The Islamic lunar calendar marks the beginning of New Year by the sighting of the moon of Muharram. It is the first month of Islamic year therefore, besides marking new beginnings it comes with additional reverence amalgamated with numerous blessings from Allah Almighty.
Muslims in general are aware of the importance and virtues of months like Ramadan and Zil-Hajjah, however, very few are aware about Muharram and its bounties besides the fact that it is the first month of the year. This writing describes the importance of Muharram in addition to the significance of fasting on the glorious day of Ashura.
The name Muharram itself translates into ‘sacred’, so before anything else, Muharram is a sacred month. In addition to that, Allah Almighty made it more sacred by mentioning it in Quran in the same context. Allah says in Quran:
“Four of them (Zil-Qadah, Zil-ijjah, Muharram and Rajab) are sacred.” (Surah At-Tawbah: 36)
Thus, this mention of Muharram along with other three months, justifies its sanctity, hence it is worthy of equal reverence like other Holy Months if not more than them.
Every informed Muslim is aware of the virtues of the month of Ramadan, but by reading the virtues below he or she will understand that Muharram also has its own virtues and adhering to them calls for countless blessings from Allah Almighty. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:
“The best of fasts besides the month of Ramadhan is the fasting of Allah’s month of Muharram.” (Muslim)
This hadith of Prophet (PBUH) points towards two facts, firstly that Muharram is the month of Allah, and secondly fasting in Muharram is next to fasting in Ramadan. Therefore, if as a Muslim you are looking to enjoy the serenity and peace of keeping fast other than the month of Ramadan, then Muharram is the month when you need keep fast.
Ashora Day is the tenth day of Muharram and is the most Holy day of the month and one of the most sacred days of the Islamic year. There are different Hadiths of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that explain the historical importance of the tenth day of Muharram in Islam.
The first narration regarding the importance and reverence of the Holy Day of Ashora is when the Prophet (PBUH) migrated to Madina with His companions. There the Prophet (PBUH) found that Jews kept a fast on the 10th day of Muharram to pay homage to day when Prophet Moses (AS) crossed the Red Sea along with his followers and the pursuing Pharaoh and his army drowned. Upon hearing this from the Jews, Prophet (PBUH) said:
“We are more closely related to Musa than you” Hence He directed all the followers to fast on the day of Ashura. (Abu Dawood)
Furthermore, there are other hadiths of Prophet (PBUH) that encourage the followers to keep an additional fast a day before or after Ashura to differentiate the Muslim fasting from Jew fasting. When different Companions of Prophet (PBUH) told Him that fasting on the day of Ashura is glorified among Jews and Christians, then Prophet (PBUH) replied by saying:
“The coming year, if Allah wills (I remain alive), I will for surely fast on the ninth (also).”(Muslim)
In another hadith regarding the same matter, Prophet (PBUH) said:
“Observe the fast of Ashura and oppose the Jews. Fast a day before it or a day after.”(Baihaqi)
Therefore, to achieve greater blessings and be a better Muslim, we need to consider two fasting days in Muharram, one on the Ashura day while the other on the preceding or exceeding day.
In short, the aforementioned lines clearly explain the magnitude of reverence Muharram has in Islam and of what great significance the day of Ashura can be for Muslims.
May Allah Almighty help us to start the Islamic Calendar in a true Islamic spirit and allow us to reap the numerous bounties of this month. Ameen!