Matters Of Faith: Muharram Most Sacred Month In Islamic Calendar

Imam Rizwan Rizvi

Imam Rizwan Rizvi.

Submitted by Imam Syed Rizwan Rizvi.

Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar. It is held to be the most sacred of all the months, excluding Ramadan. The tenth day of Muharram is the Day of Ashura, which to Shīʿah Muslims is part of the Mourning of Muharram.

The months of Muharram and Safar offer the yearly opportunity to commemorate the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad and the third Imam of the Shi’ite Muslims, at Karbala on the tenth of Muharram in the year 61 AH. The tragedy and heroism of the event, the resistance and self‑sacrifice of the martyrs, are remembered during these days by the Shīʿah and the Ahl al‑Sunnah alike, and by the Shīʿah with a special ardor, fervor and enthusiasm.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the ardor and enthusiasm inspired by the martyrs of Karbala is something unsurpassed in the history of religions. No individual or group in the history of the world has attracted such sustained admiration and love in the hearts of their followers as the martyrs of Karbala and in particular the figure of Husayn ibn Ali (A), an admiration which has not dwindled in the course of more than thirteen and a half centuries that have elapsed since that event.

It was a hot summer day in the desert of Iraq where the small army of Husayn ibn Ali comprising of women, children and some companions were standing against a large army of Yazid ibn Muwaiya, 30,000 strong. Imam Husayn had denied paying allegiance to the ruler who was appointed the Caliph of Muslims by his late father Muawiya. Imam said: “I’d rather die than face the humiliation of bowing down to a drunkard, ill moral and incompetent ruler.” For this reason Imam Husayn left Madina to avoid any bloodshed in the sacred city of his grandfather. He entered Makkah to seek refuge as it was a place of greatest sanctity and honor, bloodshed and fighting is forbidden in Makkah. But even there Imam Husayn was threatened and so in order to keep the sacredness to be violated, he left Makkah.

Imam continued on the path until he entered Karbala. He erected his tents there and was faced with unmatched cowardice of the Kufan and Syrian army. Imam’s family and companions were deprived of food and water in that severe heat for three days, which included women and children. He and his companions were mercilessly killed in the battlefield and their women and children were taken as captives. Among those killed was a 6-month-old son of Imam Husayn, Ali Asghar. Barbarism of the army reached its peak when they severed the heads from the bodies of the martyrs and left them unburied.

Events of such magnanimity are always going to remain in the hearts of its followers. Therefore, even today after 14 centuries Shīʿah in particular and Sunnis in general commemorate the martyrdom of the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (s).
In the words of the English historian Edward Gibbon: “In a distant age and climate, the tragic scene of the death of Husayn will awaken the sympathy of the coldest reader.”

Charles Dickens said the following about Imam Husayn (AS): “If Hussain fought to quench his worldly desires, then I do not understand why his sisters, wives and children accompanied him. It stands to reason therefore that he sacrificed purely for Islam.”

Thomas Carlyle has relayed this about the Tragedy of Karbala: “The best lesson which we get from the tragedy of Karbala is that Husayn and his companions were the rigid believers of God. They illustrated that numerical superiority does not count when it comes to truth and falsehood. The victory of Hussain despite his minority marvels me!”

Mahatma Gandhi (Indian political and spiritual leader): “I learned from Husayn how to achieve victory while being oppressed.”

Imam Syed Rizwan Rizvi is Imam of Masjid-e-Ali Mosque on Cedar Grove Lane.


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