Poetry : After My First Ever Majlis About Karbala


Ya Hussain

Listen to the author recite : After My First Ever Majlis About Karbala

Yā Ḥusayn

I am so ashamed tonight

More ashamed than I have ever been since I became a Muslim

because I don’t think I would have been strong enough to stand with you

on the plain of Karbala

I would have thought


“Why is he doing this?”

I would have thought

“I have a family that needs me and there is no way he can win”

I would have thought

“We still have the prayer, the fast, the pilgrimage and the Qur’an”

I would have thought

“This isn’t fard”

I would have thought

“I am a new convert, and I shouldn’t be expected to sacrifice so much”

I would have thought

“We are all Muslims, and I shouldn’t take sides”


but you – beloved grandson of the Beloved of the Creator of all that is –

you are not like me

you stand in the Truth

and from the center

see all the ways men go astray

such that if you had compromised, showed weakness, or acquiesced

all of us lost souls would have no qibla for our hearts

no guiding light to help us see through the darkness

and we would be left with tyranny and dissolution

where once there had been a light giving lamp


and had I lived on after your death

perhaps I would not have even been strong enough to publicly mourn your passing

fearful that those in Damascus would be watching and waiting

“We are all still Muslims”

I might have thought to myself

“I’ll just pray, fast, read the Qur’an, be good to my family, and insha’Allah that will be enough”


and perhaps many years later

I even might have signed up to march on Constantinople to absolve myself of the shame I felt inside

the shame of leaving you and your family in the burning sun

without so much as a word of protest

or a line of lament


but what value would there be in fighting the disbelief and injustice that infiltrates the cities of Earth

when my heart had already been laid waste by the forces of nafs, hawā, shayṭān, and dunyā

Allāhumma ṣalli ‘alā sayyidinā Muḥammadin wa ālihi wa sallim

yā arḥam al-rāḥimīn

yā arḥam al-rāḥimīn


I have no refuge except in Your Mercy

when You show me the hypocrisy that dwells within

Hearts For Hussain Hearts For Hussain


R. David Coolidge is currently a stay-at-home father and volunteer teacher for the Islamic Center at NYU. Prior to that, he was the Muslim Chaplain at Brown University and Dartmouth College.

This poem was originally published on the author’s blog: David Coolidge