Azka Javeria and Taghreed – Hiba magazine team writers
Muharram is referred to as ‘Shahr Allah’. It signifies the veneration attached to this month as it is attributed to Allah (swt).
It is also the first month of the Hijri calendar. The Quran says: “Verily the number of months with Allah is twelve months (in a year), so it is ordained by Allah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them, four are sacred. That is the right religion, so wrong not yourselves therein…” (Taubah 9:36)
Muharram is a sacred month that means ‘forbidden’ and is also known as ‘Muharram ul Haram’. Allah (swt) has ‘forbidden’ warfare and fighting during this month and the other three sacred months namely, Dhul Qadah, Dhul Hijjah and Rajab.
Considering all the above-mentioned reasons, there are certain practices from the Sunnah that we should all follow in Muharram.
Ibn Abbas (rta) narrated that when the Prophet (sa) arrived in Madinah and noticed Jews fasting on the day of Ashura, he asked: ‘What is this?’ They said: ‘This is a good day; this is the day when Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemy and Moosa fasted on this day.’ The Prophet (sa) said: ‘We are closer to Moosa than you.’ So he fasted on this day and told the people to fast. (Bukhari)
The Prophet (sa) fasted on Ashura, except that he advised to fast on the 9th and 10th or 10th and 11th of Muharram to distinguish the way of Islam from the ways of the Jews. The Prophet (sa) said: ‘The best of fasts, apart from Ramadan, is fasting during Allah’s month Muharram.’ (Muslim).
Fasting specifically on the Day of Ashura expiates all minor sins of a person from the previous year. This was confirmed by the Prophet (sa) when he said: ‘For fasting the day of ‘Ashura’, I hope that Allah will accept it as expiation for the year that went before.” (Muslim)
In fact, we should try to fast as much as possible in this sacred month since the reward of doing so is more than the reward of fasting in non-sacred months. As said by Ibn Abbas (rta) “Good deeds done during the four sacred months bring a greater reward.” (Tafseer Ibn Katheer)
- Charity and Spending on One’s Family
Since all good deeds have a greater reward in the sacred months, so does charity.
It is also from the Sunnah to spend on one’s family on the Day of Ashura. The Prophet (sa) was reported to have said: ‘He who will be generous to his family on the Day of Ashura, Allah will be generous to him for the entire year’ (Bahaqi)
Like any other charitable day, in addition to one’s family, the poor, the needy, the widows and the orphans must not be forgotten on this day too.
Do remember that charity and generosity are not necessarily monetary. A simple smile, an act of kindness, forgiving people who have wronged you, lending people a helping hand or even just a listening ear are all acts of charity and generosity.
Like many other Islamic propositions, there are many misconceptions, and traditions associated with Muharram that have absolutely no backing from the Quran, Sunnah, or the ways of the companions. Some of these are:
- Celebrating the Month
Some people think Muharram to be the Islamic equivalent of the secular ‘New Year’ and celebrate it with equal fervor. Keep in mind that following the way of the Kuffar in any aspect is not supported.
Muharram was decided to commence the new year in Islam during the caliphate of Umar (rta) for administrative purposes since Islam had spread far and wide and they wanted to begin a calendar.
Regarding greeting for the commencement of a new year on the 1st of Muharram Imam Ahmad said: “I do not initiate the greeting but if someone greets me, I return the greeting, because responding to the greeting is obligatory. But being the first to offer congratulations is neither Sunnah nor forbidden.’
Hence to cook special foods, wear special clothes or specially meet people just out of consideration of Ashura or Muharram as the ‘Muslim new year’ is unheard of.
- Thinking that Muharram is Unlucky
It is ironic that after the reasons we discussed for Muharram being special since the beginning of time, people would consider the month to be ‘unlucky’. There is no such concept in Islam, for any months, or any time. Hence considering, marriage or celebrations to be ‘unlucky’ in this month would be utterly wrong- a Biddah.
There is nothing ‘lucky’ or ‘unlucky’ regarding Muharram. And where Qiyas prevails a practice as holy as marriage can never be ‘forbidden’ in any Islamic month.
- Not Steering Clear of Sins
Qatadah said, “Wrongdoing during the sacred months is more serious and more sinful that wrongdoing at any other time.’
It was narrated that Ibn Abbaas (rta) said, concerning the words of Allah, “…So wrong not yourselves therein,” (At Taubah 9:36) The command not to wrong applies in all months, then Allah singled out four months and made them sacred and emphasized their sanctity. He made sins during these months graver and He made righteous deeds and the reward thereof greater.” (Bukhari)
It is as important to minimize sin as it is to increase good deeds in Muharram. The sacred months, and Ramadan, are chances for us to eliminate sins that have become habitual. Some of these may include music, lying, the use of foul language, etc.
Conclusively, our Lord requires us to be conscious about our lives, thoughts, and actions. This has been reiterated throughout the Quran and Sunnah. It is for us to exert our efforts. Allah (swt) has promised to help us achieve whatever we work towards. May Allah (swt) help us in being mindful of all our practices. And may this year be a year of Barakah for all. Ameen