Arbaeen: Going to Karbala as a family

Arbaeen: Going to Karbala as a family

This year as a family we joined millions of people who walked on the journey of love, or safar e ishq. We traveled to Iraq for Arbaeen, or the 40th day after the day of Ashura. Ashura, or the 10th of Moharram (the first month of Islamic calendar), is the day the grandson of the Holy Prophet, Imam Hussain ibne Ali (as) was martyred with 72 of his family members and companions.

Ever since my husband went by himself for Arbaeen a few years ago, he claimed it wasn’t possible as a family. It’s just too difficult. The kids are going to have a really hard time. It’s too crowded. 

At first I was upset. Seeing pictures and documentaries of the Arbaeen walk made my heart ache. I wanted to be a part of that beautiful journey. But then I gave in. OK, it will be hard. I’ll just wait until they’re older.

But this year I told my husband, let’s just try. If it works out, it works out. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. By the grace of the Almighty, everything worked out beautifully. And we set off on our journey.

I was skeptical the kids would cooperate all the way. But we set realistic walking goals, and after taking the blazing heat into consideration, we managed to part-walk, and part-bus it all the way from Najaf to Karbala.


Even though we live in Qom now, my kids are quite accustomed to a routine and a relatively easy life, Alhamdulillah. (However, they are pros at the squatters now!)

But you can’t teach them about overcoming obstacles by just telling them. I find they grow stronger when they physically endure.

No it’s not easy, but taking kids on a ziyarat trip is actually a good way to teach them about our Holy Prophet (PBUH) and his beloved family, and a good way to teach them about learning to overcome obstacles.

Sure we had some whining, long bus waits and there were plenty of hot days, but when we were in the shrines of Imam Hussain (as) and his dear brother Hazrat Abbas on the day of Arbaeen, I cannot even put into words the love and beauty I witnessed. There was no violence, no fear, no hate. Just pure love. Tears. Prayers. Light. Hope. And more than anything that I could explain to my kids about this, they witnessed it themselves. For the first time my kids had no questions. They saw. They saw the love for Imam Hussain (as). They saw the sadness of Karbala. They finally realized what I mean when I always say, “See how many people love Imam Hussain (as)? See the beauty of his ultimate sacrifice?”


All during the walk from Najaf from Karbala my kids saw little ones like them handing out water, tissue, tea, fruit, etc. They were given gifts from random people who would pat their heads proudly at these little lovers of Imam Hussain (as). At one point I remember it was hot and there were some men who would spray mists of water at the people walking. My eldest ran to him and after getting all wet, started walking again and just said, “I hope another guy comes and does that again.” No sooner had she mentioned this, another man was standing in the middle spraying. I smiled at her and said, “See? If you walk toward Imam Hussain with a pure intention, Allah will make it easier for you. He answered your request.”

How can we expect our children to feel a love for our honorable Ahle Bait if we don’t make an effort to show them? Kids are very resilient, and with the right intention, Allah will make the trip easy for us. I remember being very concerned about certain bathroom situations (just holes in the ground) or sleeping arrangements in the mawkebs during Arbaeen. Imagine a big slumber party with strangers. But my eldest sat down and said, “It’s not so bad. It could be worse.” I thanked Allah from the bottom of my heart.  This is what I wanted her to learn.

Thank you Allah for giving us the opportunity to visit your beloved slaves. Through their love You honored us with this blessing. I pray we get to go again soon, and that our children always follow in their footsteps.

Martyred like his master: The will of Shaheed Mohsen Hojaji

Martyred like his master: The will of Shaheed Mohsen Hojaji

عجب محرم شد امسال

شهيد بي سرم برگشته

“It was an odd Moharram this year

My Shaheed without a head returned…”

-Hajj Mahmoud Karimi


This year the beginning of Moharram coincided with the week of the Sacred Defense, or Defa’e Moqaddas. This was the name given to the war between Iran and Iraq.

Around Qom we saw banners of shaheed embraced by images of Karbala. Although sad, it was a beautiful reminder of all the men and women who were killed to preserve the honor and dignity of Iran.

And while the country was already commemorating the week of the Sacred Defense, and Moharram, they opened their arms and welcomed back the body of their own who was recently martyred in Syria by Daesh.


