The last days of the year are perhaps the most hectic times of our lives. Everyone is busy wrapping up what has remained unfinished, an incomplete project, an undecided relationship or an unsaid word.
Among all these noises, one might stop for a moment and look back at the 365 days that have passed so quickly, and how they have gone by. “What have I accomplished? What are the mistakes that I am repeatedly making? Have I reached my goals? Have I become a better (or worse) person? Have I even changed? How much have I fulfilled my responsibilities as a Muslim?” these are the questions that we always ask ourselves at this time of the year.
And when the last seconds of the year come, we start thinking of the days that are before us; of our new resolutions, plans, and decisions. 2019 or 20 are not different if our days are not going to be more productive and better than before.
Islam recommends us to evaluate ourselves regularly and look back at our actions [i]. However, this does not mean that you should just remember your past mistakes, regret making them and do nothing. Every new day is a chance for us to put aside one bad habit and go toward the perfect version of ourselves, not being satisfied with our past achievements and always setting new goals.
According to Imam Ali (AS), you are a loser if your two days (or two years, two weeks, etc.), are spent the same, meaning that you have not improved or have not added anything to your life.
This could be reading a book, watching a worthwhile movie, planting a tree, caring more about your parents, etc. The worse thing is when you are degrading and your present day is no better than yesterday. This kind of person is cursed, Imam Ali (AS) believes.
You win the cup if you live a better and more productive day than yesterday! Of course a day, or two days, etc. are only metaphors, and they can mean any span of time. What is important is how you pass these moments, days or years.
The new year is also a chance to renew our goals and purposes. I know that it might sound like a cliche, yet it is impossible to deny the importance of motivation or a drive to push you and make you ambitious.
You might have many purposes, some long-term and some short-term, some financial or spiritual. And do not just think about your goals, but take action toward achieving them [ii].
Islam guides us toward becoming a better person and thus sets specific goals for Muslims to be aware of in their lives. A Muslim’s ultimate purpose which will spread in all aspects of his/her life and every decision and every move is to get as near as possible to that eternal source of blessing and peace, Allah, and be worthy of His worship .
Being ambitious is not enough. It is important to feel responsible as well. Islam differentiates three people as the ones to whom we hold some responsibilities, which have to be fulfilled simultaneously; including Allah, ourselves and others. Our first and foremost responsibility is toward Allah, our One, and Only Creator.
Perhaps a few minutes before the New Year is the best time to think of His blessings to us and decide to appreciate them more through worshiping Him sincerely and devote some time of our life to praying. Secondly, we are responsible for ourselves; taking care of our mind and spirit, having a plan for our life and continually following it, observing a healthy lifestyle, etc.
And finally, we have some responsibilities toward others, other human beings, other creatures, our surroundings, etc. To be a better person, we should be careful in our interactions with other people, be conscious of how we treat the environment and animals and strive to build a better world.
You can start a new year with a plan for your next 365 days. As Muslims, our life plans should always reflect our Islamic values. Having that in mind, think of what you want to achieve; how you can better fulfill your responsibilities toward Allah, yourself and others as enumerated in Islam (specify the actions that you should commit and the things you have to avoid doing to guarantee your commitment to those responsibilities), or where you want to be this time next year. Have a look at the big picture and set little goals which will lead you to that ultimate purpose and help you become a better Muslim.
Then, keep track of your plan during the year, observe your progress and see how much of your plan you have fulfilled and to what extent you have been devoted to your Islamic responsibilities. As Imam Ali (AS) beautifully puts, you should strive to build your life as if you have eternity before you, and at the same time be aware of the day (i.e., The Day of Judgment) that you will be questioned about your actions and manners in this world .
The last days of the year are like the exam days, but this time you would examine yourself. As Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) puts, when it comes to evaluation, you should be harder on yourself than when you are evaluating other people’s deeds . You would evaluate whatever you have done up to that time and how much of that big picture that you had in your mind has completed.
Finally, if we are willing to make the most of our lives, we have no other choice than be aware of our every step and every action that we take. And, every new year marks our promise to ourselves and Allah to be the best we can and continue going toward this goal.
[i] Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Evaluate yourself before you would be evaluated [by Allah on the Judgment Day]” .
[ii] Imam Ali (AS) said: “Your efforts make you worthy” .
- Al-Hurr al-Aamili, Wasā'il al-Shīʿa, vol.16, p.99.
- Nahj al-Balaghah, Wisdom no. 47.
- Quran (36:61)
- Shaikh al-Hur al-Aamili, Wasā'il al-Shīʿa, vol.2, p.535.
- Ibid, vol.16, p.98.
In Islam, there are some ceremonies and occasions which are held all around the world among Muslims. They all have religious backgrounds and are mostly referred to in the holy Quran. Muslim nations have been commemorating them in the course of history. Here we are going to have a glance at the most significant Islamic occasions based on the Lunar Calendar.
