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Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Holy Month Of Muharram

The Islamic year begins with Muharram ul Haram, the first month of the Hijri Calendar. While followers of other religions spend their opening month in merriment, the first month of Islam teaches us lessons of admonition, good counselling, knowledge of Allah Ta’ala, sacrifice, selflessness, patience and seeking the pleasure of Allah Ta’ala.
The tenth day of Muharram (Ashurah) has many distinctive qualities and features. Allah Ta’ala created the heavens and the earth on this blessed day. On this day He gave His infinite blessings and bounties to many of His Prophets and delivered them from the clutches of their enemies.
Allah Ta’ala created Hazrat Adam (Alaihis-Salam) in this month, pardoned him of his mistake, and Hazrat Noah’s (Alaihis-Salam) Ark landed successfully on Mount Judi, and he saved Hazrat Ibrahim (Alaihis-Salam) from fire and rescued Hazrat Musa (Alaihis-Salam) from Pharaoh.
On the first of Muharram offer 2 rakats Nafl prayer. In each rakat after Surah Fateha recite Surah Ikhlas 3 times. After the Salam pray to Allah Ta’ala for all your needs and desires. From the blessing of this prayer, Allah Ta’ala will appoint an angel for such a person. The angel will guide him or her to do only good deeds and prevent them in engaging in sinful acts.
On the eve of "Ashurah" offer 100 rakats Nafl. In each rakat recite Surah Ikhlas 3 times after Surah Fateha. After Salam recite first ‘Kalimah’ 100 times. Allah Ta’ala will forgive all the sins of such a person.
Dua-e-Ashurah - An insurance for a year’s LifeHazrat Imam Zainul Abidain (Radi Allah Anhu) reports that who ever recites this dua on the tenth of Muharram, any time after sunrise and before sunset, or listens to its recitation from someone else, Allah Ta’ala will certainly make it an insurance for a years’ life for him, by keeping death away from him. However, if one is to become the victim of death in that year, they will by some strange coincidence not remember to recite it.
Nafl Salat for the Eve of AshurahOn the eve of Ashurah offer 4 rakats Nafl Salat as follows: In every rakat after Surah Fateha recite "Ayetul Kursi" once and Surah Ikhlas 3 times. After completing this Namaz recite Surah Ikhlas 100 times. Allah Ta’ala will purify such a person of all their sins and grant them endless bounties and blessings in paradise.

