By Haroon Moghul
(CNN)Muslims will be fasting this Friday. It’s Ashura, the 10th day of the first month on the Islamic calendar. Islamic tradition holds that the Prophet Mohammed encountered Jews fasting on this day, who told them they were marking the Hebrews escape from Egypt, and he decided to join them.
While the Islamic tradition teaches the Exodus occurred on Yom Kippur (in Judaism, the day of atonement) Jews actually commemorate the Hebrews’ escape from Egypt on Passover.
If you’re wondering why Muslims would celebrate a Jewish holiday, that’s because neither Mohammed nor the early Muslims saw themselves as part of a new faith community.
They were a reboot, the restoration of monotheism to its original factory settings. Mohammed described himself as concluding the line of prophecy that went way back to Adam in the Garden of Eden and includes Noah and Abraham. Moses and Jesus, too: They’re named much more often in the Quran than Mohammed is.
Ashura also has another, grimmer meaning for Muslims: it marks the day the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson was killed after a failed uprising against a corrupt caliph.
For Sunni Muslims, that event was a tragedy. For Shia Muslims, it’s even worse: The family of the Prophet was denied its right to lead, but this time by blood and sword. So this Friday is, for all Muslims, a day of deliverance and a day of sorrow, of freedom — and tyranny.
After the Prophet Mohammed’s death in 632, his closest companions struggled to keep control of his community. Shia Muslims believe his cousin, Ali, was meant to be the first ruler; the majority went with the Prophet’s father-in-law, Abu Bakr.
Despite the dispute, Islam was surging so quickly that soon the old believers were overwhelmed by a surge of new converts, all of whom came for different reasons. Piety, maybe. But also prestige and power.
Forty years after Mohammed passed on, a king ruled in the guise of a Caliph, arrogating himself to powers Muslims judged pharaoh-like. (There’s no greater Quranic symbol of tyranny than Moses’ nemesis.)
Rather than rule in a simple, egalitarian fashion, like his predecessors and the Prophet whose memory was still alive and well, the fifth caliph, Muawiya, built palaces and shut himself off from his people.
To add insult to injury, he appointed his own son, Yazid, to succeed him on his death. Click here to read the rest of the article Muslims Celebrate Jewish Holiday