Monday, March 01, 2004

Happy Ashura !

Muharram is the First Month of the Islamic Calendar

The 10th day of Muharram, known as Yawm Al-Ashura, is the most significant day of this month.
Fasting on the Day of 3Ashura is supposed to be an expiation of sins for the previous year. Many events are attributed to this date such as that the Prophet Adam was born and his repentance was accepted on this day, the Prophet Abraham was saved from the fire, the Prophet Ishmael was delivered from the sacrifice, the Prophet Joseph was reunited with his father, the Prophet Job was cured of his illness and the Prophet Solomon was ordained as king on this day, but these assertions are not backed by accurate historical evidences. However it is mostly remembered because of the following:
When Prophet Muhammad came to Medina, he found the Jews fasting on the Day of Ashura. When asked for the reason of their fasting, they replied that it was the day when God saved Prophet Moses and the Children of Israel from their enemies the Egyptians. Moses fasted to thank God and they fasted in emulation of him. So the Prophet Muhammad said “We have more of a right to Moses than you” and he ordered the Muslims to fast on that day. This fast was later abrogated with the fast of Ramadan substituted in its place but it was kept as an optional recommended fast.

The Prophet’s younger grandson Hussein was tragically martyred on 10th Muharram 61 AH/ 680 CE . As a result, the Shiites commemorate his martyrdom and give prominence to this day. But it must be remembered that Ashura was given significance and was celebrated by the Prophet Muhammad himself- hence it is pointless to claim that this day is only significant due to Hussein’s death which happened THREE decades after the Prophet’s death. Nevertheless, the heroic martyrdom of Imam Hussein is also to be remembered.

In Libya it is a happy occasion and we have our own rituals though we unfortunately do not get a day off anymore. On the eve of Ashura which for us was yesterday, we boil fava beans . Children then wear fancy/scary costumes or dress up a sort of scarecrow and go around houses , ringing bells and asking the inhabitants to give them the beans , sort of like 'trick or treat' thing.
I'll try and write down what they exactly say next time as I could not quite catch it last night ( typical Libyan dialect) .
I also took photos of the kids with their scarecrows , hope to upload it later.

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