A new global campaign ‘Who is Hussain?’ celebrates the message and legacy of Sayyedna Hussain, the martyred grandson of the Holy Prophet, by feeding the homeless and needy in London to distributing free water bottles in Mumbai
By Raziqueh Hussain
Posters adorning public places around the world – most notably the London Underground – show the name of Sayyedna Hussain next to other monumental historical figures, including Martin Luther King, Isaac Newton and Oskar Schindler.
In New York, a poster on display on the front of a shop reads as follows ‘Sorry, we are closed. This business is closed today as a sign of respect, to mark the death anniversary of an inspirational man called Hussain, who died on this day over 13 centuries ago.’
In Canada, along with having ads put on public transport platforms across Ottawa, a few students in Toronto also gave out hot chocolate in downtown Toronto while educating people about Hussain.
In Hamra in Beirut, 92 people donated blood at a blood donation drive which was donated to the St. Jude’s Cancer Center at the American University in Beirut Medical Center. In Washington DC, around 5,000 greeting cards were handed out to neighbors, colleagues and friends to inform them about Hussain.
In Mumbai, India, Syed Farazdaq Rizvi and his team of 15 members distributed 4,500 water bottles of 500ml with the message of Karbala and Hussain from Dahisar toll Naka to Bandra Kalanagar signal.
Whether, a poster, a water bottle or a greeting card, all of this had the label “Who is Hussain”. So why has this question been all over London buses and the Underground during November? Why are people donating blood in Beirut? Why are water bottles being distributed in Mumbai?
In 2012, a group of youth from across different communities in London, inspired by Hussain ibn Ali, the martyred grandson of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, wanted to help contribute and develop the world around them.
“We found that the world we lived in was broken. It over-emphasized personal need above common humanity. Our shared sense of compassion was heavily eroded,” says the London founder, who chooses to remain anonymous as he puts it “Ultimately it is not about us, it is about Hussain.”
“To solve this we wanted to share our inspiration with everyone else. We wanted Hussain ibn Ali to be a role-model for all, regardless of gender, class, religion, creed or any other superficial factor that divides our common humanity. Hussain ibn Ali cared more for shared human understandings than for titles and names that divide us. It is for that reason we emphasize that we are apolitical, irreligious and a-everything else that should divide us from one another!”
Today, the ‘Who is Hussain’ campaign has become an international movement, operating in several countries across the globe.
This campaign is dedicated towards informing the world about the great, inspirational figure called Hussain–what he stood for and what he gave his life for.
On November 14, many blood donors at Al Hamra Street Center, in Beirut, wore black scarves, with respect to the day of Ashoura (when Hussain was martyred on the plains of Karbala in Iraq in 680AD).
Dulfekar al-Mouswe, a member of the group, didn’t care much about who would receive his blood, or what sect that person would belong to. “All I know is that he is human and he has the right to live,” he said.
While a Christian donor Georges said, “I never gave it a thought. It’s not about religion, it is about humanity.”
Blood donors received bottles of juice with the names of important historical figures who they say “made a change.” Names included Alexander the Great, Albert Einstein, Che Guevara, Nelson Mandela, Jesus and, of course, Hussain.
One label read: Please Recycle. Hussain would have.
In Mumbai, India, Farazdaq Rizvi got in touch with the ‘Who is Hussain’ team through email and started the campaign during the first 10 days of Muharram this year. “We distributed 4,500 half litre water bottles with the message of Karbala and Imam Hussain which cost us nearly Rs 50,000” he said, talking about the work done.
The team’s main aim is to make non-Muslims aware about Hussain and what he stood for. “The main purpose behind our work is to convey that the message of Hussain is universal, and not only for Muslims,” he said. “We hope that Non-Muslims get to know about how great a personality Hussain was and to inspire them with hope by informing about his mission to stand up against tyranny,” he adds.
With over 40 reps, from over 43 regions, covering all corners of the globe, this year’s campaign aims to be bigger than ever before – spreading the message of Hussain far and wide! This is true as on November 14, an official out of office reply from a mail in Dodoma, the new capital of Tanzania, Africa read:
“Thank you for your email, I am out of office for today as a sign of respect to mark the death anniversary of an inspirational man called Hussain, who died on this day over 13 centuries ago. To find out more about Hussain, his stand and what he gave his life for, please visit whoishussain.org
Today, 1.5 billion people around the world know about Hussain. Do you?
* Raziqueh Hussain is a Sweden-based journalist who has worked for years with The Asian Age (India) and Khaleej Times, Dubai