Muharram, a ‘masked’ observation this year!

New Delhi: There are no children in Imambaras this year. People above sixty years of age have been asked to stay home and observe Muharram. They have been advised to follow the narration of the tragedy of Karbala live-streamed on various social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook. Only a handful of young men and women were allowed to be physically present at the Imambaras with precautions like wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.

An Imambara is a place or a building with a hall where people assemble for “Majlis” (Mourning Congregations) of Imam Hussain and the Martyrs of Karbala.

“There was a time when old people were asked to sit in the front row inside the Imambaras and their presence was considered to be auspicious with the younger generation learning from them the rituals of Muharram. This pandemic has changed it all. Maybe it’s the need of the hour,” said Kaneez Fatima, a resident of Delhi.

Kolkata: Members of the Muslim community participate in a procession during the Muharram, in Kolkata, Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. (PTI Photo/Ashok Bhaumik)(PTI30-08-2020_000022B)

This year the Zakirs (religious scholars) are heard on social media platforms by a wide audience of dedicated followers. With Facebook Live, Twitter Live, YouTube and more – their reach has amplified to many more new corners and strengthened in older bastions. The traditional ways this year took a backseat because of the pandemic.

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“We understand the situation and have to maintain the delicate balance between traditions and precautions. We hope that next year Muharram would be observed as we used to do earlier,” said Maulana Ibne Hasan, a religious scholar in Delhi.

The Battle of Karbala was fought on October 10, 680 CE (10 Muharram in the year 61 AH of the Islamic calendar) between the army of Yazid I and a small army led by Hussain ibn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, at Karbala, Iraq. Hussain’s men including Hussain himself and his six-month-old child were martyred on the day of Ashura, that is the tenth day of Muharram, and his women were taken captive. Zayn al-Abidin, the son of Hussain who was not given permission to fight due to illness, was the only male survivor from Hussain’s family. Since then, Hussain’s sacrifice is remembered and is widely mourned across the globe.

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Shia Muslims mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hussain during Muharram while Sunni Muslims voluntarily fast on the 10th day of Muharram.

Kolkata: Members of the Muslim community come out in their balcony to watch the procession during the Muharram, in Kolkata, Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. (PTI Photo/Ashok Bhaumik)(PTI30-08-2020_000025B)

This year the Tazia makers and tabarruk (food items distributed after majlis) makers incurred heavy losses.

“During Muharram sheermal are in high demand and we had so many orders that we had to do overtime. This year because of negligible attendance in the majlis, we have suffered big losses. People have shifted to packaged tabarruks. We hope this phase will pass and business will be back to normal next year,” said Feroz, a sheermal (sweet flavoured flatbread) maker in Okhla.

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