Shaheed Mohsen Hojaji was a mere 26 years old when he was captured by Daesh, tortured and beheaded while defending the shrine of Lady Zainab (sa). The horrific video of his capture and subsequent torture was blasted online, but the calmness on his face proved he had the heart of a Hussaini soldier.

His will should be required reading for all of us. The beauty of his words, the way he remembers Imam Hussain (as) and his family, teaches us a great lesson in what it means to actually love the Holy Prophet and his family.


Below is a translation to the best of my ability. I ask forgiveness for not doing it justice, as the Farsi is more eloquent.

(The will starts with a poem in honor of Lady Zainab, the sister of Imam Hussain. I will not translate it as it would lose its value, but if you know Farsi, please take the time to read it.) 

In the name of God, the Light

May Allah’s peace and blessings be on Lady Fatima Zahra (sa)

“And do not perceive those who are killed in Allah’s way as dead, nay, they are alive and receiving sustenance from their Lord.”

(Here is one line written in poetic verse which I did not translate.)

No more than a few hours remain before leaving; as the time nears for leaving my heart gets more excited.

I don’t know what to write or how to explain how I’m feeling.

I don’t know how to explain my happiness or how or with what language to thank Allah for bringing me here.

As per my responsibility I’m writing a few lines as my will with my pen.

I don’t know what happened that I was destined to be on this course full of love… I don’t know what things caused this.

Without a doubt, my mother’s halal milk, my father’s halal sustenance, and my choice of a spouse, and many other things have had an effect.

It’s been a lifetime of my days and nights that I’ve been living by the love of shahadat (martyrdom), and I have and do always have faith that with shahadat I will reach the highest level of a worshipper.

I tried very hard to reach this place myself, but I don’t know how much I have succeeded.

I just have hope from the mercy of Allah and the Ahle Bait (Holy Prophet and his family), and I’m hopeful that they accept this sinner and they shower their mercy on this servant full of faults.

That if this were to happen – praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds

If one day you hear the news of the shahadat of this humble servant who was full of shortcomings; know that the reason for this is nothing except from the mercy of Allah.

That is because He forgave me and helped me..

My dear wife, Zahra 

If one day you hear the news of my shahadat, know that I achieved what I wished for as my real goal by marrying you, and have pride yourself that your husband was sacrificed for Lady Zainab.

Be tolerant, do not mourn, be patient, and think of yourself in the presence of Lady Zainab… Lady Zainab saw far more problems than you.

My dear father

You were and are always my role model for my life and how to be a man. If one day you see the news of my shahadat, that moment imagine Imam Hussain ibne Ali next to his dear son, Ali Akbar.

The pain of this separation is not greater than Aba Abdillah. Therefore be patient my father, I know it’s hard but it can be done.

My dear mother 

Ummul Baneen (mother of Hazrat Abbas) gave four sons in the way of Imam Hussain and Lady Zainab, and it didn’t sadden her.

Even that moment when they gave her the news of the shahadat of her sons, she didn’t care because they were given in the way of Hussain.

Therefore if one day you hear the news of my shahadat, be like Ummul Baneen, patient and full of pride and say you’ve sacrificed me for Hussain and Zainab, and do not make the heart of the enemy happy by being intolerant.

My dear brother 

If one day you see me in the clothes of a shaheed, that moment remember that Aba Abdillah was there at the deathbed of Abbas ibne Ali, and the pain of separation broke his back.

Do not be unthankful, don’t doubt this gift that you have offered for Islam.

My good sisters

That moment I said goodbye to you and my mother and father, I remembered the time that the family of Hazrat Ali Akbar sent him to the battlefield. So if I also become shaheed, sacrifice your sadness and tears for Ali Akbar, and don’t think your pain is greater than that of the family of Imam Hussain.

My dear son, Ali 

Forgive me if I don’t see you grow or become a man… Try to continue my legacy. Try to work in the way where your fate ends in shahadat.

My dear mother and father-in-law 

I always thought of you as my real parents and I’m happy that I was destined to be a part of your family.

To you I won’t ask for anything but patience and strength, always remember Ali Akbar was also a new groom of Karbala*. (*This may not literally mean that Ali Akbar was a new groom. InshAllah will update after some research.)

From all of you I request that you forgive this sinner, if I trampled on the right of anyone, if I gossiped about anyone behind their back, if I displeased anyone, if I sinned, forgive me.

