Muharram The Sacred Month of Allah – What does it mean to us?
Muharram is the first month in the Islamic Lunar Calendar and is known to be a blessed and sacred month.
The word Muharram comes from the Arabic root ‘Ha ra ma’ – which means to be forbidden or prohibited. It also has the meaning of, ‘to be sacred and holy’. From this root, we get the word Haraam which conveys two meanings- prohibited as well as sacred. As we know, the Ka’bah is called Al Masjidul Haraam, the Sacred Mosque. So the month of Muharram is known as Ash-sharul Haram (the sacred month).
From the beginning of creation, Allah has made certain places and times sacred. For example, the Holy Ka’bah in Makka is a sacred and sanctified place. When a person does any Ibaadah (worship) within the precinct of the Ka’bah, the rewards for such acts are increased. The same holds for a person who does an act of transgression or sin in such a sacred place, the punishment is also increased.
Similarly, Allah has made certain times sacred. In the Islamic Lunar calendar, four months are made sanctified from amongst the twelve. Allah Almighty declares in the Quraan:
“The number of months in the sight of Allah is twelve (in a year). So ordained by Him (Allah) the day He created the heavens and the earth. From them four are sacred.” (9:36)
With respect to what these four sacred months are, the Prophet (SA) has openly declared this while delivering his farewell sermon in the last Hajj. He (SA) said: “One year consists of twelve months, of which four are sanctified, three of them are in sequence; Dhul-Qa’dah, Dhul-Hijjah, Muharram, and the fourth is Rajab.”
These four months were revered by the previous Prophets before the advent of the Prophet Muhammad (SA), as well as by the Arabs in the days of ignorance.
Allah revealed about these months in order to re-establish the significance and importance of the sacredness that are rightfully due to them.
Allah has made time and place sacred, but there is another thing that He has made sacred, that is, human beings. And the importance of the sacredness of human beings is much more than that for time and place. The Arabs had great value for time and place but did not have any value for the lives, property and esteem of human beings. They used to kill one another, steal and plunder one another, destroy the honour and diginity of innocent people, and would even kill their own girl children out of shame.
On the Day of Sacrifice of the Farewell Pilgrimage of the Prophet (SA), he addressed the gathering of Sahabas teaching them the value and worth of the lives, wealth and esteem of others.
As reported in the compilation of Imam Bukhari, the Prophet (SA) asked his illustrious companions: “Which day is this? – They thought that he was going to rename the day. Then he asked again: “Is it not the Day of Sacrifice?” They said: ‘Certainly’. Then he asked a second question: “What month is this?” – They thought that he was going to change the month. Then he asked again, “Is it not the month of Dhul Hijjah?” They said: ‘Certainly’. Then the Prophet (SA) asked a third question: “Which city is this?” The companions thought again that he was going to change the name. Then he asked: “Is it not the sacred city?” They said: ‘Certainly’. Then he said: “Verily your blood, your wealth and your honour among you are sacred, like the sacredness of this day of yours, in this month of yours in this city of yours.”
Therefore, the month of Muharram teaches us that just as time and place are sacred, so too, our lives, properties and honour are sacred and holy in the sight of Allah.
Therefore, we should not kill and murder one another, we should not plunder and steal from one another, we should not backbite and slander one another, we should not humiliate and disgrace one another, we should not tarnish the dignity of one another. We should, on the other hand, love and respect one another, cooperate and unite with one another. In general, we should be the protectors of the lives, wealth and integrity of others. To be a Muslims’ safe keeper is becoming a good Muslim as the Prophet (SA) said: “A Muslim is he from whom (other) Muslims are safeguarded from his tongue and hand.” (Bukhari)
The message of Muharram, like the other sacred months in Islam, should continue throughout the year and throughout every day of our lives. It should not last for a day or a month or a year, but it has to be integrated into our lives.
Events / Lessons / Misconceptions in Muharram
Fasting in Muharram: The Prophet (SA), has said: ‘The best fasts after the fasts of Ramadan are those of the month of Muharram.” The fast referred to here are nafl (voluntary), and each day of fast carries merit and reward.
The Day of Aashura: The 10th day of Muharram is the day of Aashura. Musa (AS) and his people were saved from the forces of Firaun and his army on this day. It is a day when the Prophet Muhammad (SA) used to fast and exhorted his nation to do likewise. Abdullah ibn Musa, (RA) reports that the Holy Prophet, (SA) preferred the fast of ‘Ashura’ than the fasts of other days, and preferred the fasts of Ramadhaan than the fast of ‘Ashura’. (Bukhari and Muslim) Fasting should however, be done on the tenth day along with either the ninth or the eleventh.
Beginning of the Islamic year: Muharram is the first month in the Islamic/Lunar calendar and marks the beginning of a new year. Therefore, we should reflect on the past year, identifying mistakes and flaws, and make positive changes for the new year. We should plan for the rectification of ourselves by seeking knowledge of Islam and then by implementing the orders and refraining from the prohibitions.
Hijrah – Migration: The beginning of the Islamic calendar started from the year of the Hijrah or migration of the noble Prophet (SA) and his companions from Makka to Madinah.
Some Misconceptions and Deviations:
The following are misconceptions and actions either derived from very weak traditions or from deviated practices concerning the month of Muharram. They should be avoided.
This is the day on which Adam was created.
This is the day on which Ibrahim (AS) was born.
This is the day when Allah accepted the repentance of Adam (AS).
This is the day when Qiyaamah will take place.
Taking a bath on the day of Aashurah will prevent a person getting ill.
To prepare a special dish or meal on this day.
To attribute the sacredness of the day of Aashura to the martyrdom of Imam Husain (RA). On the contrary, it is a merit for Imam Husain (RA) and his followers that they were martyred on the day of Aashura since the merit of this day was established from before.
To consider Muharram as an unlucky and evil month, and that there must not be weddings, travel, or other events, etc. because Imam Husain and his followers were martyred in this month. This should not be considered, since if the death of a great personality is the reason for an unlucky day or month then the entire year would be unlucky given that the year is overflowing with the death of Sahabas, Tabieen, Jurists, Mufassireen, Muhadditheen, etc.
To have lamenting or mourning ceremonies on the day of Aashura or thereafter, mourning the death of Imam Husain and his followers. In these ceremonies, there is the tearing of clothes, screaming, slapping of the face, burning of the taj, etc.
This is not part of Islam. The Prophet (SA) condemned such action in his words, “He is not from our group who slaps his cheeks, tears his clothes and cries in the manner of the people of ignorance (jahiliyyah).” (Sahih Bukhari)
To have Hosay activities. It is not permissible for Muslims to take any part whatsoever in Hosay activities, or to condone or compromise ones’ religion to accommodate such practices.