[Friday sermon] The Hijrah And The Lessons Of The Month Of Muharram

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By Imam Murtadha Gusau

I Begin With The Name Of Allah, The Most Merciful, The One Who Bestows Mercy

Alhamdulillah! Indeed, all praise is due to Allah. We praise Him and seek His Help and forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah from our soul’s evils and our wrong doings. He whom Allah guides, no one can misguide; and he whom He misguides, no one can guide.

I bear witness that there is no god except Allah – alone without any partners. And I bear witness that Prophet Muhammad is His servant and Messenger.

O Allah, send prayers upon Muhammad and the followers of Muhammad, just as You sent prayers upon Ibrahim and upon the followers of Ibrahim. Verily you are full of praise and majesty. O Allah, send blessings upon Muhammad and upon the family of Muhammad, just as You sent blessings upon Ibrahim and upon the family of Ibrahim. Verily, You are full of praise and majesty.

Dear Brothers and Sisters! After our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) had preached publicly for more than a decade, the opposition to him reached such a high pitch that, fearful for their safety, he sent some of his adherents to Habasha/Abyssinia (Ethiopia), where the Christian ruler extended protection to them, the memory of which has been cherished by Muslims ever since. But in Makkah the persecution worsened. Prophet Muhammad’s followers were harassed, abused, and even tortured. At last, therefore, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) sent seventy of his followers off to the northern town of Yathrib, which was later to be renamed Madinah (The City). Later, in the early fall of 622, he learned of a plot to murder him and, with his closest friend, Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, set off to join the emigrants.

In Makkah, the plotters arrived at Prophet Muhammad’s home to find that his cousin, Ali, had taken his place in bed. Enraged, the Makkans set a price on Prophet Muhammad’s head and set off in pursuit. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and Abu Bakr, however, had taken refuge in a cave where, as they hid from their pursuers, a spider spun its web across the cave’s mouth. When they saw that the web was unbroken, the Makkans passed by and Prophet Muhammad and Abu Bakr went on to Madinah, where they were joyously welcomed by a throng of Madinans as well as the Makkans who had gone ahead to prepare the way.

Respected believers! This was the Hijrah – anglicised as Hegira – usually, but inaccurately, translated as “Flight” – from which the Muslim era is dated. In fact, the Hijrah was not a flight but a carefully planned migration which marks not only a break in history – the beginning of the Islamic era – but also, for Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and the Muslims, a new way of life. Henceforth, the organisational principle of the community was not to be mere blood kinship, but the greater brotherhood of all Muslims. The men who accompanied Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) on the Hijrah were called the Muhajirun – “those that made the Hijrah” or the “Emigrants” – while those in Madinah who became Muslims were called the Ansar or “Helpers.”

Prophet Muhammad was well acquainted with the situation in Madinah. Earlier, before the Hijrah, the city had sent envoys to Makkah asking Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) to mediate a dispute between two powerful tribes. What the envoys saw and heard had impressed them and they had invited Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) to settle in Madinah. After the Hijrah, Prophet Muhammad’s exceptional qualities so impressed the Madinans that the rival tribes and their allies temporarily closed ranks as, on March 15, 624, Prophet Muhammad and his supporters moved against the pagans of Makkah.

The first battle, which took place near Badr, now a small town southwest of Madinah, had several important effects. In the first place, the Muslim forces, outnumbered three to one, routed the Makkans. Secondly, the discipline displayed by the Muslims brought home to the Makkans, perhaps for the first time, the abilities of the man they had driven from their city. Thirdly, one of the allied tribes which had pledged support to the Muslims in the Battle of Badr, but had then proved lukewarm when the fighting started, was expelled from Madinah one month after the battle. Those who claimed to be allies of the Muslims, but tacitly opposed them, were thus served warning: membership in the community imposed the obligation of total support.

A year later the Makkans struck back. Assembling an army of three thousand men, they met the Muslims at Uhud, a ridge outside Madinah. After an initial success the Muslims were driven back and the Prophet himself was wounded. As the Muslims were not completely defeated, the Makkans, with an army of ten thousand, attacked Madinah again two years later but with quite different results. At the Battle of the Trench (Khandaq), also known as the Battle of the Confederates (Ahzab), the Muslims scored a signal victory by introducing a new defence. On the side of Madinah from which attack was expected they dug a trench too deep for the Makkan cavalry to clear without exposing itself to the archers posted behind earthworks on the Madinah side. After an inconclusive siege, the Makkans were forced to retire. Thereafter Madinah was entirely in the hands of the Muslims.

