The Islamic New Year


Muharram, Ashura, And Karbala

Muharram is the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar which is 11-12 days less than the Julian calendar of 365-366 days. In the pre-Islamic period there was no accurate time keeping and events were remembered according to certain incidents. For example, the year in which the Prophet Muhammad (S) was born is called the Year of the Elephant. In that year, Abraha, Governor of Yemen, came with an army to destroy the Kabah (Quran Al Feel).

Islamic Calendar
Eleven years after the Hijrah, Khalifah Umar ibn al Khattab (R) decided to predate the Islamic calendar to the year when the Prophet (S) made his Hijrah from Makkah to Madinah. There were others events that came up for consideration: revelation of the Quran, Conquest of Makkah, Battle of Badr. The choice for significant reasons fell on the Hijrah. Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar, but the Prophet (S) did not leave Makkah in Muharram. The Prophet (S) began his journey from Makkah (Hijrah) on Safar 26 (second month of the Islamic calendar) and arrived in Makkah on 12th Rabiul Awwal. The tentative date for the first day of the Islamic New year is Thursday September 12, 2018. Therefore, Ashura will be on Friday September 21. These dates have to be confirmed.

Power to Change
The present situation in the Muslim world and even here is the USA does not lend itself to celebration. The Islamic New Year and Ashura should be used as a period of deep reflection of what can be possible done to better the affairs of the Muslims in every Masjid in New York. There is too much talking and no action. The Muslims of the USA or Canada are in no position to change anything in Syria, Yemen or any Muslim country. Incidents in Muslim countries are controlled by external forces. How many Syrians are refugees in the world and who initiated the war? How many innocent men, women, and children have been recently killed in Yemen? Who are financing the wars and committing war crimes?

The word Ashura springs from the root word, which means ten. The Muslims encountered the observance of Ashura among the Jews of Madinah. In a narration, Abbas said he asked the Jews to explain the reasons why they fasted on Muharram 10.The Jews explained: “This is a great day on which God rescued Moses and his people and drowned Pharaoh and his people. Moses then kept fast on it by way of gratefulness and we do so also.”

Upon learning the Jews and Christians held the day in high esteem. The Prophet replied, “If I live next year, I would surely fast on 9th day.” The Prophet passed away before he could observe the fast on 9th. The companions interpreted his words to mean that Muslims should observe the fast on the 9th and 10th or the 10th and 11th Muharram. In another narration, he is reported to have said: “The best of fast after Ramadan is in Muharram, the month of Allah, and the best prayers after obligatory prayers is the prayer at night. Muslims then can follow this tradition by fasting on 9th and 10th or on 10 and 11 of Muharram. Some Masjids may provide Iftar on the Muharram 10. Masjid Ar-Rahman of Queens Village will be providing Iftar on Muharram 10.

Abu Bakr Siddiq (R)
After the death of the Prophet (S), the Muslims of Madinah had to address the issues of government and politics. The death of the Prophet (S) immediately created a vacuum. The Muslims could not be left without a leader and their unity was most important. In such a situation the possibility of disunity, rejection of Islam and anarchy were all possible. Abu Bakr Siddiq (R) was confirmed Khalifah before Salatul Fajr. The session was conducted by Umar ibn al Khattab (father-in-law of the Prophet).

Omar ibn Al Khattab (R)
Abu Bakr (R) nominated Omar ibn Alkhattab (R) to succeed him. For the appointment of the third Khalifahreference was given to Uthman ibn Affan (R). The Shia believe that Ali had a better claim than anyone to the position of Khalifah and should have been Khalifah instead of Abu Bakr (R), Omar (R) and Uthman (R).

Uthmann ibn Affan (R)
Duirng the Khilafat of Omar (R), Islam expanded into new territories – Iraq, Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, and part of Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and south western Pakistan – and governing these areas proved to be very difficult. Problems of administration, management and political control developed during the time of Khalifah Uthman ibn Affan ®. It is reported that insurgents invaded his home and killed him while he was reciting the Quran.

