Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Reflections on `Ashura


Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him and his father) that he was asked about fasting the Day of `Ashura [10th of Muharram]. He said, I did not see the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) fast a day while more avid to seek its virtue than this day, meaning the Day of `Ashura . [Bukhari (2006), and Muslim (1132)].

Tirmidhi relates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to a man, If you want to fast a month after Ramadan, then fast Muharram, for it has a day in which Allah forgave an entire people, and He turns to others in repentance in. [Tirmidhi (841)]

It amazes me how, when I've made paltry efforts to remind people about Muharram and `Ashura, many Muslims aren't sure how to react to it.

Before taking bayat with my sheykh, I too was heedless. Sure, I'd know "objectively" that Muharram was one of the holy months mentioned by Allah , that Ashura is its 10th day and it is Sunnat to fast on it and a day before or after.

These facts I gathered on Muharram and `Ashura from SunniPath, Zaytuna and other sources online, swirled around in my mind, albeit incoherently. I sort of knew that it'd be good to do these things, but actually performing them was a minor jihad!

Perhaps an obstacle that taints the spirit of `Ashura for most Sunni Muslims, is what it has become associated with. The ignorant and baseless practices that some of our ummah perform in the name of commemorating Imam Husayn's sacrifice, in effect, have given a bad name to this holy Day (radhi Allahu anhu).

I saw this blemish in action, when chatting with a close friend online. No matter how much I told him that celebrating Muharram and `Ashura was very much a part of our traditions, he wanted nothing to do with it. His "exemplar" was the Saudi-Wahhabi paradigm, of which he is gradually weaning off from, insha'Allah Rahman.

According to our sheykh, Tuesday was yaum-e-Ashura. I made intention to hold firmly to the fast, and I hope Allah will accept whatever I did good in it. Alhamdulillah, I made it to the dergah safe, having broken my fast on the road trip upstate.

After some zikr, we had an energetic hadra, masha'Allah. In our holding each other's hands, forming a circle and exclaiming loud remembrances of our Lord, it felt as though the remnants of our evil selves were being stomped on. The sheykh and his chosen murids were leading us all the way. But no matter how exalted we may have momentarily felt, our feet were firm on the ground, thanks to our sheykh.

Then we had sohbet, where Sheykh offered us all some tea, and a special dessert (picture and caption taken from someone more devoted than myself - Yasin, of

Our sheykh also told us about the momentous events that occured in history on the day of `Ashura. It is the day on which the ship of Noah (as) landed on top of a mountain. On the tenth day, Ashura, we prepare the delicious desert A┼čure in keeping with the Ottoman tradition. The sweet is also known as Noah’s Pudding and is made with dried fruit and beans. The story goes: when Noah’s ship settled on the top of the mountain, the surviving believers gathered the remaining rations and prepared them into Ashure.

It is also known that Moses (as) fasted on this day to commemorate Allah saving him and his people, and drowned Pharoah and his people.

One of the murids asked sheykh what the greater wisdom was behind the sacrifice of Imam Husayn (ra), knowing that he was plunging himself to certain death. Our sheykh was measured in his response, as if not wanting to say so much, and then stated that it was destiny. Sheykh mentioned that some older companions of holy Prophet - sal Allahu alayhi wa sallim - advised him not to go. Even Imam Hasan (ra) did the same. But Imam Husayn (ra) chose to go inspite of all this. Our sheykh said that there are higher stations for Imam Husayn (ra) because of it.

We were also told about lost Sunnats of Ashura, including giving in charity, rubbing the head of an orphan in kindness and to take care of orphans, to wear kohl/surmak (?) on the eye.

Being here in dergah in the midst of all this, alhamdulillah, made it feel like a holy Day was upon us. If Allah forgave an entire people on this day, I pray that He forgave me of my many evils and sins.

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