Islamic Voice
Zul Hijja / Muharram 1422 H
March 2002
Volume 15-03 No:183

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Muharram


Muharram is a Sanctified Month
Fasting during the Month
Misconceptions and Baseless Traditions
The Day of 'Ashura'
Lamentations and Mourning



Muharram is a Sanctified Month

The misconception that Muharram is an evil or unlucky month is a baseless concept and contrary
to the teachings of the Quran and the Sunnah

By Mufti Taqi Usmani

Muharram is the month with which the Muslims begin their lunar Hijrah Calendar. It is one of the four sanctified months about which the Holy Quran says, “The number of the months according to Allah is twelve (mentioned) in the Book of Allah on the day He created heavens and the earth. Among these (twelve months), there are four sanctified.”

These four months, according to the authentic traditions, are Dhul-Qadah, Dhul-Hijjah, Muharram and Rajab. All the commentators of the Holy Quran are unanimous on this point, because the Holy Prophet, (Pbuh) in his sermon on the occasion of his last Hajj, declared: “One year consists of twelve months, of which four are sanctified months, three of them are in sequence; Dhul-Qadah, Dhul-Hijjah, Muharram, and the fourth is Rajab.” The specific mention of these four months does not mean that any other month has no sanctity, because the month of Ramadan is admittedly the most sanctified month in the year. But these four months were specifically termed as sanctified months for the simple reason that their sanctity was accepted even by the pagans of Makkah. In fact, every month, out of the twelve, is originally equal to the other, and there is no inherent sanctity that may be attributed to one of them in comparison to the other months. When Allah Almighty chooses a particular time for His special blessings, the same acquires sanctity out of His grace. Thus, the sanctity of these four months was recognised right from the days of Sayyidina Ibrahim. Since the Pagans of Makkah attributed themselves to Sayyidina Ibrahim, they observed the sanctity of these four months and despite their frequent tribal battles, they held it unlawful to fight in these months.

In the Shariah of our Noble Prophet, the sanctity of these months was upheld and the Holy Quran referred to them as the “sanctified months”. Muharram has certain other characteristics special to it.
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Fasting during the Month

The Noble Prophet, has said: “The best fasts after the fasts of Ramadan are those of the month of Muharram.” Although the fasts of the month of Muharram are not obligatory, yet one who fasts in these days out of his own will is entitled to a great reward by Allah Almighty. This Hadith signifies that the fasts of the month of Muharram are the most important ones among the Nafl or voluntary fasts. The Hadith does not mean that the award promised for fasts of Muharram can be achieved only by fasting for the whole month. On the contrary, each fast during this month has merit. Therefore, one should avail of this opportunity as much as he can.
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Misconceptions and Baseless Traditions

There are some legends and misconceptions with regard to ‘Ashura’ that have managed to find their way into the minds of the ignorant, but have no support authentic Islamic sources, some very common of them are these: This is the day on which Adam was created. This is the day when Prophet Ibrahim was born. This is the day when Allah accepted the repentance of Adam.

This is the day when Qiyaamah (doomsday) will take place. Whoever takes bath on the day of ‘Ashura’ will never get ill. All these and other similar whims and fancies are totally baseless and the traditions referred to in this respect are not worthy of any credit. Some people take it as Sunnah to prepare a particular type of meal on the day of Ashura’. This practice, too, has no basis in the authentic Islamic sources. Some other people attribute the sanctity of ‘Ashura’ to the martyrdom of Hussain, during his battle with the Syrian army. No doubt, the martyrdom of Hussain, is one of the most tragic episodes of our history. Yet, the sanctity of ‘Ashura’ cannot be ascribed to this event for the simple reason that the sanctity of ‘Ashura’ was established during the days of the Prophet, much earlier than the birth of Hussain.

Another misconception about the month of Muharram is that it is an evil or unlucky month, as Hussain, was killed in it. It is for this misconception that people avoid holding marriage ceremonies in the month of Muharram. This is again a baseless concept, which is contrary to the teachings of the Quran and the Sunnah. If the death of an eminent person on a particular day renders that day unlucky for all times to come, one can hardly find a day of the year free from this bad luck because every day is associated with the demise of some eminent person. The Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet, have liberated us from such superstitious beliefs.
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The Day of 'Ashura'

Althoug Muharram is a sanctified month as a whole, yet, the 10th day of Muharram is the most sacred among all its days. The day is named ‘Ashurah’.

According to Ibn ‘Abbas, when the Prophet, migrated to Madinah, he found that the Jews of Madinah used to fast on the 10th day of Muharram. They said that it was the day on which the Holy Prophet Musa (Moses), and his followers crossed the Red Sea miraculously and the Pharaoh was drowned in its waters. On hearing this from the Jews, the Prophet said, “We are more closely related to Musa, than you,” and directed the Muslims to fast on the day of ‘Ashura’.

It is also reported in a number of authentic traditions that in the beginning, fasting on the day of ‘Ashura’ was obligatory for the Muslims. It was later that the fasts of Ramadan were made obligatory and the fast on the day of ‘Ashura’ was made optional. Hazarath Aisha, has said: “When the Holy Prophet, came to Madinah, he fasted on the day of ‘Ashura’ and directed the people to fast. But when the fasts of Ramadan were made obligatory, the obligation of fasting was confined to Ramadan and the bligatory nature of the fast of ‘Ashura’ was abandoned. Whoever so desires should fast on it and who so likes can avoid fasting on it.”

However, the Prophet, used to fast on the day of ‘Ashura’ even after the fasting in Ramadan was made obligatory. In short, it is established through a number of authentic Hadith that fasting on the day of ‘Ashura’ is Sunnah of the Prophet, and makes one entitled to a great reward.

According to another Hadith, it is more advisable that the fast of ‘Ashura’ should either be preceded or followed by another fast. It means that one should fast two days: the 9th and 10th of Muharram or the 10th and 11th. The reason of this additional fast as mentioned by the Prophet, is that the Jews used to fast on the day of ‘Ashura’ alone, and the Prophet, wanted to distinguish the Muslim way of fasting from that of Jews. Therefore, he advised the Muslims to add another fast to that of ‘Ashura.
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Lamentations and Mourning

Another wrong practice related to this month is to conduct lamentation and mourning ceremonies in the memory of martyrdom of Hussain. The event of Karbala is one of the most tragic events of our history, but the Prophet has forbidden us from holding the mourning ceremonies on the death of any person. The people of jahiliyyah (ignorance) used to mourn over their deceased through loud lamentations, by tearing their clothes and by beating their cheeks and chests. The Prophet stopped the Muslims from doing all this and directed them to observe patience by saying “Innaa lillaahi wa innaa ilayhi raaji’oon”. A number of authentic Hadith are available on the subject. To quote only one of them: “He is not from our group who slaps his checks, tears his clothes and cries in the manner of the people of jahiliyyah”. (Sahih Bukhari)

All the authentic jurists are unanimous on the point that mourning of this type is not permitted. Even Hussain, shortly before his demise, had advised his beloved sister Zainab, not to mourn over his death in this manner. He said, “My dear sister! I swear upon you that in case I die you shall not tear your clothes, nor scratch your face, nor curse anyone for me or pray for your death.” It is evident from this advice of Hussain, that this type of mourning is condemned even by the blessed person for the memory of whom these mourning ceremonies are held. Every Muslim should avoid this practice and abide by the teachings of the Prophet, and his grand child Hussain.
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