By Jerrmein Abu Shahba
It is natural and normal for humans to experience different emotions at different heights and degree across our lives depending on the circumstances and experiences faced. There is no person who never tasted sadness and grief in one’s life due to any mishap or misfortune such as loss of wealth, occupation, or a loved one, etc. Likewise, we have all experienced moments of bliss and happiness such as graduating, getting promoted, or having a baby. If we compare the overall moments of grief versus happiness that we experience in our lifetime, it may vary from person to person; however, many or most people find that the moments of happiness are often short-lived and very temporary compared to the feelings of sadness. Although the reasons which bring about sadness are also temporary due to this transitory life, yet we may realize that there are overall more feelings of sadness that we experience across our lives than feelings of happiness. This is especially true for a believer and devout person who have chosen the life of the Hereafter over the transient life of this world.
If we think closely, we will find that it is very easy to switch from the mode of happiness to the mode of sadness or grief in a split second if we hear or experience a bad event. For example, if we are happy today because our child is having their wedding ceremony, this feeling of joy can be disrupted upon reception of unfortunate news that our father or uncle or any loved one passed away. Immediately, the celebratory state and colors of white, red, and pink will be replaced with a grief and mourning state in a funeral setting that is filled with black and only black. However, it is very difficult to switch modes from being in the state of grief to the state of happiness. The activation energy required is higher and the reasons behind this transition must be very strong in order to for us to change our emotion, for example, from being in a depressed mode due to a problem in our lives to being happy and joyful. Often times, we refuse to feel happy until and unless the reason behind our sadness is removed and our ‘problem’ is resolved. So, if we are in the state of grief due to mourning for the loss of our father or mother, chances are that it is very hard to reverse that state of grief even if a piece of good news comes by. It will never completely change our mood and state of mind and most often, ample time is needed and sometimes it takes a very long time to heal and maybe never completely. Isn’t that right?
When we commemorate the holy occasions related to our Prophet (SA) and Infallible Imams (AS) who are the members of his holy household, we come across two types of events in the Islamic calendar – the birthdays and the martyrdoms of our divine guides. As Imam Ali (AS) has advised us, “Surely, Allah has chosen for us followers (Shia) who assist us and are happy at our happiness and are sad at our sadness.” (Ghurar al Hikam) Shias across the globe make celebrations to celebrate the holy birthdays of our Imams and other festive events such as Eidul Fitr, Eidul Ghadeer, and Eidul Zahra. However, we cannot deny the fact that the overwhelming amount and extent of tragedies, calamities, and heartbreaking misfortunes which have afflicted each and everyone of the members of AhlulBayt and Imams have left us heartbroken and grief-stricken with tears of endless sorrow that does not cease with time. The fact of the matter is, their moments of sorrow and grief are much greater than their moments of joy and happiness. The massacre of Karbala and the tragedy of Imam Husain (AS) is the peak of calamities which the followers of Wilayah have commemorated every Muharram and Safar at the very least for centuries. As Imam As-Sadiq (AS) has said, “There is a burning fire in the hearts of the believers regarding the killing of Husain that will never ever cool down.” (Mustadrak al Wasa’el) Even the 12th Awaited Imam vows that he will forever lament the martyrdom of his grandfather Husain day and night and he cries tears of blood over his tragedies on the day of Ashura, as mentioned in Dua Nudba.
The question we pose: Is it possible for the events of celebrations whether it is the blessed birthdays of our Imams or the occasions of Eid which we experience across year, overcome and replace our state of grief and mourning over the inexplicable and unfathomable tragedies which the Prophet’s AhlulBayt (AS) experienced? In fact, we still experience today the price which the followers of AhlulBayt (SA) have to pay as they continuously experience injustice, persecution, and oppression across the globe by the transgressors and enemies of truth.
