HINO: Hussein In Name Only
So it took Colin Powell’s “defection” for me to learn a new political term that’s been in wide usage: ‘RINO-Republican In Name Only’. (BTW: Eli Lake takes a revealing and unvarnished look at Powell’s furtive style)
These days, I’m out canvassing for McCain in a neighborhood affectionately called ‘The Democratic Republic of Arlington’ by its Obama-supporting, left-leaning well-to-do residents.
Surprisingly, I’m finding quite a few McCain supporters here and there, but they feel under siege by their neighbors, and by the polls showing Virginia decisively heading Obama’s way.
The general attitude towards me is one of “Why are you even trying? Even at this stage of the race when the polls show it’s over? And especially in this neighborhood of all places?”
My ready response is: “I take my cue from my candidate; if McCain intends to fight to the very end, then so will I.”
Upon hearing this answer, one friend remarked, “Oh, that’s so Shia of you.”
And then it struck me: Obama is a 'Hussein' in name only, whereas McCain embodies the fighting spirit of the original Imam Hussein.
Let me explain: ‘Hussein’ is a popular name in the Muslim world, in both the Sunni and Shia components of it, because it was the name of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson. There are only two male bloodlines that go back to Muhammad, through the brothers Hassan and Hussein, both offspring of Muhammad’s daughter, Fatima, and his paternal cousin, Ali.
But Hussein is made more unique because he led a desperate rebellion against a dynasty that had usurped the leadership of Islam. Hussein was led to believe that he enjoyed overwhelming support in the battleground state of Kufa, and he barnstormed his way over there only to find that his get-out-the-vote machine was busted, while that of his enemies had managed to raise an army of several thousand.
Hussein was told, of the people of Kufa, “Their hearts are with you, but their swords are against you.” The opposing side had spread the wealth around, buying up the allegiances of many with unprecedented amounts of pieces of silver. Moreover, they ran many negative ads, picturing Hussein as an erratic old man (he was 63 at the time, ancient by the life-expectancy of those times) who’d bring about divisiveness and turmoil among Muslims, just like his predecessor (his father, Imam Ali) had done.
The economy was in a shambles ever since outward Islamic expansion that used to bring home the booty began to slow down; the trajectory of Muslim conquest had gone into a recession. The people were waiting on hand-outs, and no one had any time to listen to distractions such as justice, fairness and honor.
Hussein found himself on the plains of Karbala surrounded by a rebel band of a few dozen kinsmen and womenfolk, the mavericks of Islam. All around them were the fluttering banners and ranks of the enemy, thousands and thousands of them, hemming in the rebels from the riverside of the Euphrates. Hussein pleaded for some water, for the infants and the invalids of his traveling caravan, but was denied succor.
One general in the enemy camp rode out halfway between the opposing camps, right before the battle got under way. Mounted upon his steed, Al-Hurr Al-Rayahi hung his head low and seemed lost in thought. After a few minutes, someone called out, “What are you doing?” Al-Hurr looked up and answered, “I am deciding between the here and now, and the hereafter.” He could have stayed on with the enemy, whose numbers would have clearly carried the day; he’d even probably get a role of sorts in the new administration. But Al-Hurr, once dithering and undecided, finally chose honor: he would fight alongside Hussein, and face certain annihilation.
I will spare you the details of the epic battle, one that still manages, even after 1,300 years, to bring tens of millions of people across the world to tears every year upon its anniversary. The anniversary is called Ashura.
The last man standing was old Hussein. He had just watched his cousins, his brothers, and his sons get cut down one after the other. Even his black manservant, a certain Christian slave called
The story ends with Hussein making his last stand, and the rest is history. A powerful female figure emerges to shame the enemy for what it has done. This would be Zainab, Hussein’s sister. Once thought to be inexperienced and untested, she magnificently rose to the occasion, vociferously making the case for her slain brother and her martyred family. Even though the enemy controlled the pamphleteers, the historians and the poets, we know of the battle and of Hussein’s cause through her words.
When prepping themselves up for a fight, Shias may recite “Every day is Ashura. Every land is Karbala.”
One of Barack Obama’s ancestors clearly shared such a fondness for Imam Hussein, and hence the name carried from one generation to another. But in the process, it lost its meaning, and became an inherited middle name to be a little embarrassed by—a liability.
John McCain though, fights in the same spirit as Imam Hussein. Faced with incredible odds, he marches on towards battle. There’s honor in his cause, and that keeps him strong, unwavering.
And I guess that’s also where I draw my own strength and commitment in this bleak final stretch.
“Every day is Election Day. Every land is a battleground state.”
Here’s to fighting the good fight!