Muharram holds a great deal of religious significance for Muslims all over the world. It marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar for them. But that’s not all the reasons this month is so revered. The 10th of Muharram is a day of great importance, many incidents cause it to be so. It is the day that Musa was saved from the Pharaoh by the aid of Allah. It is the day that Nuh left on the Ark, and it is also the day that Muhammad would fast on in Makkah. But apart from these reasons, this day is most recognized for the Martyrdom of H. Hussein, the grandson of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Shias recognize this day as a day of mourning.
After the death of the Prophet, when the time came to choose another caliph, some people chose H. Ali as they believed that the caliphate should belong to one of the people from the Prophets own family. These people were known as the Shias, or simply, ‘the supporters’. Ali, later on, went to become the fourth caliph of the Muslim community. His reign was short-lived and he was murdered in 661 AD, this gave the caliphate away to Muawiya bin Abu Sufyan.
Later on Muawiya’s son, Yazid succeeded to the Caliphate. H. Hussein, who was Ali’s son, refused to accept Yazid as the rightful Caliph. This situation escalated to fighting in between the two groups. Hussein who was traveling with his family and a few soldiers were confronted by Yazid’s army on the plain of Karbala. Even though he knew he was outnumbered Hussein did not pledge allegiance to Yazid. Later on, Hussein and his people were denied any access to water and in 3 days on the 10th of Muharram, Hussein was killed.
This incident is very holy for the Shias who mourn the death of Hussein. The primary observances during this month are public processions, thousands of Shias gather around to mourn in every city. The mourning period begins from the 1st Muharram and lasts for 10 days. Shias wear black clothes during this period and fast on the 10th Muharram. Shias tend to go for self-flagellation in some cases, they beat themselves with chains and blunt knives. This is a symbolic way of expressing their grievances over the incidents of 10th Muharram. Mostly however they mourn in non-violent manners by beating their chests and chanting ‘Ya Hussein’. To them, the death of Hussein is a symbol of mankind’s struggle against injustice and oppression. A pilgrimage takes place to the tomb of H. Hussein in Karbala, hundreds of thousands of Shias travel to Karbala for this event.
The events that occurred on the 10th of Muharram will forever be known as one of the biggest tragedies in Islamic history, for both Shias and Sunnis. The events remind us to struggle for what is right and to take a stand against oppression.