In honour of Umm al-Banin, Jumada al-Thani 13th has been designated as the “day for honouring the mothers and wives of the martyrs” in Islamic Republic of Iran.
Jumada al-Thani 13th marks the demise anniversary of Fatima bt. Ḥizām well-known as Umm al-Banīn. She is one of the wives of Imam Ali b. Abi Talib (AS) and is one of the most honorable Shi’a personalities. She is the mother of Abbas and three other sons, Abd Allah, Ja’far and Uthman, all of whom were martyred on the Event of Ashura. Because she had four sons, she was called Umm al-Banin (mother of the sons). After the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (AS), Umm al-Banin mourned the Imam (AS) and her children so sorrowfully that even the enemies of the Ahl al-Bayt (AS) accompanied her. In her honour, Jumada al-Thani 13th has been designated as the “day for honouring the mothers and wives of the martyrs” in Islamic Republic of Iran. For this occasion, we have translated a part of interview with the mother and wife of Mohsen Hojaji, one the great Iranian martyrs.
Born in July 12, 1991 in Najaf Abad, Isfahan, Mohsen Hojaji joined the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in 2014 and when the Syrian crisis began in 2011, Mohsen Hojaji volunteered to go to Syria in defence of the shrine of Lady Zainab in 2016. He was deployed again to Syria on July 18, 2017, and finally on August 7, the same year, he was first captured by ISIS Takfiri terrorists in the Tanf area on the border between Iraq and Syria and was beheaded 2 days later and achieved martyrdom. The video recorded at the time when he was captured gained much popularity since in it, Mohsen Hojaji, followed by a Takfiri, shows a great deal of courage and valour and there is no sign of fear in his face. Many Iranian officials and hundreds of thousands of Iranians took part in his funeral ceremonies in Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan and Najaf Abad.
What follows is an Interview with the Mother and wife of Martyr Mohsen Hojaji by Ijtihadnet:
Q. How much did you encourage your children to take the lead in Islam and fight the enemy?
A. We are a religious family. We strongly believe in struggle for Islam. Since childhood, Mohsen was very fond of Imam Husain. I would take him to all the religious gatherings. When he was seven years old, he learned and recited ZiyaraAshura from his memory. Since I was taking him to religious ceremonies, he loved Imam Husain (AS) and other Imams (AS). His father was always at the front during Iran-Iraq war. I also encouraged my children and told them about their father’s memories of going to war. I told them that they can go too if there is a war and I won’t stop them.
Q. Najaf Abad is a religious city and many well-known martyrs come from this city such as Ahmad Kazemi. Your son must have been influenced by these people at various stages, especially in his teenage years, when there was no war.
A. Yes, in addition to his family, the environment in which he lived also influenced his character. He loved General Qasem Suleimani. Even on the last day he was leaving, he kept repeating about his wish to meet him. After his military service, his enthusiasm for volunteering in the IRGC increased and he went on to register and was accepted.
Q. What was your mood when your son wanted to go to Syria?
A. The first time he didn’t tell me. I didn’t agree either. The second time, he took us to Mashhad and asked for our consent and told us to pray for his martyrdom in Syria. We stayed in Mashhad for 10 days which was during the holy month of Ramadan. During all these days, he was engaged in supplications and praying and was in the holy shrine. I only saw him at dawn and sunset for breaking the fast. The night he wanted to ask for our permission coincided the night of twenty-first of Ramadan. When I saw his enthusiasm and passion, I told him that I permit you to go to Syria since you have chosen this way knowingly. He went in 2016 for 45 days and then came back. Then he didn’t go for one year but he was just thinking about going there and repeatedly told me ‘Mom, pray I’ll go again’. I disagreed. But when I saw he is so much interested and really wants to go and defend Lady Zainab and he shrine I hesitated. He said if we do not go, we would not have such security. Finally, I gave my consent.
Q. What was your reaction when you watched the video of him being captured by ISIS Takifiris?
A. The family was very restless. We cried a lot but we could do nothing. I went to graves of the anonymous martyrs and told them that now that my child is captured, I want him to be a martyr, I do not want him in the hands of the ISIS. While we were at the graves of anonymous martyrs, we received a massage that he had been martyred.
Q. What do you wish for Ali, Mohsen’s son and his wife?
A. I pray that he grows up safely and continues on his father’s footsteps. I wish success and succour for his wife and hope that she can raise her child to follow the path of Imam Husain so that he just like his father, follows the path of the Ahlul Bayt.
