Muharram: Significance and difference between Sunnis and Shias observance of it

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New Delhi: Muharram is the first month of the Hijri or Islamic calendar. Considered to be the second holiest month after Ramadan, and one of the four sacred months of the year when war is forbidden, Muharram is a time for reflection and penance.

The word ‘muharram’ means ‘forbidden’ in Arabic and during this month of the year ancient Arabs refrained from engaging in any warfare and quarrelling and devoted their time in remembrance of the Almighty. The 10th day of Muharram is called Ashura and is of great significance for the Muslim community for multiple reasons.

Significance of the day of Ashura

It is believed that on the day of Ashura, Prophet Musa (Moses) successfully defeated the cruel Pharaoh with the help of Allah and established righteousness on Earth. The day of Ashura also marks the migration of Prophet Muhammed from Mecca to Medina in circa 622 AD as he and his followers were cruelly targeted for following and preaching Islam. It is also believed that on this day, Prophet Nuh (Noah) left on his ark.

The day of Ashura also marks the brutal murder of Prophet Mohammed’s grandson and Hazrat Ali’s son Hazrat Imam Hussain by the army of Yazid I at the Battle of Karbala. Shia Muslims mourn on this day remembering the horrors of Karbala.

Difference between Sunni and Shia commemorating Ashura

While Sunni Muslims observe a fast and engage in ibadat (remembrance of Allah) on 9th and 10th Muharram as it was done by Prophet Muhammad to mark the victory Allah gave to Moses against the Pharoah.

On the other hand, Shia Muslims mourn the first 10 days of Muharram by remembering the sacrifices made by the Prophet’s family in the bloody battle of Karbala. Hazrat Ali, Hazrat Imam Hasan and Hazrat Imam Hussain are remembered for their fight for justice in the face of immense hardship. Processions are taken out and fasts are also observed in remembrance of their martyrdom. Charity is given and religious hymns called Nohas are recited.

 

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