The month of Muharram is the first month of the year in the lunar calendar. On the tenth day of this month, Hussain Ibn Ali (AS), the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), and his companions were brutally martyred, and their women and children were taken captive by the caliph of the time, Yazid ibn. Muawyah. Their story has been the source of inspiration for many new converts.
Arbaeen is the Arabic word for forty, and it marks the 20th of Safar, the fortieth day after Imam Hussain's (AS) martyrdom on the day of Ashura, who was martyred in the event of Karbala along with his companions in the cruelest and most inhumane way possible.
According to some historical accounts , some of the members of Imam Hussain's (AS) family after being released from the bondage of Yazid's forces returned to Karbala from Sham (today's Damascus) to visit Imam Hussain's (AS) grave. Also, some believe that Imam Hussain's (AS) head, which was taken to Sham by Yazid's army was brought back to Karbala on this day and buried with his body  & .
Every year, a few days before this day, a vast number of people from all over the world, Muslims or even non-Muslims, gather in Iraq to take part in a symbolic walk, to revive the teachings of Imam Hussain (AS) and commemorate his sacrifice in the way of Allah and humanity.
There is a disagreement concerning the exact date of Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) birthday. Some believe it occurred on the 12th of Rabi al-Avval, while others consider it to be on the 17th of Rabi al-Avval, the third month in the Islamic calendar. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was born in Mecca. All Muslims around the world celebrate his birthday and regard it as one of the important Islamic occasions. On this day, Muslims feed the needy, pray and recite the Quran, commemorate Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), and his challenges to deliver the messages of Allah to human beings.
The first day of the month of Shawwal, the tenth month of the Islamic calendar, is called Eid al-Fitr. After fasting for one month, during the month of Ramadan, remembering, worshipping Allah and trying to do fewer sins beside not eating and drinking from before the Call for Fajr prayer to after the Call for Magrib prayer, Muslims celebrate the first day of the month of Shawwal, for their success in submitting to Allah's command. They perform the Eid prayer first; then, they hold a feast inviting their loved ones, wear their best clothes, and visit their friends and family. The culture of feasting might be different in different Islamic communities, but one thing is for sure; no one is allowed to fast on this exceptional day. Allah also obliges Muslims to share their blessings and happiness with the needy with the money they donate to them.
Eid al-Adha is one of the most significant Islamic occasions. Some of the most important events of this Abrahamic religion happened on this day. On this Eid, similar to Eid al-Fitr, Muslims are not allowed to fast. The first is the sacrifice of Ishmael by his father, Abraham, for the sake of Allah. When Abraham and his son both surrendered, and he was ready to behead his son, Allah sent a ram and asked Abraham to kill that instead.
"So when they had both surrendered [to Allah's will], and he had laid him down on his forehead, We called out to him, 'O Abraham! You have indeed fulfilled your vision! Thus indeed do We reward the virtuous! This was indeed a manifest test. Then We ransomed him with a great sacrifice, and left for him a good name in posterity." (37: 103-108)
This day is also the last day of Hajj rituals, in which Muslims shall sacrifice an animal to feed the needy Muslims. On this day, those who attended Hajj have performed all their Hajj rituals, and with the great assistance of Allah, all their sins are wiped away, and Allah accepts their good deeds and repentance.
Many Muslims celebrate this day. They sacrifice an animal to feed the needy, even if they have not attended Hajj. If they do not have enough money to buy a sheep, they do other things and feed the destitute in different ways. This sacrifice is an expression of generosity and obedience to the commands of Allah. This Eid also reminds humankind of the characteristics, such as envy, rage, dishonesty, etc., they have to symbolically sacrifice in themselves to become the better version of themselves and be worthy of being Allah's best creation.
This Islamic occasion was a day in the last Hajj pilgrimage (Hajjat al-Vida'a) of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). When he was going back to Medina with all his companions and other pilgrims, he gathered everyone around a place called Ghadir and announced these words in which he appointed Imam Ali b. Abi Talib (AS) as his caliph and the Imam after himself following a direct order from Allah [i]:
"Whomsoever, I am his leader (Mawla), Ali (AS) is also his leader (Mawla). O' Allah! Love those who love him (Ali (AS)) and oppose those who oppose him" 
This is another important day in the Muslim calendar. On this day, Muslims can fast and again feed the needy, as an essential part of Islamic culture.
These are the most significant and most celebrated Islamic occasions. As one can see, feeding others and praying to Allah are the essential things a Muslim should do to celebrate a feast, which reveals the importance of caring for others in Islam that results from the devotion to Allah.
[i] Verse 67th of Surah al-Maedah known as Al-Tabligh Verse, and the third verse of the same chapter known as Al-Ikmal Verse.
- Ibn Athīr, Usd al-ghāba, vol. 3, p. 605; Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 295; Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 2, p. 110-111;
- Ibn Tawus, 'Ali b. Musa, Al-Luhuf 'ala qatla l-tufuf, Uswi, Qom, 1414 AH.
- Al-Biruni, Abu Rayhan, The Remaining Signs of Past Centuries, p.331.
- Qazi al-Tabataii, Muhammad Ali, A Research on the first Arba'een of the Leader of Martyrs (Imam Hussain (AS)), vol.3, p.304.