Q. I know you have a lot of memories with your son, but I want you to share with us a memory that you love the most.
A. Mohsen had vowed before his marriage to go to Jamkaran mosque in Qom on Friday night for 40 weeks. He used to go to Qom and walk from Lady Ma’suma’s shrine to Jamkaran mosque. When I told him that you get tired of walking all the way, he said that I am going for Imam Mahdi. So, I’m not tired. It is always in my mind what he was doing for the love of Imam Husain (AS) and Imam Mahdi(AS). He always said I want to sacrifice my life for my leader and finally it happened as he wished.
An Interview with Zahra Abbasi, the Wife of Martyr Mohsen Hojaji
Q. How old were you when you married Mohsen?
A. About 18.
Q. Were you ready to get married or it happened suddenly?
A. I prayed constantly and asked God to choose for me someone whom Lady Zahra approved of. I had a special urge for this prayer. Although I had not set a time for this, God blessed me and soon gave me my wish. Interestingly, when Mohsen came to ask my hand for marriage, he stated that he had always asked God for a wife, from the Sadat whose name was Zahra, and approved by Lady Zahra. I realized that Mohsen too had a special devotion to Lady Zahra.
Q. Please tell us about the night he came for asking your hand in marriage.
A. Mohsen had brought the Qur’an and told of the istikharas he had made by the Qur’an to marry me. He tole me that after I saw you, I did istikhara by the Qur’an several times, and this way, I consulted with God about this. That very night, he again did istikhara and the answer was verse 31 of Chapter al-Nur:
وَ قُلْ لِلْمُؤْمِناتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصارِهِنَّ وَ يَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَ لا يُبْدينَ زينَتَهُنَّ إِلاَّ ما ظَهَرَ مِنْها وَ لْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلى جُيُوبِهِنَّ وَ لا يُبْدينَ زينَتَهُنَّ إِلاَّ لِبُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ آبائِهِنَّ أَوْ آباءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنائِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْناءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ إِخْوانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَني إِخْوانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَني أَخَواتِهِنَّ أَوْ نِسائِهِنَّ أَوْ ما مَلَكَتْ أَيْمانُهُنَّ أَوِ التَّابِعينَ غَيْرِ أُولِي الْإِرْبَةِ مِنَ الرِّجالِ أَوِ الطِّفْلِ الَّذينَ لَمْ يَظْهَرُوا عَلى عَوْراتِ النِّساءِ وَ لا يَضْرِبْنَ بِأَرْجُلِهِنَّ لِيُعْلَمَ ما يُخْفينَ مِنْ زينَتِهِنَّ وَ تُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ جَميعاً أَيُّهَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ (31)
And tell the faithful women to cast down their looks and to guard their private parts, and not to display their charms, except for what is outward, and let them draw their scarfs over their bosoms, and not display their charms except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband’s fathers, or their sons, or their husband’s sons, or their brothers, or their brothers” sons, or their sisters” sons, or their women, or their slave girls, or male dependants lacking] sexual [desire, or children uninitiated to women’s parts. And let them not thump their feet to make known their hidden ornaments. Rally to Allah in repentance, O faithful, so that you may be felicitous.
He asked me: “I ask God for such a wife as mentioned in the verse. Can you act upon the verse?” I answered positively.
Q. Did he have any other request?
A. He said that I am taking a path that I want to continue with my wife. I look for a spouse who first brings me happiness and then martyrdom. can you help me? I said yes.
Q. What characteristic did you find in the Mohsen that you were attracted and determined to choose him and answered positively so early?
A. I can only say his faith. By the time Mohsen came for the proposal, he was working in anordinary company and had not even entered the IRGC. However, my father and I did not raise financial issues at all. It was only his faith that attracted us.
Q. Were you higher in faith or he?
A. From all aspects, Mohsen was like a teacher and a role model to me.
Q. Why and how did he join IRGC?
A. I offered him to join the IRGC. Mohsen had asked me to go on a path of prosperity and martyrdom for him, so I happened to offer him to join the IRGC. I once asked Mohsen if you would like to join the IRGC and choose this job. At first, he said I should think but after a short time, his answer was positive and then he became an official member of the institution.Mohsen said that they have asked me to go to the defence of Islam whenever needed. Are you okay with this? I said no problem. And I really had no problem, because I had promised, and I was sure that this path would bring Mohsen to his dream of salvation and martyrdom.
Q. And when did he seek to go to Syria?
A. By the time Mohsen joined the IRGC, the issue of the Defenders of the Holy Shrine (of Lady Zainab) was just raised, and it was from that point that his first and only concern was to go to Syria. Mohsen’s restlessness to go to Syria began in the first days after he joined the Najaf Ashraf Army. At that time,4 members of the Army had been martyred in Syria.In our house, we were constantly talking about martyrs defending the shrine while Mohsen was waiting for his turn to go. He was very uneasy, so much so that he made me restless too. He was crying and saying I’m afraid I miss the opportunity.
