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Date: 4th October, 2016

Muslims observe the sacred festival of Muharram all across globe with full devotion and exhilaration. This Muslim festivity marks the beginning of Islamic New Year. The exact date of Muharram celebrations keeps on changing each year due to differences in the lunar calendar it is based upon. The Shea community in remembrance of the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, Imam Hussain primarily celebrates this Muslim festival.

‘Muharram’ means respect and every year Shea Muslims pay reverence to Imam Hussain on this day. In the celebratory sense, Muharram is not a festival since it grieves over the Karbala tragedy, which took the life of Grandson of Prophet Muhammad. In India, a great number of people and in different ways celebrates the festival.

History of Muharram

As per the Muslim scriptures, in the Arabian Peninsula, an era of military tribes triumphed in the pre-Islamic period. Due to the lack of strong leadership, battles and conflicts over small issues were taking place. Imam Hussain was ruling over a part of the realm, known as Iran today and the Umayyads (the present Iraq) ruled the other part.

After this, Shias of Kufa (a small town in the kingdom of Umayyad) called upon Imam Hussain to accept their allegiance and give away this place to ruler of Kufa, Yazid. Yazid told his chief to take action against them.

In the month of Muharram, the forces of Yazid, the Muslim ruler of that time encircled the grandsons of Prophet Muhammad, Hazrat Imam Hasan, Hazrat Imam Hassan and a good number of devotees as well. This incident happened at Karbala and Imam Hussain did not receive any help from the Shias of Kufa. The grandsons and all the followers were cruelly tortured and killed. This incident took place on the 10th day of the Muharram. The Shias consider Muharram as a grieving and sorrowful occasion.

Fasting in Muharram

Fasting holds an important place in Islamic culture. On the 10th day, Shia Muslims keep fast and pay homage to the massacred Imam Hussain and his followers. In addition, it is also mentioned in Hindu scriptures that fasting on 9th and 10th day of Muharram in order to make a distinction amid Muslims and Jewish community.

When Prophet Muhammad reached to Madina, he noted that the Jews in Madina keep fast on Ashura to pay homage to Prophet Musa. Prophet Musa and the tribes of Israel were salvaged and started keeping fast on this day. He even suggested his accompanying persons to keep this fast on the day of Ashura. However, the companions of Prophet Muhammad told him that Christians and Jewish communities honor the 10th day. Since then, Shia Muslims follow the ritual of observing fast during the 9th and 10th day during the month of Muharram all across globe.

Customs and Rituals of Muharram

The Shias observe the whole month of Muharram as a period of sorrow and grief. On Muharram, women are expected to give up all ornamentations. Shia Muslims depicts scenes from the battle of Karbala through performaces and these are usually carried out in Shia mosques. People generally clad in black clothes as these are sign of sorrow and recite mournful verses in the memory of Imam Hussain.

During the whole 10 days period, they stay away from music and all sorts of jolly events that can turn them in in any case from the plaintive commemoration of that day. During all the ten days of Muharram assemblies or Majlis, are conducted by Shia communities wherein they present a picture of the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain.