Shedding tears for Imam Hussein (peace be upon him) is a sign of faith A new glance at the expression
09 December 2023
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In the name of God, the most compassionate, the most merciful
Praise be to God, the Lord of the worlds, and may God's prayers and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad and his pure progeny
Many thanks to the custodian of the holy shrine of Imam Hossein (as), Hajj Sheikh Abdul Mahdi Karbalai as well as to the organizers of this magnificent ceremony. I would like to congratulate you, honorable professors, scholars and researchers attending this luminous gathering, on the blessed birthday of Hazrat Aba Abdallah al-Hussein, Imam Sajjad, and Hazrat Abbas (peace be upon them).
At first, I think it is necessary to mention an important point. Thanks to the grace of Almighty God and the care of the pure Imams (peace be upon them), beautiful, profound and amazing expressions about Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) have been mentioned in our hadiths and pilgrimage texts. They require contemplation so that their meaning could be, to some extent, understood.
For example, in a famous pilgrimage text that has been narrated from Yunus bin Zabian, we read, "Ashhadu anna damaka sakan fi al-Khuld." What is the meaning of, “I bear witness that your blood resides in heaven?” What is this testimony? Definitely, it does not refer to court testimony. Understanding this meaning is beyond the capacity of ordinary human intellect; therefore, it is necessary for all of us to leave the explanation of such phrases to those who can do that, namely the infallible imams (peace be upon them). Of course, the failure of our intellect should not prevent us from trying to understand the meaning of these lofty concepts as much as we can.
After this introduction, I would like to touch on the subject of my speech at this meeting, which is the meaning of the famous phrase "Qatil al-Abarat" about Imam Hussein (peace be upon him). This phrase has been narrated from Amirul Momineen and Imam Hussein and also from Imam Sadiq and Imam Baqir (peace be upon them). Also, it has been mentioned in pilgrimage texts. These all indicate how important this phrase is.
Regarding the meaning of this phrase, one should first see what interpretations for it have been mentioned. In some of Imam Hussain's pilgrimage texts, there is a phrase which says, “Peace be upon you, the killed for tears and the captive of griefs.” The first person who used this phrase was Amir al-Mu'minin (peace be upon him). Apparently, during the childhood days of Abu Abdullah al-Hussein (as), Amir al-Mu'minin (as) addressed him and said, "O tears of all believers." “Am I the tears of every believer?” Imam Hussain (as) asked. It shows Imam Hussain (as) himself wondered what this phrase meant. Amir al-Mu'minin said, “Yes, you are the tears of all believers.”
The hadiths mentioning the title “Killed for Tears” are mentioned in many sources such as Wasa’il al-Shia, Mostadrak al-Wasail, Bihar al-Anwar, Amali by Sheikh Saduq and various other sources. For example, it is narrated by Haji Nouri in Mustadrak and by Sheikh Saduq in Amali that Ibn Khaleda said, “We were sitting with Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him). We mentioned Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) and cursed those who killed him. Imam Sadiq (as) wept and we also wept. Then, he raised his head and narrated from his grandfather Imam Hussain that he said, “No believer remembers me but he/she weeps for me.”
The late Majlisi narrates a hadith in Bihar al-Anwar from Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) according to which Imam Al-Hussein bin Ali (peace be upon him) said, "I was killed for tears. I was killed while surrounded by sorrows. It is befitting that he who comes to me God returns him to his people while he is pleased and happy.” In this hadith, “I was killed while surrounded by sorrows” is mentioned which is an explanation for the title “Ana Qatil al-Abarat”.
Before explaining the meaning of “Qatil al-Abarat” or “Killed for Tears”, it is necessary to know what effects have been mentioned in ahadith about weeping and crying for Imam Hussain (peace be upon him). In a basic research, I found seven results for mourning for Imam Hussain (peace be upon him).
The first result is: An eye that sheds tears for Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) or is filled with tears for him, is the most loved eye before God. In the hadiths, two words are mentioned, "Qatrah" which means flowing tear, and “Dam’ah” which means tear that collects in the eye, even if it does not flow. It might be true that tears for Imam Hussain are even higher than tears for the fear of God, of course, all aspects should be considered.
