Salāmun ʿalaykum, may Allah bless you, your families, and all the communities around the world.
This night of ʿĀshūrāʾ is a very important night. On this night, all of the companions knew that the very next day, they would be giving their lives for Allah (swt) and for the Imām (ʿa). So, as night fell, what they did on that night is actually a very good lesson for us to learn. They spent their last night in this world in worship and remembrance of Allah (swt). They knew that they were put in this world and given so many gifts from Allah (swt) so that they can love Him and worship Him, and they decided to spend these last precious moments of their lives remembering Him.
Let me tell you a short parable, a story, that will teach us a lesson. One day, an army was walking through the desert at night. When they stopped to set up camp, they were very tired, but their commander told them to get bags and start filling them up with rocks. Everyone was very confused. They all respected this leader and thought he was very wise, but they just did not understand. They ended up splitting into three groups.
The first group thought, “This guy is out of his mind! We’re going to sleep! Why does he want us to pick up rocks?!” They didn’t pick up any rocks and went to sleep.
The second group thought, “Okay he said we have to do it, so let’s get a few rocks and then go to sleep.” So, they picked a few rocks and went to sleep.
The third group knew that their leader was wise, so he must be saying this out of his wisdom. They picked up as many rocks as they could and then went to sleep.
The next morning, when they woke up, they saw that the land was filled with diamonds, gold, and jewels. But now that it was daylight, they couldn’t gather anything. The first group that didn’t pick up anything was so upset that they missed this opportunity. The second group was upset and wished they had picked up more. And the third group, even though they had picked up more than any other group, was also upset that they slept at all – they should have used the whole night to pick up rocks!
So, you see, this world is limited. We have only so much time to get closer to Allah (swt) by serving Him. Which group would you want to be like? That evening, the companions of Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) were like this third group. They requested one more night to worship Allah (swt). They were supposed to fight on the 9th of Muḥarram, but Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) sent Ḥaḍrat ʿAbbās to request one more night. One more night to do what? He said, “I want to spend this night offering ṣalāh, making duʿāʾ, reading Qurʾān, and seeking His forgiveness.”
On the night of ʿĀshūrāʾ, people often stay at their centers late into the night. This one night has the potential of giving the reward of 70 years of worship, so spend it in a good way. If you’re with your friends, talk about the lessons you’ve learned these nights. If you see people doing azadari, or listening to a speech, or talking about Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa), join them with a sad heart, cry, and learn from it. This night is worth a lot, so pray to Allah (swt) that He helps change our hearts and that He makes us those people that Allah (swt, the Prophet (ṣ), and all the Imāms (ʿa) would be proud of.
Today, let us reflect on the akhlāq and lessons Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) taught us. There is an āyah in the Noble Qurʾān that says:
نزَلْنَا مَعَهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْمِيزَانَ لِيَقُومَ النَّاسُ بِالْقِسْطِ
َرْسَلْنَا رُسُلَنَا بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأ
Surely, we have sent Our messengers with clear proofs, and We have sent them the Book and the Balance, so that they can provide justice in this world. (57:25)
From this, we can see that the Prophets came with books, not with force.
We also have a beautiful āyah in Sūrah at-Tawbah, Verse 111 that Allah (swt) buys from the muʾminīn, themselves. Subḥānallāh! He created us, and now He wants to “buy” us, meaning that if we dedicate our lives to serving Him through our good deeds and staying away from bad deeds, He will give us the best of rewards. It’s like when a mom or dad gives a kid money to open up a store and guess who’s the first customer? The parents themselves. The parent is the one who gave all the money in the first place! So, over here, Allah (swt) is the one who buys our good actions, and He rewards us with Jannah.
But who are these muʾminīn? We see in āyah 112, Allah (swt) explains nine characteristics of these muʾminīn: (1) they are the ones who do tawbah — they return to Allah (swt) when they make a mistake. (2) They do rukūʿ and (3) they do sujūd. This doesn’t mean they’re always in rukūʿ or sujūd, but they are always in the remembrance of Allah (swt). (4) They pay attention to their prayers. (5) They do amr bil maʿrūf and (6) nahī ʿanil munkar — they invite towards goodness and stop from badness. (7) They’re good friends to each other (8) and help each other. (9) They’re careful not to cross the lines that Allah (swt) has made for us — He created us and knows that these boundaries are good for us, and we have to believe that from the bottom of our hearts.
What’s important is not only to have these 9 characteristics, but to have them with a deep understanding and know what our responsibilities are.
Some people in the time of the Prophet (ṣ) would leave their responsibilities to their families and would go into caves and just pray all day. When the Prophet (ṣ) found out, he got very upset and said, “Don’t you see me with my family? Don’t you see that I eat food? I spend time with people; I don’t just sit in a room and pray.”
There has to be a balance, and everything has to be for Allah (swt). And you can do that. You can drink milk, so you can be healthy, so you can study, so you can serve Allah (swt). Drinking milk becomes a form of worship, one that you will get rewarded for. Our time is limited. If you study math, make an intention that you’re doing so to get into a good college or university so you can serve Allah (swt) and His community. When you wash the dishes or help your mom pick up the table, make an intention that you’re doing it to make your parents happy, and then it becomes worship for which you get reward.
