As per calculation in the Lunar Year system, one year of Hizri Shon consists of approximately 354 days. Out of these 354 days, there are certain days and certain nights which are celebrated in the Muslim world with special respect and dignity. These particular days and nights have assumed such high dignity because of some very, very important and crucial events that happened on these days and nights. One of those days is Ashura.
The tenth day of the Hizri month of Muharram is called Ashura. In different ages since the creation of the universe a large number of highly important and dignified events happened on this very day of Ashura. The first day of the inception of the creation of the universe, when Allah Jallah Jalaluhu started His creation, was the day of Ashura. Here it is worthwhile to mention that, Allah Jallah Shahnuhu created the ‘Noor-e-Muhammadi’ at the very beginning of His creation. The day on which Allah Jallah Shahnuhu blew ‘Ruh’ (soul) into the heart of Hazrat Adam (Alaih-e-Wasallam) was the day of Ashura. The day on which Hazrat Adam (Alaih-e-Wasallam) and the very first mother of mankind Bibi Hawa (Eve) were expelled from the heaven, was also the day of Ashura. It is believed that, Hazrat Adam (Alaih-e-Wasallam) was dropped on top of a mountain in Sri Lanka, while Mother Hawa was dropped at a place called Zeddah, situated on the bank of the Red Sea. For about three hundred and fifty years Hazrat Adam (Alaih-e-Wasallam) prayed to Almighty Allah for His mercy and forgiveness, through tearful eyes. The day on which Allah Jallah Shahnuhu granted pardon for Hazrat Adam (Alaih-e-Wasallam), based on the reference to Hazrat Muhammad (Sallahu Alaih-e- Wasallam), was the day of Ashura. The mountain peak in Sri Lanka, on which Hazrat Adam (Alaih-e-Wasallam) was descended, still exists there. This mountain peak is called ‘Adam’s Peak’. Local Hindus and Buddists call it ‘Sri Sri Padam’, while local Muslims call it ‘Baba Adam Padam’.Hazrat Nooh (Alaih-e-Wasallam) built a tremendous ship as per directives from the Almighty Allah and got boarded into it during the devastating deluge. The day on which he descended on the Judi mountains after the deluge, was also the day of Ashura. It was the day of Ashura on which Hazrat Ibrahim (Alaih-e-Wasallam) was redeemed from the firewell of Namrud (Nimrod). Similarly, it was also the very day of Ashura on which Hazrat Younuss (Alaih-e-Wasallam) got out of the stomach of the fish. This was also the day of Ashura on which Hazrat Youssuf (Alaih-e-Wasallam), after 40 years of separation, got reunited with his father Hazrat Yakub (Alaih-e-Wasallam), the day on which Hazrat Solaiman (Alaih-e-Wasallam) restored his kingdom, the day of recovery from disease of Hazrat Ayyub (Alaih-e-Wasallam) after long many years of sickness, and the day on which Hazrat Musa (Alaih-e-Wasallam) crossed over through the Red Sea with his followers and Feraun, (Faraoh) got drowned in it along with his followers, all were on the day of Ashura.
This very day of Ashura remains the silent witness to all such and many other important events that took place in human history. It is also widely believed that ‘Roze Kiiamat’ (the ultimate Dooms Day) will happen on a day of Ashura. The Holy Qur'an contains description of that dreadful day of ‘Roze Kiamat’. It says, “ The Dooms Day! Do you know what is that Dooms Day? On that day humans will be scattered like thrown-away insects, the mountains will be flying like struck and colorful pieces of cotton”. ( Sura Kaaria 1-5). There are also many things said in the books of Hadit with regard to the dignity of the Ashura day. At the event of Ashura the great prophet of Islam, Hazrat Muhammad (Sallahu Alaih-e- Wasallam) observed ‘Siam’ (day long fasting), and his followers also did the same in honour of Ashura. Even today Muslims across the world observe ‘Siam’ on this holy day of Ashura. Hazrat Muhammad (Sallahu Alaih-e-Wasallam) told his followers that, in terms of importance, the ‘Siam’ of Ashura is the most important ‘Siam’, next to the ‘Siam’ of the month of Ramadan.
Thus, it becomes clear that, of all types of voluntary ‘Siams’ Ashura ‘Siam’ is the best ‘Siam’. The tenth day of the Muharram, the day of Ashura has assumed such wide visibility due to the heart rending event of Karbala that took place on the 10th day of the month of Muharram in the year 680 AD. On this day Imam Hussain (Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhoo) sacrificed his life at the battle field of Karbala, along with the lives of his hundred followers, in his efforts to establish truth and justice. This sublime self-sacrifice of the Imam created a unique and unprecedented example and this example has been inspiring human beings across the world, throughout the ages to jump in the struggle for justice.
