Every year, millions of Muslims all over the world commemorate chehlum on the 20th of Safar, the second month of the Islamic calender. The date marks the 40th day following the martyrdom of Hussain and his handful of followers in the Battle of Karbala. On the day, majalis are held and processions are organized to relay Hussain’s message to the masses. In Karachi, the main procession is held on the M. A. Jinnah Road, where participants walk from Nishtar Park all the way to an Imambargah in Kharadar. The procession continues from just after Fajar to just before Maghrib, while the Zuhr and Asr prayers are offered en route. The number of participants in the procession has been estimated to range from several thousand to even more than a lac, according to some sources.
Obviously, when such a large number of people spend a whole day on the streets, they are bound to create a racket. As food (mostly fruits and snacks) is distributed to the participants, and sabeels are established to provide water and sharbat to them, the route is littered with plastic cups, wrappers and peels of fruits. People are careless in that matter, and they justify their carelessness using the lack of dustbins or any such garbage disposal system present in the city. This year, however, a group of youngsters, identifying themselves to be a part of the Who is Hussain organization took up the responsibility of cleaning up the streets which fell in the route of the chehlum procession.
Who is Hussain is a worldwide organization operating in various countries, dedicated to informing the world about Imam Husain’s inspirational story: what he stood for and what he gave his life for. The Karachi chapter of the organization has been organizing events since May last year. With about a 50 pre-registered volunteers, the WiH team joined the procession with their dusters and garbage bags to clean up the garbage thrown away by the processioners. They named their campaign ‘Hussaini Mahol’, as they claimed that in cleaning up the streets, they were following the teachings of the Prophet’s grand-son.
As expected, people were surprised to see a group of young people show up, picking the trash, sweeping it into garbage bags and carrying it away. Once they realized what was going on however, everyone started contributing and lending a hand. The response from the procession was overwhelming, and it boosted the morale of the volunteers. One of the volunteers recounted being approached by a woman and asked to shake their hand, and when she hesitated, saying her hands were dirty, the woman embraced her and applauded her on her actions. Another volunteer overheard a man telling his daughter that what was happening was one of the most admirable acts and how he would love for his daughter to be a part of something like this.
As one of the volunteers reminisced, “It was very touching when people from the public started helping us; some came to give us pats on our backs, while other sent blessings along our way.”
Another remarked, “This was a first for this city as in the past the streets were left polluted with a variety of waste items. We saw this as an opportunity to follow the teachings of Hussain and to do something about it.”
At the end of the day, it was a commendable effort from the WiH team, who should be extremely pleased with their efforts, and continue to come up with such innovative and constructive ways to practice what Islam and its true followers, like Husain, have taught us.