The Memory Of Karbala
Husayn was the second son of Ali ibn Abu Talib and Fatimah bint Muhammad, the last Prophet. He was born in the 4th year after the hijra. His older brother, Hasan was named as the successor to his father, after Ali was murdered in the mosque in Kufah, Iraq. After Ali's death, people pledged their allegiance to Hasan as the khalifa (successor). Soon after he took office, however, Mu'awiyah, who had fought with Ali over the caliphate, formed an army to attack Hasan. In the interests of peace and unity, Hasan handed over the position of khalifa to Mu'awiyah who ruled until his death and passing of the caliphate to his son, Yazid.
Mu'awiyah, who was the son of Abu Sufyan (the arch enemy of Islam until he accepted Islam after the Muslims returned to Makkah), was not well liked among the "religious" Muslims. They disliked his son, Yazid, even more. Yazid's open disregard for Islamic law (shariah) and practices made many Muslims cringe at the thought of him taking the caliphate. Mu'awiyah, however, who insisted on turning the caliphate into a monarchy, pushed people to pledge allegiance to his son. On his deathbed, Mu'awiyah told Yazid not to try to force Imam Husayn to give allegiance to him because this would cause too much trouble. Soon after, in 60 A.H., Mu'awiyah died.
Little time passed before Yazid made it clear to his governors in Madinah that they were to force Imam Husayn to pledge allegiance to him or send Imam Husayn's head to him in Damascus. Representatives of Yazid came to Husayn in Madinah and asked for his allegiance. Imam Husayn asked for some time before he made his decision. In the meantime, he was able to move his family to Makkah where they were protected by the Sacred Precincts, Masjid-al-Haraam. It is forbidden in Islam to harm anything within these precincts.
Many people in the Ummah at that time who were already dissatisfied with the caliphate began to send letters to Imam Husayn urging him to join them in the city of Kufah in Iraq. They swore to defend him to the death and gave their allegiance to him. To investigate the situation, Imam Husayn sent his cousin, Muslim ibn Aqil to Kufah. After discussing the situation with the people of Kufah, he was killed and beheaded by supporters of Yazid on Wednesday, 9th of Dhul-Hijja, the Day of Arafat, in the year 60 A.H. (680).
It was the time of pilgrimage in Makkah, and Imam Husayn had begun to perform the pilgrimage rites. When he learned that some of Yazid's men had come dressed as pilgrims to kill him in Makkah, he gathered his people together to leave for Iraq. He did not want his blood to be spilled within the sacred precincts and to have the sacred rite of Hajj dishonored by that violence. Thus, he, some members of his family, and a group of followers set out towards Kufah on 8th of Dhul-Hijjah.
As the Imam approached Iraq, he was informed that many of the people who had voiced their support for him had turned and now supported the reign of Yazid, possibly to save their own lives. It was then that many of his representatives, including Muslim Ibn Aqil were abused and killed.
As he and his followers marched closer to Iraq, a person that he met along the way who learned where he was going urged and pleaded with him not to continue his journey towards Kufah, but the Imam replied:
"Servant of God," he answered, "wise decisions are not hidden from me. yet the commands of God, the Exalted, cannot be resisted. By God, (my enemies) will not leave me till they have torn the very heart from the depths of my guts. If they do that, God will cause them to be dominated and humiliated until they become the most humiliated of the factions among nations."
Before the Imam and his followers were able to reach Kufah, Yazid's army surrounded them about 44 miles outside of Kufah in a desert called Karbala. At this point, Yazid's army cut off Imam Husayn's water supply, and his followers began to suffer from extreme thirst. Among these people were members of the Prophet's family, companions, and some women and children.
As the days passed in the month of Muharram, the first month of the new year on the Islamic calendar, Yazid's army, numbering 30,000, closed the circle around Imam Husayn's followers who were suffering from dehydration.
On the tenth day of Muharram, called Ashura, Imam Husayn and his followers went out with less than 100 people to meet the army of 30,000.
Ali Zayn al Abidin, son of Imam Husayn, peace be upon them, reported:
When the cavalry began to approach al-Husayn, he raised his hands and said:
"O God, it is You in Whom I trust amid all grief. You are my hope amid all violence. You are my trust and provision in everything that happens to me, (no matter) how much the heart may seem to weaken in it, trickery may seem to diminish (my hope) in it, the friend may seem to desert (me) in it, and the enemy may seem to rejoice in it. It comes upon me through You and when I complain to You of it, it is because of my desire for You, You alone. You have comforted me in (everything) and have revealed its (significance to me). You are the Master of all grace, the Possessor of all goodness and the Ultimate Resort of all desire."
The Imam and his followers fought all day and fell to their deaths fighting in the cause of Allah. That day, all who fought were martyred. Among them were two children of Imam Hasan, and Imam Husayn's five year old child.
"When the Imam himself was ready to fight, he saw his six-month-old baby was dying from thirst. The Imam brought his infant near to the enemy and demanded some water for baby, saying: You want me but not this baby so take him and give him some water. The words of the Imam had not been finished that the thirst of the baby was quenched by a deadly poisoned arrow from the enemy which pinned the baby's neck to the arm of his father. The Imam threw some of his blood toward the sky saying: "O' Lord! Your Husayn has offered whatever You have given him. Bless me by acceptance of this sacrifice." Finally Imam came to the field and fought for a long time and was finally martyred. The army of Yazid having killed Imam Husayn, cut his head and raised it on a lance.
"The army of the enemy, after ending the war, burned the tents of the women and children accompanying the Imam and his companions, and plundered those helpless women. They decapitated the bodies of the martyrs, denuded them and threw them to the ground without burial. Then they moved women and children along with the heads of the martyrs to Kufah. They took with them the daughters and sisters of al-Husayn, peace be on him, together with 'Ali b. al-Husayn, peace be on him. The latter was still sick with a dysentery and was almost on the point of death. The bodies of the martyrs were under the sunshine for three days till a tribe passing that place found them and performed the burial.
"The event of Karbala, the capture of women and children of the Household of Prophet, their being taken as prisoners from town to town, and the speeches made by Zaynab, the daughter of Ali, who was one of the prisoners, became a scandal for the Umayyad Kingdom. Such abuse of the Household of Prophet nullified the propaganda which Muawiyah had built up for years. The scandal reached to the extent that Yazid denounced the actions of his agents in public. That was exactly what Imam Husain wanted to do, otherwise he would not bring women and children with him and sacrifice some, and let the rest to become captives. That was the only way to make a wave in order to awaken the Muslim nation.
"The event of Karbala was a major factor in the overthrow of Umayyad kingdom though its effect was delayed. Among its immediate results were the revolts and rebellions combined with bloody wars which continued for twelve years. During those riots none of the important elements in Karbala could escape revenge and punishment, including Yazid.
The Memory of Karbala lives on...
The Fast Of Ashoorah
The tenth day of this sacred month, Muharram is known as Aashoorah. It is one of the most important and blessed days of Allah in the Islaamic calendar. Some ulamaa (scholars) are of the opinion that before the fasts of Ramadhaan were made compulsory, the fast of the day of Aashoorah was compulsory upon the ummah. This is stated in a hadeeth reported by Aaishah radhiyallahu anha that the Holy Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam ordered the observance of the fast of Aashoorah. However, when the fast of Ramadhaan became compulsory, then whosoever wished, kept this fast and whosoever desired did not observe this fast. Bukhari Vol.1 Page 268
But, nevertheless the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam continued to fast this day and encouraged his Companions to do the same. Ibne Abbas radhiyallahu anhu says: I did not see Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wasallam anxiously await the fast of any day, which he gave preference to over other days, but this day, the day of Aashoorah. Bukhari Vol.1 Page 268
Humayd Ibne Abdur Rahamaan narrates that he heard Mu’aawiyah Ibne Abi Sufyaan radhiyallahu anhu on the day of 'Aashoorah, during the year he performed hajj, saying on the pulpit: "O the people of Madinah! Where are your ulamaa (scholars)? I heard Rasullullah sallallahu alayhi wasallam saying: This is the day of 'Aashoorah. Allah has not enjoined its fasting on you but I am fasting it. Whosoever wish, keep (this) fast and whosoever desires do not observe (this fast)." Bukhari Vol.1 Page 268
In another hadeeth, Ibne Abbas raahiyallahu anhu narrates that the Holy Prophet sallallaha alayhi wasallam came to Madinah and found the Jews fasting on the day of 'Aashoorah. Hence the Holy Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam inquired of them, "What is (the significance of) this day on which you fast?" They replied, "This is a great day. On this day Allah saved Moosa and his people and drowned Fir’awn and his nation. Thus Moosa alayhis salaam fasted on this day as a token of thanksgiving, therefore we too fast on this day." The Messenger of Allah sallallahu alayhi wasallam said, "We are more worthy of Moosa and nearer to him than you." Thereafter, the Holy Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam fasted on this day and ordered (his Companions) that a fast be kept on this day. (Muslim Vol.1 Page 359)