If I become shaheed, until that where I am given permission, I will ask for your redemption.

A few notes:

Don’t be heedless of Wilayat Faqih, and know that I am certain that Imam Khamenei is the rightful representative of Imam Mahdi.

I ask all my dear sisters and women of the Ummat of the Holy Prophet to strengthen their hijab day by day. Do not let your hair attract a namahram . Do not let vanity attract others (namahram).  Do not put your chador away.

Always make your role model Lady Zahra and the ladies of Ahle Bait.

That time when Lady Ruqaiya talked to her father, she said:

Don’t worry about my hijab Baba; my chador is burnt but it’s still on my head.

To all the men of the Ummat of the Holy Prophet I request that you not get fooled by Western culture. Always keep Ali ibne Abi Talib Amirul Momineen as your role model, and take lessons from the Shohada (martyrs).

Be ready to sacrifice for the appearance of Imam Mahdi, and be ready to fight with the unbelievers, especially Israel, because that day is very near.

Always serve Allah, so your end will be good.

(Shaheed Hojaji ends his will with a few debts that remained, and the dua for the reappearance of Imam Mahdi)

In Islam we learn that to sacrifice ourselves for this religion is the ultimate honor. We always relate martyrdom to our Imams and the way they lived. But what does it mean when a 26-year-old of this generation is also living this way? Shaheed Hojaji was a normal young man. He went to school, married, had a son… yet in his short time on Earth he learned the way to live the best life.

Shaheed Hojaji was not an extremist. He passionately sought martyrdom as the honorable end to his life. He loved Lady Zainab and wished to defend her shrine in Syria. Everyone has to die, why not with purpose? Mohsen Hojaji went to Mashhad and prayed and pleaded to Imam Reza (as) to permit him to be martyred.

As one of the fortunate ones in this world, his prayer was answered. Not only was he martyred, but in the same fashion as his leader, Aba Abdillah Hussain (as).

May we all learn from this young shaheed, and others like him, who gave their lives and died for Islam. Who died with purpose and dignity.

All shohada are an inspiration for us. May Allah give us the tawfeeq, or opportunity, to follow in your footsteps and turn our hearts into that of a Hussaini soldier.


Balancing this world and the hereafter

Balancing this world and the hereafter

What do we do when we are too concerned with only one part of our lives?

If we are obsessed with our looks, we might spend more time at the gym, always be concerned about makeup/hair, try new diets, worry about our wardrobes…

If we are obsessed with our kids, we might spend every waking moment keeping them entertained and happy, and worry about their every need…

If we are obsessed with going to the masjid/center, we might pray the jama’at namaz every day, take part in every program, volunteer every chance we get, and worry about what is going on or not going on at the masjid/center…

While each of these “obsessions” are valid, it signifies a huge problem prevalent in our communities today. We fail to balance our deen with the dunya, and that, unfortunately, can be detrimental in our journey to becoming a complete human being.

No one can be successful by focusing fully on only one facet of their lives. This is why the Islamic code for our lives — if followed correctly — really does serve as a way of life.

Nowhere in Islam does it recommend not caring for our bodies, or always being concerned with praying at the masjid. But yes, in Islam, God is the focal point. If we do everything in our lives with the intention of pleasing the Almighty, then it helps us put our actions into perspective.

You will see parents who refuse to give their children sugary drinks or snacks. But they might not be so concerned if they pray or not. They worry so much about what is going in their stomaches, but what about their spiritual health?

It is the same with those of us concerned with working out or always worried about looking our best. If we are just spending that time at the gym or putting on makeup, what is the intention? And although working out and maintaining a healthy body is a responsibility of every Muslim, is it necessary to post pictures of our bulging biceps? Or selfies with painted pouts?

And those of us who only focus on our religious obligations without concern of our place in this world. No, a person cannot just be concerned with prayers and not working to maintain a livelihood to support his family. Or

As Muslims we have a responsibility to live our lives with a purpose. This means everything we do should have a reason – what we say, what we eat, who we associate with, how we spend our free time, etc.

To some this may come as a form of dictatorship. But once we understand that our responsibility to please Allah goes hand in hand with leading a life of peace and tranquility, then it will be easier to live a life of purpose.

