The Month of Muharram

Beliefs & Practices / Sunday, August 17th, 2008

Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar is one of the four sacred months mentioned in the Glorious Qur`aan Majeed,

“Lo! The number of the months with Allah is twelve months by Allah’s Ordinance in the day that He created the heavens and the earth. Four of them are sacred: that is the right religion. So wrong not yourselves in them.”

The specification of these four sacred months is stated in a Hadith narrated by Abu Bakrah (radhiallahu anhu) that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said, “Verily time has completed its cycle and returned to its original stage as it was on the day Allah created the heavens and the earth. The year consists of twelve months, four of which are sacred. Three of them occur consecutively; Zul Qa’dah, Zul Hijjah and Muharram, (the fourth being) Rajab of Mudhar (named after the tribe of Mudhar as they used to respect this month) which occurs between Jamadul Akhir and Sha’ban.” (Bukhari)

From out of the four sacred months, Muharram has been blessed with certain specific virtues. The noble Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: “The best of fasts besides the month of Ramadhan is the fasting of Allah’s Month of Muharram and the best of Salaat besides the Fardh (compulsory) Salaat is the Tahajjud Salaat (performed after midnight before dawn).” (Muslim)

In another Hadith, Ibn Abbas (radhiyallahu anhuma) reports that the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: “He who fasts on the day of Arafah (9th Zul Hijjah), his fast will be a compensation for the sins of two years and the one that keeps a fast in the month of Muharram will receive the reward of thirty fasts for each fast.” (Tibrani, At-Targheeb Wat-Tarheeb)

The Day of Ashoora (10th Muharram)

The tenth day of the month of Muharram is known as Ashoora. It is one of the most important and blessed days in the Islamic calendar. Some Ulama (scholars) are of the opinion that before the fasts of Ramadhan, the fast of the day of Ashoora was compulsory upon the Ummah. This is stated in a Hadith reported by Aishah (radhiyallahu anha) that the noble Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) ordered the observance of the fast of Ashoora. However, when the fast of Ramadhan became compulsory, then whosoever wished, kept this fast and whosoever desired did not observe this fast. (Bukhari)

But, nevertheless Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) continued to fast this day and encouraged his Companions to do the same. Ibn Abbaas radhiyallahu anhum) says: “I did not see Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) anxiously await the fast of any day, which he gave preference to over other days, but this day — the day of Ashoora.” (Bukhari)

Humayd Ibn Abdur Rahman narrates that he heard Mu’awiyah Ibn Abi Sufyan (radhiyallahu anhu) on the day of ‘Ashoora, during the year he performed Hajj, saying on the pulpit: “O the people of Madinah! Where are your Ulama? I heard Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) saying: This is the day of Ashoora. Allah has not enjoined its fasting on you but I am fasting it. Whosoever wish, keep (this) fast and whosoever desires do not observe (this fast) .” (Bukhari)

In another Hadith, Ibn Abbas (radhiyallahu anhuma) narrates that Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) came to Madinah and found the Jews fasting on the day of Ashoora. Hence Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) inquired of them, “What is (the significance of) this day on which you fast?” They replied, “This is a great day. On this day Allah saved Moosa and his people and drowned Fir’awn and his nation. Thus Moosa (alayhis salaam) fasted on this day as a token of thanksgiving, therefore we too fast on this day.” The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said, “We are more worthy of Moosa and nearer to him than you.” Thereafter, Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) fasted on this day and ordered (his Companions) that a fast be kept on this day. (Muslim)

Recommended deeds on the Day of Ashoora

1. Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) has exhorted and encouraged his Ummah to fast on this day. Abu Qatadah (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) was asked regarding the fast of the day of Ashoora. Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) replied: “It is a compensation for the (minor) sins of the past year.” (Muslim)

It must be borne in mind that wherever a promise of forgiveness of sins is made upon the fulfilment of some action, it is only the minor sins that are forgiven. The major sins are not forgiven without true tawbah (repentance).

2. One should also observe the fast of the 9th or 11th of Muharram to safeguard his deed from resemblance with the non-Muslims who fast only on the 10th Muharram. Ibn Abbaas (radhiyallahu anhuma) said that when Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) observed the fast of the day of Ashoora and ordered (his Companions) to fast, they said, “O Rasulullah! It is a day revered by the Jews and Christians.” Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said, “The coming year, if Allah wills, we will fast on the ninth (also).” (Muslim)

Ibn Abbas (radhiyallahu anhuma) reports that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: “Should I live until the coming year, I will definitely fast on the ninth (also)…” (Muslim)

Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: “Observe the fast of Ashoora and oppose the Jews. Fast a day before it or a day after.” (Bayhaqi)

Hence, it is important to either fast on the ninth and tenth of Muharram or the tenth and eleventh. To fast only on the day of Ashoora is Makrooh Tanzeehi as stated by Allamah Ibn Abideen Shaami (rahmatullahi alayh).

3. One should be generous on one’s family and dependants and spend more on them than what is normally spent. Abu Hurayrah (radhiyallahu anhu) reports that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: “One who generously
spends on his family on the day or Ashoora, Allah will increase (his provision) for the whole year.”
(Bayhaqi, At-Targheeb Wat-Tarheeb)

This Hadith is not very authentic according to the science of Hadith. However, scholars of Hadith like Bayhaqi and Ibn Hibbaan have accepted it as reliable. These are the only actions supported by Ahadeeth.

Acts to Refrain From

1. It is absolutely clear that the significance of the day of Ashoora is from the time of Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). However, many people regard this day as the day of mourning the martyrdom of Hadhrat Husain (radhiyallahu anhu). The martyrdom of Hadhrat Husain (radhiyallahu anhu) was indeed a great tragedy, but Islam is not a religion of perpetual mourning. Abu Sa’eed (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) has cursed mourners and those who listen to them. (Abu Dawood)
2. The pages of Islamic History are filled with the blood of the martyrs. Should we begin to mourn the martyrdom of the Sahaabah alone, every other day would be a day of mourning. Thus, to attribute the significance of Ashoora to the martyrdom of Hadhrat Husain (radhiyallahu anhu) is baseless. Therefore, the host of baseless customs with regard to his martyrdom – mourning, lamenting and displaying grief must be discarded. If mourning was permissible, then the day of the demise of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) would have been more worthy of mourning and lamenting.

3. Some regard the tenth of Muharram as the day of Eid. They indulge in adornment, applying surmah (collyrium), wearing new clothes, spending lavishly and cooking a particular type of meal which is not generally prepared. All these actions are regarded as Sunnah according to their belief, whereas no authentic narration sanctioning and permitting such actions can be found.

4. Another misconception is that the month of Muharram is an unlucky month; hence marriage ceremonies should be avoided in this month. This concept is again, contrary to the teachings of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam).

5. The act of giving gifts specifically in this month and on the day of Ashoorah is also another innovation which has no basis in the Shariah. Such acts should be shunned. The act of giving gifts is meritorious, but to specify this month/day for carrying out this act would render it a bidah.

Let us observe this great day according to the way of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu anhum) and refrain from all innovations which deprive us of the blessings from Allah Ta’ala. May Allah guide us all upon the Straight Path and save us from every act which brings His Displeasure.


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