Few religions are without their denominations, and Islam is no exception to this phenomenon. Followers of the Sunni and Shia Islamic traditions, despite seeing eye to eye on the majority of points regarding the faith, respectfully disagree on certain matters. One such matter is the significance of Ashura, the tenth day of the month of Muharram. Whereas many Sunni Muslims see in Ashura an opportunity to remember God’s favor to Moses and the Israelites, many Shia Muslims find the day to be a reminder of the grievances inflicted on Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed. In the following letter, Eman Dabaja, MSA’s Vice President of Public Affairs, shares educational resources concerning Ashura and the legacy of Hussein.
I wanted to send my condolences to you all for the death of the grandson of Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him and his family), Imam Hussein (AS), and his beloved family and companions. During these first ten nights of Muharram and especially on the 10th night, Ashura, many in the Muslim Umma commemorate the massacre and tragedy on the land of Karbala. This is a time of mourning for many Muslims worldwide, as it marks the days in which the Imam’s family and companions were left thirsty on the desert land of Karbala and were subsequently massacred and tortured. Imam Hussein (AS) is regarded by Shia Muslims as the third Imam, or divinely appointed successor after the Prophet (PBUH), and the massacre of Karbala occurred after Imam Hussein refused to pledge his allegiance to the corrupt ruler Yazid Ibn Muawiyah.
Imam Hussein (AS) explains the mission of his sacrifice in his own words: “I have taken this stand not out of arrogance or pride, neither out of mischief or injustice. I have risen to seek reform in the community of my grandfather. I would like to bid good, forbid evil, and follow the tradition of my grandfather [Mohammed (PBUH)] and my father ‘Ali bin Abi Talib.”
This battle is far from an outdated event; it is universally known as one of the most inspirational revolutions of all time. Especially when bloodshed and genocide persist all over the world, most recently flaring in Gaza, it is important that we look to our Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and his Sunnah as held by his beloved family, Ahlul Bayt, and his companions.
The diversity of the Muslim community at UM is ever expanding and growing. I ask that we all take a moment to learn more about Ashura and the plight of Imam Hussein (AS) and his family. Around this time of year, much of our conversations revolve around the fast some take part in, but I wanted us all to be aware of the larger scope of significance of this day. I urge you all to look into the fast personally and practice as you see fit. I realize this is a point of contention among the schools of thought, but it is one that should not overshadow the significance and importance of Ashura: fighting against injustice and oppression even in the face of great personal costs. Though the Battle of Karbala took place more than 1300 years ago in 680 AD, Imam Hussein’s (AS) plight remains poignant and transcends all Islamic traditions.
I urge you all to use the below resources to learn about Ashura in order to help raise our consciousness about this tragedy and period of mourning. Below are a few links with an overview of Ashura and its significance today. For a more comprehensive understanding, I invite you all to watch this multi-part documentary or attend a nightly service at a local mosque that I have posted information for below. Everyone is welcome to take part in this commemoration.
Literature about Ashura & Imam Hussein (AS):
“The Story of Hussain” documentary:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxCYJMwoQuQ (part 1/10)
Mosques offering Ashura services (include lectures and mourning services with livestreams of evening programs this week) – all over Michigan:
http://www.zainabia.org/v1/muharram.aspx – offers livestream
http://www.icofa.com/ - offers livestream
http://ashura.tv/live-video/theawaitedone-dearborn-usa/ – offers livestream
https://secure.imam-us.org/news/ashura-lectures-live-broadcast-0 – offers livestream
I hope that you all may find this information helpful. If you would like to open a discussion concerning Ashura, please contact me at this page. I am always happy to help organize a space for all of us to discuss this on campus inshallah.
Once again, I wanted to send my condolences and Salaams to Imam Hussein (AS) and his beloved family (Peace and blessings be upon them). May Allah (SWT) keep the Muslim Umma united and allow us to continue to stand up against oppression similar to the way Imam Hussein (AS) did on the land of Karbala.
MSA Vice President of Public Affairs 2012-2013