REPORTS on Wednesday showed how devout Shia Muslims, including children, were left covered in blood on Tuesday as part of Ashura commemorations (which come up yearly on the 10th of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar) in some parts of the world. Members of the government-proscribed Shia movement in Nigeria were not left out as they staged processions in some states, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
But Sunni Muslims celebrate Ashura for a different reason and in a totally different way.
In this piece, a professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies, Afis Oladosu, juxtaposes the Ashura celebrations between the Sunni and Shia Muslim sects against the ideals of Islam and the tradition of Prophet Muhammad.
The following is the view of Oladosu, who is the Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan:
“It is settled in orthodox Islam that the day of Ashura, which is derived from the Arabic word ‘Ashr’, meaning ‘ten’, is the 10th day of the first month (Muharram) of the Islamic lunar year. The counting of this calendar began in Islamic history with the migration of the Prophet of Islam from Makkah to Madinah in 622 CE.
“It is related in Islamic tradition that consequent upon his arrival to Madinah, Prophet Muhammad discovered that the Jews were in the habit of observing the 10th and 11th days of Muharram as fasting in commemoration of the many wondrous blessings they received from the Almighty in history, including the favour He granted to them when He delivered them from the captivity of Pharaoh in Egypt. The Prophet, therefore, recommended fasting on this day, the 10th and the day before, ninth, based on the argument that Muslims were equally worthy heirs and partakers of the eternal blessings of the Almighty to Prophet Musa and the Jews. Fasting these two days is, however, not obligatory (fard).
“However, the Shia have since 680 CE upped the scale and invested the event with more significance beyond the tradition bequeathed to Muslims by the Prophet of Islam. They have seized upon the killing of Hussayn bn Ali by the army of the Ummayad ruler in Islamic history, Yazid, during a battle over political power and supremacy. Coincidentally, the event of the killing of Hussayn happened in the month of Muharram of the year.
“Thus, as far as orthodox Muslims are concerned, the Shia rituals during these days, the acts of mourning, of self-flagellation with chains and blades and of walking over burning charcoals to remember the sufferings of Hussayn supposedly went through, are all null and void. Any ritual that has no referential framework from the Qur’an and the tradition of the Prophet are nugatory and are indulgence in sophistry and delusion.”
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