The Month of Muharram
By Shaykh-ul-Hadīth, Hadrat Mawlānā Muhammad Saleem Dhorat hafizahullāh
Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar. Upon the commencement of a new year or month, the Sahābah radhiyallāhu ‘anhum would learn (and recite) the following du‘ā:
اَللّٰهُمَّ أَدْخِلْهُ عَلَيْنَا بِالْأَمْنِ وَالْإِيْمَانِ ، وَالسَّلَامَةِ وَالْإِسْلَامِ، وَرِضْوَانٍ مِّنَ الرَّحْمٰنِ ، وَجِوَارٍ مِّنَ الشَّيْطٰنِ
O Allāh! Bring it (i.e. this month) upon us with security, Īmān, safety, Islām, the pleasure of the Most-Merciful and protection from Shaytān. (At-Tabarānī)
Virtues of Muharram
Muharram is one of the four sacred months mentioned in the Glorious Qur’ān,
Indeed! The number of months with Allāh is twelve months by Allāh’s Ordinance on the day that He created the heavens and the earth. From among them are four sacred (months); that is the right religion. So do not wrong yourselves in them… (9:36)
The specification of these four sacred months is found in a Hadīth of our Beloved Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam. Sayyidunā Abū Bakrah radhiyallāhu ‘anhu reports that Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam said,
Verily time has completed its cycle and returned to its original stage as it was on the day Allāh created the heavens and the earth. The year consists of twelve months, four of which are sacred. Three of them occur consecutively; Dhul-Qa’dah, Dhul-Hijjah and Muharram, (the fourth being) Rajab of Mudar (named after the tribe of Mudar as they used to respect this month more than the rest of the Arabs) which occurs between Jumādal-Ākhirah and Sha‘bān. (Al-Bukhārī)
From out of the four sacred months, Muharram has been blessed with certain specific virtues. Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam said,
The most virtuous of fasts besides the month of Ramadān are (the fasts of) Allāh’s Month of Muharram, and the best of salāh besides the fard (compulsory) salāh is the night salāh (i.e. tahajjud). (Muslim)
The Day of ‘Āshūrā (10th Muharram)
The tenth day of the month of Muharram is known as ‘Āshūrā. It is one of the most important and blessed days in the Islamic calendar. Some ‘Ulamā are of the opinion that before the fasts of Ramadān, the fast of the day of ‘Āshūrā was compulsory upon the Ummah. This is stated in a Hadīth reported by Sayyidah ‘Ā’ishah radhiyallāhu ‘anhā that Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam ordered the observance of the fast of ‘Āshūrā. However, when the fast of Ramadān became compulsory, then whoever wished, fasted and whoever desired (not to fast), did not fast. (Al-Bukhārī)
But Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam, nevertheless, continued to fast this day and encouraged his companions to do the same. Sayyidunā Ibn ‘Abbās radhiyallāhu ‘anhu says,
I did not see Rasūlullāh (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) eagerly await the fast of any day, which he gave preference to over other days except this day, the day of ‘Āshūrā, and this month i.e. the month of Ramadān. (Al-Bukhārī)
Sayyidunā Humayd ibn ‘Abdur-Rahmān radhiyallāhu ‘anhu narrates that he heard Sayyidunā Mu‘āwiyah ibn Abī Sufyān radhiyallāhu ‘anhu on the day of ‘Āshūrā, during the year he performed hajj, saying on the pulpit,
O people of Madīnah! Where are your ‘Ulamā? I heard Rasūlullāh (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) saying, “This is the day of ‘Āshūrā. Allāh has not made its fasting compulsory upon you, but I am fasting it. Whosoever wishes, may fast and whosoever desires (not to fast), may leave it.” (Al-Bukhārī)
In another Hadīth, Sayyidunā Ibn ‘Abbās radhiyallāhu ‘anhu narrates that Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam came to Madīnah and found the Jewish people fasting on the day of ‘Āshūrā. Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam asked them, ‘What is (the significance of) this day on which you fast?’ They replied, ‘This is a great day. On this day Allāh saved Sayyidunā Mūsā ‘alayhis salām and his people and drowned Fir‘awn and his nation. Thus, Sayyidunā Mūsā ‘alayhis salām fasted on this day as a token of thanksgiving, therefore we too fast on this day.’ Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam said, ‘We are more worthy of Mūsā and closer to him than you.’ Thereafter, Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam fasted on this day and ordered (his Sahābah radhiyallāhu ‘anhum) to fast on this day. (Muslim)
- One should fast as much as possible during the month of Muharram and especially on the day of ‘Ashūrā, as Sayyidunā Abū Qatādah radhiyallāhu ‘anhu narrates that Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam was asked regarding the fast of the day of ‘Āshūrā. Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam replied,
It is a compensation for the (minor) sins of the past year.’ (Muslim)
NOTE: It must be borne in mind that wherever a promise of forgiveness of sins is made upon the fulfilment of some action, it is only the minor sins that are forgiven. The major sins are not forgiven without true tawbah (repentance).
In another narration, Sayyidunā Abū Qatādah radhiyallāhu ‘anhu reports that a man asked Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam regarding the fast of the day of ‘Ashūrā. Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam replied, ‘It is (equivalent to) fasting a (whole) year. (Sahīh Ibn Hibbān)
- One should also observe the fast of the 9th or 11th Muḥarram. Sayyidunā Ibn ‘Abbās radhiyallāhu ‘anhu said, ‘When Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam observed the fast of the day of ‘Āshūrā and ordered (his Sahābah radhiyallāhu ‘anhum) to also fast, they said,
O Rasūlullāh (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam)! It is a day revered by the Jewish people and the Christians.’ Rasūlullāh (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said, ‘The coming year, if Allāh wills, we will fast on the ninth (also). (Muslim)
In another narration Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam said,
Should I live until the coming year, I will definitely fast on the ninth (also). (Muslim)
In another narration, Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam has been reported to have encouraged his Companions radhiyallāhu ‘anhum to fast on either the 9th or 11th Muharram (with the day of ‘Āshūrā). He sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam said,
…Fast a day before it or a day after. (Al-Bayhaqī)
‘Allāmah Ibn ‘Ābidīn Ash-Shāmī rahimahullāh has mentioned that to fast only on the day of ‘Āshūrā is makrūh tanzīhī.
- One should be generous to one’s family and dependants and spend on them more than usual. Sayyidunā Abū Hurayrah radhiyallāhu ‘anhu reports that Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam said,
One who generously spends on his dependants and his family on the day of ‘Āshūrā, Allāh will grant him abundant (sustenance) for the rest of that year. (Al-Bayhaqī, At-Targhīb wat-Tarhīb)
There has been a difference of opinion regarding the authenticity of this Hadīth. However, Muhaddithīn like Imām Bayhaqī rahimahullāh, Ibn Hibbān rahimahullāh, Hāfiz ‘Irāqī rahimahullāh and Hāfiz Ibn Hajar rahimahullāh have accepted it as reliable and it is also supported by the practice of senior Muhaddithīn. The great Muhaddith, Sufyān Ibn ‘Uyaynah rahimahullāh said, ‘We have tried this for fifty or sixty years and have only seen goodness (from it)’.
The above two actions; fasting and spending generously on one’s family, are the only actions of Muharram substantiated from the Ahādīth.
Acts to Refrain From
- It is absolutely clear that the significance of the day of ‘Āshūrā is from the time of Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam. However, many people attribute its significance to the martyrdom of Sayyidunā Husayn radhiyallāhu ‘anhu and regard it as a day of mourning. The martyrdom of Sayyidunā Husayn radhiyallāhu ‘anhu was indeed a great tragedy, but Islām is not a religion of mourning.
The pages of Islamic History are filled with the blood of the martyrs. Should we begin to mourn the martyrdom of the Sahābah radhiyallāhu ‘anhum alone, every other day would be a day of mourning. Thus, to attribute the significance of ‘Āshūrā to the martyrdom of Sayyidunā Husayn radhiyallāhu ‘anhu is baseless. Therefore, the baseless customs of mourning and displaying grief upon the martyrdom of Sayyidunā Husayn radhiyallāhu ‘anhu must be discarded. If mourning was permissible, then the day of the demise of Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam would have been more worthy of mourning.
- The following misconceptions with regard to ‘Āshūrā are baseless:
• This is the day in which Sayyidunā Ādam ‘alayhis salām was created.
• This is the day in which Sayyidunā Ibrāhīm ‘alayhis salām was born.
• This is the day on which Qiyāmah will take place.
• Whoever has a bath on the day of ‘Āshūrā will never get ill.
- Another misconception is that the month of Muharram is an unlucky month; as a result, some people believe that marriage ceremonies should be avoided in this month. This concept is again contrary to the teachings of Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam.
- Some regard the tenth of Muharram as a day of ‘Īd. They indulge in adornment, applying surmah (collyrium), wearing new clothes, spending lavishly and cooking a particular type of meal which is not generally prepared. All these actions are regarded as sunnah according to their belief, whereas no authentic narration can be found sanctioning and permitting such actions.
Let us observe this great day according to the way of Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam and the Sahābah radhiyallāhu ‘anhum and refrain from all innovations which deprive us of blessings from Allāh ta‘ālā. May Allāh ta‘ālā guide us all upon the Straight Path and save us from every act which brings His Displeasure. Āmīn.
Important Events which Took Place in Muharram
1st Muharram: Martyrdom of Sayyidunā ‘Umar radhiyallāhu ‘anhu.
10th Muharram: Sayyidunā Mūsā ‘alayhis salām and his followers were saved from Fir‘awn and his people; Sayyiduna Nūh ‘alayhis salām was saved from the flood; and Sayyidunā Husayn radhiyallāhu ‘anhu was martyred.
© Islāmic Da’wah Academy