What do Bollywood movies such as “Gangs of Wasseypur”, “PK” and “Raees” have in common? Each one of these has depicted Muharram processions in its own way, though Muharram is much more than what we see in movies.
In this article, we bring to you the five things that you must know about Muharram:
Muharram marks the beginning of the Islamic New Year, but it is a period of mourning where the Muslim Shia community commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussain – the son of Hazrat Ali and the grandson of Prophet Muhammad.
Similar to last year, Dussehra and Ashura (the 10th day of Muharram) were celebrated on consecutive days this year too. Both these events in history marked the battle of similar virtues – right versus wrong.
Around 14 centuries ago, on the day of Ashura, Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, was brutally killed by the tyrant ruler of those times for standing up for justice and equality. Although Imam Hussain was killed in the battle of Karbala, his message lives on – hence pronouncing his victory.
According to a legend, there was a Brahmin family who were staunch supporters of Hussain. They reached Karbala to stand with him – but sadly, only after Hussain had been killed in the battle. Later on, these Brahmins from the Indian subcontinent laid down their lives for his cause. Their descendants are known as Hussaini /Dutt Brahmins.
Not only this, there was also a Christian man named John who was killed in the battle along with Imam Hussain.
We have grown up listening to Mirza Ghalib’s ghazals in the voice of the Late Jagjit Singh. But, did you know there is an entire treasure of Urdu poetry which you have been missing out on?
Marsiyas are lamentation poems that are based on the battle of Karbala. Imagine innumerable poems that have been written so far (which in turn have hundreds of couplets about the same battle), and each poem being exquisite and of course, different from other! Such is the treasure of Marsiya.
Many of these Marsiyas and couplets are recited with tunes based on different ragas. Lata Mangeshkar, Shreya Ghoshal, Ustad Raza Ali Khan and Anoop Jalota are some of the singers who have recited famous Marsiyas by the renowned Urdu poet, Mir Anis.
The story of Karbala is undoubtedly very tragic. It incites the feelings of empathy and sadness in people, every time they listen to it. Imam Hussain was accompanied by his friends and family – women and young children included. They were surrounded by an enemy army of thousands, who had deprived them of water and food in the desert heat for three successive days, before being brutally killed. No human eye can resist tears when the story of Hussain’s water-deprived 6-month-old son’s killing is told in the traditional renditions during a majlis.
Hussain said, “Those who are silent when others are oppressed are guilty of oppression themselves.” There is no such thing as ‘being neutral’ when something wrong is done in front of you. If people follow this mantra, it would solve most of the problems faced by our society today.
Hussain could have easily saved his life. But he stood up against the so-called ‘Islamic State (IS)’ of those times – unlike today’s IS which, in my opinion, has nothing to do with Islam. He sacrificed his life for humanity, and not for any particular sect or religion.
Hussain is #HopeForHumanity.
A version of this post first appeared here.
Featured image used for representative purposes only.