WARRIORS + POETS

fireflies

i first met one of my closest childhood friends when we were twelve years old.

i can distinctly remember the day we were introduced – two fresh-faced middle schoolers sitting a few seats away from each other in the warmth of a school library: exchanging small talk – hesitant at first, then with more excitement; initial shy smiles over shared interests, soon stomach-aching laughter over inside jokes and shared experiences.

middle school turned into high school, high school into college, and college into the real wide world.

when we were lucky enough to be in school together, we used a “friendship binder” to keep in touch – a modern day letter system which we exchanged in passing in the hallways, each of us writing a week or so’s worth of life events/thoughts/quotations/drawings before handing it off to the other person to read and respond.

when we graduated high school and moved our separate ways, we still tried to write to each other, but the bulk of our friendship was found the in-betweens of homecomings and vacations, when we would find a way to meet two to three (if we were lucky) times a year, talking for hours, catching each other up on months of happenings, watching as gentle twilights would descend over the ebb and flow of our conversations.

closing the chapter of college found us traveling different paths, until, nearly fourteen years from day we first met, they wound their way from the same small hometown to the same big city. different reasons for being here but caught in the same hustle-bustle, we found ourselves reunited – no longer in well-known streets of our childhood, but in the coffee-shop glows of a yawning and strange city.

once again were we allowed the inexplicable grace of, for a few hours, putting aside the to-do of everyday life, and just being.

being, with a friend who has known your young twelve and your complex fourteen; the melancholy of your sixteen and boldness of eighteen; the learning of your twenty-one; the still learning of your twenty-five. the sorrows of your yesterdays, the joys of your tomorrows. your mistakes and your lessons; your falls and your rises; the person you were and now are; the person you wish to be.

with the friend who has walked with you along the paths of your soul, no talk of the humdrum, the mundane, the rituals that are too-often-performed-by-limbs-caught-in-a-wheel-of-never-ending-motion-with-far-too-little-intention.

no words, over things that mean nothing, over events that have no purpose, over lives like candles that crackle and hiss before turning to ash in the wind.

no talk of small things.

with such friends, only talk of fire. of flame. of passion. of glory. of heroes. of great thoughts and even greater deeds. no breath spoken but filled with the wonder of heights. of transformation. of freedom. of flight. the caterpillar to the butterfly. from crawling, to wings.

such friends, whose first question is: what is the state of your soul?

who demand of you: who is your life begging you to become?

who ask you: what can i do to help you get there?

by the grace of God, the friends who have touched my heart most are those who, like this friend of my childhood, i am not able to see more than once or twice – a year, or every few years, or even every decade – but who are constantly flitting in and out of the story of my life like fireflies lighting the way on the path to our common destination. friends who check in in chunks of time like markers on the timeline of life: reminding, guiding, questioning, pushing, bettering – the mind, and the soul.

i pray that we may all be granted (as well as be to others) such friends: truly nothing but blessings granted to us by the Infinite.

for by their touch, we are nudged towards greatness.

for with the spark of their company, the night skies of our lives are set aflame.

for, in truth, these friends of who we’ve been and who we are are naught but reflections of blazing starlight – the brilliance of the Friend of who we are meant to be.

“Every time I sit with my friends, it is as if the entire world lights up in my view.
Truly I take pleasure [from their company].”
-Allamah Tabataba’i-

“why do you never find anything written about that idiosyncratic thought you advert to, about your fascination with something no one else understands? because it is up to you. there is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain. it is hard to explain because you have never read it on any page; there you begin. you were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment.

write as if you were dying. at the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. that is, after all, the case. what would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? what could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality? […] why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? […] why are we reading, if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage and the hope of meaningfulness, and press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power?

[…] at its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. it is handed to you, but only if you look for it. you search, you break your fists, your back, your brain, and then – and only then – it is handed to you. […] one line of a poem, the poet said – only one line, but thank God for that one line – drops from the ceiling. Thornton Wilder cited this unnamed writer of sonnets: one line of a sonnet falls from the ceiling, and you tap in the others around it with a jeweler’s hammer. nobody whispers it in your ear. it is like something you memorized once and forgot. now it comes back and rips away your breath. you find and finger a phrase at a time; you lay it down as if with tongs, restraining your strength, and wait suspended and fierce until the next one finds you: yes, this; and yes, praise be, then this.

