By Dr. Aashiq-ul-Islam
Muharram is one of the blessed months which marks the beginning of the new Islamic year. The tenth of Muharram is the most blessed among all its days. The day is named Ashura. Ibn Abbas narrated that when Prophet Muhammad (SAW) migrated to Medina, he found that the Jews of Medina used to fast on the tenth day of Muharram. They said that it was the day on which Prophet Musa (AS) and his followers crossed the Red sea miraculously and the pharaoh was drowned. Upon hearing this, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said “we are more clearly related to Musa (AS) than you, and directed the Muslims to fast on the day of Ashura. In another hadith, the Prophet(SAW) said: “observe the fast of Ashura, a day before it or a day after (Baihaqi).
The day of Ashura has great rectitude, and is defined by prodigious devotion. Abdullah Ibn Amr Bin Al Aas reported that “whoever fasts on Ashura, it is as if he has fasted the entire year. And whoever gives charity this it is like the charity of an entire year”. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said to a man, if you want to fast a month after Ramadan, then fast on Muharram, for it has a day in which Allah forgave an entire people, and He turns to others in repentance” (Tirmidhi).
Ashura reminds us the martyrdom of Hazrat Hussain (AS) and is one of the most tragic episodes in the entire Islamic history; it stands for valor, abstinence, probity, uprightness, prescience, and audacity beyond words. It symbolizes all that is pure and true.
Karbala teaches us to remain steadfast in belief in God. Hazrat Hussain(AS) preferred quality instead of quantity. In the words of Thomas Carlyle: “The best lesson which we get from the tragedy of Karbala is that Hussain 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”!
Abdullah Yusuf Ali, the famous English translator of the Quran, has beautifully summed up the whole essence of this epic battle. “There is, of course, the physical suffering in martyrdom, and all sorrow and suffering claim our sympathy, the beloved, angelic, most out-flowing sympathy that we can give. But there is a greater suffering than physical suffering. That is, when an audacious soul seems to stand against the world; when the noblest motives are flayed and mocked; when truth seems to suffer an eclipse. It may even seem that the martyr has but to say a word of compliance, do a little deed of non-resistance; and much sorrow and suffering would be saved; and the insidious whisper comes: “Truth after all can never die.” That is perfectly true. Abstract truth can never die. It is independent of man’s cognition. But the whole battle is for man’s keeping hold of truth and righteousness. And that can only be done by the highest examples of man’s conduct – spiritual striving and suffering enduring firmness of faith and purpose, patience and courage where ordinary mortals would give in or be cowed down, the sacrifice of ordinary motives to supreme truth in scorn of consequence. The martyr bears witness, and the witness redeems what would otherwise be called failure. It so happened with Husain. For all were touched by the story of his martyrdom, and it gave the death blow to the politics of Damascus and all it stood for”.
To sum up, Allama Iqbal put it beautifully: “Imam Hussein expelled despotism forever till the Day of Resurrection. He watered the dry garden of freedom with the spilling wave of his blood, and no doubt he awakened the sleeping Muslim nation. Hussein weltered in blood and dust for the sake of truth. Verily he, therefore, became the bed-rock (foundation) of the Muslim creed; La Ilaha Ila Allah (There is no god but Allah).”
The author teaches at the Department of Islamic Studies, GDC Pampore. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org