Things to do on the Fast of Aashoorah
On the 9th and 10th of Muharram, one should fast. If it is not possible to fast on both days, then every effort should be made to fast on the 10th day of Muharram, as there is great reward for this fast. (Muslim Shareef).
The following are some of the desirable acts one should do on the day of Aashoorah:
1. To observe fast on this day.
2. To give as much charity as you can afford.
3. To perform Nafl Salat prayers.
4. To recite Surah Ikhlas 1000 times.
5. To visit and be in the company of pious Ulema.
6. To place a hand of affection on an orphan’s head.
7. To give generously to one’s relatives.
8. To put surma in one’s eyes.
9. To take a bath.
10. To cut one’s nails.
11. To visit the sick.
12. To establish friendly ties with one’s enemies.
13. To recite Dua-e- Aashoorah
14. To visit the shrines of Awliyas and the graves of Muslims.
Hazrat Abdullah bin Masood (Radi Allah Anhu), a Companion of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Sall Allahu Alaihi wa Sallam) reports the following saying of the Messenger of Allah Ta’ala, "Whosoever prepares ample food and drink for his family on this sacred day and delights in feeding them generously, Allah Ta’ala will increase His provisions for that year and place much blessings and good therein."
Imam Hussain (Radi Allah Anhu) and his companions were martyred on the tenth of this month.
Like any month in the Islamic Calendar there are in this first Islamic month, many anniversaries which are celebrated every where in the world.

Practices during the Observation of Muharram
Muharram, or the “sacred month”, marks the beginning of the Muslim year. From the advent of Islam a number of important events have been commemorated on the tenth of this month. One of these was the deliverance of Moses and the Israelites from the tyranny of Pharaoh. The month is now primarily associated with the period of mourning the Shias observe in commemoration of the martyrdom of ‘Ali’s son and Muhammad’s grandson Husain. (‘Ali and his elder son Hasan are also remembered during this period as having suffered and died for the cause of righ-teousness.)

