The sacred month of Muharram marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. It is a month of great blessings, perhaps the most promising being its potential to unite people.

Ashoora, or the 10th of Muharram is a day of great significance in Islam as it commemorates the births of several Prophets as well as is the day that Muslims believe the world was created and the day that it will come to an end.

However, historically the most significant event by far that occurred on this day after the advent of Islam is the martyrdom of  Imam Husain (r), the blessed grandson of  Prophet Muhammad (s)

Love for Ahlul Bayt, the family of Prophet Muhammad (s) is a mandate for all Muslims.

Fasting on the day of Ashura, being kind to dependents and increasing charity are actions exhorted to all Muslims.

Lessons of courage, patience, sacrifice, and standing up to oppression and injustice are universal takeaways from the martyrdom of Imam Husain (r) and his companions.

Historically, this event has inspired both Muslims and non-Muslims alike to stand against oppression, tyranny and injustice.

Great Muslim leaders and their followers have taken inspiration from the example of Imam Husain (r) throughout the Islamic history to stand for justice.

Nelson Mandela is reported to have said, “I have spent more than 20 years in prison, then on one night I decided to surrender by signing all the terms and conditions of government. But suddenly I thought about Imam Hussain and the Karbala movement and Imam Hussain (r) gave me the strength to stand for the right of freedom and liberation and I did.”

Similarly, Mahatma Gandhi is reported to have said, “My faith is that the progress of Islam does not depend on the use of sword of its believers, but the result of the supreme sacrifice of Hussain (r), the great saint.”

Ashoora is a poignant reminder to all Muslims that in order to serve Islam and humanity, we must engage in spiritual self-sacrifice as well as physical sacrifice on demand.

The Islamic calendar ends with reminders of sacrifice during the Eid-ul-Adha celebrations and then begins with more reminders of sacrifice on Ashoora.

To this effect the poet-philosopher, Dr Allama Iqbal penned:

Ghareeb-o-sada-o-rangeen hai Daastaane Haram.

Nihayat iski Husayn, ibtidaa hai Ismail”

Translation: Strange, simple and colorful is the legacy of the Haram (Kaaba).

It ends with the martyrdom of Hussain (r) and began with (the prescribed martyrdom of) Ismail (a).

Hence, the commemorations of Ashoora have the incredible ability to strengthen ties among Muslim Ummah and contribute towards easing tensions based on sectarian, political and national divisions.