Ali ibn Abi Talib
Ali ibn Abi Talib (R) was pressured to accept the position of Kahlifa and to bring peace to the community. However, he encountered numerous problems that affected his administration. Some blamed him for the death of Uthman (R) and demanded he punished the guilty persons. The Muslims were divided in the issues. Ali (R) had to face and an army of Muslims at the Battle of the Camel. Many lives were lost in this battle, but by then irreparable damage was done to the unity and strength of the Muslims. After this battle he had to face an army led by Muawwiyah who was demanding that those responsible for the death of Uthman (R) be punished. He then met Ali (R) at the Battle of Siffeen. The battle was not conclusive, but it was a psychological defeat for Ali (R). He was forced to arbitration and to accede to Muawwiyah’s demands. The struggles involved prominent companions of the Prophet who were found in the camps of Ali and those who opposed him.

On January 26, 661 AC, Ali (R) entered the Masjid in Kufa for Salatul Fajr. He was assassinated by ibn Muljam , a Khrajite, who struck him with a poisoned sword. According to the agreement at the Battle of Siffin, Muawwiyah assumed the position of Khalifah. He is regarded as the founder of the Umayyad Dynasty. He reneged from the agreement with Ali and used his influence to have his son, Yazid, to succeed him as Khalifah. When Yazid assumed the office of Khalifah, Husein rejected him and refused to give him allegiance.

Husein ibn Ali
The people of Kufah appealed to Husein to come to Kufah and free them from Yazid. Despite better advice, Husein travelled to Kufa with his family (less than 100). It is reported that one companion told him, “Husein, the hearts of the people are with you, but their swords are with Yazid.”At Karbala, he met the army (2000) of Yazid which prevented him from any further movement backwards of forwards. The only option he had was to swear allegiance to Yazid and to surrender unconditionally. He pitched his camp at Karbala (108 km south east of Baghdad) on the bank of the Euphrates River and awaited his fate. The Battle of Karbala was no battle but a methodical massacre of the family of Husein (61AH) and descendants of the Prophet. Husein was decapitated and his head was presented to Yazid in a platter as evidence of loyalty to him.

Significance of Karbala
The Battle of Karbala has great significance for Muslims, Sunni and Shia. However, with regard to the Shia, the observance takes a different form. In the Sunni camp, there is fasting and prayer. In areas of Shia influence, there is full-scale mourning and self-immolation. The occasion is given prominence in places where an organized Shia community can be found. In Albania, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bahrain, and Lebanon, Muharram 10 is a national holiday. The Shia’s history of the incident is slightly different from the Sunni. The sentiments of the Shia for the family of the Prophet (S) especially Fatima, Ali, Hasan, and Husein (RA), influenced them to adopt certain practices. Karbala now is one of the holiest cities of the Shia. The Shia make an annual journey there for the occasion of Ashura.

When the Muslims arrived in Guyana and Trinidad from India, they brought with them certain Shia practices which included the making and parading of the Taziah. The Taziah was banned in Guyana in 1940s because the occasion ceased to have any Islamic historical or religious significance. It degenerated into street fighting, imbibing of alcoholic beverages, and ‘gangsterism’. This forced The Sadr Anjuman, Jamaitul Ulama E Deen, and the Islamic Association to call for its ban. However, the Taziah still flourishes as a national event, “Hosein Festival”, in Trinidad. Each year there are parades in the streets of Trinidad involving all races and religious groups. There is the beating of the Tassa and the Taziah drum.

There are many lessons from Ashura and the Battle of Kerbala. In 2011, the world celebrated the “Arab Spring”. As soon as we speak of the Muslim world certain countries POP UP: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. Millions of words were said glorifying The Arab Spring without any real thought about the reality of who are the puppets and puppet masters. In 2018(1440AH), the Muslims are worse off than they were previous to 2011. Look at the general conditions of the people in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Muslim lives seem not to matter. Who care for the Muslims?

NYC is like a microcosm of the Muslim world. Here in NYC why do Muslim organizations and Masjids continue to exist and function in isolation? Why can’t there be a collective and effective representation of the one million Muslims in the State of New York? Are race, nationality, language, and culture deciding factors? Organizations and including the UN have moved resolutions in favor of the Muslims but proved incompetent to enforce them; they are useless The Muslims are at a disadvantage and the prejudice is quite obvious. Sentiments of support are like cologne. It is nice to hear, but they quickly evaporate. It comes to this: We can talk as much as we like and represent the reasons for unity, cooperation, and solidarity, but who will listen and act?