The Constitution of Madinah – under which the clans accepting Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) as the Prophet of Allah formed an alliance, or federation – dates from this period. It showed that the political consciousness of the Muslim community had reached an important point; its members defined themselves as a community separate from all others. The Constitution also defined the role of non-Muslims in the community. Jews, for example, were part of the community; they were Dhimmis, that is, protected people, as long as they conformed to its laws. This established a precedent for the treatment of subject peoples during the later conquests. Christians and Jews, upon payment of a yearly tax, were allowed religious freedom and, while maintaining their status as non-Muslims, were associate members of the Muslim state. This status did not apply to polytheists (Mushrikun), who could not be tolerated within a community that worshipped the One Allah.

Ibn Ishaq, one of the earliest biographers of the Prophet, says it was at about this time that Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) sent letters to the rulers of the earth – the King of Persia, the Emperor of Byzantium, the Negus of Abyssinia, and the Governor of Egypt among others – inviting them to submit to Islam. Nothing more fully illustrates the confidence of the small community, as its military power, despite the battle of the Trench, was still negligible. But its confidence was not misplaced. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) so effectively built up a series of alliances among the tribes his early years with the Bedouins must have stood him in good stead – that by 628 he and fifteen hundred followers were able to demand access to the Ka’abah during negotiations with the Makkans. This was a milestone in the history of the Muslims. Just a short time before, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) had to leave the city of his birth in fear of his life. Now he was being treated by his former enemies as a leader in his own right. A year later, in 629, he reentered and, in effect, conquered Makkah without bloodshed and in a spirit of tolerance which established an ideal for future conquests. He also destroyed the idols in the Ka’abah, to put an end forever to pagan practices there. At the same time Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) won the allegiance of Amr Ibn al-As, the future conqueror of Egypt, and Khalid Ibn al-Walid, the future Sword of Allah, both of whom embraced Islam and joined Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Their conversion was especially noteworthy because these men had been among the Prophet Muhammad’s bitterest opponents only a short time before.

In one sense Prophet Muhammad’s return to Makkah was the climax of his mission. In 632, just three years later, he was suddenly taken ill and on June 8 of that year, with his third beloved wife Aishah in attendance, the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) died with the heat of noon.

The death of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was a profound loss. To his followers this simple man from Makkah was far more than a beloved friend, far more than a gifted administrator, far more than the revered leader who had forged a new state from clusters of warring tribes. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was also the exemplar of the teachings he had brought them from Allah the Almighty: the teachings of the Qur’an, which, for centuries, have guided the thought and action, the faith and conduct, of innumerable respected men and women, and which ushered in a distinctive era in the history of mankind. His death, nevertheless, had little effect on the dynamic society he had created in Arabia and the world, and no effect at all on his central mission: to transmit the Qur’an and Sunnah to the world. As Abu Bakr put it:

“Whoever worshipped Muhammad (Peace be upon him), let him know that Muhammad is dead, but whoever worshipped Allah, let him know that Allah lives and dies not.”

Beloved servants of Allah! Muharram is the month with which the Muslims begin their lunar Hijrah Calendar. It is one of the four sanctified months about which the Noble Qur’an says:

“The number of the months according to Allah is twelve months (mentioned) in the Book of Allah on the day in which He created heavens and the earth. Among these (twelve months) there are four sanctified.”

These four months, according to the authentic Hadiths are the months of Dhul-Qa’adah, Dhul-Hijjah, Muharram and Rajab. All the commentators of the Noble Qur’an are unanimous on this point, because the Noble Prophet in his sermon on the occasion of his last Hajj, has declared:

“One year consists of twelve months, of which four are sanctified months, three of them are in sequence; Dhul-Qa’adah, Dhul-Hijjah, Muharram, and the fourth is Rajab.”

The specific mention of these four months does not mean that any other month has no sanctity, because the month of Ramadan is admittedly the most sanctified month in the year. But these four months were specifically termed as sanctified months for the simple reason that their sanctity was accepted even by the pagans of Makkah.

In fact, every month, out of the twelve, is originally equal to the other, and there is no inherent sanctity, which may be attributed to one of them in comparison to other months. When Allah Almighty chooses a particular time for His special blessings, then it acquires sanctity out of His grace.

Thus, the sanctity of these four months was recognised right from the days of Prophet Ibrahim. Since the Pagans of Makkah attributed themselves to Prophet Ibrahim they observed the sanctity of these four months and despite their frequent tribal and clannish battles, they held it unlawful to fight in these months.

