A Myth Dispelled : Muharram and Mourning

              The tenth of Muharram is observed by many as the day of Shahadat-e-Husain (RA). Special gatherings are held wherein the heart-rending incident of the martyrdom of Sayyidina Husain (RA) is mentioned. This aspect is discussed in this article. To lay down one's life for the cause of Deen is the ultimate sacrifice. Hence being the ultimate sacrifice, martyrdom naturally has the highest honour as well. Allah Ta’aala describes the martyrs as "living" in the verse: "And say not to those who have been slain in the Path of Allah that they are dead. Nay, they are alive and receive sustenance by their Master." (S.3 V.169 )Martyrdom is nothing strange or uncommon to Muslims. The flourishing garden of Islam has been watered by the blood of the martyrs from the very early days of Islam. Among those great sons of Islam, who crowned their life-long efforts for the sake of Deen by finally laying down their lives, was Sayyidina Husain (RA)  the noble grandson of Rasulullah Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam. His martyrdom was indeed heart-rending in the extreme. 


It was on the tenth of Muharram that Sayyidina Husain (RA)  was mercilessly martyred. Before his very eyes scores of his immediate family also tasted from the cup of martyrdom. Finally he joined them. His noble head was then severed from his body. The various details of this tragic incident are too gruesome to comprehend. One could cry tears of blood.However, the pages of our history are filled with the blood of the martyrs. How it that we have remembered the tenth of Muharram but are totally unaware of the heart-rending martyrdom of many other great personalities of Islam. Did we know that on the first of Muharram the second Caliph of Rasulullah Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam was also mercilessly martyred. 


While leading the Fajr Salaah, Hazrat Umar (RA) was stabbed six times by a fire-worshipper. He fell to the ground unable to continue with the Salaah. Hadhrat Abdur Rahman bin Auf (RA) then lead the Salaah and completed it. Hadhrat Umar (RA) was then carried to his house. The wounds however proved fatal and on the first of Muharram he bade farewell to this temporary world. The Muslims were shattered upon the martyrdom of Umar (RA).  We also feel the grief of that fateful day. However we have never heard of anybody observing the day of Shahadat-e-Umar. 


Likewise the third Caliph of Islam, the son in-law of Rasulullah Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam, Hadhrat Osman (RA) was also brutally martyred. When the enemy besieged his house, for days he was unable to even get any water from the well which he had purchased and gifted to everybody to use at liberty. On Friday the eighteenth of Zul Hijjah, the enemy finally broke into his home. Hadhrat Usman (RA) was at that time reciting the Holy Quran. However no mercy was shown to him and his blood was spilt onto the pages of the Book of Allah. He also joined his predecessors in Jannah. This incident can also make one shed tears of blood. 


Rasulullah Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam also witnessed some heart-rending martyrdoms. His beloved uncle, Hazrat Hamza (RA) was martyred in the battle of Uhud. After he was martyred, his body was defiled and severely mutilated. His ears and nose were cut off. The body of the beloved uncle of Rasulullah Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam was then ripped open and his liver removed. This was then taken away to be chewed. Rasulullah Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam was greatly disturbed and grieved over this. So great was his grief that when the killer of Hamza (RA) accepted Islam, Rasulullah Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam requested him not to come in front of him as this would remind him of his uncle and bring back the grief. However, Rasulullah Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam did not observe any day as the day of Shahadat-e-Hamza (RA) 


The battle of Bir Ma'oona is yet another incident of the great Sahabah (RA) laying down their lives for the cause of Deen. Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) was requested to send some of his companions to teach the people of Najd. Upon this request Rasulullah Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam sent seventy people who were all Huffaaz and Qurra (plural of Qari). On the way they were attacked and almost all were martyred. Rasulullah Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam was once again greatly grieved and for one month in the Fajr Salaah cursed these people who had deceived and martyred his beloved companions so mercilessly. Here also no day was observed as the day of their martyrdom. 


Indeed our hearts bleed when we recount the incident of the Martyrdom of Sayyidina Husain (RA). We also experience the grief when we recount the martyrdoms of Sayyidina Umar, Usman and Hamza. Likewise we are greatly pained when we read or hear of the martyrs of Bi’r Ma'oona; Uhud; Badr and all the other battles. Nevertheless, despite our grief, we will refrain from all things alien to the Shariah. Let us consider that if we observe the day of the martyrdom of Sayyidina Husain (RA), then what about the rest? In that case almost every day of the year would be spent mourning. 


It is therefore absolutely clear that the tenth of Muharram is not a day to observe as the martyrdom of Sayyidina Husain (RA) its significance lies solely in what has been explained in the Ahaadeth. Ibn Abbas (RA) narrates that Rasulullah Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) came to Medina and found the Jews fasted on that day of Ashura. Hence he enquired of them, 'What is the significance of this day on which you fast?' They replied: 'This is a great day. On this day Allah Ta’aala saved Moosa Alayhis Salaam and his people and drowned Firoun and his nation. Thus Moosa Alayhis Salaam fasted on this day as a token of thanksgiving, therefore we also fast on this day.' Rasulullah Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam remarked, 'We are more worthy of Moosa Alayhis Salaam and closer to him than you. Thereafter Rasulullah Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam fasted on this day and ordered his companions to do the same. (Sahih Muslim vol. 1 pg.359) 


It is therefore clear that the day of Ashura is not a day of mourning. Indeed, our hearts bleed when we recall the martyrdom of Sayyidina Husain (RA). It also bleeds when we hear of the martyrdom of the other great personalities of Islam. However we have not been taught to perpetually mourn. Yes. We have been taught to take a lesson from the lives of the martyrs. Just as these great personalities selflessly sacrificed their lives for the upliftment of Deen, likewise we should also be prepared to make sacrifices for the protection and spreading of the Deen.