Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Sacred Muharram.

Muharram is the month with which the Muslims begin their lunar [Hijrah] Calendar. It is one of the four sanctified months about in which the Holy Qur’an says:

"The number of the months according to Allah is twelve [mentioned] in the Book of Allah on the day He created the heavens and the earth. Among these [twelve months] there are four sanctified." [Surah At-Tawbah, 9: 36]

These four months, according to the Hadith, the authentic traditions [Prophetic narrations], are Dzul-Qa'edah, Dzul-Hijjah, Muharram and Rajab. All the commentators of the Noble Qur’an are unanimous on this point, because the Noble Prophet SAW declared in his sermon on the occasion of his last Hajj [pilgrimage to Makkah]: "One year consists of twelve months, of which four are sanctified months, three of them are in sequence; Dzul-Qa'edah, Dzul-Hijjah, Muharram, and the fourth is Rajab."

The specific mention of these four months does not mean that any other month has no sanctity, because the month of Ramadhaan is admittedly the most sanctified month in the year. But these four months were specifically termed as sanctified months for the simple reason that even the pagans of Makkah accepted their sanctity.

The sanctity of these four months was recognized right from the days of Prophet Ibrahim [Abraham a.s]. Since the Pagans of Makkah attributed themselves to him, they observed the sanctity of these four months and despite their frequent tribal battles, they held it unlawful to fight in these months.

In Islam, the sanctity of these months was upheld and the Holy Qur’an referred to them as the "sanctified months". Muharram has certain other characteristics special to it, which is stated below.

Fasting During the Month

The Noble Prophet SAW said: 'The best fasts after the fasts of Ramadhan are those of the month of Muharram."

Although the fasts of the month of Muharram are not obligatory, yet one who fasts in these days out of his own will is entitled to a great reward by Allah Almighty. The Hadith cited above signifies that the fasts of the month of Muharram are most rewardable ones among the voluntary fasts. It does not mean that the award promised for fasts of Muharram can be achieved only by fasting for the whole month. On the contrary, each fast during this month has merit. Therefore, one should avail of this opportunity as much as he can.

The Day of 'Ashura

Although Muharram is a sanctified month as a whole, yet, the 10th day of Muharram is the most sacred among all its days. The day is named 'Ashura. According to Ibn ‘Abbas the Prophet SAW when he migrated to Madinah, found that the Jews of Madinah used to fast on the 10th day of Muharram. They said that it was the day on which Prophet Musa [Moses]) a.s and his followers crossed the Red Sea miraculously and the Pharaoh was drowned in its waters. On hearing this from the Jews, the Prophet SAW said, "We are more closely related to Musa than you," and directed the Muslims to fast on the day of 'Ashura'. [Abu Dawud]

It is also reported in a number of authentic traditions that in the beginning, fasting on the day of 'Ashura' was obligatory for the Muslims. It was later that the fasts of Ramadhan were made obligatory and the fast on the day of 'Ashura' was made optional. ‘Aishah r.a said: "When the Prophet SAW migrated to Madinah, he fasted on the day of 'Ashura' and directed the people to do likewise. But when the fasts of Ramadhan were made obligatory, the obligation of fasting was confined to Ramadhan and the obligatory nature of the fast of 'Ashura' was abandoned. Whoever so desires should fast on it and any other who so likes can avoid fasting on it." [Abu Dawud]

However, the Prophet SAW used to fast on the day of 'Ashura' even after the fasting in Ramadhan was made obligatory. Abdullah Ibn Musa reports that the Prophet preferred the fast of 'Ashura' rather than the fasts of other days and that of Ramadhan compared to 'Ashura'. [Bukhari and Muslim]

Misconceptions and Innovations

However, there are some legends and misconceptions with regard to 'Ashura' that have managed to find their way into the minds of the ignorant, but have no support of authentic Islamic sources, some very common of them are these: This is the day on which Adam was created. This is the day when Ibrahim a.s was born. This is the day when Allah accepted the repentance of Adam a.s. This is the day when Doomsday will take place. Whoever takes bath on the day of 'Ashura' will never get ill.

All these and other similar whims and fancies are totally baseless and the traditions referred to in this respect are not worthy of any credit. Some people take it as Sunnah [established recommended practice] to prepare a particular type of meal on the day of 'Ashura'. This practice, too, has no basis in the authentic Islamic sources.

Some other people attribute the sanctity of 'Ashura' to the martyrdom of Al-Hussain r.a. No doubt, the martyrdom of Al-Hussain is one of the most tragic episodes of our history. Yet, the sanctity of 'Ashura' cannot be ascribed to this event for the simple reason that the sanctity of 'Ashura' was established during the days of the Prophet SAW much earlier than the birth of Al-Hussain. On the contrary, it is one of the merits of Al-Hussain that his martyrdom took place on this blessed day.

Another misconception about the month of Muharram is that it is an evil or unlucky month, for Al-Hussain was killed in it. It is for this misconception that some people avoid holding marriage ceremonies in the month of Muharram. This is again a baseless concept, which is contrary to the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah [Prophetic Tradition]. If the death of an eminent person on a particular day renders that day unlucky for all times to come, one can hardly find a day of the year free from this bad luck because every day is associated with the demise of some eminent person. The Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet SAW have liberated us from such superstitious beliefs.

Lamentations and Mourning

Another wrong practice related to this month is to hold the lamentation and mourning ceremonies in the memory of martyrdom of Al-Hussain. As mentioned earlier, the event of Karbala is one of the most tragic events of our history, but the Prophet SAW has forbidden us from holding the mourning ceremonies on the death of any person. The people of jahiliyyah [ignorance] used to mourn over their deceased through loud lamentations, by tearing their clothes and by beating their cheeks and chests. The Prophet SAW prevented the Muslims from doing all this and directed them to observe patience by saying "Innaa lillaahi wa innaa ilayhi raaji'uun" [To Allah We belong, and to Him is our return]. A number of authentic hadith [narrations] are available on the subject. To quote only one of them: "He is not from our group who slaps his checks, tears his clothes and cries in the manner of the people of jahiliyyah [ignorance]". [Bukhari]

All the prominent jurists are unanimous on the point that the mourning of this type is impermissible. Even Al-Hussain shortly before his demise, had advised his beloved sister Zainab not to mourn over his death in this manner. He said, "My dear sister! I swear upon you that in case I die you shall not tear your clothes, nor scratch your face, nor curse anyone for me or pray for your death." [Al-Kamil, Ibn Kathir vol. 4 pg. 24]

It is evident from this advice, that this type of mourning is condemned even by the blessed person for the memory of whom these mourning ceremonies are held. Every Muslim should avoid this practice and abide by the teachings of Islam as propagated by the Prophet Muhammad SAW.

©Islam web

No comments: