Reflection on Crucifixion and Karbala (1)

by Gayatri Wedotami Muthari.

Alone in the beautiful, green park of the Passionist monastery, I often took the opportunity to have my silent, secret whirling with the Beloved every Sabbath.  Accompanied by the songs from Psalms and Qur’an, I rolled my Karbala beads’ rosary from one dhikr to another dhikr. Following the path of the ancient Dawoodi dervishes,  I did not and do not always depend on the park or any specific place … Whenever there was rain, or too cold to whirl and recite His name, I found the Catholic chapel was the best place in our home to meet Him.  At my night prayers with my Catholic brothers and sisters, after we had listened a passage from Gospel, I let myself carried out by wherever God wanted me to.  One or two of four divine guides that our Dawoodi dervishes occult often appeared [entering  my very deep, intimate state] that sometimes I was desperately in need to discuss  my disappointment, my hope and my sad moments with him or with them.  Certainly, Jesus and al-Mahdi (peace be upon them) appeared more often (As you  could imagine, it is a small, nice and neat chapel, with Jesus  Christ on the Y-Cross on the wall).

One day, I had a very intense discussion with a classmate, a devoted Catholic, on the way home. He was ready to argue with me that I should not deny the crucifixion of Jesus in the Bible, that Qur’an  has many contradiction in its content for in one hand we should accept the Scriptures before Qur’an, and in another hand Qur’an denies the crucifixion of Jesus. Therefore, I answered, I do not have such problem anymore, may be other Muslims have their own interpretation and understanding, so I learn to respect them as I learn to respect the Christians’ view on Jesus. However,  we are the Dawoodi dervishes who accept the Four Books equally, and when we say that there is no conflicts among them, thus we also have “our answers” or rather “solution” on what seems as  crucifixion between in Gospel and in Qur’an are contradictory to each other, but actually they are not [according to us]. It was a great moment that even though he probably felt that I  have different view about the god-ness of Jesus and  who have the authority on Bible (and our faith), but we both take Bible as the inspiration in our life.

One day, after I have just got a  hurtful debates with one of my housemates on the night before,  I went to a Sunday mass with him. He is also a devoted Catholic, whom on that night I interviewed him about God, then after our intense discussions about terms in Bible that we could not agree on, that perhaps we could almost have a fight,   perhaps he was ready to condemn me and I was actually also ready to cry, for I could not see the way he responded to my arguments. I felt that I have just stabbed him and he defended himself very strong. [I have found similar debates between a Catholic and a Twelver-Shia and a Unitarian and an SDA/Seventh Day Adventist in facebook, but this was physically real]. Perhaps, after that we both ran to Jesus, in different expressions, and in different ways, but we both confide the same problem to him.

On that Sunday mass, after I was impressed by his emphasize on “Eucharist moment”, I took the opportunity to clearly observe and see every face on the line who were going for  their  Eucharist bread and wine.  It was my first day of Ashura, or actually the second day, because I do not really see the Moon. However, it was so clear to me, that even though I could not yet go for my azadari days on early Muharram, I could see Imam Husain was  “on the cross” too, slain by Yazid’s followers. The whole idea of getting out from my “worldly” room to the holy places, is to taste this experience, the experience that I find it difficult to describe  fully. It was  cold morning, that I was actually alone, though with so many people at the church, I saw everything but the sufferings in Jesus and Imam Hussein and also their family. I could not see anything else but Imam Hussein was also renouncing himself, following the path of Jesus. I should say, how could I grasp, reach, understand, or whatever the expression available for, about the tragedy of Karbala without ever learn from the crucifixion of Jesus? Vice versa: How could I grasp, reach, understand, or whatever the expression available for, about the crucifixion of Jesus without ever learn from the tragedy of Karbala? I knew Jesus’ story first before I knew Hussein’s story. And at that moment, I have decided that I do not want to get in trouble with those who deny or tangle these two tragedies anymore. What I really need is to taste it, to experience it, to let God decided whatever these facts wanted me to see and lead wherever these reflections wanted me to look at.

I remember a lot of time I have to passed these street children in Jakarta. Some of them were carrying little baby. Some were still in the same age of my daughter, 3 or 4 years old, singing on the bus, crossing the big road without fear of the dangerous of the cars and motorcycles on it. Every time I have to see this scene, I would go either to question God, or to mad at myself. Honestly, I scold myself, “you should be someone important in this country, to have a lot money, to have the power to stop this!” Looking at a woman, feeding her (or perhaps someone else’s) 9 months old baby on her leap with coffee while she was singing on the bus, I got really angry. I wanted to shout at her: “What the hell are you doing!!!” But, of course, due to my pride, I could not do it.