[…] one of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. the impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. something more will arise for later, something better. these things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. you open your safe and find ashes.

after Michelangelo died, someone found in his studio a piece of paper on which he had written a note to his apprentice, in the handwriting of his old age: ‘draw, Antonio, draw, Antonio, draw and do not waste time.'”

– annie dillard

 

my life will only rise as high as the people i choose to live it with.

i must not choose to spend my days, wandering valleys.

i must choose mountains.
i must choose air.

i must choose the taste of flight.

reminder to self: seek the company of friends who help you manifest your most authentic self. as for the rest, wish them well on their journeys as you part ways – your heart lightened by letting go with grace and with love.

nothing but beauty

ya Zaynab, the time has come to bid Hussain farewell
horrors to pass the rising of a bloody moon foretells

ya Zaynab, how shall i say what’s to come tomorrow?
creeping to the desert’s shores are crimson waves of sorrow

ya Zaynab, with what words can i say
what heartbreak is yet to happen on Ashura’s tragic day

ya Zaynab, with the rising of Ashura’s sun
to come to the aid of your Hussain there will be left no one

ya Zaynab, when he gives to you his final call
make sure that you kiss his neck, for here the sword will fall

ya Zaynab, to the battlefield he is to go
and will shower down upon him rain of merciless arrows

ya Zaynab, facing thousands he’ll stand as one
yet all will scatter from the sword of Ali’s fearless son

ya Zaynab, your Imam will still be standing tall
“O God! It is You I trust in grief…” will still remain his call

ya Zaynab, seeing light the darkness will be scared
more archers will be signaled and more swordsmen prepared

ya Zaynab, then wounds on wounds will kiss his skin,
and when they do the enemy will start to circle in…

ya Zaynab, from his horse he’ll be shot down
and snarling wolves snapping their jaws your lion will surround

ya Zaynab, and when he falls to his knees
the heavens will hear wailing of an anguished sister’s screams

ya Zaynab, will choke with grief your tears!
as the chest of your Hussain is ripped and torn apart with spears

ya Zaynab, a man will skulk forward steadily
in his eyes you’ll see the sunken gaze of forgotten humanity

ya Zaynab, above Hussain will be raised a sword
but in his eyes you’ll see the calm of one conversing with his Lord

ya Zaynab, his head from his body will be severed
and the brother you held close to you will in his blood be covered

ya Zaynab, you will see the blood-red tears
of Imam Sajjad when his father’s head is raised upon a spear

ya Zaynab, this world for you will turn to ash
when your brother, your Imam, when your Hussain breathes his last

ya Zaynab, yet Hussain will leave you with this mission
to remain strong and carry on the message of his revolution

so ya Zaynab,

even when your tents they come to burn
even when you are imprisoned by those who truth’s call have spurned

ya Zaynab, even when they tie your hands
even when they drag you as captives across miles of lonely land

ya Zaynab, even when the tyrant brings you in his hall
your spine will not be broken, like your brother you’ll stand tall

ya Zaynab, you will not have with you a sword
but each tyrant’s throne will shatter by the grandeur of your words

ya Zaynab, in fear before you they will stand
when you pronounce the Prophet’s blood is dripping from their hands

ya Zaynab, for all who listen you’ll attest
the truth of who these tyrants are, of who has devoured your flesh

ya Zaynab, to them you will proclaim
their strongest efforts will not erase the splendor of your names

ya Zaynab, in fear they’ll shout: your brother died!
with sweaty palms cry out: Hussain is no longer alive!

