Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas and Ashura

"When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings with toys at Christmas, why are we not grateful to God for filling our stocking with legs?" G K Chesterton

And today, many are not even grateful for their gifts from others, but instead evaluate and compare those gifts against some sense of entitlement. But what are we truly entitled to in this world? Has God promised us even another breath? And even if He did, is it because we are entitled to that breath, or because it is a gift?

While I have not been making the longer drive to the north Denver area for Muharram services, I of course have not failed to notice that it is Muharram, and that Christmas and Ashura are two days apart this year. I know many far surpass me in their piety and their religious observance, but for whatever reasons I have needed seclusion and do not feel up to the nearly four-hour daily commute going to Denver would entail.

I have written about Muharram and what it means to us, what it enjoins on us, etc., many times. And I still feel I don't know hardly anything about that topic. I cannot weigh or measure the sacrifice of Imam Hussain (as), and therefore I cannot weigh or measure my debt. But I feel I have a great debt, for my personal benefit at the price of that sacrifice is potentially exceedingly great. The least I can do is acknowledge the debt and to try not to waste the gift of sacrifice for truth.

Many Christians believe that al-Masih, Jesus Christ (as), made a great sacrifice for humanity, but now they acknowledge his birth, albeit in largely pre-Christian traditions, consumerism, and more consumerism. While Muslims do not believe Jesus (as) was crucified, we do believe he lived his life in complete submission to God, annihilating his own personal will and whims within the will of God. He was and remains a supreme, immaculate instrument of God, like Imam Husain (as), and all the Imams and Prophets (sa). We are all indebted to him, as well, for his struggle in the way of truth.

Every godly person who struggles for truth and preserves a measure of it does a noble thing, a thing that may help countless others. What is Christmas Spirit? What are the lessons of Karbala? Isn't there a call to self-sacrifice, to become more than a taker, a user? I go to work and listen to teenagers speak day after day and go home and hear more people speak on television or Internet, and most of us are all about ourselves. We feel entitled. We feel we know more than others. We feel we should be special. We feel we should have easy lives and abundance. If some misfortune befalls us, we feel personally affronted or wronged. If all we are is a sea of people, each obsessed with himself, what a waste! Is there no more point to life than personal gratification? Who cares if I am gratified or he is gratified or she is? Especially when most gratification comes with a cost, paid by others.

I don't know what self-sacrifice for truth, for right, looks like for you or me, but we've seen it in our prophets and guides. But one thing I understand is that we should be grateful. To God. To our families. To the Prophets (sa). To the Imams (sa). To Jesus (as), to Imam Husain (as). To people who smile at us, to people who try to teach us, to people who pick up our garbage, to people who try to cure us,to almost anyone we meet.

In wishing all who would want it a Merry Christmas, what I really wish is well-being, peace, guidance, and appreciation. And in condoling the mourners over the disgusting murder of holy and sincere servants of God, what I really wish is for none of us to oppress another, to cause another to shed tears, or to take another for granted.

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