Sunday, January 20, 2008

Ashura (The 10th Day of Muharram)

Today is Ashura in India. Many non- Muslims wonder what this day stands for. In India, the holiday for Ashura is called Muharram (though Muharram is the first 'month' of the Islamic calender). People think it is like Eid and there was a time when friends and colleagues used to call and wish 'Happy Muharram' thinking it was a feast like the Eid !

But slowly over time, many people are becoming aware that Muharram not a time to feast but it is a time to mourn. Its the remembrance of the day Hazrat Imam Hussain (May Allah be pleased with him), the grandson of Prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon him) was matyred at Karbala. The most unique call I received for Muharram was yesterday (now that many know) when a colleague from Baroda branch called and said -'I am sorry for tomorrow'!

Sunni Muslims observe the first ten days of Muharram (while the battle of Karbala was on) with reverence. Some of the Muslims (the Shias) mourn intensely for the entire month, even adorning black clothes. In India, shabbeels are made where water is kept for drinking. This is because Imam Hussain and his family and companions were not given food nor water for 3 days! On the day of Ashura, muslims make and distribute 'sherbet'. This is also symbolic of water and has nothing to do with sweets.

Hazrat Imam Hussain's matyrdom is of great significance to the history of Islam. This can be best explained in Washington Irving's words :
'' It was possible for Hussain to save his life by submitting himself to the will of Yazid. But his responsibility as a reformer did not allow him to accept Yazid's Caliphate. He therefore prepared to embrace all sorts of discomfort and inconveniance in order to deliver Islam from the hands of the Omayyads. Under the blazing sun, on the parched land and against the stifling heat of Arabia, stood the immortal Hussain''.

Let me add this Mersia ( 'Mersias' are song of remembrance and mourning sung in memory of the matyrdom at Karbala), which I've been hearing from my Dad since childhood :
"Kahe Abideen ko Shah ne Madine mein ja kaho,
Sab doston ko meri taraf se dua kaho,
Puchey agar Hussain kahaan -
Is wajah kaho ;
Bismil kaho, shaheed kaho, sar juda kaho."

This is just the opening verse and means -
Shah (that's Hussain) tells his son Abideen(before going to the battlefield)-
'Go to Madina and give my regards to my people.
If anyone asks - Where is Hussain, then say
he's attained matyrdom'.

Ashura has a lot of historic significance apart from the Karbala matrydom. It has affected nearly all the Prophets of Islam in some way or the other.

Let's list the occasions which have taken place on the 10th Day of Muharram:
  • Allah accepted the repentence and had mercy on Adam ('Alaihis-Salaam)
  • The deliverance of Noah (Nuh 'Alaihis-Salaam) from the flood
  • Abraham (Ibrahim 'Alaihis-Salaam) was saved from Nimrod's fire
  • Joseph (Yusuf 'Alaihis-Salaam) was reunited with his father Jacob (Ya’qub 'Alaihis-Salaam)
  • Allah spoke to Moses (Musa 'Alaihis-Salaam) and gave him the 10 Commandments
  • Job (Ayyub 'Alaihis-Salaam) was healed from leprosy.
  • Yunus ('Alaihis-Salaam) was taken out from the belly of the fish
  • The Israelites were saved from Pharaoh's army as the sea was divided and the nation of Israel was delivered from captivity
  • David (Dawud 'Alaihis-Salaam) was forgiven by Allah on this day.
  • The kingdom of Solomon (Sulaiman 'Alaihis-Salaam) was restored
  • Jesus was brought up to heaven after attempts by the Romans to capture and crucify him failed (according to Islamic belief).
The picture shows the neighbourhood guys preparing sherbet all through the night! Excuse the unclear image!

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