but ya Zaynab, you’ll call towards the sky
do not name as dead those in God’s way slain – no, they are alive (2:154)

ya Zaynab, with your brother’s head they will then taunt
with this, in fright, their assumed victory in Karbala they’ll flaunt

but ya Zaynab, you will still look them in the eye
and declare with the firmest gaze the victory of the Most High

and ya Zaynab, all will tremble, in your voice they’ll hear Ali:
as you call with pride that Karbala was nothing but beauty

as you declare

that Karbala

was nothing
but
beauty

the smallest acts

there have been times an infant this has shown
that age does not define how much you know
the wisdom that we look for in the skies
is oft found in the youngest child’s cries

there have been times without having to speak
servants of God managed the greatest deeds
unrecognized by servants of this world
young soldiers in the service of their Lord

such tyrants history had come to see
the likes of which before there’d never been
yet, by this Pharaoh’s reign would come to end—
a infant’s basket down the river bend

such miracles which had not yet been done
Maryam, untouched, had given birth—a son
protect his mother, Isa had been able
words spoken by one resting in his cradle

such darkness had been spread in Karbala
when called a question out Aba Abdillah
an answer given by his infant son
showed clearly who the battle truly won

when tender Ali Asghar raised his arms
eager to save the life of his Imam
it demonstrated no matter your age
we all have our own separate part to play

when his tongue was run over thirsty lips
soldiers of greed found that their choice was this:
repent and turn back from the way they’d come,
or seal their fate with Asghar’s martyrdom

perhaps some men start shuffling their feet
perhaps this truth they slowly start to see
what excuse do they have to truly give
for not letting an infant child live?

what is it, in the gasping of his breath?
what is it, resting on his father’s chest?
that causes seasoned soldiers to grow scared
as if a dark abyss before them stares

they’re challenged by the pureness of his soul
such innocence that history will know:
if can’t be justified this infant’s murder
then neither can the murder of his father

to murder Ali Asghar in his arms
is to declare discarding any qualms
terror of all the acts ‘til now been done
the wrong of the final act still yet to come

without words Ali Asghar sends a message
the only weapon that you need is courage
the smallest acts will always aid the fight
to overcome the darkness with the light

the cries of Ali Asghar reach their ears
the piercing of a soldier’s driving spears
tears making plain the message of Islam
cannot be made separate from the Imam

with tears he strikes such fear into their souls
with tears demanding each of them to know:
his tears are tears that smother flaming fires
his tears are tears that topple grand empires

all murdered but Hussain still stands unbeaten!
before them, Ali Asghar undefeated!
…and so an archer raises up his bow
the coward’s old response to the hero

Hurmala aims towards a small body
and strikes the small neck of the young Ali
goes limp an infant in his father’s arms
blood-red rivers pooling in his palms

and yet, the patience of Hussain remains
in tears towards the sky such words he says
how easy hardships that on me befall
when witnessed in the presence of Allah…

using his sword Hussain then digs a grave
in which this tiny body is to lay
how can the heart hold back its wailing screams
thinking of how small this grave must be…

wails sounding from a mother’s empty arms
for centuries this grief will now live on
until that moment comes on Judgement Day
when every tyrant’s sentence is proclaimed

when angels will scream, wa Museebata!
as brought forth are tyrants of Karbala
an infant’s justice will be realized
appearing with this question in his eyes:

speak of your sins, explain before Allah!
is on your hands, blood of RasoolAllah!
speak as your hearts with terror are now filled—
for what sin with such cruelty was i killed?

wa Hussaina

chronology of events on the day of Ashura

sweeter than honey

the meeting of swords, the clashing of souls
brought by dawn after silence of night
thousands who fight for darkness to prevail—
less than one hundred warriors of the light

the tenth of Muharram on Karbala’s sands
a battle this morning has bloodily raged
a few hours the length of centuries seems
a grief by which young children are aged

from the first arrow released by the enemy
Imam Hussain’s companions for him have bled
while there is strength remaining in their bones
not a drop of the Prophet’s blood will be shed

men continue to leave, bodies continue to return
as a bloody scene in a weeping desert unfurls
until finally none of these brave souls remains
each companion valiantly departs from this world

yet still, Yazeed’s army continues to advance
Imam Hussain’s family now must enter the fray
brothers and nephews and sons never to return
on burning sands their bodies now lay

of Karbala’s youth there is a brave soul
who has come now to ask his Uncle a question
to take up his sword and to enter the battle
he has come to seek his Imam’s permission

