What is Muharram?
Muharram is the first in the Hijri Calendar and marks the beginning of the Islamic New Year. It is referred to as “the Month of Allah.” The word ‘Muharram’ means ‘forbidden’ - derived from the same root word in Arabic as the House of Allah Al-Masjid AL-Haram. It is one of the four sacred months, along with Rajab, Dhul-Qa’dah and Dhul-Hijjah, in which certain actions are forbidden, and good or bad deeds weigh heavier on the scales.
When is Muharram 2023?
The sighting of the new moon on the last day of the Islamic calendar determines the start of Muharram. In 2023, Muharram begins on Wednesday, 19th of July. It is observed for 10 days.
Day of Ashura
10th Muharram is regarded as the Day of Ashura and is the most virtuous day in the Islamic year. It is the day which commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (AS) during the Battle of Karbala.
Significance of Muharram
Muharram holds significant religious and historical importance for Muslims worldwide. It is special because Allah chose it to be so. As mentioned in the Quran,
“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. That is the correct religion, so do not wrong yourselves during them.”
Ibn Katheer (R.A) explains this verse as “Allah has chosen elites from His creation: from among the angels He chose Messengers, from among mankind 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 has been chosen by Allah, for people of understanding and wisdom respect that which has been chosen by Him.”
Tafseer Ibn Katheer
Do's and Don'ts in Muharram
Regard the Month of Muharram as a Sacred
It was narrated by Abu Bakar (RA) that the Prophet SAW said:
“Time has come back to its original state which it had when Allah created the Heavens and the Earth; the year is 12 months, four of which are sacred. Three of them are in succession: Dhul Qa’dah, Dhul Hijjah, Al Muharram, and Rajab of Mudar (named after the tribe of Mudar as they used to respect this month), which stands between Jumada (ath-Thani) and Sha’ban”.
Fast on the Day of Ashura
It is highly recommended to fast as much as possible during Muharram. The Messenger of Allah (saw) said:
“The best fasting after Ramadan is the Sacred Month of Allah (Muharram).” - Muslim
The Messenger of Allah (saw) said:
“Fast the day of ’Ashura, for indeed I anticipate that Allah will forgive (the sins of) the year before it.” - Jami At-Tirmidhi 752 - Sahih
The Prophet Muhammad SAW advised the Ummah to fast on either the 9th and 10th or the 10th and 11th of Muharram to differentiate between us and the Jews, which celebrates Allah freeing Prophet Musa (AS) and his people from the bonds of Pharaoh.
Ibn Abbas (RA) narrated that the Prophet SAW said:
“Fast the Day of Ashura and be different from Jews by fasting a day before it or a day after it.” - Hadith Ahmad
Do Good Deed in the Month of Allah
The reward of doing good deeds during the most sacred months is greater than in other months. In the Tafseer Ibn Khatheer of the following Ayah, Ibn Abbas said that good deeds during the four sacred months bring a greater reward.
“Verily, the number of months with Allaah is twelve (in a year): It was so ordained, by Allaah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them, four are sacred. That is the right religion, so wrong not yourselves therein.” - Al-Tawbah (9:36)
Be Extra Cautious to Avoid Sins
Just as the good deeds in the sacred month bring great reward, indulging in sins during the sacred months is worse than doing in other months. Therefore, abstain from sinful activities as much as possible. Fill most of your free time in voluntary acts of worship while performing obligatory prayers as usual.
Instead of Mourning, Remember the Cause of Their Martyrdom
There is no reason to mourn in the month of Muharram because Hussayn (RA) was honored with martyr status. As narrated by Umm Attiyyah (RA) that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said:
“No deceased person should be mourned for more than three days, except a woman should mourn for her husband for four months and ten days, and she should not wear dyed clothes, except for a garment of 'Asb, and she should not wear kohl or perfume, except at the beginning of her purity, when she may apply a little Qust and Azfar.”
Sunan Ibn Majah 2087: Book 10, Hadith 72
Do Not Dress Up in Black in Month
Some people go to extremes, dress in black, and cook special dishes to celebrate the Day of Ashura, which is against the Quran and Sunnah. Ibn Umar (RA) reported that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said;
“Whoever imitates a people is one of them.” - Sunan Abi Dawud: 4031
Regard innovation in deen as misguidance and do not accept or approve it. The Prophet SAW said:
“The best of the speech is embodied in the Book of Allah, and the best of the guidance is the guidance given by Muhammad. And the most evil affairs are their innovations; and every innovation is error.” - Sahih Muslim: 867a
Do Not Take Part in Gatherings That Add to the Deen
Some people hold and participate in big gatherings, which finds no basis in the Shariah. Therefore, do not indulge in activities whose reference can not be found in the Quran, Hadith, and Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW). Our Prophet (SAW) has forbidden us from holding mourning ceremonies on the death of any person, which was the practice of the people of jahiliyyah (ignorance).
“He is not from our group who slaps his checks, tears his clothes and cries in the manner of the people of jahiliyyah.” - Bukhari
As mentioned in the Quran:
“This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion.” - Al-Maidah:3
There are many virtues of Muharram and simple things we can do to take advantage of the benefits of the sacred month, such as fasting, reading the Quran, doing Dhikr, and giving charity. The time of Muharram is a great opportunity to gain reward for success in this world and the after.
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