The Holy Prophet (SallalLahu Alaihi wa Sallam) said, ‘The best of fasts besides the month of Ramadhaan is the fasting of Allah’s month of Muharram, and the best of salaat besides the fardh (compulsory) salaat is the tahajjud salaat (performed after midnight before dawn).’ (Muslim, Vol. 1 Page 368).
Narrated `Aisha (RadhiAllahu Anha), ’The people used to fast on ‘Ashura (the tenth day of the month of Muharram) before the fasting of Ramadhaan was made obligatory. And on that day, the Ka`ba used to be covered with a cover. When Allah made the fasting of the month of Ramadhaan compulsory, Allah’s Apostle said, “Whoever wishes to fast (on the day of ‘Ashura’) may do so; and whoever wishes to leave it can do so.” (Bukhari 2 : 662).
Narrated Ibn `Abbas (RadhiAllahu Anhuma), ‘I never saw the Prophet seeking to fast on a day more (preferable to him) than this day, the day of ‘Ashura’, or this month, i.e., the month of Ramadhaan’. (Bukhari 3: 224)
Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, is among the four months that have been identified as holy in Islam, the other three being Zul Qa’dah, Zul Hijjah and Rajab. Legends from several cultures report Ashura to be a special day from the beginning of the history of mankind, like in Muharram (on Ashura day), the repentance of Aadam (Alaihis Salam) was accepted by Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) after his exile from Jannat (Paradise). Ashura is also the day when Musa (Alaihis Salam) is known to have fasted after being rescued by Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) (also refer Sahi Bukhari 3: 222). There are many more events related to this holy month, especially of Noah (Alaihis Salam) and the successful landing of his ark on Mount Judi, Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) rescuing Ibrahim (Alaihis Salam) from the fire of Namrood, also when Younus (Alaihis Salam) was rescued from the belly of the fish.
But the culmination of the significance of Muharram is Karbala.
“If Hussain had fought to quench his worldly desires… then I do not understand why his sister, wife, and children accompanied him. It stands to reason, therefore, that he sacrificed purely for Islam.” Charles Dickens.
Hussain (RadhiAllahu Anh) fought valiantly in Karbala for righteousness and for every ideal that Islam stands for. And when we commemorate in Muharram the sacrifices of Hussain (RadhiAllahu Anh) and his family, we could, at least for this month of Muharram, reflect upon these very ideals and beliefs that they sacrificed everything for. The battle of Karbala was a fight between the truth of believers and the immorality of Yazid, a battle of faith versus tyranny. What other reasons did Hussain (RadhiAllahu Anh) have to fight a far bigger foe (in numerical terms), than to uphold the path of righteousness and to stay steadfast to the ideals of Islam?
Sadly, now Muharram commemorations have been reduced to banner hoisting and rituals of questionable practices. The spirit of Muharram and the ideals that Hussain (RadhiAllahu Anh) and his family sacrificed for have been given away to divisions within the Ummah, the very divisions that Islam always preached against.
Paradoxically, Muharram nowadays also has been seized by modern day tyrants to further their own pulpit driven agendas. Ironically, the same politicians who have been involved in massacres and crimes against humanity in occupied territories like Kashmir, Palestine, Syria and Afghanistan, are exploiting Muslim sentiments and using the Muharram narrative to preach virtues. Muharram is hoisted by them as opportunistic billboards. While such tyrants still rule, Karbala continues.
The fight of Karbala has not ended even after centuries. The values and ideals that Hussain (RadhiAllahu Anh) and his family readily gave up their sacred lives for still hold dear to us. We need to find that spirit of Muharram within us.