how can Hussain look upon this young face
and let him go knowing the enemy’s plans
that they will not rest until piercing his skin
until his blood flows like rivers in the sands

he refuses but his nephew Qasim is insistent
he kisses his uncle’s hands with this request
to allow him to defend the message of Islam
until then the blood in his veins will not rest

his requests are delivered with such earnest
that Imam Hussain can deny him no longer
he kisses his face and allows him to leave
his face so much like the face of his brother

in youth, wealth or beauty or power or fame
anything we dream of our horizon may hold
our bones are now strong and our blood is fresh
thoughts of death come when we’re frail and old

in youth, our shoulders are unburdened
we cannot be expected to represent our faith
thoughts of this world are right here and now
thoughts of the hereafter can surely wait

when it comes to religion, we still have time
when we’re older we’ll learn more of Islam
when we’re older will come the light of our faith
when we’re older will we understand our Qur’an

right now all that matters is being young
all is enjoyment from each dusk to dawn
is that how it is? is this age and youth?
or have we understood living all wrong?

when we see Karbala, we see there are youth
many who are not quite much older than us
there is Qasim and there is Muhammad and Aun
who at such an age put in Allah their trust

youth who come to the aid of their Imam
with no thought to the length of their years
ready to stand for the purity of their beliefs
even if it means facing the enemy’s spears

they could have been worried about the enemy
not just what they’d say, but to them what they’d do
they could have cried out we are yet only youth!
and the army stands as many while we are so few!

they could have been nervous of standing out
not to a few people, but an army of thousands
not just a group who would jeer at them with words
but those who’d ready their swords to surround them

but to these youth, none of this was a thought
for being young did not stop them from knowing
the divine purpose for which they had been created
where they came from and where they were going

they would sacrifice each and every desire
not at life’s edges where death’s kept at bay
rather living each moment only for their Lord
when death’s call still seems far away

Hazrat Qasim enters the battle with such valor
the cub no less than his father, the lion, Hassan
a young boy striking fear into soldier’s hearts
showing them how the battle of the soul is won

eager to defend Islam and his Imam Hussain
he does not hesitate in setting off on the plains
the enemy hopes to strike fear in his heart—
forgetting which bloodline runs through his veins

these is the son of Hamza and Haydar!
the son of Abu Talib and Hassan al-Mujtaba!
his is a lineage more radiant than the stars
this is the grandson of Muhammad al-Mustafa!

yet the cruelty of the charge, the cutting of his bones
the army surrounds him – imagine the scene
men racing forward on horses, and his spilling blood
amidst snarling wolves, a young child’s screams…

a soldier coming forward and striking his head
and Hazrat Qasim falling down on the plains
with wounds kissing his skin, this final farewell
“O dear Uncle, come to my aid!”

like a wild falcon, Hussain enters the battle
the enemy from his force scatters and flees
he cradles this young child’s head to his chest
as Qasim’s soul from this world slowly leaves

“By Allah! It is difficult for your Uncle
that he could not come to your aid…”
as he holds him in his arms, these tender words
the master of Martyrs to a young boy says…

in death, Hazrat Qasim’s face holds a smile
and in it the night’s memory comes to mind
an image of a young face in a tent full of men
who knew with dawn, all present would die

of the boy who realized his youth may be at stake
who tomorrow, may life for death have to barter
yet with passion in his voice he had asked his Imam
“Uncle, am I, too, included in the list of martyrs?”

Imam Hussain had responded, “O my dear son!
How do you consider death (in the way of Allah)?”
and Hazrat Qasim had smiled such a sweet smile
and in his answer, this shining lesson history saw

that the human’s true price is greater than this world
that the only thing worth it is eternity

that no oppressor or tyrant can shackle your soul
when God Himself has created you free

that to enter the fray with your honor and die on your feet
is better than living life on your knees

for such death dying for truth
can only be as he said:

for Qasim, such death,
sweeter than honey

karbala, of the Divine

gentle reminders to myself before anyone else this Muharram:

