Tuesday 9 July 2024

What is the significance of Muharram - the first month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar

The sacred month of Muharram (Arabic: ٱلْمُحَرَّم) holds significant importance in Islam, as highlighted in both the Quran and Hadith. It begins after the Dhul Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar and it precedes the month of Safar. The month of Muharram is steeped in both religious and historical significance for Muslims. Not only is it a month decreed by Allah (SWT) as sacred, it is the first month of the Islamic calendar, marking the hijrah (emigration) of the Muslims to Medina and the establishment of the first Islamic state in 622CE.

Although, much can be written on the importance of this sacred month, this post explains its importance in very concise form based on its mention in Qur'an and Hadith, besides mentioning the tragic incident of Karbala, which happened despite special Divine commandments to refrain from fighting in this sacred month.

Muharram in the Quran

"Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] months in the register of Allah [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred. That is the correct religion, so do not wrong yourselves during them. And fight against the disbelievers collectively as they fight against you collectively. And know that Allah is with the righteous [who fear Him]." (Surah At-Tawbah (9:36)}

In this verse, Allah mentions the four sacred months, which include Muharram, during which fighting and acts of aggression are forbidden. These months are meant to be a time of peace, reflection, and increased devotion.

Muharram in the Hadith
  • Sanctity of Muharram:
    • Narrated by Abu Bakr: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "The year is twelve months of which four are sacred: the three consecutive months of Dhu al-Qa'dah, Dhu al-Hijjah, and Muharram, and Rajab Mudar (which stands between Jumada and Sha'ban)." (Sahih Muslim 1679a)
  • Fasting in Muharram:
    • Narrated by Abu Huraira: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "The best fast after Ramadan is in the month of Allah, Muharram." (Sahih Muslim 1163)
  • Ashura (10th of Muharram):
    • Narrated by Ibn 'Abbas: "The Prophet (ﷺ) came to Medina and saw the Jews fasting on the day of Ashura. He said, 'What is this?' They said, 'This is a righteous day. It is the day when Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemies, so Moses fasted on this day.' He said, 'We have more right to Moses than you.' So he fasted on that day and commanded [the Muslims] to fast on that day." (Sahih Bukhari 2004)
    • Narrated by Ibn 'Abbas: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "If I remain alive till the next year, I shall also fast on the ninth [of Muharram]." (Sahih Muslim 1134)
Significance of Ashura
The day of Ashura, the 10th of Muharram, is particularly significant. It commemorates the day when Allah saved the Israelites from Pharaoh's tyranny. For Muslims, it also holds the tragic memory of the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), at the Battle of Karbala. This event is especially observed by Shia Muslims through mourning and remembrance.

Sacredness of Muharram
  • Peace and Non-Aggression: The sacredness of Muharram entails a prohibition on warfare and aggression, promoting peace and reflection. Yet we see how this commandment of Allah was grossly violated when the tragic incident of Karbala took place in which Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) and his companions and family were martyred.
  • Acts of Worship: Muslims are encouraged to increase their acts of worship during Muharram, especially fasting. The fast of Ashura is highly recommended, and it is considered meritorious to also fast on the 9th and/or 11th of Muharram to differentiate from the Jewish practice.
  • Reflection and Remembrance: Muharram is a time for Muslims to reflect on historical events, including the deliverance of Moses and the Israelites and the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali. It is a time for learning lessons of faith, perseverance, and justice.
The sacred month of Muharram holds profound spiritual significance in Islam, marked by its prohibition on fighting, encouragement of fasting, and reflection on key historical events. The Quran and Hadith both underscore the importance of observing this month with increased devotion, peace, and righteousness, making it a special time for Muslims to renew their faith and commitment to Islamic principles.

May Allāh (سبحانه و تعالى‎) help us understand Qur'ān and follow the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, which is embodiment of commandments of Allah contained in the Qur'ān. May Allah help us to be like the ones He loves and let our lives be lived helping others and not making others' lives miserable or unlivable. May all our wrong doings, whether intentional or unintentional, be forgiven before the angel of death knocks on our door. 

وَمَا عَلَيۡنَاۤ اِلَّا الۡبَلٰغُ الۡمُبِيۡنُ‏ 
(36:17) and our duty is no more than to clearly convey the Message.”
That is Our duty is only to convey to you the message that Allah has entrusted us with. Then it is for you to accept it or reject it. We have not been made responsible for making you accept it forcibly, and if you do not accept it, we shall not be seized in consequence of your disbelief, you will yourselves be answerable for your actions on Day of Resurrection.

May Allah forgive me if my posts ever imply a piety far greater than I possess. I am most in need of guidance.

Reading the Qur'ān should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully. It will also help the Muslims to have grasp over social issues and their answers discussed in the Qur'an and other matter related to inter faith so that they are able to discuss issues with non-Muslims with authority based on refences from Qur'an.

Note: When we mention God in our posts, we mean One True God, we call Allah in Islam, with no associates. Allah is the Sole Creator of all things, and that Allah is all-powerful and all-knowing. Allah has no offspring, no race, no gender, no body, and is unaffected by the characteristics of human life.

Photo | Resource Reference: Wikipedia - read more about details of Muharram and Karbala Incident.

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