August 9, 2021
As salaamu alaykum,
This week, the new moon of Muharram will announce the beginning of the new Hijri year. The month of Muharram is considered special by all Muslims and is one of the four sacred months of the year, which brings with it the Day of Ashura, or the “Tenth day” of the month, when fasting is recommended (with or without the addition of a day prior or after). Imam Muslim reported that the Prophet PBUH said, “The best of fasts after the month of Ramadan are in the Month of Allah, which you call Muharram. And the best of prayer after the obligatory prayer is the night prayer.”
In the midst of voluntary acts of worship in this month of God, the foremost of which are fasting and charity, according to Muslims from different backgrounds and schools of thought, primarily two main distinct historical events happened during this month. Many centuries prior to the birth of Prophet Muhammad PBUH, God saved Prophet Moses PBUH and the children of Israel from Pharaoh after they were doomed to either be victims of his army or drowned in the sea.
Muslims believe that Moses and his followers represented the true believers of their time, and Pharaoh represented the tyranny of evil. The story of their rescue has been read and reflected upon by Muslims for generations. It teaches that having full faith in God will always bring upon us His help and support even when there is very little hope. Muslims during the days of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) rejoiced on the day they learned from their Jewish neighbors about the significance of this day and their reasons to commemorate it, and started the tradition of fasting it every year. When the Prophet arrived in Madinah in 622 CE, he found that the Jews there fasted on Muharram 10 and asked them the reason for their fasting on this day. They said, “This is a blessed day. On this day God saved the Children of Israel from their enemy (in Egypt) and so Prophet Musa (Moses) fasted on this day giving thanks to God.” The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “We are closer to Musa than you are.” He fasted on that day and commanded Muslims to fast on this day. (Al-Bukhari)
On the other hand, decades later, fifty years after the death of Prophet Muhammad PBUH, a very sad and tragic incident occurred on the same Day of Ashura, which has come to be known in history books as the “Karbala Massacre”. Dozens of members of the family of Prophet Muhammad including his beloved grandson, Al-Husayn RA, were massacred. Their valiant courage amidst injustice is exemplary for all times and places. It reminds us to rededicate ourselves to the principles of sacrificing for the truth and standing up against oppression.
While these two occasions are commemorated differently among Muslims in present times, there is no doubt that every Muslim who claims to follow Prophet Muhammad PBUH and his teachings, will always love Prophet Moses PBUH, and rejoice his victory over Pharaoh, even if he or she doesn’t fast on this day. At the same time, every Muslim dearly loves Al-Husayn RA and will always be sad about the story of his killing, whether he or she participates in anniversary commemorations or not.
May God bestow his peace and blessings upon Prophet Moses, all the previous Prophets, including our beloved Prophet Muhammad and his family and grant us their companionship in the hereafter.