For example, when we celebrate the blessed birthday of our Holy Prophet (SA), can we really reach the heightened stage of happiness and bliss knowing well that he is over-grieved eternally over the killing of his grandson Husain and he is seen in dreams to be disheveled with physical sorrow over what his Ummah has committed? When we celebrate the birthday of our beloved Seyyida Fatima Zahra, are we to forget the door which crushed her ribs and aborted her unborn child? Or do we imagine for her to smile today and feel happiness after she witnessed her beloved Husain being crushed under the hoofs of horses and slaughtered with his head raised on a spear and paraded across countries? Indeed, it is inevitable that the heart that is grieved over the tragedies of AhlulBayt (SWT) will never forget or transition from the state of grief even if there is a blessed occasion to be celebrated, for the tears of joy is often mixed and mingled with tears of grief. Yes, it is not far-fetched to say that a Shia believer is destined to be grief stricken for his/her whole life and there is nothing that can reverse that grief until the reappearance of our 12th Awaited Imam when he seeks vengeance for all the oppression done to AhlulBayt (AS), and even then, the grief will linger and transfer to the next world eternally.
Since we can imagine that our Prophet (SA) and Imams (AS) are themselves forever in the state of grief for the tragedy of Karbala and other uncountable tragedies which each Imam experienced, it is fair to conclude that their commemoration and gatherings (majales) of grief is ongoing and does not cease to exist. Furthermore, we are encouraged to share and join and initiate these gatherings of grief and remembrance of their tragedies at any time, not just Muharram or Safar, to the extent that if we were to commemorate the birthday of the Prophet (SA) by the remembrance of his grandson’s tragedy or the birthday of Seyyida Zahra (AS) by shedding tears over her last days that she went through, surely this act of consolation pleases them dearly and is far better and closer to the heart than mere celebration and festivity. Rather, this act of sharing and remembering their grief is the only way to achieve an imaginary state of happiness because it is only then that we will be in sync with the true state of mind of the Prophet (SA) and his AhlulBayt (AS).
In fact, if we analyze the occasions of Eid across the Islamic calendar which are typically celebrated we will find that each and everyone of them carry a cloud of grief over it which forces us to shed tears of sorrow alongside the feelings of joy. When we celebrate Eidul Fitr which symbolizes the completion of our obligation of fasting Shahr Ramadan, we cannot help but remember the orphaned children and family of Imam Ali (AS) who are in deep sorrow after the martyrdom of Ameerul Momineen (AS) on the 21st of Ramadan. When we celebrate Eidul Adhaa which symbolizes the completion of our obligation of Hajj, we cannot help but remember the ‘great sacrifice’ (Dhibh Adheem) symbolized by the sacrifice of Imam Husain on the day of Ashura which replaced the slaughter of Prophet Ismael (AS). When we celebrate the greatest of all Eids – Eidul Ghadeer which symbolizes the completion of our obligation of Wilayah and allegiance to Imam Ali (AS), we cannot help but remember the injustice and oppression committed to him by the usurpation of his divine right of caliphate which started in the cursed meeting of Saqifa and continued thereafter with the attack on the house of Seyyida Fatima (AS). Hence, while we celebrate the gift of Wilayah, it is deserving of us to set alive the remembrance of his oppression with a majlis in relation to the event of Ghadeer. When we celebrate Eidul Zahra which marks the killing of the enemies of AhlulBayt who killed Imam Husain and usurped their rights, this event of celebration is directly related to our feelings of grief over the tragedies of our beloved Imams!
Indeed, such is the overwhelming grief of the tragedies of AhlulBayt and the massacre of Karbala that Imam As-Sadiq (AS) narrates that “Allah (SWT) has appointed to the grave of Imam Husain (AS), four thousand anguished and grief-stricken angels who weep over him (and shall continue to do so) until the Day of Judgment.” (Kamil Al Ziyaraat) There is no escape to concluding that the grief of a believer gains victory over the feelings of happiness when it comes to the commemorations and celebrations of AhlulBayt (AS) and there is no better way to “celebrate” the happy occasions except by the remembrance of their tragedies with tears of sorrow that purifies the hearts and brings us closer to our beloved guides!