On October 24, Muslims silently ushered in the new Islamic year 1436AH, not because they forgot the date, but because Islamic traditions do not permit celebration of a passage of time.
This, however, does not mean there are no important days on the Islamic calendar that Muslims commemorate. The first day on the calendar is the day of Ashurah, the tenth day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar.
This year, it came on November 3, and among the Sunni Muslims it is commemorated with fasting while among the Shiite Muslims, it is a day of mourning for the martyrdom of Husayn bin Ali, a grandson of Prophet Muhammad at Karbala in present-day Iraq in 61 AH (680 AD).
In countries such as Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Bahrain, and Pakistan, among others that have a high percentage of Shiite Muslims, the day is marked as a public holiday. Some make pilgrimage to Husayn’s shrine at Karbala to make reflections on the life and suffering of Husayn considered to be the third Shiite Imam.
Among the Sunni Muslims, it is also referred to as the Day of Atonement because it is on this day that the Israelites were freed from Pharaoh, the Egyptian ruler. Musa later received the 10 commandments from Allah.
When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) migrated to Medinah, he found the Jews there fasting on this day and on inquiry, he was told that their fasting was in commemoration of the day because on it, Allah saved the children of Israel from their enemy and that Prophet Musa (Moses) fasted on the same day.
Prophet Muhammad, therefore, took up fasting on the day and encouraged his followers to fast on the day of Ashurah and the day before it. He fasted an extra day because he wanted to have a difference with the Jews. Islamic tradition also holds that it is on this day that Prophet Adam was readmitted to heaven, saved Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) from the fire that was lit on orders of King Nimrod to have him (Ibrahim) burned.
Some Islamic traditions also hold that it is on this day Prophet Nooh’s (Noah) ark rested on dry land after the floods that Allah sent as a punishment to those that had refused to heed to Nooh’s message. It is also the day on which Allah healed Prophet Ayoub (Job) from an illness that he suffered over a long period while it is the same day on which Allah reunited Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) with his father, Prophet Yaqu’b (Jacob) and family.
The day is also significant to Muslims in that it is on Ashurah that Allah saved Prophet Yunus (Jonah) from the belly of a whale, and the day on which Allah raised Prophet Isah (Jesus) to heaven.
Source : The Observer