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Muharram

Muharram, also known as Muharram-ul-Haram, is the first month of the Hijri calendar and thus marks the beginning of the Islamic year. It is the only month which Allah’s name has been attached to – the Prophet Muhammad  referred to it as ‘the Sacred Month of Allah’ – and is thus a highly blessed month.

أَفْضَلُ الصِّيَامِ بَعْدَ شَهْرِ رَمَضَانَ شَهْرُ اللَّهِ الْمُحَرَّمُ وَأَفْضَلُ الصَّلاَةِ بَعْدَ الْفَرِيضَةِ صَلاَةُ اللَّيْلِ

It was narrated from Hadhrat Abu Hurairah RA who said:

“The Messenger of Allah () said: ‘The best fasting after the month of Ramadan is the month of Allah, Al-Muharram, and the best prayer is prayer at night.'” [an-Nasa’i 1613]

It is one of the four sacred months, and its special importance is indicated by its name. The word ‘Muharram’ literally means ‘forbidden’ – i.e. it is so sacred that certain actions become forbidden during it, as they would violate its sanctity. Both the month of the Muharram and Allah’s House (Al-Masjid Al-Haram) derive their names from the same Arabic root word; both are sacred spaces in which every deed, good or bad, weighs heavier on the scales.

Why is Muharram so special?

إِنَّ عِدَّةَ ٱلشُّهُورِ عِندَ ٱللَّهِ ٱثْنَا عَشَرَ شَهْرًا فِى كِتَـٰبِ ٱللَّهِ يَوْمَ خَلَقَ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضَ مِنْهَآ أَرْبَعَةٌ حُرُمٌ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ ٱلدِّينُ ٱلْقَيِّمُ ۚ فَلَا تَظْلِمُوا۟ فِيهِنَّ أَنفُسَكُمْ

The number of months ordained by Allah is twelve in the Book of Allah since the day He created the heavens and the earth. Of these, four are sacred; that is the established principle of Deen. Therefore, do not wrong yourselves by violating them. [At Tauba 9: 36]

Regarding this verse, Ibn Katheer (R) explains, ’Allah has chosen elites from His creation: from among the angels He chose Messengers, from among mankind He chose Messengers, from among speech He chose remembrance of Him (dhikr), from among spaces on earth He chose the mosques, from among the months He chose Ramadhan and the sacred months…So, venerate that which has been chosen by Allah, for people of understanding and wisdom respect that which has been chosen by Him’. [Tafseer Ibn Katheer]

Therefore, Muharram is special simply because Allah has chosen it to be so. He commands us not to ‘wrong ourselves’ during this sacred month, which essentially means to ensure we have pure intentions and righteous behaviour and don’t fall into sin.

What are the four sacred months?

Allah has also chosen Rajab, Dhul-Qa’dah and Dhul-Hijjah as sacred months.

Historically, one of the practical consequences of Dhul-Qa’dah, Dhul-Hijjah and Muharram being sacred was that pilgrims would be allowed to perform Hajj safely without worrying about banditry or war. Fighting was forbidden during Dhul-Qa’dah, when they would be travelling to make the Hajj; Dhul-Hijjah, when they would be performing Hajj in Makkah and its surroundings; and Muharram, when they would be returning home from Hajj. This standard was upheld by the Arabs in pre-Islamic times, and Allah confirms it in the Holy Qur’aan.

Rajab, meanwhile, is the seventh month of the Hijri calendar and stands alone as a sacred month. Historically, this was to allow people to perform ’Umrah in Rajab if they wanted to.

What are the benefits of Muharram?

Although many of us understand the importance of the month of Ramadhan, we can often neglect the sacred months. However, they offer us a wealth of opportunities to seek the mercy and favour of Allah, the likes of which cannot be found at any other time of the year. They have been specifically selected by Allah Himself as the best times to draw closer to Him.

As mentioned before, our deeds carry more weight during Muharram, just as they carry more weight in the Ka’bah Sharif and its surroundings. Thus, there is an opportunity to gain more reward every day; but also the danger of gaining more sins with our bad deeds. This means we should be extra-vigilant when it comes to how we act, whether in our relationships, at work, in our worship, in our time management, or even how we take care of our health. With the right intention, every single action can become an opportunity for reward!

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