Intentions for a Mindful Muharram

muharram Jul 31, 2022

Alhamdullilah, as the moon for Muharram 1444 is sighted all over the world, we are blessed to witness another month of Muharram. Many of us will be attending lectures and sessions online and in person, wanting to get as much benefit from these blessed moments as possible.

As we begin this period, let us spend a few moments to become mindful of the purpose of these gatherings so that these moments bring us maximum value and baraka. Let us set our intentions to show up as our best selves for the Holy Prophet (saw) reminded us that the basis of any deed is in the intention with which we do it.

The primary purpose of these gatherings, as we all know, is to commemorate and remember the suffering and the sacrifices of the family of the Prophet (SAW) when they stood up to injustice and tyranny on the plains of Karbala in the year 680 AD and 61AH.  

The house of Fatima, which was slaughtered on the Day of Ashura, 61 years after the Hijrat of the Holy Prophet (as), is a very generous household. As we remember the children and companions of Hussain, they do not want us to leave empty handed.  They want these majalis to benefit us both here and in the hereafter. 

The institution of majalis that Sayyada Zainab established in Hussain’s memory, is a blessing and a treasure in our lives. We have been granted this sacred time, this place, this university, this dars ghah, where we get together and we learn about the true meaning of Islam, and we learn about their school of thought, how they practiced true deen, what stood in their way and how they stood up to the forces against them.

This is also a time when we can step away from the busyness of our hectic lives and take time to reflect on what really matters in life. It is an opportunity to take stock of where we are in our journey towards Him, to take stock of our personal lives and transform them so that they are in alignment with the purpose for which we were given this blessing of life.  It is an opportunity to reset our direction if we find ourselves wandering.

The followers of the AhlulBayt stand out in the world as a community who devote two months and more in the year to focus on learning and practicing to become better human beings.

Let us reflect on the purpose and blessings of Muharram gatherings 

Before we step onto the sacred farsh of aza, let us remind ourselves that the presence of angels                                                                       O Iffaan, do not think that it is only those whom you can see here who are listening to your poetry. In fact Allah's closest angels are present here at this majlis and they are all listening to your recitation and they too lament and weep. May Allah bless you for what you have recited. He will, Inshallah, reward you with paradise for your efforts on our behalf.  Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (as) to Ja'far ibne Iffaan the poet 

The institution of majalis reminds us that we need to stand up for truth and justice                          The Muslim Nation should never neglect observing the mourning ceremonies of Holy Imams, particularly that of the Master of the oppressed people, Imam Husein (a.s.). . .  They should realise that this historic epic of Islam gives them instructions to stand up against oppressors and tyrannical rulers of the world. Karbala is symbolic of a heroic cry against all oppressors. It is imperative that the crime of tyrants in every era be brought to the attention of the people by reciting religious poems, hymns, and eulogies for these Divine Imams in an overwhelming manner.  Ayatullah Khumayni 

Survival of the Deen                                                                                                                                         I would go further and hazard that [Islam] survived as a religion only because of the emotional  outlets offered by Muharram Ceremonies  H.A. R. Gibbs. A Study of History (1963) 

 An invitation to reform                                                                                                                               The timeless quality of this tragedy allows the Shi’a  communities  to  measure themselves against  the  principle and the paradigm of Husayn. They strive to fight against any injustice, tyranny and oppression today. By so doing they hope to be considered worthy of the sacrifice of the ‘Prince of Martyrs’ – Husayn Peter Chelkowski of  New York University in a paper presented to the Imam Husayn Conference held in London in July, 1984 

Tears soften our hearts and enable us to hear the message                                                                  Our tears are valuable and they are the first step. They soften our hearts and they detox the heart. The tears quieten our egos and make us open to change and growth.

But our aza cannot stop at the tears. The ultimate goal of aza is to reform and transform ourselves to live a God-pleasing life. The aza is the means towards that goal. The events on Ashura are the blueprint left by Aba Abdillah on how to live that life. 

Social benefits                                                                                                                                             The institution of majlis also has many social benefits. These strengthen our communities through unity of purpose and grief. We as a community can go anywhere on the globe as a stranger and the minute we step into a Hussainiyya or an ImamBargah, we are part of a community, we a part of the multitudes that come together every year for a single purpose: to remember the sacrifice of Hussain and to keep alive the struggle against injustice. Muharram majalis are a beautiful demonstration of  unity of purpose in action.

