Sunday, 1 November 2015

Hussain (AS) and Socrates

The world respects Socrates as the greatest moral teacher in philosophy, and has never stopped mourning his execution at the hands of the rulers of Athens. What was the charge against Socrates? That he corrupted the morals of the young, and defied the gods. What a charge against a man whom all agreed was the most just, one who cared above all for ethics, for improving people’s character.
      A similar charge was made against Hussain (AS): that he defied the authority of earthly gods in the name of justice or God. Socrates gladly accepted his execution, but defended himself during the trial, a defense – Apology – that needs to be read by all, especially those who think that Yazid’s authority shouldn’t have been challenged. Imam Hussain (AS)’s “apology” for refusing to pay allegiance to Yazid is well-known. Its essential spirit is the same as that of great moral thinkers.
      Since some scholars have sought to dilute the importance and sublimity of Hussain’s point of view in the name of political exigency, or pragmatic political wisdom as they conceive it, we need to revisit the moral argument against status quo that Socrates offered to the jury that condemned him to death.
      Socrates was condemned to death because he asked people embarrassing questions on issues such as justice, truth and wisdom. Anyone with any pretension to wisdom, to righteousness was cut to size. He asked people to honour divine matters above everything. He was the gadfly that disturbed the State which, therefore, wanted to remove him.
      Let us read excerpts from Socrates’ Apology to see how Hussain(AS) embodied not only the best in the Abrahamic tradition but also in the Hellenic one:
  • “And now I depart hence condemned by you to suffer the penalty of death, and they, too, go their ways condemned by the truth to suffer the penalty of villainy and wrong; and I must abide by my award - let them abide by theirs.. And I prophesy to you who are my murderers, that immediately after my death, punishment far heavier than you have inflicted on me will surely await you. Me you have killed because you wanted to escape the accuser, and not to give an account of your lives. But that will not be as you suppose: far otherwise. For I say that there will be more accusers of you than there are now; accusers whom hitherto I have restrained: and as they are younger they will be more severe with you, and you will be more offended at them. For if you think that by killing men you can avoid the accuser censuring your lives, you are mistaken; that is not a way of escape which is either possible or honorable. The easiest and noblest way is not to be crushing others, but to be improving yourselves. 
  • "....Wherefore, O judges, be of good cheer about death, and know this of a truth - that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death. He and his are not neglected by the gods; nor has my own approaching end happened by mere chance. But I see clearly that to die and be released was better for me… For which reason also, I am not angry with my accusers, or my condemners; they have done me no harm, although neither of them meant to do me any good; and for this I may gently blame them. Still I have a favor to ask of them. When my sons are grown up, I would ask you, O my friends, to punish them; and I would have you trouble them, as I have troubled you, if they seem to care about riches, or anything, more than about virtue; or if they pretend to be something when they are really nothing, - then reprove them, as I have reproved you, for not caring about that for which they ought to care, and thinking that they are something when they are really nothing. And if you do this, I and my sons will have received justice at your hands. The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways - I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows.”

No comments:

Post a Comment