The Muharram festival marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. The first day of Muharram, when the Islamic New Year is celebrated, is thought to be especially holy. On the tenth day of Muharram, the Muslim community conducts a day of mourning to memorize the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) grandson, and Hazrat Ali’s son.
Islam’s history of Muharram is one of sadness and great loss. Imam Hussain, the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) grandson, was martyred in the Battle of Karbala about 14 centuries ago. According to history, Hussain staged a revolution against the Caliph Yazid in 680 AD in protest. As a result, he was executed, and his family was imprisoned during the Battle of Karbala. Thus, Muslims commemorate this day as Husayn Ibn Ali’s martyrdom. However, even though he was killed during the battle, his followers continue to uphold his victories and message of fairness, compassion, and equality.
Additionally, it is a lucky day because Muslims think Moses, a powerful prophet in Islam, led the Israelites through the Red Sea and triumphed over the Egyptian Pharaoh on the tenth day of Muharram. This version of the Muharram month’s history is honored without melancholy or sorrow. Muharram is an essential holiday to Muslims, even if it is observed differently by different sects.
Muslims grieve the passing of Imam Hussain and his family on this day of mourning since the month of Muharram is particularly holy to the Muslim community. Therefore, they revere their sacrifice, offer numerous prayers, and abstain from all festive occasions.
The mourning period begins on the first day of Muharram and lasts for ten days until Imam Hussain’s death. After that, they express their sorrow by donning black clothing, abstaining from food and drink, and fasting until the day of Ashura, the tenth day. Some even wait until zawal, when they honor Imam Hussain by publicly flogging themselves with chains, cutting themselves with knives, and participating in somber processions, to break their fast. This agonizing ritual represents their sorrow over the passing of their leader Hussain, who was also seen as Allah’s representative. After that, however, most mourners conduct somber processions and lament loudly while chanting “Ya Hussain.”
The tenth day of Muharram, Ashura, also honors the occasion when Allah delivered the Children of Israel from Pharaoh. When the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) encountered the inhabitants of Madina in the year 622 CE, he learned from the Jews that they observed a fast on this day in remembrance of the way that Allah had delivered the Children of Israel from their enemy, the Pharaoh of Egypt. Moreover, the Prophet Musa (Moses) had also observed a fast as a token of his appreciation for Allah. Since then, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has urged his followers to fast for two days on Ashura and the day before. Some Muslims observe a fast in remembrance of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), while others mourn the passing of Imam Hussain on Ashura.
Fasting in Muharram
Keeping a fast throughout Ramadan has many advantages and blessings. The same is true of the fasting during Muharram. Fasting in Muharram allows one to purge himself/herself of whatever minor sins he/she may have accrued during the previous year, second only to Ramadan. Moreover, the all-merciful Allah forgives the person who prays and fasts on the day of Ashura. Muslims also resist tyranny, strengthen their faith in Islam and honor Imam Hussain and his deeds by fasting during the month of Muharram.
How to Celebrate Muharram
- The 10th day of Muharram, also known as Ashura, is observed by the majority of sects as a day to remember the liberation of the Israelites from the oppressive Egyptian Pharaoh. Therefore, Muslims should read the Qur’an and contemplate Allah’s kindness to the Prophet Moses during Ashura and the days preceding it.
- The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) commands Muslims to fast on Ashura the day before it in the hadith. Therefore, before the introduction of the Ramadan fast, all Muslims were required to observe the fast.
- We will never be able to fully compensate Allah for the tremendous amount of grace. He extended to Moses when He guided the Israelites out of Egypt. However, you can express your gratitude to Allah for His generosity and love by saying the regular Nafl Salat prayers before Ashura ends.
“By fasting on the day of Ashura, I hope that Allah will accept it as expiation for the previous year.” the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said. On Muharram’s ninth and tenth days, he advises people to fast. To express gratitude to Allah for His bounties and mercy, Prophet Noah likewise fasted on the day of Ashura.