Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Muharram: The commence of the Islamic Calendar

Muharram: The commence of the Islamic Calendar

By Muhammad Taqi Usmani

In the name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All the praise and thanks is due to Allāh. Peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Muharram is the month with which the Muslims begin their lunar Hijrah Calendar. Today is the 1st. Muharram which we begin  the year of 1432 Hijrah. Essentially Muharram is one of the four sanctified months about which al-Qurān says, "The number of the months according to Allāh is twelve months (mentioned) in the Book of Allāh on the day in which He created heavens and the earth. Among these (twelve months) there are four sanctified".

These four months, according to the authentic traditions are the months of Zulqaedah, Zulhijjah, Muharram and Rajab. All the commentators of al-Qurān are unanimous on this point, because the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) in his sermon on the occasion of his last Hajj has declared:

"One year consists of twelve months, of which four are sanctified months, three of them are in sequence; Zulqaedah, Zulhijjah, 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 Ramadhān 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, which may be attributed to one of them in comparison to other months. When Allāh Almighty chooses a particular time for His special blessings, then it acquires sanctity out of His grace.

Thus, the sanctity of these four months was recognized right from the days of Ibrāhīm `alaihis-salam. Since the Pagans of Makkah attributed themselves to 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 Sharī’ah of our Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) the sanctity of these months was upheld and al-Qurān referred to them as the "sanctified months".

The month of Muharram has certain other characteristics peculiar to it, which are specified below.

Fasting during the month

The Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) has said:

"The best fasts after the fasts of Ramadhān are those of the month of Muharram."

Although the fasts of the month of Muharram are not obligatory, yet, the one who fasts in these days out of his own will and choice is entitled to a great reward by Allāh Almighty. The Hadīth cited above signifies that the fasts of the month of Muharram are most reward-able ones among the Nāfil fasts i.e. the fasts one observes out of his own choice without being obligatory on him.

The Hadīth 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.

The Day of ‘Ashura

Although the month of 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 ‘Ashura.

According to Ibn Abbas (radiallāhu’anhu) The Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) , when migrated to Madinah, 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 water.

On hearing this from the Jews, the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said, "We are more closely related to Musa than you" and directed the Muslims to fast on the day of ‘Ashura. (Abu Dawūd)

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 Ramadhān were made obligatory and the fast on the day of 'Ashura was made optional. Aishah (radiallāhu’anha) has said:

"When the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) came to Madinah, he fasted on the day of ‘Ashura and directed the people to fast it. But when the fasts of Ramadhan were made obligatory, the obligation of fasting was confined to Ramadhan and the obligatory nature of the fast of ‘Ashura was abandoned. One can fast on this day, if he so wills, or can avoid fasting, if he so wills."

However, the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) used to fast on the day of ‘Ashura even after the fasting in Ramadhan was made obligatory.

Ibn Mas’ūd (radiallāhu’anhu) reports that the Holy Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) preferred the fast of ‘Ashura to the fast of other days and preferred the fast of Ramadhan to the fast of ‘Ashura. (Bukhari and Muslim)

In short, it is established through a number of authentic hadith that fasting on the day of ‘Ashura is Sunnah of the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) and makes one entitled to a great reward.

According to another Hadith, it is more advisable that the fast of Ashurah should either be prefixed or suffixed by another fast. It means that one should fast two days: the 9th and 10th of Muharram or the 10th and 11th of it. The reason of this additional fast as mentioned by the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) is that the Jews used to fast on the day  of ‘Ashura alone, and the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) wanted to distinguish the Islamic-way of fasting from that of Jews. Therefore, he advised the Muslims to add another fast to that of ‘Ashura.

Some traditions signify another feature of the Day of ‘Ashura.

According to these traditions one should be more generous to his family by providing more food to them on this day as compared to other days. These traditions are not very authentic according to the science of Hadith. Yet, some Scholars like Baihaqi and Ibn Hibban have accepted them as reliable.

What is mentioned above is all that is supported through authentic sources about ‘Ashura.


 However, 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 of authentic Islamic sources, some very common of them are these:

·         This is the day in which Ādam was created.
·         This is the day in which Ibrāhīm was born.
·         This is the day in which Allāh accepted the repentance of Ibrāhīm.
·         This is the day on which the Qiyamah (dooms-day) will take place.
·         Whoever takes bath in 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 in 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 Husain during his battle with the Syrian army. No doubt, the martyrdom of Husain 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 (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) much earlier than the birth of Husain.

On the contrary, it is one of the merits of Husain that his martyrdom took place on the day of ‘Ashura.

Another misconception about the month of Muharram is that it is an evil or unlucky month, for Husain 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 express teachings of al-Qurān and the Sunnah. Such superstitions have been totally negated by the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) . If the death of an eminent person in a particular day renders that day unlucky for all times to come, one can hardly find a day, free from this bad luck, out of 365 days of the whole year, because each and every day has a history of the demise of some eminent person. Al-Qurān and the Sunnah of the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) have made us free from such superstitious beliefs, and they should deserve no attention.

Another wrong practice related to this month is to hold the lamentation and mourning ceremonies in the memory of martyrdom of Husain.

As mentioned earlier, the event of Karbala is one of the most tragic events of our history, but the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) 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 relatives or friends through loud lamentations, by tearing their clothes and by beating their cheeks and chests. 

The Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) stopped the Muslims from doing all this and directed them to observe patience by saying "Inna lillāhi wa innā ilayhi rāji ūn". 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 cheeks, tears his clothes and cries in the manner of the people of jahiliyyah."
All the authentic jurists are unanimous on the point that the mourning of this type is absolutely impermissible. 

It is evident 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 Holy Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) and his beloved grandchild Husain.

Blessings of Muharram

It is the first month of the Islamic Calendar.

The meaning of the word: The word "Muharram" means "Forbidden." Even before Islām, this month was always known as a scared month in which all unlawful acts were forbidden, prominently the shedding of blood.

A blessing of Muharram: There are many bounties of this month, especially the tenth of Muharram.

Two of the many virtues of the 10th of Muharram:

On this day he who spends more lavishly for the sake of his family members, Allāh Ta’ala will bestow blessing upon the sustenance of the following year.

Abu Qatādah has related that the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) has reported to have said, it is my thought that by fasting on the 10th of Muharram Allāh Ta’ala will pardon the sins of the past year. (Tirmidzi)

Events of Muharram

At-Tirmizi and Hākim has narrated from Anas that the following:

"Allāh may forgive thee of thy sins that which is past and that which is to come." (Al-Fath) was revealed on the 10th of Muharram.

Prophet Muhammed (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) went to defeat Bani Muhārin and Bani Tha'laba (Tribes of Bani Gatfan) in the year 4 A.H. (Asahhus-siyar)

[Via IslamiCity Article Ref: IC0303-1877; 12/7/2010]

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