The first month of the Islamic calendar, Moharram al-Haraam, is now upon us – due to begin on 2nd October. Since the Islamic calendar is a lunar one it is generally 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar which in turn leads to the start of the Islamic year varying by that many days each year. The Dawoodi Bohras follow the Misri calendar, which is tabular and therefore does not depend on visual moon sightings allowing dates to be set in advance.
For many in the Islamic world Moharram is a pre-eminent month due to the commemoration of the martyrdom of Imam Husain AS and his followers in Karbala, Iraq. Imam Husain attained martyrdom on the 10th of Moharram in the year 61 AH (October 680 CE) after a 9-day ordeal that began with him reaching Karbala from Medina on 2nd Moharram. On 7th Moharram, the armies of the incumbent caliph Yazid – who was in Damascus – cut off access to the river leaving Imam Husain AS and the men, women and children with him without food or water for the next 3 days.
On the 10th of Moharram, known as 'Ashuraa', the opposing army commenced battle slaying 72 of Imam Husain's AS followers before finally slaying Imam Husain AS at the time of Asr: late afternoon. The tragic events that unfolded that day have defined Islam and its history ever since. Imam Husain's martyrdom was a singularly unifying event in the nascent history of Islam and by and large the survival of Islam as a religion was a result of the sacrifice that Imam Husain and his followers made.
The brutality that was inflicted upon the Prophet Mohammed's SA family (Imam Husain was Prophet Mohammed's SA grandson by his daughter Maulatona Fatema AS) made evident the stark depravity of Yazid and the Ummayyads, shook the Muslim world out of the apathy that had engulfed it following the Prophet's SA passing and rekindled in them the dormant nobility of Islam. It was then and still remains a unifying event for the Muslim populace and all manner of people are inexorably drawn to the humanity, humility and courage shown by Imam Husain AS and all those who were with him on the day of Aashuraa' in Karbala. Indeed, the Prophet Mohammed SA had foreseen that all people; both the good and the degenerate would be one in their love and reverence for Imam Husain AS.
Asharah Mubarakah (lit. the ten blessed) marks the first ten days of Moharram. During these days, like many of their fellow Muslim brethren, the Dawoodi Bohra community gathers to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Husain AS, holding this remembrance to be the essence of all their temporal and spiritual endeavours.
The Du`aat Mutlaqeen have made Asharah Mubarakah the focal event of the year and especially in the last century the da`i has gathered many thousands of his followers to a chosen city for the sermons he delivers. Events in India, where the majority of the community resides, are usually attended by over a hundred thousand followers whilst those that have taken place in other countries have attendances of between ten and 30,000 thousand. For many member of the Dawoodi Bohra community Ashara is a must attend event for which they will prepare for throughout the year to ensure that they can attend regardless of the venue. There are significant number of community members who have been continuously attending Asharah Mubarakah with the da`I mutlaq for over 40 years.
Last year Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS commemorated Asharah Mubarakah in Houston, USA with an attendance of well over 25,000. This year Syedna Saifuddin TUS will conduct his sermons in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania where a similar number are expected.
Asharah Mubarakah sermons and gatherings are also conducted in all the towns and cities in which members of the community reside. Successive du`aat have commended their followers to ensure full attendance not only in the sermons but also the evening gatherings (majaalis). It is an event of such significance that Syedna Saifuddin's TUS expressed his instructions for community members to prepare for this year's Asharah Mubrakah more than six months prior to its date. He urged them to secure leave from work and school well in advance so that not a single community member fails to attend congregations, from start to finish, over the course of these ten days and nights.