Month of Muharram
The Islamic new year is upon us, with the advent of the sacred month of Muharram. We know that there are 12 months in a year, both in the gregorian calendar beginning with January and ending in December, as well as the Islamic calendar, beginning with Muharram and ending in Dhul Hijjah. In the Islamic calendar, four of these twelve months are considered sacred. Allah says in the Qur’an:
إِنَّ عِدَّةَ الشُّهُورِ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ اثنَا عَشَرَ شَهْراً فِي كِتَابِ اللَّهِ يَوْمَ خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ، مِنْهَا أَرْبَعَةٌ حُرُمٌ ذَلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ فَلا تَظْلِمُوا فِيهِنَّ أَنْفُسَكُمْ
Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve months (in a year), so was it ordained by Allah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are Sacred, so do not oppress yourselves therein (9:36)
These four are the 1st, 7th, 11th, and 12th months – Muharram, Rajab, Dhul Qa’dah, and Dhul Hijjah respectively. The Prophet ﷺ is reported to have said regarding them:
ألا إن الزمان قد استدار كهيئته يوم خلق الله السموات والأرض السنة اثنا عشر شهراً منها أربعة حرم، ثلاثة متواليات ذو القعدة وذو الحجة والمحرم ورجب مضر بين جمادى وشعبان
Verily time has reverted as it was the day Allah created the heavens and the earth. The year is twelve months, of which four are sacred: three consecutive months, Dhu al-Qa‘dah, Dhu al-Hijjah and Muharram, and Rajab of Mudar which comes between Jumaada and Sha‘baan.
The Arabs of old were known to play around with dates, months, and times of the year for their own personal needs. Sometimes they would end a month too soon, other times too late. Sometimes they even had the audacity to add extra months, and decide whether sacred months were actually sacred or not. These words, in the Hadeeth above, were spoken by the Prophet of Allah ﷺ shortly after Hajj, which he performed in the year 10 AH. What he ﷺ alludes to regarding time reverting as it was is that the days, weeks, and months of the year had realigned to the correct time after years of the pagan Arabs’ manipulation. This gives us an insight into the wisdom of the Prophet ﷺ in delaying the Hajj as, despite being ordained in the year 5 AH, he ﷺ did not perform it until 5 years later, coinciding with its actual time.
What is a sacred month?
When it is said that a month is sacred, what does that mean? It means acts of worship and good deeds carried out in that particular month are greater in magnitude and reward than in other months. Sometimes these acts can be specific like fasting 10 days of Dhul Hijjah or the day of Āshūrā’, and sometimes they can be general whereby all acts of worship and good deeds are multiplied. The same is true for sins; they are far greater in severity than in any other month, which is why we shouldn’t “oppress ourselves therein”.
Allah has chosen places, people, and times, and specified for them favours and bounties in which He has not bestowed on any other. He has chosen Makkah to be the best place on earth, where every prayer is equal to 100,000 prayers
وَصَلاَةٌ فِي المَسْجِدِ الحَرَامِ أَفْضَلُ مِنْ مِائَةِ أَلْفِ صَلاَةٍ فِيمَا سِوَاهُ
And a prayer in the Sacred Mosque is better than 100,000 prayers in any other place
(Ahmed, Ibn Hibban)
He has chosen the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ to be the best of mankind:
أَنَا سَيِّدُ وَلَدِ آدَمَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ، وَأَوَّلُ مَنْ يَنْشَقُّ عَنْهُ الْقَبْرُ ، وَأَوَّلُ شَافِعٍ ، وَأَوَّلُ مُشَفَّعٍ
I am the leader of the sons of Adam on the Day of resurrection, the first to by raised from the grave, the first to intercede, and the first intercessor to be accepted.
Likewise, He has chosen the sacred months to be among the best of times.
Why call it Muharram?
The month of Muharram is called Muharram because the Arabs considered fighting in this month to be sacrosanct. ِAlam Addeen Al Sakhawi stated that the the month of Muharram was so called to emphasise its sanctity, as the Arabs were known to regard it as sacred at times, and disregard it other times.
History in this month
Some notable events that took place during this month are:
- In this month the Prophet Musa was saved from the Pharaoh
- In this month the Prophet ﷺ married Safiyyah bint Huyay
- In this month the father Abu Bakr Assiddique, Abu Qahafah Al Taymi, passed away
- In this month Uthman ibn ‘Affaan was inaugurated as the caliph
- In this month Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet ﷺ, was killed