“Avoid speaking until there is reasonable occasion. Those who enter into useless talk, even if expressing truth, are found reprehensible.” – Imam Hussain

22 Bahman in pictures

22 Bahman in pictures

Today marked the 38th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. We went out for the rahpaymah, or procession, in Qom.

Below: “The movement continues…”



Today those of us in Iran answered Trump’s threats by coming out on the streets in large numbers.

No, we don’t fear you. Bring it on.

Lady Ma’suma (SA), the heart of Qom

Lady Ma’suma (SA), the heart of Qom

Salaam alaikum dear readers! We would like to introduce a guest writer on the Qomlife blog. Sumaira Fatima is a student at Amir-ul-Momineen Islamic Seminary in Qom. 

In the West, as you walk through the downtown of any relatively big city, you encounter tall buildings reaching towards the sky, grand shopping malls carrying expensive brand names, the hustle and bustle of people hurrying about their day to earn their incomes – in short, a polished, glittering manifestation of materialism.

But where I live – the blessed city of Qom, Iran – “downtown” is something entirely different.

If you look at a map of Qom, you will see that it is a fairly small city in the approximate shape of a circle, about 10 km in diameter at its widest point. Right at the very center of the circle lies the haram of Sayeda Fatimah Ma’suma, the blessed lady of Qom.

In the traditions of our Imams (as), this shrine – and in fact, the entire city of Qom – has been referred to as the “haram-e-Ahlulbayt (as)” (sanctuary of the Prophet and his Holy Progeny).

The haram is a place of worship, of remembrance of God and the purpose for which He created us, of contemplation upon the verses of God, and of conversation with the beloveds of God.

This blessed place lies at the very heart of the city – a constant reminder to us Qomites to always keep God at the center of our lives.

No matter where you live in Qom, reaching the haram via public transport is an easy task. Every single public bus route eventually leads to the haram. From every main street, you can find shared taxis that will drive you there. It is as if the city is designed in such a way that those who truly wish to go towards Truth will easily find themselves at the haram, in the presence of the blessed lady, at the place best suited for spiritual cleansing and growth. This is a reminder of the beautiful Islamic principle that if one truly wishes to find God, He will open ways for them to reach Him.

Compare this to the structure of cities in the West. The placement of symbols and products of materialism at the center of these cities encourages citizens to put their worldly desires at the forefront of their lives. Islam teaches us that mankind’s perfection lies in self-discipline which leads to self-purification, whereas western liberal ideology encourages us to work for physical wellbeing limited to this world only and to make our desires our gods.

And so, in a dizzyingly beautiful way, the structure of Qom reflects the city’s importance in being the spiritual and intellectual epicenter of the Shi’a Muslim world and thus a place of spirituality and attention towards the divine. In the same way, the structure of western cities pays tribute to the increasing drive of the West towards the material.

Therefore, living in Qom is amazingly, incredibly effective in purifying the heart and clarifying the mind, not only because it is a city of knowledge and piety, but also because even its physical structure is in accordance with the Tawhidi outlook on life.

What a truly blessed place this is, that even something so simple as its layout can serve as a constant reminder of God!

-Sumaira Fatima can be reached via e-mail at:


Be Imam Hussain in the face of Yazeed today

Be Imam Hussain in the face of Yazeed today

Where to begin?

One of our own respected scholars has come under fire for simply stating laws from Islamic sharia.

Shaykh Hamza Sodagar was recently invited to the UK to deliver lectures for the holy month of Moharram, when an old clip of him speaking about homosexuality and its punishment under Islamic law, was unearthed.

How old is this clip? SIX YEARS OLD.

Was he encouraging this punishment? No.

But yet he has been forced to step down from giving speeches, and is being branded as a hate monger, and having “unacceptable views.”

More interesting is the fact that fellow Muslims are the ones also raising the pitchforks. Dare I ask why Shaykh’s views are unacceptable when he is simply stating what is written in our Islamic sharia code?

One Muslim had the audacity to claim on social media that “[Shaykh’s] views are unacceptable and have no place in any faith.”

Are you really that thick? What faith then do you claim to follow? Do you not know that every major monotheistic religion has something in their texts (at least in their original texts) against homosexuality? Now it’s one thing to say that Christianity and Judaism has changed to allow for it. Islam, however, cannot be changed with a Sharpie. The Holy Qur’an cannot be revised nor tampered with. It is what it is.

