Ashura – The Tenth Day of Muharram
Ashura translates to “the tenth” in Arabic, as in, the tenth of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic (Hijri) calendar. To many, it is more than that. It is not just a word or a day. It is a brief moment in time that changed the course of history so drastically that on that day, millions weep and mourn in remembrance.
More than 1300 years ago, Hussain (as), the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (as), rode with his family and army to Kufa, Iraq after the people of the city pleaded with him to save them from the oppression of their caliph, Yazid I. During the journey, his caravan was intercepted and diverted to Karbala, Iraq. There, he and his family were denied access to water (in the scorching hot desert) for three days. After a long stalemate, orders from Yazid arrived to kill Hussain and his people. Yazid’s army did just that, murdering 72 of them and taking the women and children they hadn’t killed as prisoners.
Hussain was the last man standing, the lone martyr, and the one who stood up against injustice despite knowing it would mean his death. His bravery was not for himself, but for the true religion of Islam. Ashura is not just the 10th of Muharram, it is a legacy.
Today, we remember him in everything that we do, for without him, Islam would’ve perished under the corrupt Yazid. Every year, on the first day of the Islamic calendar, the mourning process begins. The grandest remembrances take place during these days. On each day, a different martyr, from those who stood by Hussain, are mourned. On the last day, Ashura, we mourn Hussain. His story is told as millions across the globe weep. In Iraq, millions visit his shrine to pay their respects. From Dearborn, Michigan, to Kano, Nigeria, processions are held in his remembrance.
The day of Ashura starts like any other day of the sad month of Muharram, people dressed in black making their way to a majlis (gathering) to participate in the remembrance of Hussain. His story is then told, people weep, they join in latmiyes (eulogy where one beats the chest in mourning), and prayer is held. It is recommended that people fast until noon, around the time Hussain was murdered. For many, their sadness is not just that of Hussain’s martyrdom, but a reminder of the cruel killings of today’s world. Hussain’s followers have been persecuted since that day. That is why Ashura is so important because it is continuously repeating itself in moments of history.
All that stand up against injustice are taking the stand of Hussain.
Ashura can never be forgotten and will never be forgotten because it reminds us of what true oppression and injustice are, and gives us the bravery to try and repeat what Hussain did, every day.From the Martin Luther King Jr., to Gandhi, Mandela, and Malala Yousafzai, people from all corners of history and the present took the stand of Hussain. Most don’t realize the stand they are taking, but like Gandhi once said, “I learned from Hussain how to be wronged and be a winner, I learned from Hussain how to attain victory while being oppressed.”
From the Martin Luther King Jr., to Gandhi, Mandela, and Malala Yousafzai, people from all corners of history and the present took the stand of Hussain. Most don’t realize the stand they are taking, but like Gandhi once said, “I learned from Hussain how to be wronged and be a winner, I learned from Hussain how to attain victory while being oppressed.”
Hussain and Ashura are not just a story for Shia Muslims, they are a story for humanity.