Understanding Muharram through Quran and hadeeth
Muharram is the first month in the Islamic calendar. It is a month where Allah has increased the reward for fasting. It is a month in which Allah rescued the People of Musa (May Allah bless him). All Muslims should be pondering and reflecting upon the previous year and making some changes in their lives in the new year; what could be a positive way of moving forward than starting the new year with a sacred month and observing fasts?
There are four sacred months
“Surely, the number of months according to Allah is twelve (as written) in the Book of Allah on the day He created the heavens and the Earth, of which there are Four Sacred Months. That is the right faith”. (At-Tawbah 9:36)
Muharram is one of the four sacred months
Narrated by Abu Bakrah: The Prophet (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said.
“The division of time has turned to its original form which was current when Allah created the Heavens and the Earths. The year is of twelve months, out of which four months are sacred: Three are in succession Dhul-Qa’ dah, Dhul-Hijjah and Muharram, and (the fourth is) Rajab of (the tribe of) Mudar which comes between Jumadi-ath-Thaniyah and Sha’ban.” (Bukhari)
The most virtues month to fast after Ramadhan
Abu Hurairah narrated that: The Messenger of Allah (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said:
“The most virtuous fasting after the month of Ramadhan is Allah’s month Al-Muharram.” (Tirmidhi)
History of Muharram & importance of fasting on the 10th
Narrated by Ibn `Abbas: When the Prophet (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) came to Medina, he found (the Jews) fasting on the day of ‘Ashura’ (i.e. 10th of Muharram). They used to say: “This is a great day on which Allah saved Moses and drowned the folk of Pharaoh. Moses observed the fast on this day, as a sign of gratitude to Allah.” The Prophet (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said, “I am closer to Moses than they.” So, he observed the fast (on that day) and ordered the Muslims to fast on it. (Bukhari)
Narrated by Abu Musa: When the Prophet (May Allah’s peace and bless- ings be upon him) arrived at Medina, he noticed that some people among the Jews used to respect Ashura’ (i.e. 10th of Muharram) and fast on it. The Prophet (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) then said, “We have more right to observe fast on this day.” and ordered that fasting should be observed on it. (Bukhari)
Fasting on the 10th of Muharram was obligatory before the obligation of Ramadhan fasting
Narrated Ibn `Umar: The Prophet (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) observed the fast on the 10th of Muharram (‘Ashura), and ordered (Muslims) to fast on that day, but when the fasting of the month of Ramadhan was prescribed, the fasting of the ‘Ashura’ was abandoned. `Abdullah did not fast on that day unless it coincided with his routine fasting by chance. (Bukhari)
The obligation of fasting on the 10th of Muhar’ram was abandoned but the encouragement of fasting in it continued.
Fasting on the 10th will remove the sins of the previous year
Abu Qatadah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
The Messenger of Allah (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) was asked about observing As-Saum (the fast) on the tenth day of Muharram, and he replied, “It is an expiation for the sins of the preceding year.” [Muslim].
Muslims should fast on the 9th along with 10th
It was narrated from Ibn ‘Abbas that the Messenger of Allah (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said: “If I live until next year, I will fast the ninth day (of Muharram) too.” (Muslim, Ibn Majah)
The objective behind fasting on the 9th or a day after as related by Imam Bayhaqi, is to show our difference with the Jews in religious practices.
Beliefs and acts against sunnah
Keeping in mind that our religion Islam, is what Allah taught in the Quran and what the Prophet taught through his sunnah, certain acts which are done by some Muslims in the month of Muhar’ram fall contrary to sunnah.
Besides Fasting and according to a small group of scholars ‘being generous to one’s family specifically on the 10th of Muharram (One who generously spends on his family on the day of Ashūrā then Allāh will increase (his provision) for the whole year – Narrated by Imam Bayhaqi) there is no other virtues established from authentic hadeeth.
Incorrect acts & beliefs
1. To consider 10th Muharram to be a day of festival – this is the practice of Jews and we can see clearly that the Prophet only fasted and wanted to add another day to show his difference with the Jews. He did not regard it as a day of festival similar to the days of Eid.
2. To consider Muharram to be a ‘bad luck month’ is incorrect as good and bad is from Allah. There is no bad luck in Islam.
3. To mourn over the Murder of Husain (May Allah be pleased with him). Every Muslim must feel sad at this tragic incident like other martyrdom e.g. Hamza, Umar and Uthman, they were all killed for the sake of Allah very brutally, however, Muslims pray for the dead not mourn and hold processions yearly to express grief. The Prophet (May Allah bless him) did not do that neither ordered anybody else to do that.
Note: Some Muslim historians mention additional historical incidents occurred on the 10th of Muharram. They mainly narrate from the People of the Book – from Biblical sources, they are to be considered as ‘historical narrations’ not Islamic, if they are not mentioned in the Quran and Sunnah.