What is Muharram: The Sacred Month of Allah | Origin & Significance

Muharram serves as a time of reflection, mourning, and recommitment to the principles of Islam.
What is Muharram: The Sacred Month of Allah | Origin & Significance

The Hijri calendar's first month, Muharram, often referred to as Muharram-ul-Haram, ushers in the Islamic year. It is a very auspicious month because it is the only one to which Allah's name has been affixed; the Prophet Muhammad (saw) called it as "the Sacred Month of Allah."

It is one of the four sacred months, and its name makes clear how special it is. The name "Muharram" literally translates to "forbidden," indicating that it is so holy that some deeds are prohibited during it because they would compromise its sanctity. Both the month of Muharram and Allah's House (Al-Masjid Al-Haram), which are both holy places where every act, whether good or bad, is rewarded, take their names from the same Arabic root word.

Why do people celebrate Muharram?

For Muslims, the day known as Ashura on the tenth day of Muharram is significant. This day commemorates both Noah's departure from the Ark and Prophet Moses' journey across the Red Sea with his followers after being delivered from the Egyptian pharaoh by the hand of God.

History of Muharram: Imam Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, and his young son were ruthlessly murdered in the Battle of Karbala by a tyrannical and repressive king some fourteen centuries ago on the day of Ashura. Imam Hussain died in the conflict, but his followers continue to uphold his teachings of justice, equality, and kindness, thus that is his true triumph.


Shia Muslims mourn Imam Hussein and his family's passing on this day of sadness since Muharram is a very holy month for the Muslim community. They revere their sacrifice and offer a lot of prayers, abstaining from any pleasant occasions.

The mourning period begins on the first day of Muharram and lasts for 10 days until Imam Hussein's death day. On the day of Ashura, the 10th day, they break their fast after dressing in black, abstaining from food and drink, and fasting.

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What is Muharram: The Sacred Month of Allah | Origin & Significance

Some of them even wait until zawal (afternoon) to break their fasts in order to honour Imam Hussein by publicly whipping themselves with chains, cutting themselves with knives, and participating in sombre public processions. This agonising ritual is a representation of their sorrow over the passing of their leader Hussain, who was also seen as Allah's representative. However, most mourners conduct sombre processions and lament loudly while chanting "Ya Hussain" as they do so.

The 10th day of Muharram, known as Ashura, is dedicated to remembering the day that Allah delivered the Children of Israel from Pharaoh. When the Prophet Muhammad saw the inhabitants of Madina in the year 622 CE, he learned from the Jews that they observed a fast on this day in thanksgiving to Allah for delivering the Children of Israel from their foe, the Pharaoh of Egypt, and that Prophet Musa (Moses) had also observed a fast on this day. Muhammad then commanded his people to fast for two days, on Ashura and the day before. Sunni Muslims observe a fast in memory of Muhammad, while Shia Muslims mourn the passing of Imam Hussein on Ashura.

The Karbala War

On October 10th, 680 A.D., the Iraqi city of Karbala witnessed the Battle of Karbala. It was fought between the family and supporters of Imam Husayn Ibn Ali, the adored grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and the army of the second Umayyad dynasty, led by Caliph Yazid I.

Imam Husayn arrived in Karbala on the third day of Muharram and set up camp. He had to contend with a sizable force of about 4,000 soldiers, led by Umar Ibn Saad, the son of Kufah's founder. Imam Husayn, his family, and his friends were forbidden from obtaining water on the seventh day of Muharram by Yazid I, which made them feeble and resulted in many deaths.

In a bloody fight that took place on the 10th day of Muharram, also known as Ashura, Imam Husayn was mercilessly killed with a large number of his family and companions.

The Muharram festival serves as a reminder of Hussain's ultimate self-sacrifice for the greater good. Conclusion Hussain and his men chose death over disgrace. They never gave in to the whims of a usurper because they were fiercely committed to their sacred cause. Even now, many Muslims still find spiritual inspiration in their sacrifice.

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