Does that mean we should go around following edicts without context? No, of course not. In fact, if the entire clip is viewed in its entirety, which I doubt many of those attacking Shaykh Hamza actually did, you can see that Shaykh mentions in what circumstances that punishment is even deliverable. In layman’s terms – it’s near impossible today.

Bottom line: No one is advocating violence towards homosexuals. But you can’t candy coat it. Homosexuality is not allowed in Islam.

So in this culture of social media how does one go back to understanding? Investigation? Research? Is it all dead?

What do you call it when someone digs up something you said SIX YEARS AGO, or THREE YEARS AGO, in Shaykh Farrokh Sekaleshfar’s case, and while taking it out of context, uses it against them? What do you call that?

Where are the standards on how to act like a civilized people?

It is a plan, everyone. A heinous, evil plan, that is trying to warp our image of Islam. Like I have said before, many secularists are quite insecure with Islam and it’s power and popularity among the masses. It is the fastest growing religion in the world, and we should be proud of that.

“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” – Malcolm X

Islam is the only major religion in the world where a majority of the adherents still continue to practice it as a complete way of life. Muslim women wear hijab at work, while fencing at the Olympics, and as flight attendants. When it is time for prayer, you can see Muslims praying in the airport, in the park, at school, etc. During the month of Ramadan, you can find us fasting while sitting in class, shopping, or playing professional basketball. It means adultery, gambling, drinking, premarital sex, etc. – all common practices in societies around the world – are looked down upon.

But that’s just it. It hits many secular countries right in the gut. In reference to the recent burkini ban in France, it seemed like a chance to just stir up trouble. Cue French lawmakers: “How can a woman go fully dressed in the water and actually enjoy herself? Why, it’s unheard of! And if not, we should make it that way.”

Don’t forget the degrading cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him), which were touted as ‘freedom of speech.’ This is what the Western secular powers want us to believe. Because Prophet Jesus is always the laughingstock of comedy shows, Prophet Mohammad should also be fair game. Bottom line: Degrading a revered figure of any religion should be discouraged.

During that whole debacle, moderate Muslims didn’t know where to turn – if you showed anger, you were an extremist, forcing many to quietly succumb to the notion, that yes, it is actually freedom of speech. Right? But as many in the West have noticed, Muslims don’t sit quietly when any prophet, especially Prophet Mohammad, is insulted. We care about our religion, our tenets, and our prophets and leaders. We have pride in our faith, even if secular society wants us to have no values.

So as many Muslims living in the West, we fully support ‘Western’ notions of “innocent until proven guilty” and “freedom of speech,” unless, of course, we anger the Western gods. Meaning if a scholar is stating something regarding homosexuality mentioned in Islamic law in an academic setting – THAT is called “inciting hatred.”

So wait. It’s freedom of speech when we badmouth the Prophet of Islam. But it’s not freedom of speech when you mention a part of Islamic law that is not in favor of homosexuality? What about when those cartoons were meant to incite hatred? Where were these Muslims to defend these “unacceptable views”?

Not to mention Shaykh Hamza was mentioning law punishing homosexuality that cannot even be implemented UNLESS in a specific parameter. It is like the popularly misunderstood law (see the cartoon movie, Aladdin) of cutting off someone’s hand if they are caught stealing. There are actually a number of sub-rules before actually cutting off any limb. Does anyone bother to explain this? Thanks Disney, by the way, for increasing the ignorance.

But this is what any decent, respectable scholar tries to do. Explain the laws that need explaining, so that people don’t go around doing the wrong thing. This is not meant to throw out there in the social media universe without context. And worse, use it to give him a bad reputation.

The now-infamous clip was recorded SIX YEARS AGO. Why do I keep capitalizing on the fact that it was SIX YEARS AGO? To prove that we are all falling into the trap of caring about things when others make it so. Did you know that the clip actually surfaced sometime this summer, but not surprisingly, wasn’t important enough to those Western powers to utilize until now. Until Moharram.

So when many Muslims are remembering Imam Hussain’s stand against the oppressive rule of Yazeed ibne Muawiya, secular powers and sadly even some Muslims are out dividing communities and trying to pull away from the beautiful message of Imam Hussain, his family and his comrades. The life lessons we pull from Karbala are game changing. The concepts of love of God, living with dignity, never standing silent in the face of injustice, loyalty and sacrifice – this is what we learn from Imam Hussain.

