India - Muharram

by V.A.Ponmelil (All rights reserved by the author)


The Islamic New Year begins on Muharram day. It is the first day of the Islamic calendar which is lunar. According to the Gregorian calendar, it falls towards the end of January-February. Of the four sanctified months for Muharram February is one of them. It is considered as the most important. During the festive season of Muharram people maintain peace and harmony and avoid battles.

The word “haram” means forbidden. The word Muharram is made up of this word because fighting is forbidden during this period. The month is very sacred to Shia Muslims. They spend the first ten days fasting to commemorate Hussein’s slaying. Hussein was the grandson of Muhammad and he was killed by the Sunnis. It is optional to fast on the tenth day, but traditionally everyone fasts.

The Sunnis also fast on the tenth day because they believe that life and death, heaven and health, fate and pen, Adam and Eve, all were created this day.

On the first day, the New Year is celebrated by the Muslim community. On the second day, the Shiite Muslims begin their observance of Commemoration of Muharram. With this ritual Imam Hussein’s entrance to Karbala is marked. On the seventh day, Yazid ordered that Husayn should be denied water. On the tenth day (also called the day of Ashurah), Shiite Muslims commemorate Hussein’s martrydom. Then again on the twenty-fifth day Ali Ibn Husayn, the fourth imam was martyred. On the twenty seventh day, Mesum was finally martyred.

According to the legend, Moses escaped from the pharaoh and crossed the Red Sea on this day. Sunni Muslims keep fast on this pious day. Nowadays Muharram is celebrated by throwing grand parties, giving cards and celebrating the Muslim New Year the way the world celebrates its New Year. However, Islam condemns this kind of celebration.


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