Ya labayk Ya Hussein (I am here oh Hussein), is a common saying preached during the holy month of Muharram. This expression is said to commemorate Imam Hussein, a member of Prophet Muhammad’s family. During this specific time, Shia Muslims grieve the loss of many of the prophet’s family members that were massacred in Karbala, Iraq by Yazid’s army.
It’s believed that members of the prophet’s family were denied water and food by the Euphrates. The reason this specific massacre occurred was due to Yazid trying to establish his caliphate by force. He specifically asked Imam Hussein to endorse him or die.
The massacre didn’t spare any family members, including a six-month-old baby Ali Asghar.
“I only seek water for the infant, whose condition and agony is before you. Since you fear that I may myself drink the water, I am placing this infant on the ground so that you may yourselves take the child and quench his thirst.”
The child was dying of thirst and the opposing army decided to murder the six-moth old instead of giving him water. Humanity was lost during this time. Also, as a result of the massacre the women and children were taken as prisoners.
Today, grieving is practiced by individuals going to mosques in their areas and listening to lectures about a hard time. Afterward, as a sign of respect, they practice maathum.
Maathum is a way of expression for individuals to show their sadness and love for the prophet’s family. Individuals beat their chest to a rhythm where they sing about the tough story. Although, this is not a requirement several individuals participate.
Following the month of Muharram is Safar. It marks when Yazid’s army traveled with women and children they took as prisoners.
Although people vary in values for the month of Muharram, the basic understanding is unifying as a community to show respect for the prophet’s family.