1. Muharram – The Sacred Month The first month of the Islamic calendar i.e. Muharram is one of the four sacred months of the year known as Ash’hur-ul-Hurum – The Sacred Months.
Although the concept of celebrating ‘New Year’s Day’ is unislamic and alien to the Deen, nevertheless the month of Muharram has a significance peculiar to it. The importance of this month can be gauged by the fact that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم has regarded it as ‘The month of Allah’ and that it's fasts as the best of all fasts after the fasting of Ramadaan (Muslim).
In a hadeeth, Ibn ‘Abbaas◌ؓ reports that the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم said, “He who fasts on the day of ‘Arafah (9th Thil-Hijjah), his fast will be a compensation for the sins of two years, and one who keeps a fast in the month of Muharram will receive the reward of thirty fasts for each fast” (Tabraani).
It is a month that was not only revered by the Muslims but also by the Christians, Jews and the pagans of Makkah.
2. Muharram and ‘Aashoora before Islaam The four months of Thul-Qa’dah, Thul-Hijjah, Muharram and Rajab were regarded as sacred by the religious codes (Shari’ah) of all previous prophets and were respected and revered by them. The religious codes agreed that every act of worship during these four months was more rewarding and if one committed a sin during these months, then the curse and punishment resulting from it was more severe. Under these past religious codes, fighting and killing was also prohibited during these months. Since the Arabs of Makkah were among the progeny of Ibraheem علیھ السلام , so they too believed in him as a prophet of Allah and followed aspects of his Shari’ah including the performance of Hajj, abstaining from fighting and killing in the sacred months and celebration of ‘Aashoora etc.
The significance of the 10th of Muharram for the Quraish of Makkah is well established , they used to put a new cloth on the Ka’ba on this day and also observed the fast (Bukhari).
Before Islam, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم used to participate in all those acts of worship which the Quraish adhered to in accordance to the religion of Ibraheem علیھ السلام including the fast of ‘Aashoora. It is reported that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم also used to observe the fast of ‘Aashoora in Makkah even before Islaam.
3. Muharram and ‘Aashoora in Islaam Later on when the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم migrated to Madinah, he learnt that Jews also fasting on the day of ‘Aashoora. When he enquired as to why they observed a fast on this day, the Jews replied, "It is a day of great significance as Allah had saved Moosa علیھ السلام and his people and drowned Fir’awn and his followers on this day. In gratitude, Moosa علیھ السلام kept a fast (on this day) hence we also do the same." When the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم heard this, he exclaimed, "We are more worthy and closer to Moosa than you.” Therefore, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم kept the fast of ‘Aashoora and ordered the Muslims to do the same (Bukhari and Muslim).
Due to the instructions of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, the fast of the 10th of Muharram now became the only fardh fast in the whole year as Ramadaan fasts had not yet become obligatory upon the Muslims.
A couple of years later when the fasts of Ramadaan were ordained upon the Muslims, the fast of the 10th of Muharram became optional. However our Nabi صلى الله عليه وسلم continued to fast on this occasion.
Hafsah◌ؓ narrates that the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم never left four things:
1. The fast of ‘Aashoora 2. The fasting of the nine days of Thil-Hijjah (from the 1st to the 9th)
3. Three fasts of every month 4. Two raka’ats before Fajr salaah (Nisaai).
In the final year before his demise it was brought to his attention that the occasion of ‘Aashoora should be marked with some form of distinction as the Jews also celebrated it. For this reason the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said, “Do fast on ‘Aashoora and in it create distinction with the Jews by fasting an extra day on either side” i.e. 9th or 11th. He also resolved that if he lived till the following year he would fast on the 9th (also.)
4. The virtues of the fast of Muharram and ‘Aashoora Although the whole month of Muharram is a significant month for fasting, nonetheless the fast of the 10th of Muharram is the most sacred among all its days and observing fast on this day is regarded as a highly meritorious act of worship. The Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said, “I hope that through the blessings of this fast, Allah forgive the sins of the past year” (Tirmithi).
5. Misconceptions of Muharram and ‘Aashoora There are some misconceptions and innovations (Bid’ah) with regards to the month of Muharram and the day of ‘Aashoora which have no basis and room in Islaam. Some of these are mentioned below:
1) ‘Aashoora and Imaam Hussain◌ؓ’s martyrdom in Karbala: Some people believe that the importance of ‘Aashoora is related to the Martyrdom of Hussain ◌ؓ. Whilst we have utmost respect for the grandson of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, nevertheless this belief cannot be correct for the simple fact that the significance and sanctity of ‘Aashoora was established during the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم’s time which was well before the birth of Hussain◌ؓ.
2.Mourning the death of Hussain◌ؓ,to refrain from wearing coloured clothes and ornaments in order to mourn the death of Hussain◌ؓ or to clothe children in some particular robes to make them look like ‘beggars’ of Hussain◌ؓ are all innovations.
Things to do during Muharram
1) Although committing a sin during anytime of the year is unacceptable, nevertheless, one should refrain from disobeying Allah ُس ْب َحا َن ُھ َو َت َعا َل ٰى especially during the sacred month of Muharram. Rather, one should endeavour to excel in performing good deeds! 2) Be regular with all your daily salaats at least during this very prominent time of the year. 3) Fasting for as many days as possible in this month is meritorious. If one is not able to do so then may be on Mondays and Thursdays which was also the Sunnah and practise of Our .صلى الله عليه وسلم Beloved Prophet 4) 1st of Muharram 1443 (New Islamic Year) will fall on Tue 10th August 2021 5) Day of ‘Aashoora (10th Muharram) is on Thursday 19th August. Fasting is recommended on this occasion for two days (Wednesday 18th and Thursday 19th Aug. 6) The two day fast will be celebrated on Wednesday 18th and Thursday 19th August at Masjid Umar.
May Allah ُس ْب َحا َن ُھ َو َت َعا َل ٰى grant us all a highly spiritual month of Muharram