The month of Muharram, also known as Muharram-ul-Haram, holds a special significance in the Islamic calendar as it marks the beginning of the Islamic year. It is considered the holiest of months, and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) referred to it as ‘the Sacred Month of Allah,’ signifying its exceptional importance and blessings.
Muharram – The Sacred Month
It is a month of great reward and virtue. Muharram means sacred.” It is from those months mentioned as sacred in the Holy Quran.
The Almighty Allah states in the Holy Quran,
إِنَّ عِدَّةَ ٱلشُّهُورِ عِندَ ٱللَّهِ ٱثْنَا عَشَرَ شَهْرًا فِى كِتَٰبِ ٱللَّهِ يَوْمَ خَلَقَ ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضَ مِنْهَآ أَرْبَعَةٌ حُرُمٌ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ ٱلدِّينُ ٱلْقَيِّمُ ۚ فَلَا تَظْلِمُوا۟ فِيهِنَّ أَنفُسَكُمْ ۚ وَقَٰتِلُوا۟ ٱلْمُشْرِكِينَ كَآفَّةً كَمَا يُقَٰتِلُونَكُمْ كَآفَّةً ۚ وَٱعْلَمُوٓا۟ أَنَّ ٱللَّهَ مَعَ ٱلْمُتَّقِينَ
“Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve months (in a year), so was it ordained by Allah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them, four are Sacred, (i.e., the 1st, the 7th, the 11th and the 12th months of the Islamic calendar). That is the right religion, so wrong, not yourselves therein” [AlQuran 9:36].
Ibn Katheer (R.A.), regarding the verse, explains,
“Allah has chosen elites from His creation: from among the angels He chose Messengers, from among humanity He chose Messengers, from among speech He chose remembrance of Him (dhikr), from among spaces on earth He chose the mosques, from among the months He chose Ramadan and the sacred months. So, venerate that which Allah has chosen, for people of understanding and wisdom respect that which has been chosen by Him”.
(Tafseer Ibn Katheer)
Virtues of the month of Muharram
The month of Muharram holds several virtues and blessings in Islamic tradition. Some of the virtues of Muharram are as follows:
Muharram is known as “the Sacred Month of Allah,” and it is one of the four sacred months in the Islamic lunar calendar. These months are considered especially important, and performing good deeds during this time is believed to be more rewarding.
Fasting in the month of Muharram
Fasting during the month of Muharram is the best month after Ramadan.
In Hadith, the Holy Prophet (SAW) says about the significance of Fasting in the month of Muharram. He (SAW) said that:
Besides the month of Ramadhan, the best of fasts is the fasting of Allah’sAllah’s month of Muharram.”
Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported,
“I asked the Prophet: ‘Which Prayer is the best after the obligatory Prayers?’ He said:’Prayer during the mid of the night.’ I asked: ‘Which fasting is the best after Ramadan?’ He said,’ The month of Allah that you call Muharram” (Sahih Muslim)
Ibn’ Abbas (S) said,
“I never saw the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) so keen to fast any day and give it priority over any other than this day, the day of ‘Ashura,’ and this month, meaning Ramadhan.” (Sahih Al Bukhari)
The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) observed fast on this day and advised His companion to fast on Ashura. Even before Prophethood, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) fasted in the month of Muharram.
The Holy Prophet (SAW) says that:
“The one that keeps a fast in the month of Muharram will receive the reward of thirty fasts for each fast (in this sacred month).”
“This fast is compensation for the (minor) sins of the past year.”
Although the fasting of Muharram is Nafl (the fasts one observes out of his own choice without being obligatory on him). Yet the above Hadith gives importance to the significance of the month of Muharram fasting which is most rewardable after Farz fasting in Ramadan.
The Day of Ashura (10th Muharram)
Muharram is a month of remembrance often considered synonymous with the event of Ashura. Ashura, the “Tenth” in Arabic, refers to the tenth day of Muharram. Ashura is one of Allah’s most essential and blessed days in the Islamic calendar. Ashura gained significance due to the important events i.e. martyrdom of the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), Hazrat Hussian ibne Ali.
What to do in the month of Muharram
- Fasting during the month of Muharram, particularly on the 9th and 10th days (Ashura), is highly recommended in Islam. It is believed that fasting on Ashura can help in expiating sins and bring blessings for the coming year.
- The month of Muharram is an opportune time to engage in increased acts of worship, such as prayer, recitation of the Quran, and seeking forgiveness from Allah.
- Muslims are encouraged to engage in acts of charity and kindness during Muharram. Giving to those in need and helping others are considered especially meritorious during this blessed month.
- Muharram provides an occasion for Muslims to reflect on their lives, seek forgiveness for their past mistakes, and strive for self-improvement.
- The emphasis on peace and reconciliation is highlighted during Muharram, as Muslims are encouraged to resolve conflicts and mend broken relationships.
Events in the month of Muharram
Prophet Musa (A.S.) saved
Hazrat Abbas (R.A.), a companion of the Holy Prophet (SAW) when the Holy Prophet (SAW) migrated to Madinah, found that the Jews of Madinah used to fast on the 10th of Muharram. They said it was the day the Holy Prophet Musa (A.S.) and his followers miraculously crossed the Red Sea, and the Pharaoh drowned in its water.