The Observances:“Among the Shi’as in India the following ceremonies are common, although considerable differences in detail may be observed according to regions. As soon as the new moon appears, people assemble in the imam bara (lit, enclosure of imam), a permanent meeting place built in stone or, as mostly in southern India, they assemble in the ‘ashur khanah (lit, ten-day house), a temporary structure. There they recite thefatihah over some sherbat (sweetened, cool drink), rice or sugar in Husain’s name. The cool drink is meant to remind the faithful of the terrible thirst Husain and his family and retinue had to suffer. Food and drink are later distributed to the public, especially to the poor. In some places a pit is dug in which a fire is lighted every evening of the festival, and young and old people fence across it with sticks or swords. Or they run around it calling out: Ya’Ali! Ya’Ali! Shah Hasan! Shah Husain! Dulha! Hae Dost! Rahiyo! Oh ‘Ali! (Noble Hasan! Noble Husain! Bride-groom! Friend! Stay! Stay!)
"The’ashur khanah is usually draped with black cloth on which texts of the Quran are written. The imam bara, too, will be decorated. Inside are placed the ta ‘zian-s or tabuts, wooden structures covered with silver paper, coloured paper and tinsel fringes. They are made with imagination and artistic sense and are meant to represent Husain’s mausoleum, erected on the plains of Karbala, or else the Prophet’s tomb at Medina or even the Taj Mahal of Agra. Nearby are placed imitations of articles which Husain is supposed to have used at Karbala, e.g., a turban of gold, a sword, a shield, a bow and arrow. There are also’alam-s or standards of different shapes, each one having its own special name and history. Often the ‘a lam has the form of a human hand (panjab) fixed on top of the pole. This is the popular emblem representing the five members of the prophet’s family: Muhammad, Fatima, ‘Au, Hasan and Husain.”Remembering Karbala“Every evening people hold gatherings (maflis, p1. majalis) in the ashur-khanah-s, imam-bara-s or in private homes. These majalis remember step by step the events from the time Husain received the invitation from the Kufans to the time of his martyrdom. Dhakir-s give lectures on these themes, marsiya-go-s recite elegiac poems (marsiya-s) re-counting the events of Karbala. Following elaborate artis-tic traditions, they narrate the heartless way in which Yazid’s men killed Husain and his family and retinue. These recitals which include the nanha h-s (poems of agony) sung by the soz-khwan, stir up the emotions of the listeners and move them to wailing and weeping. Repeatedly the assembled faithful rise from their places and with real or feigned grief beat their breasts (sinah-bazi) crying out: Ya Hasan! Ya Husain! At the same time Yazid, the caliph responsible for Husain’s death, is cursed.”

Processions and Other Ceremonies
“From the seventh to the tenth of Muharram processions are held to commemorate the martyrdom of Hasan’s son, Qasim, who was slain shortly after his wedding, as well as the martyrdom of Husain. Along with the procession goes a white horse (duldul or dhu’l-janah) which represents the horse on which Husain rode, or it refers to the bridal horse of Qasim, who was married to Husain’s favourite daughter Fatimat-us-sughra (as distinguished from Fatimah, the daughter of Muhammad), just before the battle of Karbala. With this in mind the people shout at intervals: Bride-groom! Bridegroom! On the eighth day a lance or spear is carried to represent Husain’s head, which was carried on the point of a javelin by order of Yazid. In addition to these representations ta ‘ziya h-s or tabut-s and standards of Hasan, Husain and Qasim are carried. All the time people beat their breasts, saying: Hasan, Husain! Sometimes the pro-cession halts, and then a group of men and boys, naked from the waist, beat themselves with a bundle of sharp blades so that the blood streams down their backs or, forming a large group, they beat their breasts in a uniform rhythm crying all together: Ya Hasan! Ya Husain!
The tenth day is ‘ashara ‘ashurah . On this day the tabut-s or ta ‘ziah-s are either stripped and thrown into the water, or they are taken to a ground set apart for this purpose (called Karbala) and literally buried in specially dug graves.
On the evening of the twelfth day people sit up all night, reading the Quran and reciting marsiyah-s and verses in honour of Husain. On the thirtieth day a quantity of food is cooked and, after saying the fatihah over it, it is given to the poor. With this act of charity the Muharram celebra-tions end.”

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