But thanks to the Yazeed of today, communities in the UK are being deprived of a scholar who does not have a history of inciting hate, or spewing ill-informed opinions. Instead his words spoken SIX YEARS AGO in a purely educational setting are being used against him. And not just by non-Muslims. By our own Muslims.

Shame on those Muslims who have fallen in this trap of secularism. How cheap is your religion that you sell it out to the first viral tweet? Have some courage to ask questions and demand explanations.

This is not the first scholar fallen victim to this charade. Another respected scholar, Shaykh Farrokh Sekaleshfar, was also attacked earlier this year for talking about homosexuality in an academic setting THREE YEARS AGO, and it was used against him to connect him somehow the media will find a way if you wait long enough in the unfortunate Orlando gay club massacre.

You want questions? Ask. You need clarity? Ask. Why are we going back to the age of ignorance? These Muslim scholars are humble, well-respected, intelligent – not of the likes of those “religious people” who advocate division among sects, burn Qur’ans, or those who attend funerals with hateful placards.

I speak mostly to my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters. Please be aware of these tactics meant to divide communities. And especially during these holy days of Moharram. Don’t fall prey to this game. In this age of 140 character defamation, there is little room for understanding. Islam advocates asking questions and trying to understand. Don’t let secularists attack those scholars who actually try to embody this principle.

During this holy month of Moharram I ask all of those who follow Imam Hussain (as) – what do you think he was trying to do in Karbala? He was standing against a ruler who had manipulated Islam for his own gain and pleasure. He refused to accept this. Please don’t stand idly by and let them do it today.

Honoring the ultimate sacrifice

Honoring the ultimate sacrifice

I celebrated the Iranian New Year in the midst of dust and death. On the frontlines of the Iran-Iraq War.

But it was one of the most beautifully spiritual experiences of my life.

Set aside any religious and nationalistic affiliations, and just listen to these stories of brotherhood, courage, sacrifice, love and faith.

A commander who, before selecting which of his soldiers will go fight, writes his own name on each slip of paper. He draws his own name, says goodbye to his brothers, and is killed in the line of duty. His fellow soldiers discover afterwards what he did. They cry over their brother.

A leader who decides to blow up a bridge adjoining two cities, in the face of the advancing army. His act alone saves the city, that was also victim to a chemical attack.

A military diver is injured and screams in agony. His fellow soldier holds him and says “I know you’re in pain, but if you scream, you’ll give away our location to the enemy.” The injured soldier puts his face down into the mud and screams until he no longer feels pain.

A shaheed’s mother finally visits the place of her son’s death in a canal. The soldiers who fought at the canal died hungry and thirsty, when the Iraqi army refused to allow food and drink. She grieves, yet is given solace by tales of his bravery.  Someone asks her: “How old was he?” She says: “13.” But only those 18 years of age were allowed to fight! “But he wanted to go, he begged me. He loved his country and he wanted to die for Islam.”


At every war front, I close my eyes and envision what it must have felt like. When the Iraqi army surrounded them and refused them water and food. When the military divers were captured, their hands tied and buried alive. When they fought helplessly, choking, as a cloud of chemicals was unleashed into the air.

I saw graves of babies, toddlers, families – all wiped away, thanks to the chemical warfare provided generously to Saddam and his army.

I saw graves of gomnaam, or those killed who were unidentified. My tears flowed for those mothers still waiting to see their sons one last time.

One mother, some 30 years later, was finally reunited with her son’s remains. She held the small bundle of bones wrapped in a white cloth, close to her heart like a mother holds her newborn. “He was this small when he entered this world. And now he’s this small when I’ll be burying him.”


The world of war is a complex place. There’s adrenaline pumping, a fervor to get the job done – and yet, this uncertainty of what’s to come.

Sometimes we see war as a child’s game. There’s no real foundation for it, just a push for a fight to reclaim some bragging rights. We’ve seen the sad outcomes of such games – soldiers coming home to horrific nightmares, suicidal veterans, PTSD, emptiness, guilt.

While there is no such thing as a ‘clean’ war, there is such a thing as an honorable reason to fight.

