The month of Muharram reminds us of a few things:
- It is described by the Prophet (SAW) as “the sacred month of Allah.” It is one of the four months during which fighting is prohibited. They are:
- Dhul Qaida
- Dhul Hijjah
These three come consecutively to allow the pilgrims to come to Makkah for Hajj and then return to their homelands peacefully. The fourth month is Rajab, in the middle of the year. It was declared sacred as well to facilitate those who used to travel for performing Umrah.
- The 10th of Muharram (Ashura) is a day of fasting. It so happened that when the Prophet (SAW) came to Madinah, he found the Jews fasting on this day. When asked, they told him that the Prophet Musa (AS) was liberated from the subjugation of the Pharoah on that day. He was drowned with his armies in the sea while Musa (AS) and his followers were saved. They said that they fasted on 10th of Muharram as a token of thankfulness to Allah.
The Prophet (SAW) said: “We deserve more to fast that day to show reverence for Prophet Musa (AS) as well”. He then added: “If I am alive next year, I will fast a day before it or after it as well.” By fasting two days for Ashura, he showed that he was not following the Jewish traditions in its entirety.
- Muharram is the first month in the Hijri calendar which is from among the “First Ones” of Syyedina Umar bin Al-Khattab. During his caliphate, he noticed that letters sent by his governors bore the date and the month only, causing some confusion. So he consulted the Companions on how to set an annual calendar and many ideas were suggested. Some advised beginning the new Islamic calendar with the birth of the Prophet (SAW), or from the day he proclaimed prophethood or the day he left for Madinah. He liked the last suggestion. Thus, the Islamic calendar was set from the Hijrah of the Prophet from Makkah to Madinah.
- Muharram also reminds us of two great events of martyrdom. Syyidena Umar, the second Caliph was stabbed by Firuz Abu Lu’lu’a, a Persian slave, on 26th Dhul Hijjah of the 23rd year of Hijrah, while Umar was leading Fajr prayer. Three days later, he died of his wounds and his burial took place on 1st Muharram, 24th year of Hijrah. The second martyrdom is that of Syyidena Hussain ibn Ali (May Allah be pleased with both of them) on 10th Muharram, the year 61 of Hijrah at Karbala, near Kufa in Iraq. He, along with 72 family members and disciples, fought gallantly the forces of Ubaidullah bin Ziyad, the governor of Kufa during the caliphate of Yazid bin Mu’awiya. It was a very unfortunate event which was an outcome of a number of factors:
- Yazid’s wish to acquire an oath of allegiance from dignitaries, like Hussain bin Ali, Abdullah bin Umar, Abdullah bin Zubair and Abdur Rahman bin Abu Bakr.
- Hussain’s journey towards Kufa in response to thousands of invitations from the people of Kufa, in spite of his elder’s advice not to proceed to Kufa.
- The killing of his emissary to Kufa, his cousin Muslim bin Aqil, and the subsequent betrayal of the people of Kufa.
- Ubaidullah bin Ziyad’s refusal of Hussain’s three offers to escape any bloodshed:
- To allow him to go back to Madinah.
- Or to allow him to proceed to the borders of the Islamic State where he could guard the frontiers.
- Or to let him go to Damascus where he could place his hand in the hand of Yazid.
Eventually he fought defending his honour and gave his blood as a testimony to the truth.
The question is: what should be our role in treating these events, especially the wars which witnessed the presence of the Companions on both sides, like that of “the Camel” between Syyedatina Aisha and Syyedina Ali, or that of Siffin between Ali and Mua’wiya (may Allah be pleased with them).
What we should do is to refrain from derogatory comments. Imam Shafi’i puts it in this way: “If Allah has saved our swords from being involved in those events, why should we not save our tongues from commenting upon them too.”
In the next section we will speak about those good relations, feelings of love and affection which were found among both the Ahl-ul-Bait and the Companions, the Khulafa in particular.