What is Muharram? Martyrdom of Imam Hussain

It is the first month of the Islamic calendar. Instead of joyous celebration, Muslims mark the beginning of the New Year by taking up the black attire of sorrow and participate in mourning gatherings in which the sacrifices of Husayn and his companions are commemorated. It is one of the four months of the year in which fighting is prohibited. Since the Islamic calendar is lunar, Muharram moves from year to year when compared with the Gregorian calendar.

Muharram is so called because it was unlawful to fight during this month; the word is derived from the word ‘haram’ meaning forbidden. It is held to be the most sacred of all the months, excluding Ramadan. It is the same month when Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, was brutally massacred in Karbala alongside his family and friends in the year 680 CE/61 AH.

What is Muharram and Ashura to the Sunnis & Shias

Muharram is often believed to be synonymous with ‘Ashura’ which is the tenth day of the month Muharram. Though the entire month of Muharram is considered a holy month, but Ashura is most significant for both the sects of Islam, ‘Shias’ and ‘Sunnis’. However, the rituals followed by Shias and Sunnis are different on the day of Ashura.

Sunnis fast on the 9th and the 10th day of Muharram because according to the records of hadith (is considered as one of the several reports depicting the actions, words, habits, etc. of the prophet Muhammad of Islam), Musa and his folks triumphed over the Pharaoh of Egypt on the 10th day of Muharram knows as Ashura and the 9th day is called Tasu’a. According to another Hadith, one should fast for two continuous days, either on the 9th and the 10th or the 10th and the 11th, the reason being Jews also used to fast on the day of Ashura and the Sacred Prophet in order to differentiate the Islamic rule of fasting, instructed Muslims to fast for one additional day in continuity. But Shia Muslims follow different rituals on the day of Ashura and consider this a day of mourning, as Hazrat Imam Hussain who was the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad was killed at the battle of Karbala on this day.

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