Muharram

Muḥarram is the first month of the Islamic calendar. It is one of the four sacred months of the year.Since the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, Muharram moves from year to year when compared with the Gregorian calendar.

The word “Muharram” means “forbidden”. It is held to be the second holiest month, following Ramadan. Some Muslims fast during these days. The tenth day of Muharram is the Day of Ashura, which to Shia Muslims is part of the Mourning of Muharram.

Sunni Muslims fast during this day, because it is recorded in the hadith that Musa (Moses) and his people obtained a victory over the Egyptian Pharaoh on the 10th day of Muharram; accordingly Muhammad asked Muslims to fast on this day that is Ashura and on a day before that is 9th (called Tasu’a).

Shia Muslims during Muharram do different things and with different intentions. They observe and respect Muharram as the month that martyred Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad and son of Ali, in the Battle of Karbala. They mourn for Hussein ibn Ali and refrain from all joyous events. Unlike Sunni Muslims, Shiites do not fast in this month, especially on the 9th and 10th days of Muharram.In addition there is an important Ziyarat book, the Ziyarat Ashura about Hussein ibn Ali. In the Shia sect it is popular to read this ziyarat on the “Day of Ashura”, although most of the Shias try to read Ziyarat Ashura every day and they send salutations to Husayn ibn Ali.

With the sighting of the new moon the Islamic New Year is ushered in. The first month, Muharram is one of the four sacred months that Allah has mentioned in the Quran: Muharram, Rajab, Dhu al-Qi’dah, and Dhu al-Hijjah. Even before Islam came, Quraish and Arabs as a whole knew the sanctity of the months and were forbidden to wage wars on those months

Without any relation whatsoever to the event of Battle of Karbala, Muslims are encouraged to observe fasting on the tenth day (Ashura). The ninth day (Tasu’a) is also advised. No other special annual celebrations or commemmorations in Muharram are prescribed by the Prophet.

Muharram is a month of remembrance and modern Shia meditation that is often considered synonymous with Ashura. Ashura, which literally means the “Tenth” in Arabic, refers to the tenth day of Muharram. It is well-known because of historical significance and mourning for the murder of Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad.