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A Celebration of Sacrifice and Devotion

Imam Hussain ( RA) chose to stand against injustice, even at the cost of his life and the lives of his followers.
03:00 AM Jul 11, 2024 IST | SAJID YOUSUF SHAH
a celebration of sacrifice and devotion

In the Kashmir Valley, the Islamic lunar calendar’s first month, Muharram, holds a special significance that resonates deeply with the region’s history and culture. As one of the four sacred months mentioned in the Quran, it is a time when all forms of conflict are forbidden, and the valley comes together to commemorate the sacrifices of Imam Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The martyrdom of Hazrat Hussain during the Battle of Karbala serves as a powerful reminder of the unwavering pursuit of righteousness, justice, and truth, values that have been integral to the Kashmiri identity. For the people of Kashmir, Muharram is a symbol of resistance and resilience, inspiring generations to uphold the values of courage, perseverance, and devotion to their faith. The occasion is marked by elaborate processions, majalis, and other religious events, where Kashmiris come together to pay tribute to Imam Hussain’s sacrifice and reaffirm their commitment to the values he embodied. Through his sacrifice, Imam Hussain showed that even in the darkest of times, one’s faith and principles must be upheld, and that the pursuit of righteousness is a noble endeavor worth fighting for, a message that resonates deeply in the Kashmir Valley.


The Shia community in Kashmir has played a significant role in shaping the region’s cultural and artistic heritage. From the Painting, Paper Machie craft to the soulful Sufi poetry, the Shia community has made immense contributions to Kashmir’s rich artistic history. The community’s artisans and craftsmen have been instrumental in creating some of the most exquisite pieces of art, including intricately designed shrines, mosques, and other religious structures. Their skilful hands have also crafted beautiful carpets, shawls, and other textiles that are renowned for their intricate designs and vibrant colours. During Muharram, the Shia community observes the occasion with great fervor and devotion, organizing elaborate processions, majalis (mourning assemblies), and other religious events. The mourners wear black attire and carry colourful taziyas (replicas of the Imam’s shrine) and alams (flags) that are adorned with intricate designs and calligraphy. The processions are accompanied by soulful marsiyas and nauhas that are recited by the poets and scholars of the community, which add to the emotional intensity of the occasion. Through their contributions, the Shia community in Kashmir has played a vital role in preserving the region’s cultural heritage and ensuring that the tradition of Muharram continues to thrive in the valley.


The Significance of Muharram


The story of Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad ( SAW), is one of ultimate sacrifice. Faced with the tyrannical rule of Yazid, Imam Hussain chose to stand against injustice, even at the cost of his life and the lives of his followers. His martyrdom at Karbala is not just a historical event but a timeless narrative of courage, integrity, and unwavering faith.


Sacrifice and Martyrdom


The core lesson of Muharram is the spirit of sacrifice. Imam Hussain’s refusal to bow to tyranny and his willingness to embrace martyrdom for the cause of justice resonate profoundly within the Kashmiri psyche. The people of Kashmir Valley have long suffered at the hands of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, resulting in the loss of countless innocent lives. The sacred month of Muharram reminds us of the bravery and sacrifice of Imam Hussain, who taught us to stand up against oppression and never bow down to tyranny. His courage and resilience in the face of overwhelming odds inspire us to continue our struggle against terrorism and violence, and to always uphold the values of truth, justice, and humanity.


Unity and Solidarity


Muharram is also a powerful symbol of unity among Muslims. Despite the sectarian differences that often plague the Muslim world, the tragedy of Karbala is a shared sorrow that transcends these divides. In Kashmir, where religious and cultural plurality coexists with a complex socio-political landscape, Muharram fosters a sense of solidarity and communal harmony. The shared mourning and collective remembrance create a space for empathy and mutual respect, essential for the region’s social cohesion.

Justice and Resistance

Imam Hussain’s stand at Karbala is a beacon of resistance against tyranny and injustice. His actions epitomize the moral imperative to confront wrong, regardless of the consequences.

Challenges and Observance in Kashmir

Observing Muharram in Kashmir was never without  its challenges. The Valley’s security situation, often tense and unpredictable, posed significant risks for the large gatherings and processions that mark this period.  But last year, in a significant development, Muharram procession was allowed by J&K administration in Srinagar after nearly three decades. While the decision to allow the procession on the 8th of Muharram, which marks the starting of the Islamic year was  widely praised. It has also generated calls to abolish the ban on the traditional Ashura march on Muharram 10th.  As historically, Muharram processions faced restrictions under the Dogra rulers of Jammu and Kashmir, with the bans intensifying during the onset of militancy in the region. In the 1920s, the Dogras ordered that Muharram processions should be wrapped up before sunrise, citing “Shia-Sunni tensions”. However, a few individuals, including prominent Sunni merchant Khwaja Saad-ud Din Shawl and Shia jagirdar Aga Sayyid Hussain Jalali, organized defiant processions in the 1920s, which became linked with Kashmir's struggle for freedom against Dogra rule. However last year, decision to allow the Muharram procession signals a shift in the government's approach, prompting hope for a revival of this traditional religious event after a long hiatus.


Muharram in Kashmir is more than a religious observance; it is a testament to the enduring spirit of sacrifice, unity, and resistance – resistance against so called our neighbouring country’s  plans. The lessons of Karbala resonate deeply within the Kashmiri context, offering solace, inspiration, and a moral compass in the face of adversity. By fostering an environment of mutual respect and support, the people of Kashmir can ensure that the commemoration of Muharram continues to be a source of strength and solidarity, promoting peace and resilience in the Valley.

Adv Sajid Yousuf Shah is Columnist Author and currently heads BJP Media Department in Kashmir valley.