One:

the message of Imam Hussain (a) is the message of Allah (swt). the stand he took, the sacrifice he and his companions made – was all for Allah. he was able to enact the revolution that he did, to live for what he did, to die for what he did – because of his unwavering faith in Allah. without a doubt, he is a hero by all universal standards, but he is first, and foremost, the Imam chosen by God, and a servant of God. when conveying the message of Imam Hussain, we would do well to be cautious of the trend to narrate a secular story of Karbala…for a Karbala without the Divine, is not Karbala at all.

as one of my respected teachers once told me:

“if in any of the stories [of Karbala] it would be easy to switch out the character that has been presented with someone who was, say loyal, or against oppression, or wanting to defend his family, but not a Muslim who is among the highest ranks of believers, then the story needs to be looked at again…the entire sacrifice of Imam Hussain, his family, and his companions was an act of servitude to Allah, and done as obedience to His command (ubudiyyah). the shuhadaa of Karbala were able to actualize such high morals because of their utter servitude to Allah. they were, or became, mirrors of the perfection of Allah. they were examples of devout Shi’a who understood what it means to accept the wilayah of the Imam of their time, and because of their taqwa were given the insight to make the right choices, even if they went against the majority and their own personal interests.

one of the corruptions of the events of Karbala that has been taking place in recent years is to turn Imam Hussain into a humanitarian who had a secular struggle for the sake of humanity, as opposed to portraying him as the Imam of the time and a devout servant to Allah. part of this has taken place out of a desire to make Imam Hussain appealing to non-Muslims. but this is out of ignorance, because non-Muslims don’t need another secular humanitarian figure. if they understood the real Imam Hussain, his Rabb, and his religion, they would surely love him and want to take him as an Imam.”

Two:

any alteration in the facts, or distortion in the retelling of the story, whether out of creative fervor or the desire to make an audience weep, shows a lack in our understanding of the true message of Imam Hussain. without the utmost precision and most accurate research of which we are capable, we do not do Karbala a service, but a disservice.

in a series of lectures on Ashura, Misrepresentations and Distortions (Part 1, Part 2) Ayatullah Mutahhari says:

“What does tahrif mean? The Arabic word tahrif is derived from harrafa meaning, to slant, incline, alter, distort, misconstrue which means to make something depart from its original or proper course and position.

“[…] There are personalities whose words and deeds represent a sacred authority for the people and whose character and conduct is a model for mankind. For instance, if someone were to ascribe to Imam ‘Ali a statement that he did not make or something that he had not meant to say, that is very dangerous. The same is true if a characteristic or trait is ascribed to the Prophet or one of the Imams when in fact they had some other qualities, or when tahrif occurs in a great historic event which serves as a moral and religious authority and as a momentous document from the viewpoint of society’s norms and is a criterion in matters of morality and education. It is a matter of incalculable importance and entails a crucial danger when tahrif – whether in respect of words or meaning – occurs in subjects which are not of the ordinary kind.

“[…] the misrepresentations that have been carried out by us have all been in the direction of degrading and distorting the event and making it ineffective and inert in our lives. […Hajji Mirza Husayn Nuri writes]: ‘Today too we must mourn Husayn, but there are tragedies which have befallen Husayn in our era which did not occur in the past, and they are all these falsehoods that are said regarding the event of Karbala’ and which no one opposes! One must shed tears for the sufferings of Husayn ibn ‘Ali, not for the sake of the swords and spears that struck his noble body on that day, but on account of these falsehoods.’

“[…] The people should get this expectation out of their heads and refrain from encouraging the kind of fictitious narratives which kill the soul of Karbala but work up the mourners into a frenzy. The people should hear the true narrative so that their understanding and level of thinking is elevated.

[…] What is more painful is that, incidentally, there are few events in history that are as rich as the event of Karbala’ from the viewpoint of reliable sources. […] the developments relating to Karbala’ are quite clear and all of them are throughout a matter of great honor and pride. But we have disfigured this shining historic event to such an extent and have committed such a monstrous treachery towards Imam Husayn that if he were to come and see, he would say, ‘You have changed the entire face of the event. I am not the Imam Husayn that you have sketched out in your own imagination. The Qasim ibn Hassan that you have painted in your fancy is not my nephew. The ‘Ali Akbar that you have faked in your imagination is not my aware and intelligent son. The companions that you have carved out are not my companions.”

