Words Munira E.
Header Credits Sakina K.
My fingers shuffle the beads one at a time, Ya Husain, Ya Husain, Ya Husain, but as the incantation increases, the name is etched farther into my soul with each count. I am no longer just saying the name but I am thinking of what the name symbolises to me and why the name of a man who was martyred 1400 years ago still bears significance in my life today.
As each year comes to an end, the countdown to the new year brings inevitable preparation for Ashara. The words of my Moula TUS ring in my ears as he recounts that life-changing scene that no mumin can forget. Husain (AS) bowed his head in submission and with his dying breath he prayed one last time. Every year we witness something else, something special, but one truth remains constant.
Husain (AS) prayed for the forgiveness of our sins. The sins of those who are yet to come and will come until the day of judgement. It is that day, the 10th of Muharram, from which our every breath draws strength.
So then, as that auspicious day draws nearer, I worry when I think of my Moula’s TUS words, “[If,] due to your sins you are unable to shed a tear on the martyrdom of Imam Husain (AS)…” and I shudder to think that I will not be able to lament over Husain (AS), who’s life was given for me.
So with every Ya Husain comes “Astagfirullah!” in hope that Allah forgives my sins and I am spiritually cleansed in preparation for those ten transformative days.
Ashara brings out the best in us. I say this unequivocally, reminiscing about Ashara 1441H as I’m wont to do in the days towards Aashura. For many, the end of the year comes with the routine of booking flights, registering on ITS and completing a laundry list of pre-travel preparations. For me, it was not a routine. It was a foray. A foray into Ashara with Moula TUS.
I had missed the ITS registration. Rather, I didn’t know how to register. The website seemed like a labyrinth to navigate. So I asked around, wrote a few emails and called more people. The to-and-fro of messages was crazy. From all channels: the requests for sharing accommodation, the reminders for travel documentation, and the replies to my own repetitive questions. For the uninitiated, unseasoned newbie, it was a whirlwind – no, an outpouring of togetherness. I never once felt alone. I had spoken to so many people I otherwise wouldn’t have even known all because we were united in a singular pursuit.
Then came the wait for the elusive raza. The days passed and with them, my hopes dwindled. Fearing the worst, I decided to register for Chennai, comforted in the knowledge that at least I would have some family there. It was on a Friday, 1st of Moharram that my raza for Colombo came. Not once but twice. By then, however, it was too late. I was preparing for my journey to Chennai. With a heavy heart and bitter tears, I had to decline the raza. “I’m going to Chennai inshallah,” I wrote on the ITS page, citing my reasons for declining, “Ummed che ke aawta varas mai Moula TUS saathe Ashara karu Inshallah.”
The yearning to see Moula is an eternal one. To be inspired by the knowledge he imparts, to seek his counsel and to bask in his benevolence. This year, I will convert my longing to actions, to opportunities for giving back and giving forward. The isolation is pervasive but we are, as always, united in a singular pursuit: the maatam and buka of Imam Husain (AS).
Words Zahra K.
12 things to do
Every year, my preps for Ashara Mubaraka depend on where I am going to be. Here’s what I do if I am lucky enough to be with Maula TUS.
- If I need to fly to reach my destination, I aim to make sure I fit in the seat belt and don’t need an extension. It also means I need to prepare to fit in the not so inclusive seat boxes taped in the main waaz venue (in case they mistake me for someone important, and issue me a masjid pass 😊) Also, Free Seats are quite contrary to what the name suggests. There’s no free room to stretch, since “ben aagal khaso, bag haath ma lo and jagah na raakho” are the standard operating seating procedures. So, losing a few inches is always on the agenda, even if in vain!
- I always buy new shoes by the end of Zilqad every year and walk in them 30 mins every day until Ashara. This also helps accomplish point number 1. Also, my Plantar Fasciitis needs to make friends with the new shoes and I get enough time to come up with remedies for any issues they may cause. I was hopeful even this year and bought a new pair. Take my word, never risk the shoes.
- Oh, shoes need shoe bags! I buy plastic lined, pull-string sturdy shoe bags, with weird prints that stand out, maintain taharat, can be pulled out of a heap of other shoe bags and can also stand the pressure of a dhasaaro 😀
- Think of polite comebacks because I have a temper. The routine of standing in queues, finding a spot and commuting gets to me by the time day 4 arrives. I am not going to elaborate on this.
- Behind every comfortable trip, there’s a great handbag. I have been using the same sling for years. A navy-blue rectangle Kipling I bought from a store sale in Mecca. It is practical and accommodates stuff like Hermione’s beaded bag. To my horror, I broke it on the very first day after I reached Colombo last year. I spent the rest of the days using a spare my mom bought with her. It was a real struggle, using a bag I wasn’t used to. My blue Kipling had designated zippers and pockets for everything from my ITS card, shoe bag, notebook, pens, snacks, gum, mints, tissues, handkerchief to other things you don’t want to know about. Next year, I’ll need to find her a twin.
- Comfortable t-shirts are imperative, and something I am most fussy about. Because we spend the whole day in them, I am very careful about the material, fit and sleeve length of my t-shirts that I carry for Ashara. I do a trial run in Shehrullah since you get 30 days to pick out the 10 best.
- One can’t compromise on sleep for ironing during the 10 days. You never know if you’ll have enough time. It is different each year. What if the utara is far, what if khidmat keeps me away for a while? So, I iron all my ridas before packing them. According to my husband it makes no sense, but it works for me, so I get his clothes ironed too. All you need to do is open the folds and hang it under the fan a day before you need to wear it, and voila!
- …Which makes carrying hangers a mandatory task. I carry at least 20 plastic hangers, with steel hooks that turn 360 degrees and can be hung anywhere I like.
- A 500ml Tupperware bottle. Holds enough water, and takes little space.
- Travelling makes me super nauseous so I load myself with tablets that help me fight motion sickness. My medicine box is also full of: ORS, Crocin, Relispray, Soframycin, Boroline for rashes (it’s a must), Vicks balm, and medicines from my GP for coughs, colds and loosies!
- Safety pins and cable ties to mend, lock and secure stuff. Just in case. If you find me sitting next to you sometime, feel free to ask for it if your pocket zip breaks.
- Last but not the least, lots of click ball-pens and 2 notebooks for writing Waaz points.
This list is my own materialistic mandate that, along with the jaan ni ohbat, helps me get through Ashara comfortably and helps me do justice to the fact that I am the chosen one to be a part of it that year.
I hope that 1442H brings back the usual buzz, tayyari and out of the box ohbats, because we have surely missed it big time this year.