Throughout all the stories of war shohada, one thing was common: their love for Allah, Ahle Bait and fighting for Islam. ‘Ya Zahra’ was their battle cry. Their military units were named after the Holy Prophet (S), Hazrat Fatima Zahra (S). Their operations were named ‘Karbala,’ ‘Fath Mubeen.’ Their boats were named Ashura. ‘Ya Mahdi Adrikni’ was written on military vehicles.

Iran didn’t have the international backing Iraq did. It didn’t have chemical weapons. But it had the fuel to fight – and that’s what saved Iran.

There is a pride for those that gave their lives to protect an Islamic Iran. Citizens from all over the country descend on the south of Iran to pay their respects to the shohada. Their pictures grace the sides of buildings, billboards, and walls of shops.

Bodies of shohada are still being discovered today. Just last month 68 Iranian soldiers were found, along with 26 Iraqi soldiers. Last year thousands flooded the streets to honor the 175 military divers who were buried alive. Their bodies were discovered last year on an abandoned Iraqi base, in full uniform with their hands tied.


A picture of a man in military uniform adorns a large poster on the wall. He is a shaheed. His widow lovingly motions toward it, as she speaks about her husband’s desire to go to Syria and protect the shrine of Hazrat Zainab (S), where he was killed.

She holds back tears as she smiles when retelling the story of how her husband went to Syria. He was a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War. He was injured in Khorramshahr. But he wanted to go to Syria. The army wouldn’t give him permission. So he went to Mashhad and prayed to Imam Reza (A). Once he left the haram, he got a phone call summoning him to Syria.

“I see him everywhere. I see him standing here, I see him sitting there. The kids can even still smell his scent from his things.”

While you can see her sadness and feel her loneliness, there is a peace around her. Her sons and daughters-in-law welcome us into their home, with warmth and love. And here I’m feeling uncomfortable – they’ve just lost their father, I think to myself.

The family sits with us and makes us feel like we are old friends. They smile and laugh. They speak of their brave father with pride, not despair.

Only 50 days ago. 50 days before, they got the news that their father was martyred in Syria while defending Hazrat Zainab (S).

“That was his goal – to be shaheed. Although I’m sad and I miss him terribly, this gives me peace. I know he attained his goal.”

وَلَا تَحْسَبَنَّ الَّذِينَ قُتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ أَمْوَاتًا بَلْ أَحْيَاءٌ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ يُرْزَقُونَ

And reckon not those who are killed in Allah’s way as dead; nay, they are alive (and) are provided sustenance from their Lord.

(Holy Qur’an: Chapter Aal-e-Imran, verse 169)


I sit by a grave of a gomnaam. It eerily haunts me – there is no name, no father’s name, no date of birth.

I stand for a while and glance to the right and left. There are other gomnaam. They share a symbolic date of birth engraved on each stone: 15 Khordad 1342. The date of the initial uprising against the Shah. The day when Imam Khomeini gave his famous speech from Masjid Fayziye in Qom.

I’m a mother. My heart throbs for those left with empty hands. And for those men laid to rest with no name.

I can’t help but think of their last moments. Were they alone? Were they scared? Were they thinking of their families? I can imagine Imam Hussain (A) comforting them as they take their last breaths. It will be alright. You have succeeded.

Then I read the story of a shaheed’s love for Hazrat Zahra (S).

His sister writes: My brother had a special place in his heart for gomnaam. Because he considered Hazrat Zahra (S) a gomnaam. Bi mazaar, or without a resting place.

This shaheed so far hasn’t been found. He has a memorial plaque in Behesht-e-Zahra in Tehran honoring him and his service.

One can only wonder what love and faith he had. As he desired his end, he achieved it. I can only pray to be as lucky as him.

Dear shaheed e aziz, peace be unto you and your efforts. Although your family must miss you greatly, I know they are proud of you. We all are grateful for your sacrifice.

You must be at peace right now, even though you haven’t been found. Because Madar is with you. It is said that Hazrat Zahra (S) visits the gomnaam because their own mothers cannot sit by their graves.

وقتى كه تو با نام حسين نفس مى كشى
كربلا را پيدا مى كنى

زهرا را هم پيدا مى كنى

آيا عشق را احساس مى كنى؟

آيا زيبايی خدا را مى بينى؟

خوشا بحالت – آزاد هستى

When you live and breathe Hussain,

You find Karbala.

You find Zahra. 

Do you feel love? 

Do you see the beauty of God?

You are blessed. And you are free.