Muharram, expressions of martyrdom through culture

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Muharram, expressions of martyrdom through culture

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Muharram,also known as Muharram al haram is the first month of Islamic Calender and is one of the four sacred months along with Rajab, Dhul Qidda, Dhul hijja in the Quran in which warfare is forbidden.This month is considered in high esteem and is regarded very holy.

An Alam taken out in the Ashura procession of Jama Masjid Kashmiri Gate(credits:THE DELHI WALLA)

For muslims this month has a significant position.On the 10th of Muharram, the grandson of prophet Muhammad, Imam Hussain ibn Imam Ali was martyred along with his male family members and friends after three days of thirst and hunger, starting from 7th of muharrram,when water and food was finished in his camp.

Imam hussain,refused to give oath of allegiance to Yazid the caliph of that time,who was a tyrant and an oppressor who did not tolerate those who went against his rule or criticized his rule.As a result he was surrounded on the plains of Karbala(a city in Iraq) and martyred along with his 71 other companions including his six month infant son Ali al Asghar who was taken out of the camp so that he could be taken to drink water.

A group of Ladies sit and lament in the majlis at Jama Masjid ,Kashmiri Gate(credits:THE DELHI WALLA)

Muslims, mainly shias mourn in the month of muharram and the next month of safar.Although the mourning lasts from 1st of Muharram to the 20th of Safar, Indian shias mourn till 8th of Rabi ul Awwal which comes after the month of Safar.The mourning period ends on the 9th of Rabi ul Awwal.

Majlis(public religious gatherings) is held throughout the month of muharram.In these Majlises,first,poetry in praise of Ahlulbayt (household of prophet muhammad) and their companions is recited ,after which tragedies are recited in a eulogical manner,these are collectively called soz,salam and marsiya,after this,the main lecture starts. the speaker(who is generally a scholar),first recites a verse of Quran or some specific Hadith and explains it and elaborates upon it by giving solutions of everyday problems,which ends with the speaker reciting the Masayeb(tragedies) of the Ahlulbayt and companions of Imam Hussain.When the lecture ends, noha(latmiya or a sorrowful eulogy) is recited and the people present in the gathering do matam(chest beating).Food items are distributed in the end and is called Tabarruk.Apart from majlises, processions are also taken out in the name of Imam hussain and his family members and companions.

A Kargilite man stands and waits for the procession to start(credits:THE DELHI WALLA)

Some dates are dedicated to specific martyrs.Starting from 3rd of muharram which is dedicated to Hur ibn Yazid(who was one of the commanders of Caliph Yazid’s armies,but deserted later), on the 4th, which is dedicated to Habib ibn Mazahir(Imam Hussain’s friend), 5th is dedicated to Aun and Muhammad(Imam Hussain’s nephew), 6th is dedicated to Ali al Akbar(Imam Hussain’s son), 7th to Qasim ibn Hasan(Imam Hassan’s son), 8th  to Abbas ibn Ali(Imam Hussain’s brother), 9th to Ali al Asghar(Imam Hussain’s infant son).

Majlises generally take place inside an imambada or imambargah,although it takes place inside mosques also,but mainly imambaras.

Tazia procession taken out from Kalan Mahal passes through Jama Masjid

Alams in the muharram procession which is taken out from Kalan Mahal

In Old Delhi, the main centres of majlis are Dargah Panja Sharif,Jama Masjid Hamilton road in Kashmiri Gate and imambargah in Pahari bhojla. Other than these , there are local imambaras in Ajmeri Gate and Darya Ganj.On the evening of 9th Muharram, a procession is taken out around 11 pm from Dargah Panja Sharif to Jama Masjid Hamilton road in Kashmiri Gate locality which features alams(A replica of the flag of Abbas who was the commander of Hussain’s army) as well as a Jhula(replica of the cradle of Ali Asghar). On the 10th of Muharram, two processions take place in old delhi.One is taken out from Kalan Mahal and goes to Karbala, Jor Bagh,where Tazias are burried and the other one starts from Jama Masjid,Hamilton road and ends at Dargah Panjah sharif.Both these processions feature tazia(replica of the shrine of Imam Hussain) and alams, but the kashmiri gate one features a zuljinah (replica of imam hussain’s horse) and Taboot(mock coffin of Imam Hussain).Mourners mourn by reciting eulogies commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Hussain and his companions as well as his family members.Shia muslims also beat their chests(which is called matam), although some use blades to do matam which is considered a very extreme form.People from Kashmir(Kargilites mainly) also participate in heavy numbers as they are not able to go back for short durations to their homes back in kashmir and the feel they have more religious freedom here than in kashmir.

Mourners do not eat voluntarily till the sun begins to set and some fast and lament throughout the day and night and do not engage in any unnecessary talks.

The mourning of Muharram has a significant meaning to it.In today’s time we are ruled by politicians who are oppressors and tyrants just like Yazid was, we should always stand against them no matter what and go against them as fiercely we can.In Imam Hussain’s own words,Death with Dignity is better than a life of humiliation.

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About Mohd Rafay Hussain

An undergrad History Student at Delhi University who is keenly interested in cultural anthropology and historical development of societies, cultures,traditions and religions

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