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Ashura 2020 Date and Significance: The Martyrdom of Imam Hussain (AS) and Why Battle of Karbala Had Erupted

Ashura marks the culmination of annual remembrance of the tragic 7th century battle in Karbala. As per the Islamic calendar, the day is observed on tenth of Muharram – the first month of Hijri year. The gregorian date varies by a single day in region to region as it depends upon sighting of the moon (at start of Muharram). The day remains a major observance for Shia and several sub-sects of Sunni Muslims who recall the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (AS).

Ashura: Date and Significance

  • The date of Ashura this year, as per the gregorian calendar, is August 29, 2020 in the Gulf countries. In the Indian subcontinent region, it will be observed on August 30 as the lunar cycle is a day late in this part of the world.
  • As per the Islamic calendar, Ashura is the tenth date of Muharram. It was on this day in the year 61 Hijri (10th October in 680 AD) when Imam Hussain (Alaihissalam) was martyred in the war of Karbala.
  • Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), had refused to pledge allegiance to the “corrupt, tyrannical and oppressive” rule of Umayyad caliph Yazid ibn Muawiyah. This had led to the battle of Karbala.
  • The war was a one-sided military campaign, as a force of nearly 6,000 had targeted 70-72 companions of Imam Hussain (AS).
  • Shia Muslims flog themselves on the night of Ashura to recall the martyrdom of members of Ahl al-Bayt – the family of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Muslims of most sects also fast on 10th of Muharram – as Prophet Moses (AS) had fasted on this day after Children of Israel were saved from Pharaoh.

Watch Video on Date and Significance of Ashura

How And Why The Battle of Karbala Had Erupted?

Yazid, noted in history as well as in Islamic Hadeeths as an oppressive, tyrant, irreligious and unjust ruler, had unethically assumed himself as the caliph of Islamic empire.

Imam Hussain (as) had refused to pledge allegiance to Yazid’s leadership citing his immoral character. When Yazid’s Governor in Medina forced Hussain (as) to extend his support, the Imam publicly expressed his defiance.

The Prophet (saw)’s grandson sent his cousin Muslim bin Aqeel (ra) to ascertain whether the people of Kufa (present-day Iraq) — where Hussain (as)’s father Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talib (as) had unprecedented support during his lifetime — are against the rule of Yazeed.

The message which Hussain (as) received from Kufa was clear: that the people would support a rebellion against Yazeed whose Damascus-based regime had subjected them to cruelties and unjust policies.

Imam Hussain (as) was convinced that he should arrive in Kufa and provide leadership to the dissenters. Reclaiming the caliphate from Yazeed was necessary as the Imam believed that the Islamic kingdom should be ruled by a person adhering to the principles of Quran.

What Happened in Battle of Karbala?

Suspecting a mass rebellion, Yazeed removed Nu’man ibn Bashir al-Ansari as the Governor of Kufa and replaced him with Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad. Ansari was sacked as he was reluctant against cracking down on Aqeel (ra), who was a member of the Prophet’s household.

Ziyad, on the directions of Yazeed, killed scores among the rebels and executed Aqeel. Imam Hussain (as) was unaware of the development as he left Medina for Kufa.

When he arrived with his 72 companions, he was confronted near the Euphrates river by nearly 6,000 men sent by Ibn Ziyad. Umar ibn Sa’d, who was commanding the forces of Yazeed, asked Hussain (as) to either pledge allegiance to Yazid or risk being executed.

Imam Hussain (as) declined to accept the rulership of Yazeed as it would had been against the principles of Islam to support an oppressive and unjust ruler.

Over the course of next ten days, most of the Imam’s companions were killed in the battle which pitted nearly 70-72 men against a force of nearly 6,000. On the 10th date of Muharram, which fall on October 10, 680 AD, Imam Hussain (as) was beheaded. The day is annually observed as Ashura by Shia Muslims, as well as Sunnis adhering to Sufi school of thought.

‘Hussainiat Lives On’

Prominent Muslim cleric and founder of Minhaj-ul-Quran, Tahir ul Qadri has reiterated that though Imam Hussain (AS) was martyred in Karbala, it is “Hussainiat which will be alive forever”. On the other hand, Yazeed would go down in the lanes of history as an oppressor who had disdain for the real principles of Islam but assumed himself as the leader of the Muslim world.

The international community has, time and again, recalled the message of Imam Hussain (as) and his battle against the massive forces of tyranny despite being aware that it would lead to his martyrdom.

“No doubt Hussain was among greatest rebel men in purpose to correct the governess who were deviated away from the right path, and for his attitudes he obtained that martyrdom which the free once wishes,” Russian writer Leo Tolstoy had said.

Nelson Mandela, the pioneer of anti-apartheid movement of South Africa, had also credited the struggle of Imam Hussain (as) for inspiring him to continue his relentless campaign against the colonial powers.

“I have spent more than 20 years in prison, then on one night I decided to surrender by signing all the terms and conditions of government. But suddenly I thought about Imam Hussain and Karbala movement and Imam Hussain gave me strength to stand for right of freedom and liberation and I did,” he had said.

Mahatma Gandhi, regarded as the “Father of India”, also referred to the Battle of Karbala while seeking inspiration for his sustained campaign against the British rule. “I learned from Hussain how to be wronged and be a winner, I learnt from Hussain how to attain victory while being oppressed,” he had said.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Aug 26, 2020 11:59 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).

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