So how do we make sure that we make full use of this precious time? 

Each one of us who participates in these majalis, the organizers, the audience and the reciters - all have very important roles to play.  

Our roles and responsibilities during the majaalis of Hussain (as)                                                     Majalis give us so many Baraka, so many opportunities.  There are also some challenges. People will upset us, we may not resonate with some speakers, we will not find the space that we like, it will be hot, we may not get tabarruk.

If we end up focusing on these things, however, we will have missed the true purpose and benefits of this precious time.  

So what can help us get the most out of the month?

The roles of attendees 

At the core of the gatherings for the commemoration of Imam Husayn (as) are the faithful attendees, their interaction and empathy. They are important to the success of every gathering.  

As attendees, we have the special status of being the answer to the dua of Fatima (as) which was to create a nation that will cry over Hussain and keep his message alive  

Our roles and responsibilities

  1. To bring a pure intention.  
  2. To remind ourselves of our purpose on a daily basis by writing out  a pledge of our intention and behaviour during Muharram 
  3. To not sully our good deeds by undesirable actions such as gossip and complaining
  4. To keep our egos and our tempers in check 
  5. To implement what we learn
  6. To pass on the message to others 
  7. To serve in whatever way we can – at the minimum doing things to make each other’s lives easier, and not doing things which cause inconvenience, to each other and to our friends, neighbours and fellow citizens 
  8. To cooperate with volunteers by reminding ourselves that they are giving up their aza to make life easier for us. If they tell us to sit in a particular spot, let us do it for the sake of Ababdillah Hussain  
  9. To practice discipline – in terms of time, not speaking during majalis, cleaning up after ourselves 
  10. To be mindful of how much food we serve others, ourselves and to minimize wastage, keeping in mind other’s needs
  11. To be mindful of the environmental impact of majalis and to our best to minimize it by reusing and recycling
  12. To make love of Abadillah the context of whatever we do 

The roles and responsibilities of the speakers

[Adapted from I.M.A.M (usa)] 


Speakers in the name of Imam Hussain (as) have a very status. 

Imam al-Ridha (as) was asked about the way to revitalize the affairs of the Ahl al-Bayt (as), to which he (as) responded, “By learning our knowledge and then teaching it to the people. If people knew the merits of our knowledge, they would follow us.” 

The pledge of a Zakir/a, a speaker: 

  • Intention of delivering the message  
  • Keeping to timing 
  • Respecting the audience’s time and effort by being well prepared 
  • Speaking the truth though it may be challenging to deliver [doing it in a gentle way] 
  • Appealing to the emotions of the people and invoking empathy for the family of the HP (saw) 
  • Speak in a balanced way and fully consider the issues before speaking 
  • Speaking at the level of the audience
  • Emphasizing the importance of holding on to the Quran and the AhlulBayt  
  • Keep my ego in check 
  • Intend to practice what I preach

The role and responsibilities of the hosts and volunteers 

[Adapted from I.M.A.M (usa)] 

For each group of people, there are caretakers and leaders who are hoped to be among those who are described as people “of strength and insight.” They are the ones who represent the nucleus of social activism through their great efforts, activism and unique devotion to the Shi’a school of thought and the faithful – especially during the season of Imam Hussain’s (as) commemoration. They carry the heavier load in establishing the gatherings, managing them and helping to make them successful. 

Therefore, the sincere and successful among them have never ceased to be attentive to important matters: 

  • To ensure that our majalis are inclusive and open to all and accessible to those with physical limitations and challenges
  • Take special care in attracting women, youth and marginalized groups  
  • Treat every individual as a guest of Hussain (as) and his mother (as) and attend to their comfort and wellbeing
  • Speak kindly and humbly to those who attend 
  • Be open to suggestions and constructive feedback 

May Allah (swt) to grant us success in our intentions and make this Muharram one of transformation and connection to Him and to His Beloveds.

May Allah make us all the servants of Islam and of our fellow Muslims, by which we are counted as the ansaar [helpers] of Imam Hussain (as). 





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