By Sadia Dehlvi
Nov 14, 2013
Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar, one of the four sacred months as mentioned in the holy texts in which fighting is forbidden. The tenth day of Muharram, known as “Ashura”, falls this Friday, is historically important in Islamic traditions. The day is associated with many prophetic events including the forgiveness of Adam and his being reunited with Eve.
It is believed that the arc of Prophet Noah came to rest on mount Judi after sailing on the sea for six months. Noah and his followers fasted to thank the Lord.
The Red Sea is said to have parted on the tenth day of Muharram, delivering the followers of Moses and drowning the oppressive Egyptian pharaoh and his army. Prophetic traditions affirm that Abraham was saved from the fire of Nimrod on this day.
Before the month of Ramzan had been declared as a month of fasting in the second Islamic year, fasting was obligatory on the tenth day of Muharram. Even after this, Prophet Muhammad continued to fast on the ninth and tenth day of Muharram. The early Christians and the Jews also fasted on this day.
The tenth day of Muharram is when the biggest tragedy in Islamic history occurred. Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, was martyred at the battle of Karbala in 1680 AD. The tyrannical Yazid had declared himself ruler of the Islamic caliphate and ordered allegiance from Imam Hussain, who rose against those who acted falsely in the name of Islam. He refused to legitimise the unjust rule of a debauch tyrant.
Imam Hussain was accompanied by 72 companions, all of who died fighting by his side. Imam Hussain took women, children and all of his family members with him. This strategy ensured that after his death, his message would be spread through his family members, and that Yazid would not be able to suppress the truth or falsify Imam Husain’s motives.
On the tenth day of Muharram, Imam Hussain was slain by arrows. He continued to fight valiantly till his head was severed from his body while he prostrated in prayer. His sacrifices continue to remind us the difference between falsehood and truth, the difference between Islam as taught by Prophet Muhammad and the false version as exploited and propagated for the lust of power and political gains.
Centuries have gone by, but the world still remembers the sacrifice of Imam Hussain. Prophet Muhammad said: “My followers will not unite in supporting corruption.” He had also famously said, “I am from Hussain and Hussain is from me”. Muharram is a month for spiritual renewal, for reflection, prayer and seeking forgiveness from God.
Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam.