Muharram 2021: The Importance of Ashura Day, Differences in Sunni and Shia Observance of the Day

Muharram, the first month of the Islamic Hijri calendar, is regarded as the second most auspicious month after Ramadan. Muharram began on August 11 this year in India, based on the sighting of the moon. The word Muharram means “forbidden,” and ancient Arabs abstained from all battle and conflict during this season, instead devoting their time to remembering the Almighty. The 10th of Muharram, known as Ashura, is significant for a variety of reasons.

Muharram, the first month of the Islamic Hijri calendar, is regarded as the second most auspicious month after Ramadan. Muharram began on August 11 this year in India, based on the sighting of the moon. The word Muharram means “forbidden,” and ancient Arabs abstained from all battle and conflict during this season, instead devoting their time to remembering the Almighty. The 10th of Muharram, known as Ashura, is significant for a variety of reasons.

It is believed that with the help of God, Prophet Musa (Moses) overcame the harsh Pharaoh and established righteousness on Earth. The day of Ashura also commemorates Prophet Muhammed’s departure from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD, when he and his followers were brutally persecuted for practicing and preaching Islam. It is also believed that Prophet Nuh (Noah) left in his ark on this day.

The day of Ashura also commemorates the horrific assassination of Prophet Mohammed’s grandson and Hazrat Ali’s son, Hazrat Imam Hussain, by Yazid I’s troops at the Battle of Karbala. Shia Muslims observe a day of mourning to commemorate the tragedies of Karbala.

The distinction between Sunni and Shia commemorations of Ashura
While Sunni Muslims fast and engage in ibadat (remembrance of Allah) on the 9th and 10th of Muharram, as Prophet Muhammad did to commemorate Allah’s triumph over the Pharoah.

Shia Muslims, on the other hand, observe the first ten days of Muharram by recalling the Prophet’s family’s sacrifices in the deadly battle of Karbala. We commemorate Hazrat Ali, Hazrat Imam Hasan, and Hazrat Imam Hussain. In honor of their martyrdom, processions are held, as well as fasts.

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