There are 12 months in the Islamic calendar – but we tend to know more about some months than we do about others. Everybody knows that we fast in Ramadan, and many know about the sacrifice of Dhul Hijjah. Muharram, however, seems to be a bit less well-known. Read this article to open your eyes to the rich history and wonder of the month of Muharram.
What is Muharram?
Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar. It’s often referred to as the Islamic New Year, in the same way you’d talk about the Gregorian or Chinese New Year. Muharram in the year 2020 falls on the 20th of August.
Aside from being the first month of the calendar, Muharram holds a much greater significance in the hearts of many Muslims across the globe, as both the start of something new and an opportunity to honour those who came before, and paved the way for us.
What is Muharram’s spiritual significance?
Allah (swt) divided the year into seasons. Some of these seasons are more sacred, spiritually, than others. The nights of Ramadan and the days of Dhul Hijjah, for instance, are clearly stated to be superior to other days and nights of the year. We know from the Qur’an that Muharram is one of the four sacred months. In it, the reward of our good deeds is multiplied and any wrongdoing is more serious.
“Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve months [in a year], so was it ordained by Allah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are Sacred [i.e. the 1st, the 7th, the 11th and the 12th months].” - Surah At-Tawbah [9:36]
The scholars say that one benefit of having sacred months throughout the year is that, during these time periods, we’re motivated to worship Allah (swt) even more than usual. Imaan (faith) goes up and down like a yoyo – and Allah (swt) knows that more than anyone. So sometimes we need a bit of push to remind us to do better and to be better – and there’s no more effective motivator than knowing that, during these months, even the smallest of deeds will be multiplied in reward.
Why is Muharram commemorated?
Apart from being a spiritually significant month as ordained by Allah (swt), Muharram also has a rich history. It was during this month that the Prophet Musa (as) freed the Israelites with the help of Allah (swt).
It is also the month when Imam Hussain (ra), his family and his companions stood against a ruthless army approximately 1400 years ago in the land of Karbala (modern-day Iraq), upholding the values of the Prophet (saw).
It was during this month of Muharram that Imam Hussain (ra) witnessed the loss of his young child, of just six months, who died in his arms as he was denied access to water, whilst many more of his loved ones were held captive and killed.
Why do we fast in Muharram?
Muslims usually fast in Muharram for up to two days of the month. One of these days is the 10th, the other is usually the 9th.
The 10th day of Muharram is also known as the Day of Ashura - the day that Allah (swt) saved Musa (as) and the children of Israel from the greatest tyrant to ever walk the earth: Pharaoh. As a sign of gratitude, Prophet Musa (as) used to fast on this day. In honour of his freedom and worship, the Prophet Muhammad (saw) told Muslims to fast, too. The Messenger (saw) also made it clear that he intended to fast on the ninth of Ashura as well [Sahih Muslim], but he passed away before he could.
Fasting on the Day of Ashura offers an unmissable opportunity for spiritual redemption. Allah (swt) promises that anyone who fasts on this day will be rewarded by having his minor sins from the past year wiped clean. That’s 365 days for the price of one. How generous is Allah (swt)!
Don’t ignore the tremendous blessings and barakah of the holy month of Muharram. Through Muharram observances like fasting, making duas and giving to charity, we can all become more spiritually fulfilled in this blessed month.
In commemoration of the tragic events at Karbala, and all those who were martyred without water for us during Muharram and on the day of Ashura, we ask you to give others the gift of water.
Mark this blessed month of remembrance by offering the vital resource of water by building a water well in your name or that of a loved one. Your donation could provide entire communities with clean water, saving lives for generations to come.