Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar Awal (first). Muharram is celebrated by Muslims all around the world as it marks the beginning of a new Islamic Year. The era of Hijri started when the Holy Prophet Muhammad migrated to Madinah, as per the command of Allah in 622 A.D.
The celebration of the Muslim New year is quite different from the one in the Gregorian calendar. The people wear black clothing not only during Muharram but until the Arbayeen (chehlum, forty days after the death date of Imam Hussayn). They offer special prayers in mosque and attend religious gatherings. There are a number of religious activities and events. People attend sermons in the public halls; and recitation of the Quranic verses, religious meetings and spiritual poems. There are no fun gatherings and marriages during this time period.
According to history Islam entered Africa when the initial believers of the Holy Prophet migrated to Ethiopia from Mecca to escape the harassment of the non-Muslims in Mecca. Thereafter Islam spread gradually in Africa.
Muharram is a sacred month to the Shia majority because it marks the sacrifice of the grandson of the Holy Prophet; Hazrat Imam Hussain. Shia ruled northern Africa from the fourth to sixth Hijri until Saladin Ayoubi defeated them. Presently the Shia majority is only in the Eastern part of Africa.
Muharram in Algeria
Currently, only two percent of the population in Algeria is from the Shia Islamic faith and most of them are present in the Western part of Algeria. Some are the native Shias whereas few are converts. Western Algeria was the state of Idris II, who died in 828 C.E. The Kutama society of Algeria was the origin of the Fatimid state and Abdullah Al-Mehdi Billah succeeded in converting them to Shi’ism. Today a lot people in Western Algeria have been observed as taking an interest in Shi’ism.
The events commemorated by the Shias in Algeria are:
- Arbayeen (Chehlum) of Imam Husayn
- Mawlid an Nabi (The Birth of Prophet)
- The Birth of Imam Mehdi
- Eid al-Ghadeer, marks the day the Holy Prophet appointed Hazrat Ali bin Abi Talib to be the Caliph after him.
The people of Algeria are very interested in the family and household of the Holy Prophet, and particularly that of Hazrat Ali; and that is the reason why most of the boys are named, “Sayyid Ali,” in Algeria. The tenth of Muharram is a public holiday in most of the Islamic countries as well as in Algeria on account of Ashura. This is regarded as a day of grief, the Shias’ mourn the martyrdom of Husayn in 680 AD at Karbala in present-day Iraq.
There are many streets and quarters in Algeria where you will find the place for mourning such as Husseiniyah. The religious speakers are devoted to the Salawat. The people love and have firm belief in the Ahlulbayt.