Things to Understand About Ashura and Muharram

1. The battle of Karbala and the struggle of Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) grandson, Imam Hussain (ra), was an Islamic plight, and should be commemorated as such.
“حسينٌ منّي وأنا مِنْ حسينٍ، أحبّ الله مَنْ أحبّ حسينًا، وأبغض اللهُ مَنْ أبغض حسينًا” –“
"Hussain is from me, and I am from Hussain, God loves he who loves Hussain, and God hates he who hates Hussein.” Prophet Muhammad (saw).  [الإسلام سؤال وجواب/Islam Question and Answer; see also:]
For starters, the dichotomy allegedly stemming from this battle did not predate the battle. That is to say, “Shi’a” and “Sunni” did not exist before this. There was merely Islam, Muslims, and the sunnah as prescribed by the Prophet (saw). As such, Imam Hussain (ra), a member of the Ahlul Bayt (Sayeda Fatima (ra), Imam Ali Ibn (ra), Imam Hassan (ra), and Imam Hussain (ra) and the nine Imams that followed) and a representative of Islam was fighting for the preservation of none other than the very religion we follow.
“إني لم أخرج أشراً، ولا بطراً ولا مفسداً، ولا ظالماً، وإنما خرجت لطلب الإصلاح في أمة جدي/
I did not come out to be evil, or arrogant, or corrupt, or unjust, but I came out to seek reform in the nation of my grandfather” – Imam Hussain (ra). [Basrah College]
Imam Hussain’s (ra) opposition and oppressor, on the other hand, was neither representative nor preservative, rather regressive, corrupt and power hungry. That in it’s own right should suffice for the Muslim Ummah to commemorate this tragic battle and unite around the values and morals that were fought for, instead of allowing Imam Hussain’s (ra) sacrifice to go in vain and cement a wedge within.

While worldly conflicts are rarely black and white, this one certainly was, if there ever was to be one.

2. The battle of Karbala, and the plight of Imam Hussain (ra) was a humanitarian struggle and is recognized by many experts as such.

Centuries before the days of Gandhi, Mandela, and the like, Imam Hussain (ra) took a firm stance against oppression, knowing his life would be on the line. There cannot be a truer humanitarian cause or purer intention in standing up against oppression and standing for social justice.

As history stands to tell, the transfer of knowledge and experience from one generation to the next is best achieved through documentation. As a means of preserving Imam Hussain’s (ra) experiences and transferring the knowledge and wisdom of his refusal to give in to his oppressors, we lament his sacrifice year after year and bestow upon each new generation a set of values rooted in humanity that are becoming ever more relevant with each passing day. This is among the beauties of Ashura; it is forever relevant.
3. Ashura is an opportunity and a platform.

These are two seemingly uncharacteristic words to be associated with an annual funeral ceremony, but in essence they ring truer than the lamenting process itself. In gathering to commemorate the events of the Battle of Karbala, Ashura provides us with a unique opportunity to empathize with the Prophet’s (saw) immediate family, to understand and appreciate Ahlul Bayt, and thus come closer to our Prophet and Allah (S).
Ashura also provides us with the opportunity to come closer to our deen through sermons that are offered before lamentation, further emphasizing the importance of learning and understanding the religion to which we submit, and then appreciating the sacrifice that was made to preserve it.
When one explores and relives the battle of Karbala, you can’t help but wonder: What would have happened if not for Imam Hussain (ra)? Where would our Ummah be today? Deen before dunya (faith before world) is one lesson drawn from this event, which underpins the ordering of the three notions you just read. We are Muslims first, and all other good is subsumed therein, even humanitarian. Just as Imam Hussain (ra) did not forget nor waiver in the choice between preservation for generations, or bowing to a powerful oppressor, we too must not forget him and his ultimate sacrifice.

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