We know that, the regime of Kholafa–e–Rashedin was ended with the martyrdom of Hazrat Ali (Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhoo) in the year 661 AD. Thereafter, Hazrat Muabia (Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhoo), who was a very ardent disciple of the prophet Hazrat Muhammad (Sallahu Alaih-e-Wasallam), one of the writers of divine revelations to the prophet, became the caliph. After his death in 680 AD, his son Yazid ascended the throne. It was Hazrat Muabia (Radi Allahu Ta’ala), who, in consultation with the Sahaba-e-Kerams (respected disciples of the prophet), had declared this succession of his son to become the caliph of the Muslim world after him. Yazid was a notorious type of person, and the enemies of Islam, particularly members of the Jewish community and a group of fake believers took this opportunity to ride on the shoulders of Yazid. After becoming caliph, Yazid became blind in his love for power, and started taking the earth for a fig. Ghosts of the fake believers and the Jewish circle that remained engaged in causing damage to the religion of Islam got possession of Yazid in power. Yazid started committing despotic misdeeds one after another.
As a defender of truth and justice Hazrat Imam Hussain (Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhoo), came forward to protest against such misdeeds. Hazrat Ali ( Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhoo), the fourth Caliph of Islam and father of Imam Hussain ( Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhoo), during his reign, had shifted the capital of the Muslim world from Medina to Koofa. Thereafter, Hazrat Muabia (Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhoo), shifted the capital from Koofa to Damascus. Yazid also ruled from this capital at Damascus. The people of Koofa could not accept Yazid as their caliph. These disgruntled people of Koofa wrote several letters to Hazrat Imam Hussain (Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhoo) inviting him to go down to Koofa. Hazrat Imam Hussain (Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhoo) sent his cousin brother Muslim-Bin-Akil to Koofa to verify the genuineness of these invitation letters and dependability of the senders. After assessing the situation at Koofa, Muslim -Bin-Akil realised that the people of Koofa are genuinely interested to have Hazrat Imam Hussain (Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhoo) among them. Having been satisfied with the prevailing situation, he wrote a letter to Hazrat Imam Hussain (Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhoo) to come to Koofa. After getting this letter Hazrat Imam Hussain (Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhoo), along with all members of his family and several followers, set out for Koofa. Meanwhile, the supporter circle of Yazid reversed the situation of Koofa to the adverse of Hazrat Imam Hussain (Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhoo). Obaidullah-Bin-Ziad, the newly appointed Governor of Yazid managed to subdue the people of Koofa by using threats and intimidations and by applying different tricks. Muslim–Bin–Akil was arrested and killed, but news of these later events could not reach Hazrat Imam Hussain (Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhoo).
When Hazrat Imam Hussain (Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhoo) and his entourage arrived at Koofa borders, the army of Obaidullah-Bin–Zaid did not allow them to enter into Koofa. At being obstructed here, Hazrat Imam Hussain (Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhoo) moved to Karbala on the bank of river Ufratis and installed their tents to stay there. The soldiers of Obaidullah-Bin-Zaid encircled those tents and even blocked the road to the river so that they cannot fetch water from there. In order to get rid of this situation, Hazrat Imam Hussain ( Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhoo) sent some proposals to the commander of Yazid’s Army. He proposed that he and his people should be allowed to go back to Medina or they (soldiers) should take him to Yazid. But the enemy commander did not listen to any of these suggestions. On the 10th Day of Muharram of Hizri year 61, and 680 AD, Hazrat Imam Hussain (Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhoo) succumbed to martyrdom in an unequal battle with Yazid’s army. The blood -thirsty enemy soldiers also killed the members of his family ruthlessly. The field of Karbala got coloured in red with the blood of a large number of martyrs on that day. However, the flag of truth got mounted high through this martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain (Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhoo). The valor and heroism that Hazrat Imam Hussain (Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhoo) demonstrated at the battle field of Karbala and the example of self-sacrifice for the sake of freedom and truth on that day, has been providing revolutionary spirit in the mind and heart of the of Muslims throughout the ages. The resplendent day of Ashura comes to us every year carrying with it the spirit of perseverance for truth, valor and self-sacrifice. Through the self-sacrifice of Hazrat Imam Hussain (Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhoo) the victorious flag of truth and justice has been hoisted high in the sky; while Yazid has been eternally hooted in the history of mankind.The Holy Ashura comes every year carrying with it the victorious flag of humanity, and with its lessons for mankind. Hazrat Maolana Shah Sufi Toazuddin Ahmad (Rahmatulla-he Alaihe), one of the best Sufis of the time observed that, we receive great lessons of patience and gratefulness from this day of Ashura. This day inspires us for self-revelation too. Our National Poet, Kazi Nazrul Islam has said: "Now has returned the month of Muharram, we need sacrifices, not only sad songs and weeping”. This statement of the poet reflects an urge for us to illuminate ourselves through the acts of self-sacrifice.
The day of Ashura is a Holy day, and we should take care not to spoil the sanctity of this day by indulging in acts of ‘Shirak’ and ‘Bidat’. The significance of the day of Ashura lies in our firm commitment to know the truth and the beauty, and in our efforts to establish it.
The writer is an Islamic thinker, and former Director of the Islamic Foundation, Bangladesh.