Muharram in Karbala
The origin of Muharram lies in the prosperous city of Karbala. The roots of it can be traced to the aftermath of the battle of Karbala in 680 BC. One of the most important cities of Iraq, it saw the killing of Prophet Muhhamad`s grandson Husayn Ibn Ali. He was killed by the military forces of Yazid I, the man who was the then Umayyad caliph.
Muharram is also symbolic of the divide between Shi’ah and the Sunnis as the former observe the occasion while the latter don’t. It is due to the fact that the Shi’ah sect’s belief was in the instatement of someone from Muhammad’s lineage as the next Caliph while the Sunnis wanted to choose a leader from the community itself.
The Karbala Mazaar (tomb) is significant as Muharram started from here, after the death of Imam Husayan was observed on this spot. Millions of pilgrims from all over the world visit the 1300 year old Mazaar, situated a hundred kilometres away from the capital
city of Baghdad. It is believed that the heaven’s gates are opened for those who breathe their last here.
Its significance to the Shi’ah Muslims is next to the holiest centres of Mecca and Madina.
However, it was never recognised by Saddam Hussain, who was a Sunni supporter. It was under his reign that the Karbala mosque was attacked and damaged. It is from this place that the Indian spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is trying to bridge the divide between the two sects of Islam.
It is believed that a mere touch of the tomb of Imam Husayan can make a person’s wishes come true. Muslims the world over observe a fast on the day of Muharram and many Shi’ah followers also self-flagellate as a mark of their sorrow towards the battle of Karbala and the death of Imam Husayan.
A huge inflow of Shi’ah pilgrims starts from ten days before the festival.
The mosque, made up of gold, silver and precious stones, is a true symbol of sacrifice and martyrdom even today.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)