There’s a beautiful story about a companion who lived during the time of the Prophet (ṣ), but he never got a chance to see or meet him. He was also alive during the time of Imām ʿAlī (ʿa), and his name was Uwais al-Qaranī. Uwais lived in a city a little bit away from Medina with his old mother. When he became Muslim, he really wanted to see the Prophet (ṣ), but his mother was old, and his responsibilities were towards her.
One day, he asked his mother, “Mother, can I please go and visit the Prophet (ṣ) in Medina?” His mother said, “Okay, but be back before Maghrib, before it gets dark.” So, he went, excited to see the Prophet. When he got to Medina, he asked around where the Prophet was. The people said, “O Uwais, he went out of town, and he will be back later.” So Uwais waited and waited, but it started to get close to Maghrib and he had to leave. He was so close to seeing the Prophet (ṣ), but he had made a promise to his mother and had to get back before Maghrib. He returned home without seeing the Prophet. When the Prophet (ṣ) returned, he smelled the air, and said, “I smell the fragrance of Jannah. My dear friend Uwais was here!”
This shows that Islam is about doing your responsibilities in a balanced way. We can’t just read Qurʾān or offer ṣalāh all day. This same Uwais was alive with Imām ʿAlī (ʿa), and during the battle of Siffīn he said, “O my Imām, I’m here to fight with you and give my allegiance to you.” The Imām asked, “Do you have any conditions for this allegiance?”
You see, at this time, people only wanted to give allegiance to get status or money from the Imām. Uwais said, “O Imām, I give you my allegiance, and my whole life is for you without condition.” On one side, Uwais used to spend hours in sujūd and praying to Allah, and on the other hand, he was very, very obedient to his Imām (ʿa) and had a strong appreciation for wilāyah - the authority the Imām (ʿa) had over him. That’s what we need to do in our lives as well.
We said there are 9 characteristics, and some of those are doing sujūd and rukūʿ. This is referring to ṣalāh. Ṣalāh is our key to Jannah, and our way of communicating with our creator. Allah (swt) gives us the opportunity to talk to him at least 5 times a day. No one with an important status — no king, president, or celebrity — would ever give us one appointment, let alone 5 appointments every day!
On the day of ʿĀshūrāʾ, when it was ṣalāh time, what happened? At Ẓuhr time, some of his companions were still alive. The Imām (ʿa) could have gone back to his tent and prayed. He could have sent others to fight and take turns praying. But his ṣalāh on that day was really, really special. First, in the midst of the battle, the Imām (ʿa) stopped everything to pray on time. He could have waited until near Maghrib, but the moment it was time for ṣalāh, he prayed. There’s a little saying — don’t tell your ṣalāh you have stuff to do, tell your stuff you have ṣalāh to do. In the Adhān, we say Ḥayy-a ʿalā khayr al-ʿamal — hurry towards the best deed.
Sometimes, when people text or call us, we stop what we’re doing and respond. Well, this is Allah (swt) calling us. So, one of the things we should give importance to is prayer and praying on time. There are many ḥadīth that tell us if you pray on time, so many doors of barakah and blessings will open for you.
The second lesson we see is that the Imām (ʿa) prayed in jamāʿah. Everyone prayed together. Now, the jamāʿah in a war is done differently than jamāʿah in regular circumstances. The prayer is shorter, and is done in a special way so that everyone is protected from attacks. But it is still in jamāʿah.
The third lesson we see is that he prayed in front of everyone. He didn’t go into his tent, but instead he prayed in front of everyone and was very proud of this ṣalāh. Now of course you don’t have to go out and pray in public all the time, but Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) was reminding the enemies that he is offering ṣalāh, and they’re fighting someone who believes in Allah (swt), prays, follows Islam, and is in reality their Imām. He prayed in the middle of the desert of Karbala. He was giving a message that we have to establish the ṣalāh no matter where we are.
This connection with Allah (swt) is our life! We don’t just recite ṣalāh — we live ṣalāh. So you see that we need to try to pray on time and give importance to it. Alllah (swt) tells us in the Qurʾān that ṣalāh keeps us away from shameful and unjust deeds:
مُنكَرِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْ اةَ تَنْهَىٰ عَنِ إِنَّ الصَّلَ
Surely, ṣalāh prevents indecency and wrongdoing (29:45)
How does ṣalāh keep us away from bad deeds? It reminds us 5 times a day that we are created to make good choices in whatever time we have left in this world. Allah (swt) says:
حَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ ٢﴾ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْ ﴿ فِ خُسْرٍ ي ١﴾ إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ لَ ﴿ عَصْرِ وَالْ
[I swear] by time, surely mankind is in loss, except those who believe and do good deeds and invite others towards to the truth and invite others towards patience. (103:1-3)
In this sūrah, Allah (swt) swears that all of mankind — everyone — is at a loss.
Everyone, that is, except those who have 4 characteristics. What are these 4 characteristics? They believe, they do good deeds, they help each other to the truth, and they have patience. Now, it’s time for us to have a change in our hearts. Let’s give ṣalāh importance from tonight and going forward. Let’s try to make our priorities right, and let’s remember every time we stand for ṣalāh to make good choices until the next ṣalāh.
Authored under the guidance of Moulana Nabi R. Mir (Abidi)
Download the related Muḥarram Project Booklet with lessons and crafts.
Learn more about Ṣalāh and how to perform the obligatory prayers.
View the Kisa Kids Crafts for this lesson (on Kisa Kids YouTube Channel)