The second effect is that God, the Almighty, has appointed some angels to collect the tears of those who cry for Imam Hussain (peace be upon him). They collect these tears in a container and mix them with the water of heavenly life and give it to them as a fragrant perfume when they are resurrected on the Day of Judgment.
The third effect is that he who sheds tears for Imam Hussain his tears make death easier for him. The narration of Masma' Ibn Abdul Malik in Kamil al-Ziyarat refers to that. The difficulties of death are such that even the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of God be upon him) and the Imams (peace be upon them) were afraid of them.
The fourth effect is that these tears bring the help and intercession of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and those of the infallible imams (peace be upon them) on the Day of Resurrection. On the Day of reckoning, one of the things that brings the intercession of the Prophet and the infallible imams (peace be upon them) is shedding tears for Aba Abdullah (as).
The fifth effect is that it extinguishes the fire of hell. According to a hadith, one drop of tear for Imam Hussain (as) puts out the Hell fire so much so that no heat remains for it.
The sixth effect is that sins will be forgiven. According to some narrations even grave sins will be forgiven.
The seventh effect is that crying for Imam Hussain (as) brings unlimited and boundless reward. There is a hadith according to which for every good deed there is a certain reward except shedding tears for the Ahl al-Bayt (as) the reward for which cannot be measured.
I found out these seven effects. If someone does more research, they may find more effects.
But the main subject I wanted to talk about is the meaning of "Qatil al-Abra" or "Qatil al-Abarat". What does "you are the tears of every believer" mean?
As far as I have researched, I have found four interpretations in the words of scholars. One interpretation is that Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) was martyred to be an example for others, that is, people learn that when a tyrannical ruler seeks to destroy the foundation of Islam, one is obliged to sacrifice himself and his family so that the religion remains.
There is no doubt that Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) is a role model for Muslims rather for all humans. A few years ago, during one of Rabi al-Shahada festivals, I presented a new analysis of Imam Hussain's (peace be upon him) uprising which was published under the title Jihad Zabi. Many researchers have analyzed the uprising of Imam Hussain (as) on the basis of enjoining good and forbidding evil. The Imam (as) himself said, "I want to enjoin good and forbid evil." Considering that the circumstances were not prepared for enjoining good and forbidding evil, why did the Imam (as) try to enjoin good and forbid evil?
In that meeting, I analyzed Imam Hussain’s (peace be upon him) revolt based on a type of Jihad called Zabi Jihad which means "defending the core of Islam" and expressed the difference between this Jihad and defensive and offensive Jihads. I have come to this conclusion that some of the things Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) did cannot be justified except on the basis of Jihad Zabi. The fact that the Imam (peace be upon him) held Ali Asghar in his arms and brought him to the battlefield asking the enemy to give him water, while he knew that they would kill him cannot be justified based on the principle of enjoining good and forbidding evil, while it can be justified based on Jihad Zabi.
Based on this, I said that confronting Israel, as well as rising of Jaish al-Shaabi and the Shiites of Iraq against ISIS after the issuance of a fatwa by the supreme religious authority of Iraq, can be justified on the basis of Jihad al-Zabi.
But to say that Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) was martyred so that others could learn a lesson and set him as an example for their revolutionary movements against oppressors has nothing to do with being the tears of all believers.
The second and third interpretations are mentioned by late Majlesi in Bihar al-Anwar. Accoriding to the third interpretation, the phrase may refer to the fact that Imam Hussain’s martyrdom makes people shed tears for him until the Day of Resurrection. Based on this, when Amir al-Mu'minin said to Imam Hussain, “You are the tears of every believer,” he meant that after his martyrdom every believer would shed tears for him.
The third interpretation is that the Imam meant that he was killed when his wife and children were crying in the tents. "Ana Qatil al-Abarat", based on this, means I was martyred on the battlefield, while my sister, Zainab Kobra and my children were all crying bitterly in the tents. After narrating these two interpretations, late Allahmah Majlisi says that the first interpreration i.e. that the martyrdom of the Imam (as) moves people to tears over him until the Day of Resurrection, is more likely to be the meaning of the phrase.
In my opinion, both of these interpretations are unlikely and the second one is more unlikely. One may object, as far as weeping and shedding tears for the Ahl al-Bayt (as) is concerned, we have narrations about the martyrdom of Amir al-Mu'minin (as) that the heavens and the earth wept for him. Even today, when the martyrdom of Amir al-Mu'minin (as), Fatimah al-Zahra (as) or the other Imams (as) is mentioned, every believer becomes sad and sheds tears. Therefore, shedding tears itself is not the difference between Imam Hussain (as) and the other imams.