On hearing this from the Jews, the Holy Prophet (SAW) said,
“We are more closely related to Musa than you.”
So the Prophet (SAW) directed the Muslims to fast on the day of Ashura. (Abu Dawood)
As Jews used to fast on the day of Ashura, it is advised by the Holy Prophet (SAW) that we should fast on the 9th and 10th or 10th and 11th of Muharram so that Muslims can be distinguished from Jews.
Martyrdom of the Second Caliph
On the 26th of Dhul-Hijjah, in the 23rd year after the migration of Prophet Muhammad to Medina, Caliph Umar was attacked by a Persian slave named Abu Lu’lu’ah, who stabbed him multiple times while he was leading the dawn prayers in the Masjid al-Haram (the Grand Mosque) in Medina. And was martyred on the 1st of Muharram.
Umar’s death marked the end of an era, and his martyrdom is mourned and commemorated by Muslims around the world, who hold him in high esteem for his exemplary character and contributions to Islam. His legacy continues to inspire Muslims to uphold the values of justice, compassion, and leadership for the greater good of the community.
Event of Karbala
The Battle of Karbala is a significant event in Islamic history that took place on October 10, 680 AD (10th of Muharram in the year 61 AH of the Islamic calendar). It was a pivotal battle between the forces of Yazid I, the Umayyad caliph, and Imam Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (SAW)
The background of the Battle of Karbala is rooted in a struggle for leadership and the interpretation of Islamic principles. After the death of the third caliph, Uthman ibn Affan, and the assassination of his successor, Ali ibn Abi Talib (Imam Hussein’s father), there was a division among Muslims over who should lead the Islamic community.
When Yazid I assumed the caliphate, he demanded Imam Hussein’s allegiance, but Hussein (AS) refused to accept Yazid’s rule due to concerns about the corrupt and unjust governance under Yazid’s leadership. Imam Hussein believed in standing up against tyranny and injustice, even if it meant sacrificing his life for the greater good of Islam.
As a result, Imam Hussein, along with his family members and a small group of loyal companions, embarked on a journey to Kufa, where he expected support from the locals who had initially expressed allegiance to him. However, the situation in Kufa changed, and Yazid’s forces intercepted Hussein’s caravan in Karbala, a city in present-day Iraq.
The Battle of Karbala lasted for about ten days, during which Imam Hussein and his supporters, who were vastly outnumbered, faced immense hardships, including thirst and hunger, as they were denied access to water by Yazid’s forces.
The aftermath of the Battle of Karbala left a profound impact on the Islamic world, it became a symbol of resistance against oppression and injustice. The tragedy of Karbala serves as a reminder of the values of justice, sacrifice, and standing up for what is right, even in the face of adversity.
The Message of Muharram for the Muslim Community
The message of Muharram carries profound significance for the Muslim community, encompassing essential values and lessons that Muslims can draw upon and apply in their lives. Here are some key messages that the month of Muharram conveys:
Sacrifice for Truth and Justice
Muharram serves as a reminder of the ultimate sacrifice made by Imam Hussein and his companions at the Battle of Karbala. It underscores the importance of standing up for truth, justice, and principles, even in the face of adversity. The message encourages Muslims to be courageous in upholding what is right and just, even if it requires personal sacrifice.
Unity and Brotherhood
The month of Muharram conveys a powerful message of unity and brotherhood for the Muslim community. It calls upon Muslims to come together, embrace their shared values, and stand united as one cohesive force, spreading harmony, compassion, and understanding in a world that is in dire need of solidarity and mutual respect.
Repentance and Forgiveness
The month of Muharram provides an opportunity for Muslims to reflect on their actions and seek forgiveness from Allah for their past mistakes and shortcomings. It encourages sincere repentance and a commitment to improving oneself.
Compassion and Charity
Muharram encourages Muslims to be compassionate and caring towards others. Acts of charity and kindness hold special significance during this month, as Muslims are encouraged to help those in need and share their blessings with others.
Prayer and Spiritual Reflection
The month of Muharram serves as a time for increased devotion and spiritual reflection. Muslims are encouraged to engage in extra prayers, recite the Quran, and deepen their connection with Allah.
As the sacred month of Muharram dawns upon us, let us seize this opportunity without hesitation. Let every moment be devoted to worship and acts of goodness. In this blessed month, let us turn our hearts towards Allah, seeking His forgiveness and guidance. Engage in increased prayers, recite the Quran with devotion, and immerse ourselves in the remembrance of the Almighty. Muharram is a time to renew our faith and strengthen our connection with Allah. Let us reflect on our deeds, repent for any wrongdoings, and strive to be better versions of ourselves.
Additionally, let acts of kindness and charity flow from our hearts. Reach out to those in need, extend a helping hand, and spread joy within our communities. Muharram presents the perfect opportunity to embody compassion and empathy. Furthermore, use this month to foster unity and harmony among Muslims. Embrace our fellow brothers and sisters, regardless of our differences, and stand united as a formidable force. Remember that every moment in Muharram is valuable, so let us not squander it in idle pursuits. Instead, make every second count by engaging in acts that bring us closer to Allah and benefit humanity.
May the month of Muharram be a time of spiritual growth, a source of blessings, and a means to strengthen our bond with Allah and our fellow believers. Let us embrace this precious time with sincerity and devotion, knowing that the rewards for our actions in this sacred month are manifold.