Muslims follow the lunar calendar and all auspicious occasions, festivals, historic events, etc goes in accordance with the lunar calendar. Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar. Many Muslims are ignorant about this. It is a pity that we are less bothered about our religion. An event crops on my mind. I happened to watch a popular reality game show called Kaun Banega Carorpati. A famous Muslim Film star was posed a question – which is the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar? Surprisingly he could manage to answer only with the help of a life line. This is the sorry state of so called famous Muslim personality and many muslims. Now let’s cut to the chase and discuss the importance of this month. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an, ′And We certainly sent Musa with Our signs, [saying], “Bring out your people from layers of darkness into the light and remind them of the days of Allah”. Indeed in that are surely signs for everyone who is patient and grateful’. [Qur’an, 14:5] ’Ashura is one of these days of Allah, and it is thus important to respect and pay attention to its virtues and history. The 10th day of Muharram called as Ashura is of an immense importance. According to Imam Al-Ghazali, writing in his Mukhashfa al-Qulub, Umar ibn Al-Khattab (ra) was asked why the day of ’Ashura was considered so noble. Umar (ra) listed a few events which had taken place on ’Ashura, including: (a) Allah created the skies and earth on this day, along with the Preserved Tablet (b) Allah created Angel Jibril (as) (c) Allah created Adam (as), as well as Hawwa (as) (d) Allah created Jannah (e) Allah enabled Adam (as) to live in Jannah (f) The first rain to fall on earth was on ’Ashura. Therefore, since before the beginning of human history, ’Ashura has been filled with significant events. As Ibn Katheer said, Allah selects from the days He has created certain days which are more blessed and special than others. It is therefore not coincidental that these events took place on ’Ashura, since everything has been written and planned by the best of planners. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) used to increase the performance of good deeds during this day. Mu’awiyah ibn Abu Sufyan (Radiyallahu ‘anh) relates: I heard the Messenger of Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) say: “It is the day of ‘Ashura. Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) has not made fasting obligatory for you. But I am fasting. He who likes to observe fast among you should do so, and he who likes not to observe it (does not have to) observe it.” [Sahih Muslim] Abu Qatada (Radiyallahu ‘anh) relates that the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam) said that the fast on the 10th of Muharram atones for the sins of the preceding year. [Sahih Muslim] Abu Huraira (Radiyallahu ‘anh) reports that the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam) said that after Ramadan, the fasts of Muharram have the greatest excellence. [Sahih Muslim] Why we shall fast on the day of Ashura? The reason is explained very clearly in this tradition of Prophet as Ibn Abbas (Radiyallahu ‘anh) reports that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) arrived in Madinah and found the Jews observing fast on the day of ‘Ashura… They said: “It is the day of great (significance) when Allah bestowed mercy on Prophet Musa (a.s) and his followers and drowned tyrant Pharoah and his people, and Musa AS observed fast out of gratitude. And we also observe it.” The Holy Messenger of Allah (pbuh) responded: “We have more right, and we have closer connection with Musa (A.S) than you have”; so Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) observed fast (on the day of ‘Ashura) and gave us orders to observe it. [Sahih Bukhari and Muslim] The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam) recommended that we fast on this day, by his Sunnah. He also indicated how we should observe the fast of ‘Ashura. Hakam ibn Al-Arat (Radiyallahu ‘anh) relates: I went to Ibn Abbas (Radiyallahu ‘anh)… I said to him: Tell me about fasting on ‘Ashura. He said, “When you seen the new moon of Muharram count the (days) and (begin to) observe fast on the 9th.” I said to him: “Is it how the Holy Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam) observed the fast?” He said, “Yes.” [Sahih Muslim] Hazrat Ibn Abbas (Radiyallahu ‘anh) relates that when the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam) said: “If I survive till next year, I will definitely observe fast on the 9th of Muharram (as well).” [Sahih Muslim]. Holy Prophet (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam) meant that he would also fast on the 9th as well as the 10th to which he was accustomed. We also should try fasting on the 9th and the 10th of Muharram. Ibn Abbas (Radiyallahu ‘anh) reports that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam) arrived in Madinah and found the Jews observing fast on the day of ‘Ashura… They said: “It is the day of great (significance) when Allah delivered Hazrat Musa (‘Alaihis-Salaam) and his people and drowned Pharoah and his people, and Sayyidina Musa (‘Alaihis-Salaam) observed fast out of gratitude. And we also observe it.” The Holy Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam) responded: “We have more right, and we have closer connection with Sayyidina Musa (‘Alaihis-Salaam) than you have”; so Allah’s Messenger (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam) observed fast (on the day of ‘Ashura) and gave us orders to observe it. [Sahih Bukhari and Muslim] ‘Ashura’ is a day of great historical significance. On this day: Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) accepted the repentance of Sayyidina Adam (‘Alaihis-Salaam) after his exile from Paradise; Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) saved Sayyidina Nuh (‘Alaihis-Salaam) and his companions in the ark. Prophet Nuh (as) was a truly amazing person in the history. For around 950 years, he called his people to Allah, yet in all that time, only a small group of people believed in him. The rest of his people were filled with enmity and hostility towards him.
