India is known because of its diversity, as we have so many different customs, traditions, and religions. Every religion has its own importance, values, and morals to cherish and share. As we say, Hindus celebrate Makar Sankranti, Holi and Diwali with joy, Christians celebrate Christmas with pomp and show, Sikhs celebrate Lohri and Guru Gobind Singh Jayanti with courage and enjoyment, Jains celebrate Diwali by giving gifts and sweets to others, and Muslims celebrate Eid and Muharram by decorating their homes and going at each other's place to wish them.
In the Muslim calendar, Muharram is the second holiest month following Ramadan. Muharram is observed all over India by the Muslims. In all cities and towns, there are impressive processions of colourfully decorated tazias, which are made of paper and bamboo that are the replicas of the martyr's tomb at Karbala. The literal meaning of Muharram is ‘Forbidden'. There is more of an introspective thought than the rejoicing mood behind the festival, as there is a depressing history behind it.
The history behind it is that Prophet Hazrat Muhammed had two grandsons named Hassan and Hussain. It is believed that during this month, Hussain, his family members and a large number of his followers were surrounded by the forces of Yazid, who was the Muslim ruler at that time. During his reign, they were harassed and tortured, and some of them were also put to death. This dispute became the reason for the disagreement among Muslims regarding the question of succession arising out of the demise of the fourth caliph, Hazrat Ali. Hassan, who became the Caliph, was later killed by Yezid.
After that, Hussain flew to Mecca, where he was also put to death by Yezid's men during the battle at Karbala. They were on the battlefield for ten days. In light of this, the Muslims observe mourning for the first ten days of the month of Muharram in memory of Hassan and Hussain. In the same way, there are some more days in the month of Muharram which make us remember what all happened during this month. The 10th day of Muharram, is the day when carnage took place at Karbala. It is the day of Ashura, which according to the Shia Muslims is Mourning of Muharram. As and when the month of Muharram commences, they were black clothes as a sign of mourning. It is a major religious commemoration for the Shia Muslims.
Hazrat Abbas narrates the following as pertaining to the Ashura Day:
"The Prophet (PBUH) came to Madina and saw the Jews fasting on the day of Ashura. He said, ‘What is this?' They said, ‘This is a righteous day, it is the day when Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemies, so Moosa fasted on this day.' He said, ‘We have more right to Moosa than you,'-(H. Sallallahu Alaihi Wassallam). So, He fasted on that day and commanded (the Muslims) to fast on that day."
On this day of Muharram, a large procession is taken out. Shia men and women who are dressed in black also parade through the streets. Some Shia men also seek to emulate the suffering of Hussain by flagellating themselves with chains. On the other side, there are some Shia leaders or groups, who try to discourage the bloodletting, saying it creates a backward and negative image in the minds of the people about Shia Muslims.
In such cases, they divert them by telling them to donate blood. In some parts of the world, they serve water and juices to all, free of cost.
Assemblies are held every day during the first nine days of the celebration, and events related to the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain and his parties are narrated by Shia orators.
During this month, we should value Muharram as one of Allah's sacred months in which we should strive to do good deeds and be extra careful of sinning. We should try and fast as much as we can in this month, especially on the 9th and 10th day.
Muharram marks a very sacred Muslim time, and we must all strive to be the best versions of ourselves and become good human beings respecting and loving one another.