meaning of what happened fourteen centuries ago on the desert plain that has now become the most famous and sought after piece of land on earth?
How can I show her what inner revolution means and how the love for Husayn ibn Ali (a) is its best and strongest catalyst?
How can I teach her the lessons of courage, strength, loyalty, patience, faith and piety that can only be found in Ashura and its aftermath?
So I sit here, at the start of this year, reluctant, grieving and ashamed. And also afraid. I don’t know how to start from the beginning, I don’t know how to backtrack and I am fully aware that the time I have lost is gone forever. I am victim to the very regret that God has warned us about in The Qur’an over and over again – victim to the oldest trick the devil holds up his sleeve.
I cannot let this happen to my daughter though. I can’t allow the cycle to be repeated. If there is anything I hope to achieve in this and Muharrams I may have left in my life, it is that I will try with all my heart and soul to make sure that she takes from every year the best and deepest lessons; that she truly makes herself a receptacle for all the enlightenment that this event holds.
If I do this, then perhaps, if our Imam (atfs) should appear in her lifetime, she may – I pray – be a companion to him as sincere and loving as the ones Husayn ibn Ali (a) had on that long, scorching, torturous day that began in 62 A.H. but has not ended yet in the hearts of his lovers.