After the death of Prophet Mohammed in 632 AD, a sort of war ensued over his succession. Four claimants staked their claims: Abu, Umar, Othman and Ali. The first two appeared to almost succeed but the game of power play started and a rival faction emerged. One faction supported Othman and the other favoured Ali.
Ali got married to Fatima, the Prophet’s only daughter. He hoped things will sail through well but destiny went in favour of Othman. Ali too called Muwaiya from Syria and a struggle picked up. The khilafat descended to Hussain, the younger brother of Hassan and the struggle escalated at Karbala in Iraq. Hussain lost his life.
All this showed that seizing power of religious import occasioned a showdown in a distasteful manner. Thus Moharram is an exercise in introspection when the ugly happenings of the past are recapitulated and a resolve is made that such incidents will not be allowed again.
The unsavoury incidents are mourned in a collective manner by observing Moharram with solemnity and repentance. Moharram marks a 10-day observance and highlights the commencement of the Muslim calendar on a melancholic note which is different from other religious calendars which begin on happy notes.
There is a practice to take out a huge procession of devouts who demonstrate their deep sense of sorrow and atonement. Tazias are carried over the shoulders to symbolise the burial of all that was unbecoming and derogatory of what Islam indeed stood for.
Moharram implies sadness and sorrow and no social functions are held on that day. Only prayers can be offered in mosques in order to signify the much-needed atonement for the act of violence.
It is an occasion when one can purify one’s heart and mind. It is a day when we vow to refrain not only ourselves but others too from being unjust and exploitative of other people’s weaknesses and shortcomings.
It is a day when we should extend our hand of friendship and cooperation.