BY Sadullah Khan
Muharram is the first month of the Islamic Lunar Hijri Calendar, dating back to the hijrah/migration of the Prophet and many of his family and followers to Yathrib (later Madinah); 1426 years ago. This migration/hijrah of the Prophet showed us that it is incumbent upon humankind to perpetuate the truth and to pursue the establishment of peace and justice. We should note that just as physical migration and perseverance is an important milestone on the road to establish peace and justice; intellectual migration from the subjugated minds to an awakened spirit is even more important. The hijrah was therefore not only a historical event, but one that changed the course of history.
The word Muharram means forbidden, and even before the mission of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), this month was always known as a scared month in which specific acts were considered forbidden/restricted; prominently war fare/the shedding of blood. It is one of the four sanctified months about which the Quran says, The number of the months according to Allah is twelve months (mentioned) in the Book of Allah on the day in which He created heavens and the earth. Among these (twelve months) there are four sanctified. Of the four sanctified months, three of them are in sequence; Zul-qadah(11th), Zul-hijjah(12th), Muharram(1st), and the fourth is Rajab(7th).
Patriotism, Bigotry and Prejudice
The Prophet loved his mother city of Makkah, but had to migrate due to the ignorance and prejudice of those in power in Makkah at that time. He was not unpatriotic but it was the bigotry of the powers-that-be that made him leave.
It is ironic that many Muslims in America are emigrants who made hijrah to this country; yet are presently facing increasing onslaught of bigotry by many who consider themselves patriotic. According to the American Heritage dictionary, a patriot is one who loves, supports, and defends one's country. A bigot, on the other hand, is one who is strongly partial to one's own group, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ. The clear difference can be easily obscured when defending one's country includes fighting an enemy whose identity is broadly and loosely delineated, and when that identity is defined in religious and racial terms. When sweeping laws designed to undermine constitutional protections are enacted without congressional debate, given the title of Patriot Act and used to smear main stream American Muslim organizations and law-abiding Muslim individuals and leaders, the line between patriotism and bigotry is crossed. Defending one's country is not about
protecting a piece of real estate, but protecting the values upon which the country is found, and protecting the people who espouse and perpetuate those values. True and genuine patriotism requires that one defend the freedom and dignity of one's fellow citizens regardless of their racial and religious affiliation. Those who limit their sense of patriotism to defending the freedom of specific religious and racial groups, while attacking the civil liberties and questioning the patriotism of those who do not share their religion, race, or political orientation are undoubtedly the real bigots. Patriotism is borne out of care, respect and generosity towards the country to which a person belongs. Bigotry is borne out of ignorance, hate and a mean-spirited attitude towards those who are different.
Muharram and Black History Month
Black history month is not about color, it is mostly about a struggle for civil rights and social justice. Muharram embodies the pursuit of a new beginning towards a better future in a dark period. The Prophet (pbuh) advised us to be more generous to our loved ones in Muharram and more caring to others. That is indeed an ideal resolution with which to begin a year.