In response, it should be said that although the narrations related to shedding tears are general and include all imams, the title “Qatil al-Abarat” is specific to Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) and does not include other infallibles (peace be upon them). Therefore, the phrase should be interpreted in a way that is specific to Imam Hussain (as). If we say that “killed for tears” means that until the Day of Judgment people will cry for Imam Hussain (as), this is true about Amir al-Mu'minin as well. Or who remembers the sufferings of Hazrat Zahra (peace be upon her) but does not cry?
Therefore, considering these objections, all three interpretations are problematic and cannot be accepted.
The fourth interpretation is that the effect of these tears is the flow of God's mercy on man. In other words, some scholars have interpreted the flow of tears as the flow of God’s mercy. According to a narration Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) said, “No one cries for us and for the sufferings that befell us unless God bestows special mercy on him.” This should also be included among the effects of shedding tears, i.e. one of the effects of shedding tears is the special mercy of God on the one who cries, especially over the sufferings of the Ahl al-Bayt, and particularly those sufferings that befell Imam Hussain (peace be upon him).
According to this interpretation, “Anna Qatil al-Abarat” means I was killed so that the great mercy of God would shower upon the person who weeps. It is worth mentioning that, this narration is an evidence confirming what was said earlier that shedding tears is not exclusive to Imam Hussain (as) but is true about other imams (peace be upon them) as well, while we must interpret “Qatil al-Abarat” in such a way that is specific to Imam Hussain (as). This exclusiveness can be understood from the pilgrimage texts that have been narrated, such as ziyarat Arbaeen and other pilgrimage texts, and also from various hadiths that have been mentioned. What Amir al-Mu'minin (as) said to Imam Hussain, that is, "You are the tears of all believers" indicates that this title is exclusive to Imam Hussain (as). As a result, we must interpret the phrase in a way that is exclusive to Imam Hussain (as).
In short, four interpretations have been mentioned for the meaning of “Qatil al-Abarat”. That is, Imam Hussain (as) was martyred:
1- to be a role model and source of advice and credibility for people in their fight against oppressors.
2- so that the believers would shed tears for him until the Day of Resurrection.
3- while his family was crying sadly in the tents.
4- so that we shed tears and these tears shower God's mercy on us.
Since these four interpretations are not acceptable, an acceptable interpretation should be suggested. After examining the traditions, I noticed that a new meaning can be understood from them. Having in mind that "Ana Qatil al-Abarat" is exclusive to Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) and that it refers to a special status for him, there is a group of hadiths under the title of “the reward of shedding tears for Imam Hussain” and there is another group titled as “what God gave Imam Hussain in exchange for his martyrdom”. The first hadith in the latter narrated by Muhammad bin Muslim says, “I heard from Imam Baqir and Imam Sadiq (peace be upon them) saying, ‘In exchange for the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him), God placed Imamate in his progeny, healing in the soil of his grave, and fulfilment of prayers near his grave. Also, the time spent during the pilgrimage to his grave is not counted part of one’s lifetime.’”
Then, Muhammad bin Muslim asks Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) that this attributes reached other people through Imam Hussain (as), then what privilege had God considered for Imam Hussain (as) himself? Imam Sadiq (as) says, “On the Day of Resurrection, Imam Hussain (as) is placed in the same rank and position as the Prophet, which is above the position of all prophets.” Then, he recites this verse, “And those who believed and whose descendants followed them in faith - We will join with them their descendants.”
Having mentioned all the above, regarding Imam Hussain (as), each aspect should be looked at from a different point of view. For example, mourning and shedding tears for Imam Hussain have many rewards and effects, or God has given him a special position in exchange for his martyrdom.
Taking into account these two points regarding the meaning of "Ana Qatyl al-Abarat", that is, a) it is specific to Imam Hussain (as), b) it refers to a special position for Imam Hussain (as), none of the previous four interpretations can be accepted. If it is said that Imam Hussain (as) was killed to be a role model for others is it a position for Imam Hossein himself? Same is the case if it is said that he was martyred so that others would cry for him! Or he was killed so that God’s mercy should flow over people because of their weeping for him! These benefit are for other people not for Imam Hossein (as) himself. Therefore, we have to find another meaning for “Qatil al-Abarat”.
