Stories about Ashura

Ashura’s message: Looking away, being indifferent is not an option

There are days when one just wants to give up and look the other way. Become indifferent. The inner argument is, “What difference can I make, realistically?” I recall feeling that way so many times. Like when I see “small” things like bribes being taken and given in front of me. That gnawing feeling, when people in your area steal water through suction pumps and you are the idiot who doesn’t do it because you think it’s wrong. Worse still, is the feeling you get if you stay quiet when you see a close relative scolding a small child, working ...

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This Ashura, I have a confession

My beloved Hussain, I write to you today on the anniversary of the day you died. Take it as what you will, I think of it more as a confession. Ever since I was very little, they told me to love you. To know you and understand you. To be like you. Probably one of the first things anyone ever told me was that your death on the 10th day of Muharram – Ashura as they said – was a tragedy that should only elicit heartache and sympathy. But before that, I knew nothing. As I child, I didn’t know who I ...

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I remember a Muharram in Quetta when we lived peacefully…

Gone are the days when Muharram was observed by nearly all Muslims belonging to different sects of Islam. Now it is observed strictly under security from law enforcement agencies. In Quetta, my neighbourhood used to be an example of religious harmony; non-Shiite Baloch, Brahvi and Pashtoon, all honoured the religious sentiments attached to the month of Muharram. Playing football, flying kites and sharing our lunches with our friends, regardless of what sect they came from, was a part of my everyday life as a child. There was no objection from my elders regarding my routine as they used to socialise with our ...

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The bomb blast that shattered my life

“Bhai jaan, there’s been a blast here!” These were the words uttered by my injured little brother as he managed to call me for a brief moment, before the line dropped. What followed were perhaps some of the darkest moments in my life, characterised by feelings of intense hurt, hatred, helplessness and a river of tears, so overwhelming that it took me more than three years to muster the strength and courage to put those memories down on paper. For the past 40 years my family (a mixture of Shias and Sunnis – if you must use those titles) has been gathering on the ...

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Can’t Shias and Sunnis co-exist?

An eerie feeling of terror began to linger as we observed the changes all around. Containers placed as road blocks, more black and brown uniforms visible and sudden emergence of hatred filled graffiti by banned militant outfits. All of this heralded that the month of Muharram was here. The moon was sighted, and the congregations began. Check-posts, metal detectors and guns filled the city. An explosion occurred in one of the congregations, and things became even darker. There is fear and anxiety; someone is out there to get us, someone from the ‘others’. The news coverage talks about more ammunition and suicide attackers being caught ...

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Why thank the Taliban, minister?

Every Pakistani was thankful that Ashura passed off without incident and gave full credit to security agencies for employing stringent measures on the solemn occasion. Contrary to this, talking to journalists later, Interior Minister Rehman Malik thanked the Taliban for the merciful act of not carrying out any terror acts during Muharram. The statement not only stunned his compatriots, it also exposed the real reason behind the peace in Muharram — it was not actually because of heightened security, but because of an ‘understanding’ between the government and the Taliban. It was also clear from the statement that the terrorists ...

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Why Ashura is a ‘Holy-Day’ for all of us and not just you

I was tempted to write this article when I read another one on The Express Tribune titled ‘Muharram is your holiday, not mine’. In this blog, the writer complains about how she feels discriminated against and threatened by the Sunni sect, especially during Muharram and the day of Ashura. While my intention is not to preach my version of Islam or contradict any sect’s belief, I feel that both Shias and Sunnis fight over the wrong reasons, with each sect going to the extremes to defend its own beliefs and judge the others’ doings. For me, following the Quran and Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) ...

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Muharram is your holiday, not mine

I am a Shia Muslim living in a country that offers me no security. While I agree that no one in Pakistan is really safe from the constant terror attacks, the recent acts of sectarian violence with absolutely no accountability paints a very bleak picture for me.  People, in general, tend to target people who are a little different from them, and this is the sad reality of life. In Pakistan, Shias are no exception. Aside from the obvious threat to their security, there are other things that worry us Shias, and make us contemplate about how open-minded our society ...

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