Muharram - History, Significance, Rituals
Muharram fasting begins on 20 August 2020 and ends on 19 September 2020
These dates are based on the Umm al-Qura calendar of Saudi Arabia:
Self Flagellation on Muharram
Muharram literally means 'haraam' which means forbidden, and for Muslims, especially Shia Muslims, celebration in any form is forbidden in this month
India is a land of diverse cultures and religious beliefs. Religion has always been an important part of its culture. All religions are respected and its followers have full freedom to practice their respective faiths.
In this context, Islam has the second largest following in the country, 14.2% according to the 2011 census. The vast Muslim population celebrates various Muslim festivals according to their faith.
Muharram is one such festival of the Muslim community which commemorates the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammed's grandson, Hussain.
While both Shias and Sunnis, the two largest sects of Muslims, observe Muharram, for the former it is an occasion of sorrow while the latter celebrate it as a joyous occasion.
Muharram is the holiest month followed by Ramadan
Muharram and Ashura
Muharram marks the anniversary of the battle of Karbala in which the Prophet's grandson Imam Hussain ibn Ali, who was a Shia Imam, along with his 72 followers, were killed by the army of the second Umayyad Caliph, Yazid the first. The surviving members of his family and followers were taken captive and imprisoned.
This day is referred to as the day of Ashura when gatherings of Shia Muslims remember this sacrifice and review Islamic teachings as well.
According to the Islamic calendar, which is a lunar calendar, Muharram is the first month of the Islamic new year, which begins with mourning, rather than joy, for the Shias. Sacrifices of Hussain and his followers are remembered.
Muharram is also the second most sacred of the Islamic months after Ramadan and one of the four most sacred months of the year.
The mourning begins on the first night of Muharram and continues for the next nine nights, a total of 10 nights. The tenth is the Day of Ashura. Sunnis Muslims slap their chests and lament to the tune of beating drums chanting "Ya Hussain" and self-flagellate their bodies with chains, whips, small knives, and sharp objects till they bleed, all this in remembrance of the pain suffered by Hussain.
This takes the form of huge Muharram processions which pass through streets offering a spectacle both fascinating and bizarre. Prayers are offered in abundance and all forms of celebrations are shunned during this period.
Sunni Muslims or Sunnis also observe this day, albeit, with a difference, commemorating it as a day of victory for Islam, when Moses or Musa and his followers were saved from the Egyptian Pharoah by Allah as He parted the Red Sea to let these faithful ones pass.
The Four Sacred Months in Islamic Calendar
- Muharram - the first month
- Rajab - the seventh month, the month in which the first Imam of Shias was born
- Dhu al-Qidah - the eleventh month in which warfare is prohibited
- Dhu al-Hijjah - the twelfth month, the month of Hajj as well as the festival of the sacrifice
An Asura Procession
Muharram Rituals Observed by Shia Muslims
- The first 10 days of the month of Muharram is a period of mourning when among other things, meat, new clothes, and marriage engagements are prohibited
- Many Shias dress in all black to reflect mourning until after Asura
- Attending religious lectures/sermons called majalis
- On the day of Ashura, Nohas or spiritual poems are recited by many Shias
- Public processions of grieving Shiites are taken out
Muharram Rituals Observed by Sunni Muslims
- Reading the scriptures related to the Prophets' 40-day fast, splitting of the Red Sea by Allah and the meeting of Prophet Muhammad with the Jews at Medina
- Fasting on the 9th and 10th day or 10th and 11th day of Muharram. This fast was made optional once the Ramadan fast was introduced
- Showing gratitude to Allah for liberating Moses and the Israelites by performing Nafl Salat prayers, reciting Surah Al Ikhlas 1000 times and delivering the Dua -e- Ashura
- Remembering the Battle of Karbala which caused a split in the faith
- Participating in some Shia-led events like majalis and Noha recitals to foster a greater sense of community
Haleem - Muharram Special Recipe
Hyderabadi Qubooli Biryani | Muharram Recipe
© 2018 Rajan Singh Jolly