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This is a very brief presentation about the 10th of Muharram, I do not intend to give indepth historical accounts of that which took place on this day in the 7th century. There are voluminous tomes composed about the events of Karbala, in modern day 'Iraq, so the seeker after the truth may refer to them. At the same time, the veracity/accuracy or lack thereof about these events, as narrated by the historians, I leave to Allah SWT. HE Knows Best.

The word 'Ashura in Arabic means the number 10 - thus we have the 10th day of Muharram.

The history of this momentous day is a matter of huge debate and controversy. In fact, if anything, 'Ashura is one such occasion which highights/accentuates the bitter divisions between the 2 major Sects of Islam, namely, Shi'a - who describe themselves as Ahl-As-Sunnah - and the Sunni - more commonly referred to as Ahl-As-Sunnah Wa-l-Jama'ah.

Thus, both Communities claim to be the rightful inheritors of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the true exponents of Al-Islam.

According to the historians, the 10th of Muharram culminated in the tragic martyrdom of Imam Al-Hussein, son of 'Ali Ibn Abi Talib and Fatimah, daughter of the Prophet (pbut) The conflict between Hussein Ibn 'Ali Talib and Yazid Ibn Mu'awiyah is viewed from different perspectives, depending upon which Sect the believer adheres to.

The Shi'a's keep the memory of 'Ashura alive in a manner that expresses their profound grief and sorrow at the death of their 3rd Imam, Al-Hussein. The events that led upto his martyrdom are played out repeatedly, and some Shi'a are known to inflict injuries upon themselves in order to feel the pain as experienced by the beloved Grandson of the Prophet (pbuh) These expressions of grief find echoes in the way some devout Christians enact the crucifixtion of 'Isa (pbuh) causing bodily harm/hurt in order to be able to attain that level of excutiating pain. 

According to Ahadeeth, the Prophet recommended fasting on the 10th of Muharram because he found the Jews of Medina doing so - upon enquiring why, he was informed that it was in commemoration of Musa's victory over Pharoah and thus of Bani Isra'el being rescued from his evil clutches. Because such accounts do not find mention in Al-Qur'an, they must be regarded as uncertain and perhaps even unreliable. In fact, according to the Traditions, the following great events are said to have taken place on the 10th of Muharram:

1) the day when Allah SWT is said to have accepted Adam's repentance

2) the Ark of Nuh landed upon Mount Judi

3) Abraham was rescued from the fires, which turned cool

4) Yusuf was released from prison

5) Yacub regained his vision

6) a table of food descended upon 'Isa
(peace be upon all of Allah SWT's Messengers)

However, none of the above can be authenticated, so we must safely conclude that such reports as are to be found in the Ahaadeeth cannot possibly be true - Allah SWT Knows Best. Herein lies yet another subject upon which the Shi'a and Sunni disagree, many of the latter fast because the Traditions report them to be recommended - whilst the former assert that these Ahadeeth were fabricated in order to detract from the martyrdom of Imam Hussein Ibn 'Ali.

Some of these accounts possibly have their origins in Judaic legends/traditions. Whilst Muslims observe fasts during Ramadhan and on the 9th-10th of Muharram, the religious fasts that were observed by the Jews are as follows:

1) the 9th of Av, commemorating the destruction of the 1st and 2nd Temples

2) Yom Kippur, - the Day of Atonement - observed on the 10th of Tishri, this ends the Days of Penitence.

3) Fast of Esther

4) Fast of the First-Born, observed the day before Passover, and commemorates the saving of the 1st born during the Egyptian exile.

The 12 months of the Jewish calender are:

History has much to teach us, yet it is often employed as a weapon with which to defeat bitter opponents. 'Ashura is one such historical event - learning from and implementing hard-earned lessons about the tragedy of Karbala is not to be found on the agenda of most Muslims. Rather, it is commemorated or celebrated - depending upon the Sect of the adherent - simply as an occassion to mark the bitter past. When Muslims, individually and collectively, awaken to the true purpose of Islam - which is to worship Allah SWT in unity and with humility - exaggerated attachment to historical/recent events will continue. And, the divisions will increase unceasingly, humiliations heaped upon the Ummah growing in frequency/intensity. Because, if an earth-shattering event such as the martyrdom of the Prophet's grandson, Imam Al-Hussein, cannot bring Muslims together - seeking the forgiveness/pardon of Allah SWT - then what can?


Allahu 'Alam

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