Muharram: Significance, Events and Spiritual Exercise

Muharram: Significance, Events and Spiritual Exercise

The Islamic calendar consists of 12 months, each carrying its own level of familiarity among people.

While Ramadan, known for fasting, and Dhul Hijjah, associated with sacrifice, are widely recognized, Muharram remains somewhat less familiar. Yet, this sacred month holds great significance both religiously and historically for Muslims.

In Hadith, Muharram is referred to as the month of Allah (SWT), bestowing upon it a unique honor unmatched by any other month.

Muharram holds a deep connection to the faith and history of Muslims. Not only is it divinely designated as a sacred month by Allah (SWT), but it also marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. It symbolizes the hijrah (emigration) of the Muslim community to Medina and marks the establishment of the first Islamic state in the year 622 CE.

Regardless of the sect one follows or the specific events observed, Muharram holds great significance as a sacred month in Islam.

Designated by Allah (SWT) as one of the four sacred months, it is essential for all Muslims to observe Muharram with reverence and exemplary behaviour.

During this period, Muslims are encouraged to deepen their connection with Allah (SWT) through devout worship and remembrance, praising and glorifying Him.

It is a time for individuals to enhance their spirituality, abstain from sinful actions, and strive to become better Muslims, seeking to please Allah (SWT).

Significance and Worship

Muharram holds great importance in the Islamic calendar as it marks the beginning of a new Islamic year.

It is also known as Muharram-ul-Haram and is referred to as ‘the Sacred Month of Allah’ by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

This month is highly significant and blessed for several reasons.

Muharram, one of the four sacred months ordained by Allah (SWT), is a highly blessed month where all forms of warfare are strictly forbidden. Its name itself, Muharram, translates to ‘forbidden,’ indicating its significance.

“In the sight of Allah, the number of months is twelve, ordained in Allah’s Book on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth. Among these, four are sacred: that is the correct religion. Do not wrong yourselves in them.” – Holy Quran (9:36)

During this month, every action, whether good or bad, carries more weight on the scales of judgment. Therefore, it is crucial for all Muslims to strive towards self-improvement. While Muharram holds significance as one of the four sacred months designated by Allah (SWT), many Muslims also observe it to commemorate the death of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) grandsons.

Since it is a sacred month, many Muslims choose to fast during Muharram to enhance their devotion.

Allah (SWT) commands us to take care of ourselves and refrain from any wrongdoing during this significant month.

This entails avoiding sinful actions, maintaining pure intentions, engaging in righteous deeds, and worshipping Allah (SWT).


The Day of Ashura commemorates two significant events in Islamic history. Firstly, it is the day when Prophet Musa (Moses) (AS) and the Israelites were miraculously saved by Allah (SWT) from the Pharaoh’s army. This divine intervention involved the splitting of the Red Sea, allowing them to pass through safely.

Secondly, the Day of Ashura holds importance as the day when Prophet Nuh (Noah) (AS) and his companions finally disembarked from the Ark, marking the end of their journey and the beginning of a new chapter for humanity.

Spiritual Exercise: Fasting

The tradition of fasting on Ashura predates the emergence of Islam. When the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) arrived in Madinah during the migration, he learned that the Jews were observing a fast on ‘Ashura’ and attributed it to the victory of Moses over Pharaoh. In response, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said to his companions: “You, as Muslims, have a greater right to celebrate Moses’ victory than they do, so observe the fast on this day.” (Sahih Bukhari: 4680)

Upon learning that fasting on the Day of Ashura was also observed by Jews and Christians, some companions (may Allah be pleased with them) expressed concern. In reassurance, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) stated: “If I live until the next year, I will also fast on the ninth day of Muharram.” (Ibn Majah: 1736)

Unfortunately, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not live to see the following year. As a result, Muslims consider both the 9th and 10th days of Muharram to be significant in the Islamic calendar and observe a fast on these days. (Sahih Muslim: 1134 (a))

Based on the Hadith, it is recommended but not obligatory to fast on the 10th of Muharram along with another fast, preferably on the 9th of Muharram.

This distinction was intended by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to differentiate the Islamic way of fasting from that of the Jews, who only fast on the 10th of Muharram. While most scholars agree that fasting on Ashura should be observed with fasting on either the 9th or 11th of Muharram, it is also acceptable to fast solely on the 10th.

Akeem Alao

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