The Forbidden Month: A Look At The History and Celebrations of the Islamic Muharram


The 10 days of Muharram, a Muslim holiday, are explored.

Muharram is an important month for Muslims as it signifies the start of their lunar Hijrah Calendar. The Holy Quran states that, “The number of the months according to Allah is twelve months mentioned in the Book of Allah on the day in which He created heavens and the earth. Among these twelve months there are four sanctified.” Coinciding with authentic traditions, these four months include Zulqadah, Zulhijah, Muharram and Rajab. Every Holy Quran commentator agrees with this due to the Holy Prophet’s very clear declaration in his sermon on his last Hajj.

While these four months are mentioned specifically, this does not necessarily mean that another of the months is not sacred. Admittedly, Ramadan is the most sanctified of them all. However, these were the four months in particular which were termed sacred and even had their sanctity accepted by the Makkah pagans. Fundamentally though, the month of Muharram has a four primary traits which are indicative of it alone.

The Forbidden Month: A Look At The History and Celebrations of the Islamic Muharram.[/tweetthis]


As the Holy Prophet said, “The best fasts after the fasts of Ramadan are those of the month of Muharram.” Though fasts during this time are not mandatory, those who choose to fast in the days of Muharram out of their own accord are entitled to a great reward by Allah Almighty. According to the above Hadith, fasts during this month are the most rewarded likely due to the free will factor itself. It’s worth noting that the promised award isn’t achievable solely through a month long fast, but contrarily can gain merit over the course of many fasts throughout this time.


Muharram may very well consist of an entire month. However, the most sacred of its days by far would have to be the 10th. This day is called Ashurah. The Holy companion Ibn Abbas notes that when the Holy Prophet migrated to Madinah, he discovered that the Jews there would fast on the 10th day of Muharram. These Jews of Madinah said that it is this day that Musa (Moses) crossed the Red Sea with his followers and the pursuing Pharaoh drowned beneath its waters.

Upon hearing this, the Holy Prophet said, “We are more closely related to Musa than you” and fasting on the day of Ashurah was instructed. Reports rumor that in the authentic traditions, these Ashurah fasts were obligatory up until the fasts of Ramadan became required. That is when fasting at this time was made optional.


As the first month of the Islamic Calendar, Muharram translates to “Forbidden.” Prior to Islam, this was still a sacred time in which all illegal acts were forbidden such as bloodshed. With a vast number of bounties throughout this month and especially on the tenth, Muharram has many virtues.


Some of the most famous events of Muharram include the martyrdom of Hadhrat Hussain and the defeat of Bani Muhaarin and Bani Tha’laba in 4 A.H. by the Prophet Muhammed.


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