Muslims observe Ashura Day in Sierra LeoneNovember 5, 2014
By Mustapha Sesay
Muslims in various parts of the country on 3rd November, 2014 observed Ashura Day with fasting and prayers in various mosques.
Ashura which is the tenth day of the month of Muharram, the first month on the Islamic calendar, reflects the period in which Imam Hussein (AS) the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (S) and the son of Imam Ali (AS) and his 72 companions were martyred in a heroic confrontation that not only became the defining moment for Islam, but also the exemplar of valiant struggles against overwhelming forces of oppression and injustice for all time.
According to Imam Lansana of Taiama Up Junction Community Mosque, after the death of Imam Hasan’s by poisoning at the hands of Muawiyah in 671, Imam Hussein (AS) assumed the leadership role. Before the death of Muawiyah, he chose his son Yazid as khalifah instead of returning the leadership to Imam Hussein (AS) as per the terms of the treaty made with his older brother. The people of al-Kufah had written numerous letters to Imam Hussein (AS), who had already left Medina for Mecca to avoid swearing loyalty to Yazid, inviting him to come there to be their spiritual leader, so he left Mecca on September 8, 680 (8th Dul Hijjah) for Iraq, pursued by Yazid’s forces which blocked any chance of his return.
The Imam had sent a letter with Qays bin Mashar Saidawi to notify the people of his impending arrival, but Ibn Ziyad, Yazid’s appointed governor in al-Kufah, had Qays arrested, and when he lauded Imam Hussein (AS) and refused to curse Imam Ali (AS), Ibn Ziyad had him thrown off a roof, breaking all of his bones, in a deliberate attempt to terrorize the citizens of al-Kufah. The terror tactic worked, and when the news of Qays’ death and the people’s reaction reached Imam Hussein, he lamented, “Our supporters have withdrawn their support from us. Whoever wishes to leave us and go his way should do so.”
When Imam Hussein (AS) arrived with his band of 72 companions on the plains of Karbala, Iraq on October 2, 680 (2nd of Muharram 61 AH), Yazid had already amassed a huge army of troops at al-Kufah, with 4,000 under the command of Amr ibn Hajjaj blocking access to the water of the Euphrates. By the 9th of Muharram, the day before Ashura, the Imam’s camp was encircled by over 20,000 of Yazid’s troops who had been ordered by Ibn Ziyad to either obtain the oath of loyalty from Hussein (AS) or kill him, and in spite of these terrifying circumstances, the Imam continued to speak to his companions with composure and confidence. Throughout the evening and night of the 10th of Muharram (October 9, 680), Imam Hussein and his followers prayed to Allah, sought forgiveness and prepared themselves for the battle the next day, Ashura, with Yazid’s army, which by then numbered over 30,000.
On the morning of the 10th, Imam Hussein (AS) addressed Yazid’s army at length, pointing out that he was the grandson of the Prophet; that he had neither killed anyone from among them giving cause for revenge, nor had he usurped anyone’s wealth. Concluding the Imam declared, “I will not swear allegiance to these people … I seek refuge in Allah from the mischief of you people and of every arrogant person who does not believe in the Day of Judgment.” When the Imam had finished speaking, Umar ibn Sad shot an arrow towards the Imam’s followers and arrogantly announced, “I have started the battle before anyone else.”
Lady Zaynab, daughter of Imam Ali (AS), was especially eloquent. Condemning Yazid in his own court in Damascus, she asked him, “Do you think that by killing the godly persons you have become great and respectable and the Almighty looks at you with special grace and kindness?” Near the end of her brilliant oratory she swore to Yazid, “I swear by Allah that the shame and disgrace which you have earned by the treatment you meted out to us cannot be eradicated.”
In short, the members of Ahlul Bayt and their loyal followers transformed the narrative of Imam Hussein’s martyrdom at Karbala into a timeless message that has inspired oppressed people to revolt against tyranny and oppression over the course of history.