To lay down one’s life for the cause of deen is the ultimate sacrifice. Hence being the ultimate sacrifice, martyrdom naturally has the highest honour as well. Allah Ta‘ala describes the martyrs as “living” in the verse: “And say not to those who have been slain in the Path of Allah that they are dead. Nay, they are alive and receive sustenance by their Master.” (Aal ‘Imraan v169)

Martyrdom is nothing strange or uncommon to Muslims. The flourishing garden of Islam has been watered by the blood of the martyrs from the very early days of Islam. Among those great sons of Islam, who crowned their life-long efforts for the sake of deen by finally laying down their lives, was Sayyiduna Husain (radhiyallahu ‘anhu), the noble grandson of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam). His martyrdom was indeed heart-rending in the extreme.

Sayyiduna Husain (radhiyallahu ‘anhu)

It was on the tenth of Muharram that Sayyiduna Husain (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) was mercilessly martyred. Before his very eyes, scores of his immediate family also tasted from the cup of martyrdom. Finally he joined them. His noble head was then severed from his body. The various details of this tragic incident are too gruesome to comprehend. One could cry tears of blood.

However, the pages of our history are filled with the blood of the martyrs. How is it that we have remembered the tenth of Muharram but are totally unaware of the heart-rending martyrdom of many other great personalities of Islam. Did we know that on the first of Muharram the second Caliph of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) was also mercilessly martyred?

Sayyiduna ‘Umar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu)

While leading the Fajr salaah, Sayyiduna ‘Umar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) was stabbed six times by a fire-worshipper. He fell to the ground unable to continue with the salaah. Sayyiduna ‘Abdur Rahman bin ‘Auf (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) then lead the salaah and completed it. Sayyiduna ‘Umar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) was then carried to his house. The wounds however proved fatal and on the first of Muharram he bade farewell to this temporary world. The Muslims were shattered upon the martyrdom of Sayyiduna ‘Umar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu). We also feel the grief of that fateful day. However we have never heard of anybody observing the day of Shahaadat-e-‘Umar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu).

Sayyiduna Uthmaan (radhiyallahu ‘anhu)

Likewise the third Caliph of Islam, the son-in-law of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), Sayyiduna Uthmaan (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) was also brutally martyred. When the enemy besieged his house, for days he was unable to even get any water from the well which he had purchased and gifted to everybody to use at liberty. On Friday the eighteenth of Zul Hijjah, the enemy finally broke into his home. Sayyiduna Uthmaan (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) was at that time reciting the Holy Quraan. However no mercy was shown to him and his blood was spilt onto the pages of the Book of Allah. He also joined his predecessors in Jannah. This incident can also make one shed tears of blood.

Sayyiduna Hamza (radhiyallahu ‘anhu)

Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) also witnessed some heart-rending martyrdoms. His beloved uncle, Sayyiduna Hamza (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) was martyred in the battle of Uhud. After he was martyred, his body was defiled and severely mutilated. His ears and nose were cut off. The body of the beloved uncle of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) was then ripped open and his liver removed. This was then taken away to be chewed. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) was greatly disturbed and grieved over this. So great was his grief that when the killer of Sayyiduna Hamza (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) accepted Islam, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) requested him not to come in front of him as this would remind him of his uncle and bring back the grief. However, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) did not observe any day as the day of Shahaadat-e-Hamza (radhiyallahu ‘anhu)

Bi’r Ma‘oona

The battle of Bi’r Ma‘oona is yet another incident of the great Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum) laying down their lives for the cause of deen. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) was requested to send some of his companions to teach the people of Najd. Upon this request Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) sent seventy people who were all Huffaaz and Qurraa (plural of Qaari). On the way they were attacked and almost all were martyred. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) was once again greatly grieved and for one month in the Fajr salaah cursed these people who had deceived and martyred his beloved companions so mercilessly. Here also no day was observed as the day of their martyrdom.

What about the Rest?

Indeed our hearts bleed when we recount the incident of the martyrdom of Sayyiduna Husain (radhiyallahu ‘anhu). We also experience the grief when we recount the martyrdoms of Sayyiduna ‘Umar, Sayyiduna Uthmaan and Sayyiduna Hamza (radhiyallahu ‘anhum). Likewise we are greatly pained when we read or hear of the martyrs of Bi’r Ma‘oona, Uhud, Badr and all the other battles. Nevertheless, despite our grief, we will refrain from all things alien to the sharee‘ah. Let us consider that if we observe the day of the martyrdom of Sayyiduna Husain (radhiyallahu ‘anhu), then what about the rest? In that case almost every day of the year would be spent mourning.

Tenth of Muharram

It is therefore absolutely clear that the tenth of Muharram is not a day to observe as the martyrdom of Sayyiduna Husain (radhiyallahu ‘anhu). Its significance lies solely in what has been explained in the ahaadeeth. Ibnu ‘Abbaas (radhiyallahu ‘anhuma) narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) came to Madeenah and found the Jews fasting on the day of ‘Aashura. Hence he enquired of them: “What is the significance of this day on which you fast?”  They replied: “This is a great day. On this day Allah Ta‘ala saved Moosa (‘alaihis salaam) and his people and drowned Fir‘oun and his nation. Thus Moosa (‘alaihis salaam) fasted on this day as a token of thanks giving, therefore we also fast on this day.” Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) remarked: “We are more worthy of Moosa (‘alaihis salaam) and closer to him than you.” Thereafter Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) fasted on this day and ordered his companions to do the same. (Saheeh Muslim vol. 1 pg.359)

Lesson from the Lives of the Martyrs

It is therefore clear that the day of ‘Aashura is not a day of mourning. Indeed, our hearts bleed when we recall the martyrdom of Sayyiduna Husain (radhiyallahu ‘anhu). It also bleeds when we hear of the martyrdom of the other great personalities of Islam. However we have not been taught to perpetually mourn. Yes, we have been taught to take a lesson from the lives of the martyrs. Just as these great personalities selflessly sacrificed their lives for the upliftment of deen, likewise we should also be prepared to make sacrifices for the protection and spreading of Islam.