God’s wisdom is so amazing, that one of the most sacred and celebrated days of the Islamic Calendar is also one of the saddest.
On the one hand, Muslims fast for two days in commemoration of that famous event in the Prophet Moses’-p- life: the day He saved Moses-p- and his followers from the Pharaoh. This is the day that the sea was split into two mountains of water, and Moses -p- led his people to the other side, just before the sea came crashing down on the Pharaoh and his forces. In observance of that event and our strongest connection to the Prophet Moses -p, our Prophet Muhammad -p- advised us to fast for two days (in a voluntary fast).
On the other hand, Muslims mourn that famous event in Imam Husayn’s life, when he was abandoned and murdered. Some Muslims called upon him to lead an uprising against tyranny, and Imam Husayn, may God be pleased with him, finally agreed. But, when the leader’s forces came, those Muslims abandoned Imam Husayn. The forces subsequently slaughtered almost everyone at the camp. What makes the event even more shocking is that Imam Husayn is the beloved grandson of the Prophet Muhammad -p. Husayn’s sister – Zaynab – was somewhat spared, and soon faced the leader.
Now, anyone who has strong feelings about either of the above will feel that I am not properly addressing the issue at hand. The feelings about this day are so passionate, that I decided to wait until the 11th of Muharram to post this note.
But, the issue at hand that I am addressing is neither the proper history, nor commemoration nor sectarian issues involving the 10th of Muharram. Indeed, on that day, generally it is Sunnis that fast and Shias that mourn, generally. And, for purposes of fair disclosure, I have to mention (if it is not obvious) that I am a Sunni.
Rather, I am speaking about God’s marvelous wisdom. Somehow, a day can take on symbolic meaning, so that it is both celebrated and mourned. More than that, many of those who celebrate this day also choose to criticize those who mourn it, while many of those who mourn this day also choose to criticize those who celebrate it. The point here is that if I celebrate this day yet I also use it to attack Shias, then my loyalty is not to the Prophet Muhammad’s recommendations for us, peace be upon him, but to my team. And, the point here is that if I mourn this day yet I also use it to attack Sunnis, then my loyalty is not to Imam Husayn, may God be pleased with him, but (again) to my team. We all know that we should indeed love the Prophet Muhammad -p- and his family.
So, what is one of God’s wisdoms here, on the 10th of Muharram? It is that when we are trying to fulfill religious behavior, it is so easy to fall into irreligious behavior. And, it is so easy for God to use one simple day in the calendar to expose that contradiction in us.
We should celebrate that God created a bridge for us to connect to the Prophet Moses -p. The Hajj connects us with the Prophet Abraham -p, and the 10th of Muharram connects us with the Prophet Moses -p. We should be sad that even when God gives us a bridge, whether it is through a sea or over a sea, we often instead choose to drown. But, the doorway to turn back to God, via “tawba” is constantly open.
Then, perhaps, in this life, as we work to improve ourselves and society, we can fulfill the dignified models of the Prophets -p- in this life, and hopefully meet them in the next life, along with their grandchildren.
And, God knows best.