The Significance of the month of Muharram & day of Ashura
Tonight, in shaa Allah, we will be ushering in the year 1434 of the Hijri calendar, a calendar that begins from the first year of the Prophet’s migration from Makkah to Madinah. Although the numbering of years was only decided during the Caliphate of Umar al-Khattab between 13H to 23H, the Arabs prior already had a dating system in which the ‘mark’ of the year was decided by any important event that happened during said year. Hence, for example, the year the Prophet (S) was born was aptly named the ‘Year of the Elephant’ based on the events eternally archived in Surah Al-Fil.
To commemorate the coming of the New Year, let us look into the significance of the month of Muharram and the importance of the 10th of Muharram, also known as the day of Ashura.
Muharram – One of Four Sacred Months
The number of months in the sight of Allah is twelve (in a year)- so ordained by Him the day He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are sacred: that is the straight usage. So wrong not yourselves therein, and fight the Pagans all together as they fight you all together. But know that Allah is with those who restrain themselves. [Surah At-Tawbah, verse 36]
Abu Bakr RA reported that the Prophet (S) said: The year is twelve months of which four are sacred, the three consecutive months of Dhu’l-Qa’dah, Dhu’l-Hijjah and Muharram, and Rajab which comes between Jumada and Sha’ban. [Reported by al-Bukhari, 2958]
The month of Muharram is one of the four sacred months mentioned in Surah at-Tawbah, deriving its name from the term ‘haraam’ meaning ‘that which has been forbidden’. Thus, the name of the month was a reminder of the prohibitions that Allah swt had mentioned such as war or the spilling of blood.
Muharram is also called a sacred month, because sins done during this month bear a heavier weight compared to other months. This was related by Ibn ‘Abbas who said that sin in these sacred months is more serious and good deeds bring a greater reward.
Abu Hurayrah RA said: “The Messenger of Allah (S) said: ‘The best of fasting after Ramadhan is fasting Allah’s month of Muharram.’ ” [Reported by Muslim, 1982]
As seen in the hadith above, the Prophet (S) too highlighted the sanctity of the month by referring to it as “Allah’s month” and that fasting is generally encouraged throughout the whole month of Muharram.
The Day of Ashura – 10th of Muharram
However, much emphasis has been given by the Prophet (S) for Muslims to fast on the day of ‘Ashura’ – derived from the number ten in Arabic – which is the 10th of Muharram.
H.A. Fuad Said stated in his book that the 10th of Muharram is considered a great day in Islam due to the many events that occur during this day, historically. For example, the author shared that it was the day that the Prophet Nuh’s ark was saved, when Prophet Yusuf was released from prison after being slandered by Zuleikha and the day the Prophet Sulaiman was given his vast empire, amongst several other events.
However, the day of Ashura is most widely known in the below ahadith:
Ibn ‘Abbas RA said: “The Prophet (S) came to Madinah and saw the Jews fasting on the day of ‘Ashura’. He said, ‘What is this?’ They said, ‘This is a righteous day, it is the day when Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemies, so Musa fasted on this day.’ He said, ‘We have more right to Musa than you,’ so he fasted on that day and commanded [the Muslims] to fast on that day.” [Reported by al-Bukhari, 1865]
Ibn ‘Abbas RA said: “I never saw the Messenger of Allah (S) so keen to fast any day and give it priority over any other than this day, the day of ‘Ashura’, and this month, meaning Ramadhan.” [Reported by al-Bukhari, 1867]
The Prophet (S) said: “For fasting the day of ‘Ashura’, I hope that Allah will accept it as expiation for the year that went before.” [Reported by Muslim, 1976]
The Prophet (S) was known to have observed fasting on the day of Ashura even prior to entering Madinah, although upon seeing the Jews fast, he had asked the Muslims to do the same thus making the fast a sunnah. The year before he passed away, he was also reported to have said that if he were to live a year more, he would make it a habit to fast on the 9th of Muharram as well, in order to be different from the Jews.
From this, Ash-Shafi’i and his companions said: “It is recommended to fast on both the ninth and tenth days, because the Prophet (S) fasted on the tenth, and intended to fast on the ninth.”
The Prophet (S) said: “For fasting the day of Ashura, I hope that Allah will accept it as expiation for the year that went before.” [Reported by Muslim, 1976]
Ushering in 1434H
All in all, the month of Muharram is a sacred month in which the Prophet (S) had advised the Muslims to indulge themselves with acts of ibadah, especially that of fasting.
May we welcome the new year remembering Allah’s favors upon us, either alone or better yet, together with fellow Muslims in the many activities organized island-wide on Wednesday evening. May He accept all the good deeds we have done the past year, forgive us for our wrongdoings and give us the opportunity to reap the rewards of the month of Muharram. Ameen.