In my opinion, the narration "I was killed for tears, no believer remembers me except that he/she cries for me," itself explains the meaning of “Qatil al-Abarat” very well. The imam does not want to announce that in future, every believer who remembers me will shed tears for me! Rather, he wants to establish a strong connection between shedding tears and faith. Faith is related to God Almighty. "No believer …" means "no person who believes in God". The Imam (as) says that it cannot be that one has faith in God but does not shed tears for Imam Hussain (as).
Actually, tears for Imam Hossein (as) is a sign of high level of faith. Faith, according to hadith, is knowledge with the heart, confession with the tongue and action with the limbs. This hadith is referred to in the sciences of jurisprudence and exegesis of the Quran.
In some other hadiths, the signs of faith are mentioned, such as "when a believer promises he keeps it," meaning that keeping promises is one of the signs of faith. This narration does not mean that a person who fulfills his promise has faith! Rather, it says that not keeping promises indicates a defect in one's faith. “No believer remembers me but he/she cries for me,” is similar to this narration and it says that crying is a sign of faith.
In our hadiths, different terms are mentioned "Abra", "Buka", "Dama'a" and "Qatrah". How amazing are the things mentioned about Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) and how much attention has been paid to the details! The tears that gather in the eyes are called “Dam’ah” and the tears that flow down the cheek are called “Qatrah”. Both of these types of tears are mentioned in hadith. Quoting his father, Rabi’ bin Mundhir narrates from Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) that the Imam said, "No believer sheds a drop of tear or his eye is filled with tears unless God lets him stay in heaven for ages."
In addition to the signs of faith, in some other hadiths, constituents of faith have been mentioned, such as "Faith is knowing with the heart, confessing with the tongue, and acting with the limbs."
Weeping includes all kinds of tears i.e. “Dam’ah”, “Abrah” and “Qatrah”. Tears for the Imam (as) are a sign of having faith. It means that if someone hears about the tragedy of the day of Ashura and becomes sad (since “Abrah” has been interpreted as sadness as well) it means that his faith is complete. Therefore, when a person remembers this incident and is filled with sadness, even if there are no tears in his eyes; and if when he drinks water his eyes are filled with tears these are signs of faith being complete.
We cannot say that tears for Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) is a sign of faith in God in the sense that not having tears is a sign of not having faith, but we can definitely say that it is a sign of the perfection of faith in God. That is, whoever wants to perfect his faith in God, one of the paths he must take is shedding tears for the Imam. What a high position!
In the hadith, we see a very deep connection between Imam Hussain (as) and God, for example “Tharullah” or “Qatil al-Abarat” both of which have been narrated only for Imam Hussain (peace be upon him). The latter refers to a unique position for Imam Hussain (as). Tears for other imams are also very rewarding, to which the hadiths also refer, but the tears that raise and strengthen one’s faith are tears for Imam Hussain (as).
The things mentioned for Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) are very strange! Even if a non-Muslim sheds tears for Imam Hussain (as), he will be rewarded on the Day of Resurrection. As to how they will be rewarded, since non-Muslims will not enter heaven, it should be discussed in a separate study.
The proof that non-Muslims will be rewarded is the word “servant” in hadiths. "No servant sheds tears …" includes both Muslims and non-Muslims. But "no believer remembers me" refers to one who believes in God. That is if a Muslim and Shia, weeps for Imam Hussain (as) his tears will raise the degree of his Wilayat, and make his faith in God even stronger.
This shows what the truth of shedding tears is. Those who want to strengthen their faith, especially the youth for they are constantly under the attack from those who cast doubts, should make use of the elixir of shedding tears for Imam Hussain (as) in order to make their faith stronger.
It is the tears for Imam Hussain (as) that strengthen and perfect one’s faith. Those who say why should we cry; what does crying mean; or crying is a sign of weakness, they have not understood the meaning of shedding tears. Shedding tears is the sign of perfection and continuation of faith.
I hope that we can understand the sublime meanings of Ashura and Muharram and the profound words of Imam Hussain and the other Infallible Imams (peace be upon them) more and more, God willing.