I remember when I used to live in an apartment for the poor, low income people, for my mother in law has an apartment there and rent it with low cost. I could not understand, how two until three families could live, sleep and  dine together in a 18 meter square house. Meanwhile, when I go to somewhere else in Jakarta, there are big, empty houses, so comfortable and wide… And one day, while I was walking with my housemates in Rome, we saw these people living or sleeping on the street at night, homeless people, that we realized how  comfortable our rooms are. Indeed, how wide the fields and corridors in the house, full of nice furniture but often empty without anyone.We thought, how ridiculous this is! I think we have a lot of idea to solve a lot of things, but we are lack of many things to do it by ourselves. I realized that we can only specialize in at least one thing, one field, or one matter.

There are two things from crucifixion of Jesus and the slain of Hussein that touched me so, for whenever I have to see the irritating, upset, painful and hurtful days that I feel I am unable to do anything, or even fall into hopeless and pessimistic,  I think those two describe how should I move forward. Both may refer to “me”, but it was not the particular “me” that they really refer to.

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Mark 15:34). Jesus (as) certainly do not pray and questioning God for himself, but he was telling to us, run to God, return to God, for whatever the pain, the suffering, and the hurt that we feel.

“Hal min naasirin yansurna?” ~ “Is there anyone to help me?” Imam Hussein  certainly cried out not for the help he needs for himself or his family, but he was rising, or moving, or encouraging those who really have the heart and really are human to follow him: to walk, to act, to do something for this injustice, oppression, and sufferings in the world.

So first, without returning to God could we really move forward? Could we really do something? Some people perhaps  start from “humanity” or as human being, and let it be just for the sake of human. Some other perhaps start from God, and their goal is nothing but to be saved by God, somehow forget others. I hope I am not among them. And I hope not anyone that I know  as good people, anyone who sincerely respond to the call of God, are among them.

One cannot love the neighbour as oneself
Until one knows there is but that one Self.

(Shaikh Ali Haydar)

At the moment I wrote this article, I was interrupted by a noise outside my room, that I went out and I met one of my housemate was already prepared to go for a Saturday night mass at a nearby church. I accompanied her and another housemate was waiting for us downstairs. It was not a mass that I really enjoyed as usual, because there was too many people, and especially with so many children in it, as a mother who left her children for 6 months, I have to admit that they made me even harder. When we got back, they wanted to watch movie, but I decided to have a dinner. When I opened the fridge, on the freezer I could not find my Indonesian meatball – I got it from someone who was  so kind to me. Did someone take it? Did someone throw it away? I do not know. I started to get very upset that the biggest possibility was someone threw it away to empty the freezer. It has been a few months that I successfully detached from my favorite food. I began to feel guilty to myself, I should not get angry because the worker who might have empty the freezer was in stress – it was a busy week for all of us. Even if it was her fault, it was not her fault too — Paradox! Like the Tao teaches me.I began to realize that these days I got so angry, upset and confuse with Paradox. Why should I be so upset only because the meatball? Alone, in Rome, I could not go to azadari , I could not fast, I could not do many things that I really wanted to do on this Muharram.  I could not even call my daughters; I do not have the time because of our time-zone conflicted this busy week at the house where I stay now. Where am I? Why do I longing too much of all these? What should I do? How should I response towards these? I burst into tears as soon as I sat, looking at the Karbala’s stone – the turbah – and then I sat silently at the chapel, looking at Jesus on the cross. It was the friend whom I had the ‘debate’ before that I first approached, he gave me biscuits and chocolates, and another friend, she gave me some tea. I can cry, indeed I should cry, where are You? Then, somehow I saw God  in their eyes, blue and dark brown eyes, in their laughter, and in their hugs.

Since yesterday I have my third time reading the book “Love is a fire” by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, I feel the need to reflect, contemplate and meditate more in these days…Muharram days…that is in God’s will is the same month with the celebration of Christmas by my Christian sisters and brothers. Alone in Rome, it should be a very perfect time, perfect moment. I want to get burned, but before I realize, it is really up to God how He wanted me to be. Like the meatball that He took away from me. It was perhaps a perfect sign for me.

Rome, 3 December 2011


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