In the Shari’ah of our Noble Prophet the sanctity of these months was upheld and the Noble Qur’an referred to them as the “sanctified months (Ash-hurul Hurum).”

The month of Muharram has certain other characteristics peculiar to it, which are specified below:

1. Fasting During The Month

The Noble Prophet (Peace be upon him) has said:

“The best fasts after the fasts of Ramadan are those of the month of Muharram.”

Although the fasts of the month of Muharram are not obligatory, yet, the one who fasts in these days out of his own will and choice is entitled to a great reward by Allah the Almighty. The Hadith cited above signifies that the fasts of the month of Muharram are most rewardable ones among the Nafilah fasts i.e. the fasts one observes out of his own choice without being obligatory on him.

The Hadith does not mean that the award promised for fasts of Muharram can be achieved only by fasting for the whole month. On the contrary, each fast during this month has merit. Therefore, one should avail of this opportunity as much as he can.

2. The Day Of Ashurah

Although the month of Muharram is a sanctified month as a whole, yet, the 10th day of Muharram is the most sacred among all its days. The day is named Ashurah.

According to the respected Companion Ibn Abbas that:

“The Noble Prophet, when migrated to Madinah, found that the Jews of Madinah used to fast on the 10th day of Muharram. They said that it was the day on which the Prophet Musa (Moses) and his followers crossed the Red Sea miraculously and the Pharaoh (Fir’awn) was drowned in its water. On hearing this from the Jews, the Noble Prophet said, “We are more closely related to Musa than you” and directed the Muslims to fast on the day of Ashurah.” [Abu Dawud]

It is also reported in a number of authentic Hadiths that in the beginning, fasting on the day of Ashurah was obligatory for the Muslims. It was later that the fasts of Ramadan were made obligatory and the fast on the day of Ashurah was made optional. Aishah (RA) has said:

“When the Noble Prophet came to Madinah, he fasted on the day of Ashurah and directed the people to fast it. But when the fasts of Ramadan were made obligatory, the obligation of fasting was confined to Ramadan and the obligatory nature of the fast of Ashurah was abandoned. One can fast on this day, if he so wills, or can avoid fasting, if he so wills.”

However, the Noble Prophet used to fast on the day of Ashurah even after the fasting in Ramadan was made obligatory.

Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud reports that:

“The Noble Prophet preferred the fast of Ashurah to the fast of other days and preferred the fast of Ramadan to the fast of Ashurah.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

In short, it is established through a number of authentic Hadiths that fasting on the day of Ashurah is Sunnah of the Noble Prophet and makes one entitled to a great reward.

According to another Hadith, it is more advisable that the fast of Ashurah should either be prefixed or suffixed by another fast. It means that one should fast two days: the 9th and 10th of Muharram or the 10th and 11 of it. The reason of this additional fast as mentioned by the Noble Prophet is that the Jews used to fast on the day of Ashurah alone, and the Noble Prophet wanted to distinguish the Islamic-way of fasting from that of Jews. Therefore, he advised the Muslims to add another fast to that of Ashurah.

Some Hadiths signify another feature of the day of Ashurah. According to these Hadiths one should be more generous to his family by providing more food to them on this day as compared to other days. But these Hadiths are not authentic according to the scholars of the science of Hadith. Yet, some Scholars like Imam Baihaqi and Imam Ibn Hibban have accepted them as reliable.

What is mentioned above is all that is supported through authentic sources about Ashurah.

However, there are also some legends, lies and misconceptions with regard to Ashurah that have managed to find their way into the minds of the ignorant people, but have no support of authentic Islamic sources, some very common of them are these:

1. This is the day in which Prophet Adam was created.

2. This is the day in which Prophet Ibrahim was born.

3. This is the day in which Allah accepted the repentance of Prophet Ibrahim.

4. This is the day on which the al-Qiyamah (Dooms-day) will take place.

5. Whoever takes bath in the day of Ashurah will never get ill.

All these and other similar whims and fancies are totally baseless and the Hadiths referred to in this respect are not worthy of any credit.

Some people even take it as Sunnah to prepare a particular type of meal in the day of Ashurah. This practice, too, has no basis in the authentic Islamic sources.

