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History, Significance and Celebrations of Muharram


Muharram is celebrated on different days across the world every year and is an important Islamic festival that begins after the sighting of the new moon on the final day of the Islamic calendar. This article provides all information about Muharram’s History, Significance, Celebrations and much more.

Month of Muharram
Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar and second holiest of the four sacred months in a year in Islam, the first being Ramadan. Muharram celebrations start after the new moon’s sight on the Islamic calendar’s last day and continue for ten days. The Day of Ashura, the 10th day of Muharram is most significant for different Muslim factions for various reasons. In 2020, the 10th day of Muharram will fall on Tuesday, 30th August.

What is the History of Muharram?
The 10th day of Muharram, called the Day of Ashura, is considered most important by Shia and Sunni Muslims. Shia Muslims observe it as a day of mourning to commemorate the death of the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson, Hussayn Ibn Ali. According to legends, Imam Hussayn once objected to caliph Yazid’s legitimacy and revolted against him. The objection not only led to Karbala’s battle and the beheading of the revolutionary leader but also imprisonment of his family on the day of Ashura in 680 AD. Sunni Muslims believe that on the 10th day of Muharram the religious leader Moses led Israel through the Red Sea and got victory over Egyptian Pharaoh and his army of war chariots. There is another belief that God created Adam and Eve on the 10th day of this holy month.

How do people Celebrate Muharram?
Both Shia and Sunni Muslims observe Muharram; however, not in the same manner. For Shia Muslims, it is a day of observance and not joy, hence, they mourn for the ten days. They attend special meetings at mosques, dress in black, and even refrain from listening to their favorite music. They also do not attend events such as weddings. On the 10th day of Muharram, street processions take place where they walk barefoot, chanting and whipping their chests until it draws blood to remember the sufferings of Imam Hussayn. Sunnis observe this day by fasting from the first to the tenth or eleventh day of the month, and the ones who fast are believed to be rewarded by Allah.

Facts about Muharram
The Arabic term ‘Muharram’ means forbidden. Muharram is one of the four sacred months mentioned by Allah in the Quran and Rajab, Dhu al-Qi’dah, and Dhu al-Hijjah. These four months are regarded as sacred because it was during these months that Allah told about the creation of the universe in the Quran.
Allah says in the Quran regarding the sacred months:

  • “Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve months in the register of Allah 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.” At-Tawbah 9:36
  • It was during Muharram when the first moon was sighted after the Prophet migrated to Medina.
  • The tenth day of Muharram is regarded as the Day of Ashura. Ashura means “tenth” in Arabic. It is a month of remembrance and mourning for modern Shia Muslims. Shias remember Ashura to observe the murder of Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad.
  • For the Shiites, the first night of Muharram until the day of Ashura, are the days in which Imam Hussein and his followers were killed by the army of Yazid I at the Battle of Karbala where the remaining survivors were captured and brought to Damascus.
  • According to the Muslim scriptures, the death of Prophet Muhammad divided the Muslim world because Muhammad’s descendant Yazid ruled incorrectly. Hussein being the third Shiite Imam and second son of Ali refused to swear allegiance to Yazid. He was killed, and his martyrdom is regarded as sacred.
  • Since 680 A.D, Hussein’s death became the most important communal ritual for Shiites.
  • According to Ibn Abbas, it was during Ashura when the Holy Prophet migrated to Medina and found the Jews fasting during this day to commemorate the day when Musa (Moses) parted the Red Sea to help them escape from slavery in Egypt.
  • Some common misconceptions about Ashura include the day of Adam’s creation, the birth of Ibrahim (Abraham), an unlucky month due to the Battle of Karbala, and the time for doomsday.

Muharram Wishes

  • “May all the praises and thanks be to Allah to whom belongs all that is in heavens and on the earth. Have a blessed Muharram.”
  • As the Hijri New Year begins, let us pray that it will be a year full of peace, happiness and abundance of new friends. May Allah bless you throughout the new year.”
  • “I pray for you and your family’s happiness and well-being. May you all have an amazing year ahead. Happy New Hijri Year!”


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