“[…] Imam Husayn had certain goals and motives for staging his uprising and we have ascribed to him some other motives and goals. […] We have divested this event of its ideological character. When it is shorn of its ideological character, it is no more capable of being followed, and when it cannot be followed, one cannot make any use of Imam Husayn’s teachings and draw any lesson from the event of Karbala’. […] Could there be a worse kind of treachery?

“[…] The Imams have exhorted us to keep alive the tradition of mourning over Husayn ibn Ali because his goal was a sacred goal. Husayn ibn ‘Ali established a school, and they wanted his school to remain alive and flourish. You will not find a practical school of thought in the whole world that may be likened to that of Husayn ibn ‘Ali. […] If you can find another example of that which was manifested in Husayn ibn ‘Ali during the event of ‘Ashura’, in those ordeals and taxing conditions, of the meaning of tawhid, of faith, of the knowledge of God, of perfection, convinced faith in the other world, of resignation and submission, of fortitude and manliness, of self-contentment, of steadiness and steadfastness, of honor and dignity, of the love and quest for freedom, of concern for mankind, of the passion to serve humanity – if you can find a single example in the whole world, then you may question the need to refresh his memory every year. But he is unique and without a parallel.

“Keeping alive the memory of his name and his movement is for the purpose that our spirits may be illuminated by the light of the spirit of Husayn ibn ‘Ali. If a tear that we shed for him should signify a harmony between our souls and his spirit, it represents a brief flight that our spirit makes along with Husayn’s spirit. Should it create within us a little glow of his valor, a particle of his free nature, a particle of his faith, a particle of his piety, and a small spark of his tawhid, such a tear has an infinite value.

“They have said that it has the worth of an entire world even if it is so small as the ‘wing of a gnat.’ Believe it! But that is not a tear shed for a pointless death, but a tear for the greatness of Husayn and his great spirit, a tear that signifies harmony with Husayn ibn ‘Ali and of movement in his steps.

“[…] If a man has faith in God, in tawhid, if he has a link with God and faith in the other world, single-handedly he can inflict a moral defeat on a host of twenty and thirty thousand. Is this not a lesson for us? Where can you find another example of it? Who else can you find in the whole world who could utter two sentences of that sermon in conditions in which Husayn ibn ‘All spoke, or, for that matter, two sentences like the sermon of Zaynab (‘a) at the city gates of Kufa? If our Imams have told us to revive this mourning every year and to keep it alive forever, it is for the purpose that we may understand these points, that we may realize the greatness of Husayn – so that if we shed tears for him it is out of understanding.

“[…] the danger of tahrif is extraordinarily great. Tahrif is an indirect blow which is more effective than a direct one. If a book is corrupted (whether in respect of its wording, or its meaning and content) and it is a book of guidance, it is transformed into a book that is misleading.

“[…] the common people have two weak points in relation to the mourning ceremonies held for Imam Husayn. One of them is that […] usually those who arrange and organize the mourning gatherings […] want the majalis to draw good attendance. […] This is a weak point. These sessions are not held to draw crowds. Our purpose is not to hold a parade or a march past. The purpose is to become acquainted with the truth and to fight against distortions.

“[…] Another weak point present in the mourning gatherings […] is that profuse and loud weeping is regarded as the criterion of their success. […] I do not say that the majlis should not be rocked with mourning; what I say is that this must not be the objective. If tears are shed as a result of listening to facts and the majlis is rocked with mourning by descriptions of real history without false and fabricated narratives, without distortion, without conjuring companions for Imam Husayn that did not exist in history and who are unknown to Imam Husayn himself (as they were nonexistent), without attributing such children to Imam Husayn as did not exist, without carving out enemies for Imam Husayn that basically had not existed – that is very good indeed. But when reality and truth are absent, should we go on making war against Imam Husayn by fabricating falsehoods and lies?

“[…] We beseech God, the Blessed and the Exalted, to lead our hearts towards the truth, to forgive us the sins which we have committed through tahrif and otherwise, to grant us the ability to carry out successfully the duty and mission that we have in this field.”

