This year, Muharram starts on the evening of November 14th Insha’Allah. There are some important things about this special month all Muslims should know.
1) It is one of the 4 sacred months in the Islamic lunar calendar. As Allah (swt) Reveals in the Qur’an:
“Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] months in the register of Allah [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred. That is the correct religion, so do not wrong yourselves during them.” (9:36)
2) After Ramadan, it is the best time of the year to fast. According to the Prophet (sas): “The best fasting after the month of Ramadan is in the month of Allah, Muharram.” (Muslim). Notice that in this hadith, the Prophet (sas) does not specify any particular day for fasting but considers the entire month as a prime time for it.
3) It contains the day of Ashura which falls on the 10th of Muharram (November 24, 2012). When the Prophet (sas) arrived in Medina, he noticed the Jewish population observing fasting on this day. When he inquired, they told him ‘this is the day that Allah (swt) saved Musa from Fir’aun.’ To this, the Prophet (sas) replied “We are closer to Musa than you.” (Bukhari). At first, he ordered the Muslims to observe this fast, but after fasting in the month of Ramadan became obligatory, fasting on the day of Ashura became optional.
Still, fasting on Ashura is an established Sunnah and one that all those that are able should strive to establish. Although the Prophet (sas) fasted on the 10th himself, he stated an intention to change the day to the 9th in the year before his death. (Muslim). Thus, scholars recommend fasting on either (a) the 9th, 10th and 11th, (b) the 9th and 10th or at the very least, (c) just the 10th.
Fasting on the day of Ashura is not just a matter of following the Sunnah, but also, God-Willing, achieving atonement for one’s sins. The Prophet (sas) is also reported to have said: “Fasting the day of Ashura is of great merit, I hope that Allah will accept it as expiation for (the sins committed in) the previous year.” (Muslim).
4) It is also a good idea to give some charity on the day of Ashura, as the Prophet (sas) said: “Whoever gives charity this day it is like the charity of an entire year.” (Ahmed).
5) Muharram can also be a time for Muslims to reflect on the horrific death of Hussein ibn Ali, the Prophet (sas)’s grandson, and the people who were with him during the siege of Karbala. Though Sunnis may not mourn for this event as Shias do, we understand and respect the sentiment behind their grief. As opposed to letting this month erode Muslim unity, perhaps we could take the opportunity to reflect on how wrong things can go when we allow ourselves to become divided. Moreover, we should also recognize the modern-day injustices and oppression being suffered by innocent people all over the world and take a moment to make dua for them.
6) Since Muharram marks the beginning of a new year, it would also be wise to think about the current state of your Iman (faith), to contemplate the achievements and setbacks of the past year, and to set some realistic goals for the coming year, Insha’Allah.
May Allah (swt) unite the Muslims and grant each of us ever-strengthening faith, health and success in the coming year! Ameen.