Have you ever wondered why lady Zainab (as) is so revered by the Muslims? What makes her so great that even after 14 centuries we remember her and take inspiration from her? Is she respected just because she was the daughter of Imam Ali (as) and Lady Fatima (as) or because she achieved a great status through her faith, patience, and determination in face of calamities?
Lady Zainab (AS) has several attributes and titles such as Al-Aqilah or the noble woman, Al-Aalimah or the most knowledgeable woman, and Aminatu al-Allah, the trustee of Allah (SWT).
She enjoyed the most exalted lineage, her mother was Lady Fatimah al-Zahra (as), who was a reflection of her father in the worship of Allah, piety, self-discipline, virtues, clemency, veneration, and other features of perfection. Her father Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hp) named her the lady of the women of the worlds. Lady Zainab was nurtured by such a great mother.
Lady Zaynab’s father is Imam Ali (as) who is known as chief of the prophets’ successors, leader of the pious ones, and head of the worshippers. Imam Ali (as) was the representative, successor, and heir to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hp). His merits are innumerable and his sacrifices for Islam are unrivaled. He was the most knowledgeable, self-possessed, magnanimous, generous, abstinent, trustworthy, faithful, and pious, and the best worshipper and the bravest among Muslims. In other words, he was the best Muslim after the Holy Prophet of Allah (pbuh&hp).
Lady Zaynab, hence, was born in the most pious family and raised in the care of the best human beings. She learned many things that made up her perfect personality, from the etiquettes of her parents and brothers. From early life, Lady Zaynab was marvelous in her intellect and wisdom. She had learned the Holy Quran by heart as well as the Prophet’s sayings regarding Islamic laws, rules of education, and principles of ethics.
She represented her brother, Imam al-Hussain (as), whenever he was absent. Hence, Muslims used to refer to her in the questions concerning Islamic laws. It was because of her extensive knowledge that Imam Zayn al-Abidin (pbuh), Abdullah ibn Jafar, Lady Fatimah the daughter of Imam al-Hussain (as), Muhammad ibn Amr, and Ata ibn al-Saib used to quote her sayings. In Kufa, during her father’s rule, Lady Zaynab had special sessions to which Muslim ladies came to listen to her lectures on Islam and the exegesis of the Holy Quran. She was thus the most trustworthy reference from whom Muslim women took advice regarding questions about Islam, moral instructions, and general ethics.
Since early life, Lady Zaynab had equipped herself with steadfastness against misfortunes. She witnessed the death of her grandfather, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&H), who loved her very much and sympathized with her. She then saw the horrible events that surprised her parents, immediately after the Holy Prophet’s (pbuh&hp) demise. Her father was taken away from the position that Almighty Allah and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hp) chose for him. Her mother was severely mistreated by people until she left this world at a young age. She then saw the people of Kufa cheat her brother, Imam al-Hasan (as), and abandoned him, thus forcing him to make a peace treaty with Muawiya, the mortal enemy of Islam and the Ahl al-Bayt (PBUT). A few years later, this Imam was assassinated by poison. She saw him vomit to blood to death.
As though all these calamities were not enough for her, on the tenth of Muharram, 61 H., she had to witness the most bitter of adversities; her brother, Imam al-Hussain (as), was martyred without any supporter and helper; the wicked and heartless soldiers of Yazid killed every male member of Imam Hussain’s (as) family including Lady Zainab’s two sons and all the companions of Imam Hussain (as). Lady Zaynab stood like an unshakable mountain in face of all these unbearable misfortunes. She faced all these with the weapon of steadfastness and resisted all the events with conviction. She is the perfect embodiment of the ayat (verse) from the Holy Quran:
“and give good news to the patient —those who, when an affliction visits them, say, ‘Indeed we belong to Allah and to Him do we indeed return.’ It is they who receive the blessings of their Lord and [His] mercy, and it is they who are the [rightly] guided.” (2:155-7)
Lady Zainab was a flag bearer of truth after all her family members were killed right in front of her eyes in Karbala and took up on herself to spread the true message of Karbala wherever she went. Whether it was the streets of Shaam (Syria) or the Palace of Yazid. She bravely spoke against the tyrant Yazid and invoked public opinion against his ruthless killing of Imam Hussain (as), the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hp)
She is an immortal role model for all the women of the world who never feared anyone but Almighty Allah (swt). Indeed, we understand from her that patience means standing firmly with determination on the command of Allah (swt).
If Imam Hussain (as) is the leader of the martyrs, his sister Zainab is the shield that defended Imam Hussain’s (as) image after his martyrdom, if Abbas is your role model, Zainab was the strength of Abbas if Ali Akbar is your hero, his aunt Zainab was his source of fortitude and support. The true message of Karbala would never have reached us, had it not been for the sacrifices of Zainab, the daughter Ali.
- Lady Zaynab | Al-Islam.org
- A Summary of Lady Zaynab's Sermon in the Court of Yazid - Al-Islam.org Blog