Some other people attribute the sanctity of Ashurah to the martyrdom of Sayyidinah Husain (AS) during his battle with the Syrian army. No doubt, the martyrdom of Sayyidinah Husain is one of the most tragic episodes of our history. Yet, the sanctity of Ashurah cannot be ascribed to this event for the simple reason that the sanctity of Ashurah was established during the days of the Noble Prophet (Peace be upon him) much earlier than the birth of Sayyidnah Husain (AS).

On the contrary, it is one of the merits of Sayyidnah Husain that his martyrdom took place on the day of Ashurah.

Another misconception about the month of Muharram is that it is an evil or unlucky month, for Sayyidnah Husain was killed in it. It is for this misconception that people avoid holding marriage ceremonies in the month of Muharram. This is again a baseless concept which is contrary to the express teachings of the authentic Qur’an and the Sunnah. Such superstitions have been totally negated by the Noble Prophet (Peace be upon him). If the death of an eminent person in a particular day renders that day unlucky for all times to come, one can hardly find a day, free from this bad luck, out of 365 days of the whole year, because each and every day has a history of the demise of some eminent person. The Noble Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Noble Prophet have made us free from such superstitious beliefs, and they should deserve no attention.

Another wrong practice related to this month is to hold the lamentation and mourning ceremonies in the memory of martyrdom of Sayyidnah Husain (AS).

As mentioned earlier, the event of Karbala is one of the most tragic events of our history, but the Noble Prophet has forbidden us from holding the mourning ceremonies on the death of any person. The people of Jahiliyyah (Ignorance) used to mourn over their deceased relatives or friends through loud lamentations, by wearing black clothes and tearing their clothes and by beating their cheeks and chests. The Noble Prophet (Peace be upon him) stopped the Muslims from doing all this and directed them to observe patience by saying:

“Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un!”

A number of authentic Hadiths are available on the subject. To quote only one of them, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:

“He is not one of us who slaps his cheeks, tears his clothes and cries in the manner of the people of jahiliyyah.”

All the jurists and fuqaha are unanimous on the point that the mourning of this type is absolutely impermissible. Even Sayyidnah Husain (AS) shortly before his demise, had advised his beloved sister Sayyidah Zainab (AS) not to mourn over his death in this manner. He said:

“My dear sister, I swear upon you that you, in case I die, shall not tear your clothes, nor scratch your face, nor curse anyone for me or pray for your death.”

It is evident from this advice of Sayyidina Husain that this type of mourning is condemned even by the blessed person for the memory of whom these mourning ceremonies are held. Every sincere Muslim should avoid this practice and abide by the teachings of the Noble Prophet and his beloved grand child Sayyidina Husain (AS).

The Month Of Muharram is the first month of the Islamic Calendar.

The meaning of the word: The word “Muharram” means “Forbidden.” Even before Islam, this month was always known as a scared month in which all unlawful acts were forbidden, prominently the shedding of blood.

A blessing of Muharram: There are many bounties of this month, especially the tenth of Muharram.

Two of the many virtues of the 10th of Muharram:

On this day he who spends more lavishly for the sake of his family members, Allah Ta’ala will bestow blessing upon the sustenance of the following year (weak not authentic).

Abu Qatadah related that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) has reported to have said:

“It is my thought that by fasting on the 10th of Muharram Allah Ta’ala will pardon the sins of the past year.” [At-Tirmidhi]

The Events Of Muharram

1. Hussain was martyred in this month.

2. Imams At-Tirmidhi and Hakim has narrated from Anas that the following verse:

“Allah may forgive you of your sins that which is past and that which is to come.” [Surah Al-Fath] was revealed on the 10th of Muharram.

3. The Prophet Muhammad went to defeat Bani Muharin and Bani Tha’alabah (Tribes of Bani Gatfan) in the year 4 A.H.

Lastly, I’m wishing the Muslim Ummah a blessed, peaceful and prosperous 1441 A.H.

Glory be to Lord, the Lord of Might above what they describe. And peace be upon those sent. And praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.

How perfect You are O Allah, and I praise You. I bear witness that none has the right to be worshipped except You. I seek Your forgiveness and turn to You in repentance.

May Allah accept our Ibadah (worship) and supplications, guide our leaders and provide us with a lasting peace in our beloved country Nigeria, ameen Ya Mujeeb!

May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon our beloved Prophet and Master, Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, his family and all his Companions.

This Khutbah (Friday Sermon) was prepared for delivery today Friday, Dhul-Hijjah 29, 1440 A. H. (August 30, 2019), by Imam Murtadha Muhammad Gusau, the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: [email protected] or +2348038289761.

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