A martyr is the one who bears witness that the Shari’ah of Allah is more valuable to him than his own life. Martyrdom does not end something, it is only a beginning. The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins.
In Prophet Nuh’s own words, as related by Allah: ’He said, “My Lord, indeed I invited my people (to truth) night and day. But my invitation increased them not, except in flight. And indeed, every time I invited them that You may forgive them, they put their fingers in their ears, covered themselves with their garments, persisted, and were arrogant with (great) arrogance. Then I invited them publicly. Then I announced to them and I (also) confided to them secretly. And I said, ’Ask forgiveness of your Lord. Indeed, He is ever a Perpetual Forgiver. He will send (rain from) the sky upon you in (continuing) showers, and give you increase in wealth and children, and provide for you gardens and provide for you rivers‘“’. [Qur’an, 71:5-12] In these beautiful words, Nuh (a.s) invited his people to a Forgiving Lord and a Generous Lord, both in public and individually, yet they rejected him. For almost a thousand years, he appealed to their hearts and minds to recognise the truth of Allah’s grandeur, yet they hated him and ridiculed him. Finally, Allah (swt) ordered Nuh (a.s) to build an Ark and afterwards sent a Flood upon the earth, which only the passengers of the Ark survived. The waves were as high as the mountains and the rain fell for months. Eventually, Allah stopped the rain and the earth swallowed the water. Mount Judiyy in modern-day Turkey, where Prophet Nuh’s Ark landed. ’In a narration reported by Imam Ahmad (rh), it was on this day [’Ashura] that the Ark of Nuh (as) came to rest on Mount Judiyy’. [Tafsir Ibn Kathir] That Allah chose this day to bring His devoted servant back to land, along with the believers, marks it out as one of the elite days in the year. Allah extinguished the fire in which Sayyidina Ibrahim (‘Alaihis-Salaam) was thrown by Nimrod; And Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) spoke directly to Sayyidina Musa (‘Alaihis-Salaam) and gave him the Commandments. On ’Ashura, the Children of Israel escaped from Egypt and the oppression of the Pharaoh. Allah tells us: ‘Then We inspired to Musa (as), “Strike with your staff the sea”, and it parted, and each portion was like a great towering mountain. And We advanced thereto the pursuers. And We saved Musa (as) and those with him, all together. Then We drowned the others’. [Qur’an, 26:63-66] The modern-day Red Sea, through which Prophet Musa (a.s) escaped. Allah split the Red Sea so all the Children of Israel could flee, and the sea’s waters fell back down behind them, drowning the Pharaoh and his army. Therefore, Musa (as) and his followers fasted on that day, and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) followed Prophet Musa’s (a.s) example in commemorating this day. On this same 10th of Muharram, Sayyidina Ayyub (‘Alaihis-Salaam) was restored to health (from leprosy); Sayyidina Yusuf (‘Alaihis-Salaam) was reunited with his father Ya’qub (‘Alaihis-Salaam); Sayyidina Yunus (‘Alaihis-Salaam) was taken out from the belly of the fish; and the sea was divided as the nation of israel was delivered from captivity and Pharoah’s army was destroyed. ‘Ashura is also the day when Sayyidina Dawud (‘Alaihis-Salaam) was forgiven; Prophet Isa (a.s) was raised to the heavens and the kingdom of Prophet Sulaiman (‘Alaihis-Salaam) was restored. Thus, Allah tested his Prophets (a.s) on ’Ashura, and blessed them, and saved them, and forgave them, and took them back to Him. He (swt) favoured them in all these ways, for even His tests are a favour and a blessing, as the Prophet (saw) said, ‘When Allah loves a servant, He tests him’. [Tirmidhi] It is thus unsurprising that, not only did the Jews commemorate ’Ashura, even the Quraish of pre-Islamic Makkah recognised its importance: Aishah (ra) said, ’The people used to fast on ’Ashura before the fasting of Ramadan was made obligatory. And on that day the Ka‘bah used to be covered with a cover’. [Bukhari] Thus, ’Ashura was seen as a special day by the followers of other prophets (a.s) and their descendants as well. It is impossible to mention how Allah tested His servants on ’Ashura without mentioning Husayn (r.a), the son of Ali (r.a) and the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Numerous narrations show the great affection the Prophet (saw) had for his grandson: Abu Hurayra said, ’Once when al-Husayn was of tender years, the Prophet, holding his forearms out, said, “O al-Husayn! Climb up! Climb up!” He started to climb till his feet were on the chest of the Prophet, and both were face to face. The Prophet kissed him with great fondness and said, ”O Allah! I love him. You too love him! “′ [Bukhari] The Prophet (pbuh) also said, ‘Whoever loves me and these two, along with their mother and father, they will be with me on the Day of Judgement’. [Tirmidhi] He (pbuh) also said, ’I am from al-Husayn and al-Husayn is from me. Allah loves the one who loves Husayn…′ [Tirmidhi] Until the assassination of Ali ibn Abu Talib (r) the issue of succession to the Prophet had been decided through mutual consultation. Abu Bakr (r.a), Omar (r.a), Uthman (r.a) and Ali (r.a) (the Khulfa e Rashidoon as Muslims generally refer to them) drew their legitimacy from the consent of the people. The process was inherently democratic. Abu Bakr-as-Siddiq (r) specifically forbade the nomination of his own son as the Caliph after him, thereby avoiding dynastic rule. Omar ibn al Khattab (r.a), in his last will, nominated a council of six of the most respected Companions to choose his successor. The Companions were cognizant of the pitfalls of dynastic succession and the excellence of rule by consultation and consent. Theirs was the age of faith. The mission of the first four Caliphs was the creation of a just society, enjoining what is noble, forbidding what is evil and believing in God. In this struggle, they took extraordinary pains to ensure that their immediate families did not profit from their privileged positions. The situation changed and ultimately we witnessed Karbala. Husayn (r.a) was martyred on Friday 10th Muharram AH (10th October 680), at aged 59. He was martyred in Karbala. It is claimed that 72 males (including Husayn’s 6 months old baby son) of Husayn’s companions were killed by the forces of Yazid. Before being martyred, Husayn (r.a), his family and his followers were tested for many days. They went without food and water in the scorching open fields of Karbala, in addition to enduring the grief and pain of being tortured in this way by the army of Yazid, led by Ibn Sa’d. The details of karbala and how Husayn (r.a) and his family were killed are painful to recount. Like Allah’s prophets (a.s), they were tested with immense hardship on ’Ashura and in the days leading up to it. We pray Allah rewards them immensely and with the highest status possible, and we pray He grants us especially those who lost dear ones in current disturbances even a fraction of their devotion and patience. Ashura is a day of tests and relief, on which even the Prophets (a.s) and their families and followers were tested. It is a day which Allah has placed in His own month, Muharram, which is called the Month of Allah. It is a day where we should truly feel close to Him, asking only Him for relief from any hardship we’re facing, and thanking only Him for our ease and comfort. May Allah (swt) forgive our and our dear ones who are with us or who left us past sins on the blessed day of ’Ashura, as He forgave the people of Yunus (a.s). May He relieve us of hardship, as He relieved the people of Musa (a.s) from hardship. May He lift any burdens from our loved ones, as He lifted the burdens of His servant Ayyub (a.s). May Allah bless us and provide for us, as He blessed Sulayman (a.s). May He give us the opportunity to do good for His sake and multiply our rewards on blessed ’Ashura and beyond. May Allah make us among those He loves, and bring us close to the Prophets (a.s), and close to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his family, in this life and the next. Ameen…
(The author is an Associate Professor at S K University of Agriculture Sciences & Technology-SKUAST Srinagar. Views are exclusively his own)