Show some respect – Muharram ‘holidays’ are not an opportunity to have fun
It was yet another mid-term exam for the management course and I was filling in my answer sheet at a rapid speed while trying to put forward my best handwriting. Although I was still tired from my hectic schedule in the last couple of days and was feeling a bit tired and drowsy. However, due to the fact that I have been good at rote learning due to my medical school days, the exam proved to be a piece of cake. Frankly, I had it all covered well before the schedule for the exams was announced.
As I was handing over the exam, I heard a couple of finance students whispering and complaining to the teacher that the exam was not scheduled on the right day and that they were not prepared. The paper was on Muharram 11th and both the students belonged to the Shia community.
I expected that the teacher would empathise or scold them for procrastinating for the first six weeks of the semester, but to my utter disappointment and disbelief, the teacher told them that the last couple of days were more than enough for them to prepare, and it was critical for them to prioritise what is important to them and align their goals accordingly.
Being part of the same community, I knew how difficult it is for any Shia to bounce back the very next day after the Muharram ‘holidays’ (9th and 10th). During these two days, the entire Shia community is mourning and it’s not a regular day for them. There is no cooking and some don’t even switch on the lights in their homes till some of the most tragic days in history come to an end. How in the world is one supposed to revise for an examination, prepare a presentation or churn up some creative work when they are not, and cannot be, in that state of mind?
We encounter all mind-sets and responses during our mourning days especially on the day of Ashura. While there are universities conducting important examinations on Muharram 11th, there may be people even in your very close circles who would come up with unexpected proposals.
In the last few years, there has been a growing trend of social activity during Ashura.
From get-togethers, one-dish parties and movie plans to overnight stays at an island or a beach, the two-day holiday can bring a lot of opportunities for some adventure and fun. I even came across a few Facebook posts from a famous Lahore-based company that proposed an adventurous tourism program from October 23rd to 25th (days given off in observance of Ashura) to visit some beautiful hill stations of Pakistan. Regardless of all this, the most painful moment is when people ignore your religious requisitions and forward their invitations for you to join them. Incidentally, farm houses are overbooked and some folks even organise haleem parties while propagating and emulating the concept of sabeel that are generously being set up for generations by people from all sects, as a gesture of their respect and token of their love to the Ahlulbayt and their lovers.
There are, however, many more that empathise and show respect. Empathising bosses tend to decrease the workload during the Ashura (first 10 days of Muharram), occasionally allow leaving early from the office and even allow the 10-day annual leaves, without questions, to their Shia employees.
Throughout the year, people, especially doctors in the Shia community, are advised by friends, colleagues and acquaintances from the other sects, to not wear the colour black during Muharram as it is likely to attract mischief and unwanted consequences from the extremist Muslim miscreant or even sectarian terrorists.
However, you will find that along with the Shia community, people from the Sunni sect and even other religions wear black, especially from Muharram 7th to 12th, as a gesture of solidarity and to recognise and appreciate the unprecedented sacrifice of the grandson of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), Imam Hussain (RA). It becomes a source of motivation and one feels grateful while witnessing a campus with students from diverse religious background all in black. These small gestures go a long way and help you ignore the indifferent attitude thrown to you from others who might invite you to a party, sheesha hangout or a film.
Thus, it is imperative to realise that these two days are not considered as ‘holidays’ for the Shia community to enjoy or undertake any pending work or start a new project. What we need to understand is that for the Shia community these days are emotionally, physically and spiritually the most exhaustive days of the Islamic calendar. The grief, sadness and mourning, which tends to continue for the next two months, till the Rabiul Awwal 8th, when the tragedy of Karbala finally ceased, is immortalised in the Shia community forever.
Someone rightly said,
“Qatl-e-Hussain asal mei marg-e-Yazid hai.
Islam zinda hota hai, har Karbala ke baad!
(Assassination of Hussain is in fact death of Yazid and his philosophy.
Islam will get life every time when a tragedy and sacrifice like Karbala occurs.)
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.