Community Reflection: A letter about Ashura and Imam Hussein

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.

Salaam All,

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This battle is far from an outdated event; it is universally known as one of the most inspirational revolutions of all time.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: (part 1/10)

Mosques offering Ashura services (include lectures and mourning services with livestreams of evening programs this week) – all over Michigan: – offers livestream  – offers livestream – offers livestream – 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.


Eman Dabaja

MSA Vice President of Public Affairs 2012-2013

Why does the UM Muslim community need a Muslim Coalition?

As a community grows, the need for members to organize becomes increasingly pronounced. To address that need here on campus, various Muslim student organizations agreed to take part in a Muslim Coalition. Eman Dabaja, MSA’s Vice President of Public Affairs, tells us more about the idea behind the coalition, what progress has been made so far, and how to get involved in the effort to enhance Muslim Wolverine life.

Creating a Muslim Coalition has long been a topic of discussion in our community; some MSA members and alumni have actually been discussing this idea for some time now, as far back as a decade ago according to previous MSA meeting minutes.

The issue became even more pressing last year as the Muslim Chaplain and MSA E-Board members began to recognize that our Muslim community was expanding rapidly. New groups on campus like Meeting of the Minds, Mu Sigma Alpha, and Islamic Society of Ahlul Bayt are just a few of the organizations that were created to provide Muslims with new spaces in recent years. In MSA, it became overwhelming and difficult to fully meet the needs of everyone in our community, so it was only natural to see the community grow to meet people’s specific needs. These new Muslim groups on campus were not connected to each other in an official way, though. Although this growth was necessary and healthy, some MSA-ers realized that this could eventually lead to harmful fragmentation in our community, unless we all kept each other updated and were able to connect leaders on campus on a continual basis. So with the help of Tayssir, the Muslim Chaplain, we invited Muslim organizations on campus to join our coalition and began to discuss the needs of each of our constituencies and how we could better connect Muslim students.

Formally, the Muslim Coalition currently consists of the following Muslim Student Organizations:

  • Muslim Students’ Association
  • Muslim Graduate Students Association
  • Islamic Society of Ahlul Bayt
  • Muslim Medical Students Association
  • Meeting of the Minds
  • Mu Sigma Alpha
  • Muslim Law Students Association
  • Muslim Business Students Association
  • Muslim Engineering Students Association
  • Anti-Islamophobia Committee
  • Muslim Support Group

This Coalition will be built by collective voices that represent Muslims on campus, not by a handful of self-appointed leaders. Neither I nor the MSA’s Executive Board has more of a say in what the Coalition will do in the coming years than you, the Muslim community at The University of Michigan, does. That is why the Coalition kicked off with a Muslim Community Summit on October 4th, 2012. We invited Muslim students from all around campus, extending invitations through the Muslim Coalition representatives, to take part in roundtable discussions about our community.

Now weeks after the summit, we are still looking through the notes collected at the focused discussions that took place that evening. We asked the small groups questions on topics ranging from strengthening brotherhood and sisterhood to concerns of inclusivity to responding to Islamophobia. Once we understand the primary concerns of our community, we can begin to collectively and strategically plan for the Muslim community on campus in a sustainable way for the coming years. Only when we fully appreciate the diverse needs of Muslim students in a comprehensive way will we be able to create an all-encompassing vision for this Coalition.

The hiring of Michigan’s very own Muslim Chaplain, Tayssir Safi, is just the first step in strengthening the foundations of Muslim life on campus in the years to come, insha Allah. Ultimately, we hope that the Muslim Coalition will be able to help build an inclusive Muslim Life Center for all Muslims on campus in the future, a place where they can find resources and support to help them grow during their college experience. Our immediate next steps, though, will be surveying the community and conducting focused student interviews so that we can complete our needs assessment for the greater Muslim community.

I look forward to building this Coalition with you and encourage you all to contact the Muslim Coalition at with ideas, concerns or questions.

As always, GO BLUE!

Eman Dabaja

MSA VP Public Affairs