Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar; however, as Muslims, we choose not to commemorate the start of the New Year in celebrations. Instead, we mourn and remember the sacrifice of our third Imam, Imam Hussain (as).
How we choose to mourn and display our sadness has become a subject of discussion and often what we wear is seen to be an output for our grief. The question that arises is; how significant is it for us to make public displays of our inner emotions through our clothing and choice of accessories? Would hijab (modest dress) not be an example of this? Hijab acts as a symbol of modesty – a symbol being something that represents something else. Similarly, wearing black in Muharram would be a symbol and a representation of our mourning.
Dissimilarly, it is not a wajib (obligatory) act. So why then do so many of us turn up at our mosques and centres dressed from head to toe in black, and the next day return to our usual colourful clothing? Has it merely become a matter of fulfilling cultural values and obligations or do we still understand the true message behind what happened in Karbala?
As well as it being respectful to our Imam and our fellow mourners to wear dark colours in religious congregations, there is also some importance in remaining in our dark clothing outside of religious environments.
Imam Hussain (as) sacrificed his life in order to spread the message of Islam, so by wearing black, which may prompt others to ask questions about our choice of clothing; we are in turn raising awareness about our religion, what our Imam stood for and following in his footsteps. It unites us and allows us to appear as one unit which has come together to remember this great man and how he and his small army of 72 made a stand against injustice.
Furthermore, if one of our parents or close family members dies, the thought of wearing anything other than dark colours wouldn’t even cross our minds because of the deep emptiness inside of us. The need to wear black stems from a deep psychological feeling inside, because it constantly reminds us that we have something to be sad about.
It is a fact that the colour black affects people profoundly when worn for a long period of time and it is for this reason that we even have sayings that tell us we should attempt to refrain from doing so when it is not an occasion of mourning. After all, Imam Ali (as) says “those who are from our Shia are happy at our happiness and are sad in our sadness.”
In addition to paying our respects, being sad and showing and explaining to others why we are in mourning due to our own personal beliefs, we must ensure that this behaviour is not all done for the purpose of performance in front of others, as all of our actions return to our intentions.
The best way to please Allah (swt) and pay our highest gratitude to these pure souls is to follow their deeds and message. Allah (swt) says:
“Whether you hide what is in your hearts or reveal it, Allah knows it all.” (Quran, 3:29)