Henry and Husain:
Two Kindred Warriors for Liberty
(Bringing Islam to the World One Concept at a Time!
Taking the Qur’an to Every Home and Heart that Needs It —
And which One Does Not?)
This A’ashura 2011, this month of Muharram 1433, this time thinking of the land of Karbala, I have a question.
What did American Revolutionary Patrick Henry and Islamic Revolutionary Husain have in common?
Love of Liberty! That is what!
And then I have another question.
What did America of the 18th Century and Karbala-Iraq of 7th Century have in common?
A shared struggle for Liberty and a determined revolt against Tyranny.
Henry cried: “Give me liberty or give me death!”
Husain embodied that message and paid the ultimate price for it – his life.
Henry said: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains or slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!”
I just cannot shake off those words: “Forbid it, Almighty God!”
They haunt me wherever I go.
Henry went on: “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
Husain chose death over slavery and bondage.
“Live free or die!” is the official motto of the American state of New Hampshire.
Husain decided to die free.
The way he was born free, in the trackless sands of free Arabia.
And the way he grew up playing free, and loved and cherished and honored, in the arms of his grandfather, Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam – the freest and noblest and bravest of all human beings.
In the shade of angels’ wings. Under the watchful eyes of God.
There are those who think, and that is most people, that the issue between King Yazid and Citizen Husain was a Bad Man-Good Man issue.
That it was an issue of character and moral turpitude.
And then there are those who think, and that is practically everyone, it was a question of calling attention to corruption and injustice in the King’s court.
And in the life of the King himself.
It was all of the above. Not a doubt about it.
But those were the incidentals. The real issue was something else: It was Liberty and Democracy.
The issue was the legitimacy of the new system of government and not the character or behavior of the occupant of the throne.
Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, had liberated humanity from the tyranny of hereditary monarchy and priestly hierarchy.
And he established on earth a government of the People by the People – for the supreme pleasure of Almighty God.
In such a government and social order every human being was equal to every other human being.
Women held a place of special honor. Trade was free. Nights were safe. Days were productive.
And those from among the People became rulers whom People with their free and informed consent put in power.
And they held themselves to public scrutiny and accountability before the people – who put them in power in the first place.
This most amazing government of the People by the People lasted for 61 years.
And now all of a sudden it was under mortal peril of disappearing from the face of the earth.
King Yazid was not elected by the People. He inherited the throne from his father.
As a result, elected Government of the People now teetered on the brink.
It was on the verge of lapsing into hereditary monarchy.
The world was about to slip back into an Age of Darkness (Jaahiliyyah) as if Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, had not rescued it from that darkness only a half century ago.
Good people saw this happening. And they cried tears of blood.
But few had the moral authority and family background of Husain, a citizen in this great new Islamic republic, to stand up to this oncoming tide of Tyranny and try to turn it back.
Citizen Husain took a stand against Tyranny and for Liberty.
King Yazid’s Men killed Husain and his family.
The killers called themselves Muslim.
And in a burst of remarkable candor and courage, a bit of a characteristic of the age and culture in which this took place, the would-be killers walked up to Husain and told him: “Our hearts are undoubtedly with you, O Son of the Prophet! But our swords are pledged to Yazid the King!”
People calling themselves Muslims killed Husain – a citizen in the great Islamic Republic his grandfather, Prophet Muhammd, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, founded.
And they slaughtered his family mercilessly.
Muslims – and the world – are to this day paying the price for that killing.
Thank God Almighty that Henry, the American Revolutionary, was not given death. And the Government of the People by the People took a new birth of freedom on American soil, as Abraham Lincoln phrased it in part.
How I wish America knew this story.
And how I wish Muslims did!
Iqbal, the Bard of Islam, said it beautifully summarizing the death of Husain – and in a sense, paraphrasing the wish of Henry:
“Killing Husain means death to Yazid;
Every Karbala breathes a new life into the body of Islam!”
© 2011 Syed Husain Pasha
Dr. Pasha is an educator and scholar of exceptional
talent, training and experience. He can be reached at DrSyedPasha [at]
AOL [dot] com or www.IslamicSolutions.com.