Q. What was your reaction to this restlessness of Mohsen?
A. I always said, wait, God-willing you will attain your wish.
Q. And when was the first time he went to Syria?
A. It was a few days before Muharram.
Q. How did he feel about achieving his dream?
A. He was so happy that he could go to Syria, so much so that despite my pregnancy, he didn’t hesitate to go and even asked me not to talk to anyone about this.
Q. How was his first encounter with you after returning from Syria?
A. Upon returning, the very first moment he saw me, he hugged me and cried, saying, “Zahra! Pray for me to have another chance to go.” It was me again and Mohsen’s restlessness, which of course was different this time. All his concerns were about going to Syria. He used to say his prayers, fast and recite the Qur’an so that may God bless him with returning to Syria. He did everything he could to make his way again.
Q. Mohsen had one child this time! Did he have more enthusiasm to go this time or the first time?
A. I think the second time. He managed to detach himself from this world and go. Even in his last words, he said, “sometimes detaching from some good stuff makes you gain better things”.
Q. Did you ever ask him not to go?
A. No! Never! I always tried to be his main inspiration in this way. The second time I myself even prepared his travel bag.
Q. What do you think was the most prominent moral feature in Mohsen that made him deserve martyrdom?
A. Strong faith, devotion to Lady Zahra and respect for parents.
Q. How did you find respect for parents in Mohsen?
A. He always kissed his father and mother’s hands. He even vowed to kiss his parents’ feet if he could go to Syria for the second time. In the released movie about him, you see that he acted upon his vow. During the five years that I lived with him, I never saw the slightest disrespect from Mohsen towards his parents. He had this respect not only his own parents but also for my parents.
Q. When was the last time you spoke to Mohsen?
A. We talked on the phone the day before he was captured. He said I am where I wished I could be. He asked me to be content with this, to share in the reward. In his last contact, Mohsen mentioned how he had missed me and Ali. He always prayed God to give me patience. He used to tell me that try to remember the tragedies of Lady Zainab and read the Qur’an if you miss me. He said that your jihad is also a jihad in the cause of God, so be calm and do not give in and try to obtain God’s consent in this way.My husband and I were eager to martyrdom, and had some covenants regarding that. That is to say, the purpose of our common life was to end in martyrdom. Of course, we didn’t give it a specific time, but we were always looking for it.
Q. And aren’t you upset today that your spouse is gone and you’re left alone?
A. I’m sad for myself, but happy for Mohsen. I am glad that through martyrdom, he came to witness all the wishes he was pursuing.
Q. How much did Mohsen care about raising his son?
A. Mohsen’s preoccupation with Ali before his birth and after his birth was great and very strange. He was very sensitive to everything, even the food he ate. Even during my pregnancy, he was very careful for me not to go everywhere and not eat everything. He paid his khums on time and was very sensitive about that.
Q. What factor do you think made your spouse to reach such high position?
A. I have said everywhere that my husbanded reached this position because of halal (legal) way of earning money by his father, and of course he had a great cognition regrading Imam Husain (AS) and gained knowledge of his great position.
Q. What will you tell your son Ali about this father and the different type his martyrdom?
A. Mohsen has made it very easy for me and I have no worries about it.
A. Mohsen has written a letter to his son Ali that if he reads the letter he will be able to fully find his way of life and there will be no need for my guidance.
Q. If he asks you, what would you say?
A. Mohsen’s personality is so vast that it’s hard to say about him, but I still try to convey to him the positive things I saw from living with his father; from being a father and being a chivalrous to his restlessness to reach martyrdom.
Q. What did you do when you saw the image of your husband being captured?
A. Just when I saw the photo, I felt shattered in my heart, but it wasn’t long before I felt Mohsen came by. He put his hand on my heart and said in my ears, “Zahra; its hardness is great but its delights are greater”. It was at that time that I thanked God and calmed down.
Q. What is your view on the different kind of the martyrdom of Mohsen and him turning to a hero today?
A. Mohsen always said that I want to be a martyr but an influential martyr. From the different kind of the martyrdom of Mohsen and the reflections that were reflected, I realized that thanks to God he achieved the martyrdom he had been hoping for. He has become an effective martyr now and I am very happy about this.
Q. Recently, two audio files have been released from Mohsen, which is his will to you and your son Ali. Was it his idea, and when did you get it?
A. The last time he wanted to go to Syria, I told Mohsen that I am sure you would be martyred this time. He said, “I’m still not sure of my martyrdom, but pray I achieve it.” As I was sure about that, I asked him to tell me all unsaid statements. That resulted in these two audio files.
Q. How long was it before he left?
A. He was at Tehran airport that he recorded them and sent them to me at that time.
Q. As the last question, what is your wish in the time being?
A. May God hasten the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (AS).