By Ayesha Zahid
We people have grown up with some biases and these biases are handed over to next generations, becoming a vicious cycle. We never ask ourselves many questions and do not even dare to probe deeper about these biases. But every Aashura brings a sense of void. It isn’t a void that makes us feel empty of our faith but a one that asks the reason of loathing the other sect. I remember sneaking a look outside my terrace and witnessing a procession of Shias, mourning and cutting themselves with knives; nothing scared me more than this sight. I grew up knowing them as some merciless masses. The only thing I knew was that Shias are way more different than us. But then I asked myself why the difference of belief lets you loath the other person.
If we start focusing on mere differences then Christians, Muslims, Hindus and others will soon get sick of each other. All the sports, all the cultural exchanges will halt. But wait, the situation is even worst. We witness more hatred within the religious sects than between two religions. Eastern orthodox, Catholics and Protestants will cease all kinds of communication amongst them over hierarchical disputes of Christianity. Shaiva and Vaishnava will stop tolerating each other over disagreements on Hinduism’s history. Sunnis and Shias will start boycotting each other based on their different doctrines and disparities on Caliphates. Not only these sects but surprisingly even the sub-sects of all mentioned beliefs will start building walls between them to rid themselves from each others’ fitnas.
It’s high time when we get the courage and patience to take a glimpse beyond our imaginary walls. So to rid myself of all the biases I attended Ashura procession along with one of my Shia friends. My prejudices about the procession, my name Ayesha and my background of a Wahabi family made me go through a chill in my body. Surprisingly, it didn’t last for more than a second. What was considered to be a reckless mob until now proved to be one of the best mass gatherings. I never felt so secure in a mixed gathering of males and females. The utter air of respect and devotion started withering away my biases. Alam of Hazrat Imam Hussain and Ghazi Abbas (R.A), models of Jholae Ali Asghar and taboot of 72 martyrs of Karbala along with Zuljinah accompanied the procession. Initially, it was difficult to figure out the people who were coming from nowhere and handling you drink and eatables but soon it was clear. The only relationship they were sharing was of love, devotion and compassion. Finally, we witnessed different groups of youngsters mourning in different ways. As per the Shia sub-sects, the use of props and style of mourning was different. But what I could only focus was that it was more of a mystical scene than was a brutal one.
In fact what we can call brutal here is the intolerance and rejection I faced afterwards. Let me quote some of those moderate messages, ‘how could you leave your home on this day?’, ‘what the hell are you up to…it isn’t good’, ‘allowed to attend THIS procession…how/why’, ‘are you a Shia? If not then explain? ‘So it all must be scary?’ I refuse answering all such questions. If we are out of the dark ages and are actually living in the modern world then I find no good reason of living with these biases.
It’s necessary to mention here that showing acceptance for other sects doesn’t make you less of what you are. You don’t witness their events, attend their seminars and listen to their values because you have less respect for your own. You do so because this absolute disgust for each others’ faiths has already given infinite room to the third party infringers to pollute the basis of Islam. Knowing each other more will help us know that we still have some common grounds. Our basis, faiths, devotions and lifestyles might be different and we might be having severe discrepancies but either of us has no right to bring disgrace to the martyrs of Karbala by simply highlighting the contradictions.
It is a month when Hussain Ibn e Ali, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad was massacred along with his small group by an army sent by Yazeed, an Ummayad Caliph. Muharram brought brutal bloodshed to the prophet’s dearest grandson. It’s a month when the beloveds of God lost their entire families, saw them decapitated and butchered, they witnessed arrows piercing the chest and reaching the hearts of their sons and raised hands in front of God, still kneeling down to Him, still accepting His fate and still asking for His compliance.
Unfortunately, the same month stresses probing deep into this question. Why our mainstream media has more to discuss on the sectarian gaps and why every other post on our social media is focusing more on how sinful is it to mourn and how disgraceful is it not to do so? Those 72 martyrs refused to pledge allegiance to Yazeed did not stand against him so that we Muslims focus on the disparities and churn out fatwas against each other. Hussain Ibn e Ali did it so that the Ummah of Holy Prophet learns how to sacrifice in the name of God, he stood up for his prayer even at the time of war to let us understand the significance of God’s message, he lost his family so that we learn patience, in fact the purpose of Karbala was much more than what we see today in our surroundings.