Muḥarram is the first month of the Islamic calendar. It is one of the four sacred months of the year.
Since the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, Muharram moves from year to year when compared with the Gregorian calendar.
The event marks the anniversary of the Battle of Karbala when Imam Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad, was killed by the forces of the second Umayyad caliph Yazid I at Karbala.
Family members, accompanying Hussein ibn Ali, were killed or subjected to humiliation.
Some Muslims fast during daylight hours on the ninth and 10th or 10th and 11th days of the month. They may also attend special prayer meetings in mosques or private homes.
The first ten days of the month are observed as a period of mourning. After the death of the Prophet Mohammed, the Quran was considered as the final word. The Prophet had named no successor.
One fraction of his followers believed that succession should remain within Mohammed’s family, while another disagreed.
As is evident, different factions of the Muslim community observe this day differently.
While for Sunni Muslims, it is a day of celebration, for Shia Muslims, it is a day of mourning. However, both the factions have almost identical traditions.
Muharram is a solemn holiday for Shiite Muslims, and they mourn on the first 10 days. During this time, they don black attire and participate in mourning gatherings.
They visit mosques and shrines with their relatives to remember the martyr Imam Hussain, the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, who was killed in the Battle of Karbala in A.D. 680 on the 1oth day. This day is referred to as the day of Ashura.
The word “Muharram” means “Forbidden” and is derived from the word harām, meaning “sinful”.
It is held to be the most sacred of all the months, excluding Ramadan. Some Muslims fast during these days.
The tenth day of Muharram is the Day of Ashura, which to Shia Muslims is part of the Mourning of Muharram.
Some other people attribute the sanctity of Ashura to the martyrdom of Sayyidina Husain during his battle with the Syrian army.
No doubt, the martyrdom of Sayyidina Husain is one of the most tragic episodes of our history.
Yet, the sanctity of Ashura cannot be ascribed to this event for the simple reason that the sanctity of ‘Ashura was established during the days of the Holy Prophet much earlier than the birth of Sayyidna Husain.