The Sacred Month of Muharram

Muharram is the month with which the Muslims begin their lunar (Hijra) Calendar. It is one of the four sanctified months about which the Holy Quran Says:

Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] months in the register of Allah [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred…’Al Qur’aan 9: 36

These four months, according to the authentic traditions (Prophetic narrations), are Dhul-Qa’dah, Dhul-Hijjah, Muharram and Rajab. All the commentators of the Noble Quran are unanimous on this point, because the Noble Prophet (s.a.w) declared in his sermon on the occasion of his last Hajj (Farewell Hajj): 

“One year consists of twelve months, of which four are sanctified months, three of them are in sequence; Thul-Qi’dah, Thul-Hijjah, Muharram, and the fourth is Rajab.”

The sanctity of these four months was established right from the day Allah created the universe. The Pagans of Makkah attributed themselves to Hadhrat Ibraheem (as) , who observed the sanctity of these months.

The month of Muharram is also from those months that Allah has declared as sacred, in the previous Religions, wars were forbidden in these months, in the early days of Islam this was also the case.

“They ask you regarding fighting in the sacred months, say fighting therein is a transgression…” Al Qur’aan

But later this order was cancelled, although the order regarding the sanctity and extra virtue of these months still remains.

Therefore, extra caution should be taken to keep away from sin and acts of disobedience.

Muharram has certain special characteristics which are mentioned below:

The Noble Prophet (s.a.w) said: “The best of fasts besides the month of Ramadhan is the fasting of Allah’s month of Muharram.” (Muslim)

Although the fasts of the month of Muharram are not obligatory, one who fasts in these days out of his own will is entitled to a great reward by Allah Almighty. The Hadith cited above signifies that the fasts of the month of Muharram are the most virtuous ones amongst the voluntary fasts. It does not mean that the award promised for fasts of Muharram can be achieved only by fasting for the whole month. On the contrary, each fast during this month has merit. Therefore, one should avail of this opportunity as much as he can.

Although Muharram is a sanctified month as a whole, the 10th day of Muharram is the most sacred among all its days. The day is named ‘Aashuraa’.  According to Hadhrat Ibn ‘Abbas (ra) the Prophet (s.a.w) when he migrated to Madinah, found that the Jews of Madinah used to fast on the 10th day of Muharram. They said that it was the day on which Prophet Moosa (as) and his followers miraculously crossed the Red Sea and the Pharaoh (Fir’own) and his army were drowned in its waters. On hearing this from the Jews, the Prophet (s.a.w) said, “We are worthier of Moosa than you,” and directed the Muslims to fast on the day of ‘Aashuraa’. [Abu Dawood]

It is also reported in a number of authentic traditions that in the beginning, fasting on the day of ‘Aashuraa’ was obligatory for the Muslims. It was later that the fasts of Ramadhaan were made obligatory and the fast on the day of ‘Aashuraa’ was made optional. Hadhrat ‘Aa’ishah (ra) said:

“When the Prophet (s.a.w) came to Madinah, he fasted on the day of ‘Aashuraa’ and directed the people to do likewise. But when the fasts of Ramadhaan were made obligatory, the obligation of fasting was confined to Ramadhaan and the obligatory nature of the fast of ‘Aashuraa’ was abandoned. Whoever so desires should fast on it and any other who so likes can avoid fasting on it.” (Abu Dawood)

However, the Prophet (ra) used to fast on the day of ‘Aashuraa’ even after the fasting in Ramadhaan was made obligatory. Hadhrat Abdullah Ibn Moosa (ra) reports that the Prophet (s.a.w) preferred the fast of ‘Aashuraa’ on the fasts of other days and preferred the fasts of Ramadhaan on the fast of ‘Aashuraa’. Bukhari and Muslim]

One should also observe the fast of the 9th Muharram or the 11th of Muharram to safeguard his deed from resemblance with other Religions who fast only on the 10th Muharram. To fast only on the day of Aashuraa is Makrooh as stated by Allamah Ibn Aabideen Shaami.

One should be generous on one’s family and dependants and spend more on them than what is normally spent.   Rasulullah (Sallallahu-Alayhi-Wasallam) said:

“One who generously spends on his family on the day of Ashoora, Allah will increase (his provision) for the whole year.” (Baihaqi)

Misconceptions and Innovations:

Some other people attribute the sanctity of ‘Aashuraa’ to the martyrdom of Hadhrat Hussayn (ra). No doubt, the martyrdom of Hadhrat Hussayn (ra) is one of the most tragic episodes of our history. Yet, the sanctity of ‘Aashuraa’ cannot be ascribed to this event for the simple reason that the sanctity of ‘Aashuraa’ was established during the days of the Prophet (s.a.w) much earlier than the birth of Hadhrat Hussayn (ra) . On the contrary, it is one of the merits of Hadhrat Hussayn (ra) that his martyrdom took place on this blessed day. 

Another misconception about the month of Muharram is that it is an evil or unlucky month, for Hadhrat Hussayn was killed in it. It is for this misconception that some people avoid holding marriage ceremonies in the month of Muharram. This is again a baseless concept, which is contrary to the teachings of the Holy Qur’aan and the Sunnah (Prophetic Tradition). If the death of an eminent person on a particular day renders that day unlucky for all times to come, one can hardly find a day of the year free from this bad luck because every day is associated with the demise of some eminent person. The Holy Qur’aan and the Sunnah of the Prophet (s.a.w) have liberated us from such superstitious beliefs.

Another wrong practice related to this month is to hold the lamentation and mourning ceremonies in the memory of martyrdom of Hadhrat Hussayn (ra). Indeed the event of Karbalaa’ is one of the most tragic events of our history, but the Prophet (s.a.w) has forbidden us from holding the mourning ceremonies on the death of any person. The people of Pre-Islamic ignorance era used to mourn over their deceased through loud lamentations, by tearing their clothes and by beating their cheeks and chests. The Prophet (s.a.w) prevented the Muslims from doing all this and directed them to observe patience by saying “Inna lillaahi wa inna ilayhi raaji’oon” (To Allah We belong, and to Him is our return). A number of authentic narrations are available on the subject. To quote only one of them: “He is not from us who slaps his checks, tears his clothes and cries in the manner of the people of jahiliyyah (Pre-Islamic ignorance)”. Bukhari

All the prominent jurists are unanimous on the point that the mourning of this type is impermissible. Even Hadhrat Hussayn (ra) shortly before his demise, had advised his beloved sister Zaynab (ra) not to mourn over his death in this manner. He (ra) said,

“My dear sister! I swear upon you that in case I die you shall not tear your clothes, nor scratch your face, nor curse anyone for me or pray for your death.” (Al-Kaamil, Ibn Katheer vol. 4 pg. 24)

It is evident from this advice, that this type of mourning is condemned even by the blessed person for the memory of whom these mourning ceremonies are held. Every Muslim should avoid this practice and abide by the teachings of the Prophet(s.a.w). May Allah give us Towfeeq of Amal. Aameen

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