***

“Among the books featuring the details of the Ashura saga (maqtal), the Maqtal of Abu Mikhnaf is noteworthy. This maqtal is the source for many of the recitals and eulogies (that we see). Abu Mikhnaf was a student of Imam Sadiq (a). In Tarikh Tabari [1], the section for the history of Karbala is from this maqtal. As maqtal [pl. Maqaatil] go, Nafas Al-Mahmum of Shaykh Abbas Qummi is also a good book.

To learn about the states of Imam Husayn’s (a) companions, Iisaar Al-‘Ayn Fi Ahwal Ansaar Al-Husayn (A) authored by Shaykh Muhammad Samaawi is a good book. He was a thorough researcher and very accurate.

Similarly, the book Fidaa-Kaari Haftad Wa Do Tan Wa Yek Tan (The Sacrifice of Seventy-Two Persons and One Person’) or Unsuri Shujaa’at (The Element of Courageousness) written by the late Haaj Mirza Khalili Kumrahai is a good book.

The maqtal Lahuf or Malhuf [2] is also a good book. However, Haaji Nuri [3] did not accept all of it, and was of the belief that Sayyid b. Taawus wrote this maqtal while he was young and not as scholarly refined. Aqaa Ustadi [4], in his critique on [the book] Shahid Javidan (The Eternal Martyr)[5], whilst addressing a point, defends the maqtal of Sayyid b. Taawus. He writes that Sayyid himself, in (his) book Iqbaal (Al-A’maal), which is among his latter and important works, speaks highly of Malhuf and verifies its contents.”

—Ayatullah Sayyid Musa Shubayri Zanjani, translated by Hadi Rizvi

[1] An important work on Islamic History.
[2] Both referring to the same book. The exact original title is unclear.
[3] Mirza Husayn Nuri, famously known as Mirza Nuri. The author of Mustadrak Al-Wasaa’il and other important and notable works.
[4] A researcher and teacher in the Islamic seminary of Qum, holding various religious, institutional and governmental roles (presently or in the past).
[5] A book on the topic of Imam Husayn and his movement which sparked controversy in Iran and drew much criticism from the scholarly circles.

o eyes, shed your tears

O eyes shed your tears
Muharram’s moon has turned
in these days Hussain’s blood is spilled—
the tents of Zaynab burned

O eyes shed your tears
the caravan arrives
soon will the sands redden with blood—
the children’s gasping cries

O eyes shed your tears
a battle now will rage
a noble band of few will rise—
warriors of every age

O eyes shed your tears
the bodies on the ground
trampled by the hooves of horses—
broken, in pieces found

O eyes shed your tears
the son and father part
the Prophet’s face enters the fray—
yet spears still pierce his heart

O eyes shed your tears
to Furat Abbas goes
Hussain rushes to his side—
Hussain returns alone

O eyes shed your tears
will not be quenched a thirst
the neck of Hussain’s pure infant—
an arrow reaches first

O eyes shed your tears
Hussain will call this cry
“Is there no one to help us?”—
will ring throughout the sky

O eyes shed your tears
join Hussain’s ranks and know
you could not be there in body—
you can still be in soul

O eyes shed your tears
more than just in sorrow
but in reflection and new growth—
to better our tomorrows

O eyes shed your tears
these tears must us revive
they lead to perfecting our souls—
they bring dead hearts alive

O eyes shed your tears
weep and recall Hussain!
how they surrounded him with swords—
how he fell on those plains…

O eyes shed your tears
Hussain killed in Karbala!
from the skies heard, O soul at peace—
return now to Allah…

O eyes shed your tears
the heart begins to shake
a young daughter’s heart-wrenching wails
the head raised on the stake

O eyes shed your tears
the ringing of her cries
searching the desert for his chest
for where his body lies

O eyes shed your tears
don’t let this month’s moon pass
without your heartstrings torn apart
in Hussain’s love steadfast

O eyes shed your tears
cry wa Muhammada!
in these days, join his caravan—
Hussain and Karbala…

“for a lover of the Chief of Martyrs, one applause from Imam Hussain (ع) is more valuable than all the pleasures of the world.”

—ayatullah misbah yazdi
the secret of ashura’s immortality