Come Muharram, and we find devout Shia Muslims whipping themselves with chains and blades on streets to mourn the death of Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. However, the tradition of self-infliction is increasingly being shunned by several Muslim scholars in India and abroad.
For example, in the districts of Sabarkantha, Patan, and Banaskantha (north Gujarat), many Muslims now observe Muharram by donating their blood to a cause.
Most of them are Shia Jafaris who began donating their blood a few years ago, following an appeal made by their religious leader Syed Mohammed Mujahid Husain Jafri. “Our Pir Sahab told us that there is no point in inflicting pain on self. Shedding blood in this manner is a waste. He advised us to donate blood instead,” says Sabirali Bhovaniya from Surpur to The Times of India.
In the past three years, several towns and villages in the North Gujarat have begun observing Muharram without blades. Instead, the number of blood donation camps is increasing every year.
Akhlaq Ahmed, a doctor involved in organizing such camps, informs that they have already collected 2800 blood units as compared to 3500 blood units last year. The blood donation camps shall continue for next forty days till Chehllum (the last day of mourning).
However, these districts are not the only places where this change has come. Blood donation on Ashura (the day of the killing of Imam Hussain) is increasingly getting popular in India and abroad.
UK, Canada, Iran, Lebanon, Afghanistan and many other countries now witness more blood donors from the Muslim community during the Muharram period. The Imam Hussain Blood Donation Campaign (IHBDC), launched in 2006 in England, is now active in more than 25 cities and operates beyond the UK.
At its core, this change is led by a belief that, since Imam Hussain sacrificed himself for humanity, donating blood to other people is a productive alternative to commemorate his sacrifice than injuring oneself. “If you are going to spill your blood, at least save a life,” says Eman, a donor at a mosque in North West London.
The initiative has received praise and support by the media globally. Many scholars within the Muslim community believe that, besides helping others, noble acts like these shall also go a long way in changing how Muslims and Islam are being perceived by many in western countries and other parts of the world.
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Featured Image: HispanTV