Muharram 2021: History and Significance

Muharram marks the beginning of the lunar Hijri calendar for Muslims. According to the Holy Quran, it is one of the four sanctified months. “The number of the months according to Allah is the twelve months as (mentioned) in His Book on the day when He created the heavens and the earth.” Four of these (twelve months) are sanctified.

These four months are Zulqadah, Zuhijjah, Muharram, and Rajab, as per authentic traditions. All the commentators of the Holy Quran are unanimous on this point. The Holy Prophet, in his sermon on the occasion of his last Hajj, declared as follows:

“One year consists of twelve months, of which four are sanctified months, three of them are in sequence; Zulqadah, Zulhijjah, Muharram, and the fourth is Rajab.”

Muharram 2021

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Muharram among sacred months

The specific mention of these four months does not imply that any other month is not holy since Ramadan is admittedly the most sacred month of the year. These four months are specifically sanctified months because even the pagans of Makkah acknowledged their sanctity.
It is true that every month, out of the twelve, was created equal, and none of them is regarded as more holy than the others. When Allah Almighty chooses a particular time for His special blessings, His grace gives sanctity.
So, right from Sayyidina Ibrahim’s time, these four months were considered sacred. Due to the pagan affiliation of Makkah with Sayyidina Ibrahim, these four months were revered, and despite their frequent tribal wars, they thought it illegal to fight during these times.

Our Holy Prophet PBUH recognised this sanctity, and we are told they are the “sanctified months” in the Holy Quran. Muharram also has certain other characteristics, which are highlighted below.


The Holy Prophet PBUH said, “The best fasts after the fasts of Ramadan are those of the month of Muharram.” (Hadith)

It is not obligatory to fast in Muharram, yet Allah Almighty rewards one who fasts in this month out of his own free will and choice. The Hadith cited above signifies the Muharram fasts are the most rewarding fasts among the Nafli fasts, i.e. the fasts one observes out of his own choice without being required to keep them.

The Hadith does not imply that the award promised for the fasts of Muharram can only be obtained by fasting for the entire month. In reality, each Fast in this month is meritorious. Therefore, one should make the most of this opportunity.


Even though the whole month of Muharram is a sanctified month, the 10th day is the most significant. The day is named Ashurah.

The Holy Prophet PBUH, when migrated to Madinah, found that the Jews of Madinah used to fast on the 10th day of Muharram. They said that it was the day when the Holy Prophet Musa (Moses) and his followers crossed the Red Sea miraculously, and the Pharaoh was drowned in its water.

On hearing this from the Jews, the Holy Prophet said, “We are more closely related to Musa than you” and directed the Muslims to fast on the day of Ashurah. (Abu Dawood)

Many authentic hadiths also report that fasting on Ashurah was obligatory for the Muslims in the beginning. Later, the fasts of Ramadan were made mandatory, and the Fast on the day of “Ashurah was made optional.

Fasting on the Day of Ashura

Sayyidah Aishah RA had said, “When the Holy Prophet came to Madinah, he fasted on Ashurah’s day and instructed the people to do the same. But once Ramadan fasts became obligatory, the fasting requirement was reserved only for Ramadan, and the obligation of Ashurah fasts ceased to exist. If one wishes, one can fast on this day or avoid fasting if he wishes.

However, the Holy Prophet used to fast on the day of Ashurah even after Ramadan became obligatory. According to Abdullah Ian Masud, the Holy Prophet PBUH preferred the Fast of Ashurah to the Fast of other days, and the Fast of Ramadan to the Fast of Ashurah. (Bukhari and Muslim)

Read More: Muharram 2021: When is Muharram

Second Fast on Ashura

As a result of authentic Hadith, it is established that fasting on Ashurah is a Sunnah of the Holy Prophet PBUH and qualifies one for a great reward. Another Hadith recommends that the Fast of Ashurah should either precede or follow another fast. In other words, one should fast two days: the 9th and 10th of Muharram or the 10th and 11th of it. The Holy Prophet mentioned this additional fast because the Jews fasted only on the day of Ashurah, and he wanted to distinguish the Islamic Fast from the Jewish Fast.

Therefore, he suggested adding a second fast to that of Ashurah.
Ashurah has another significance according to some traditions.
On this day, one should be more generous to his family by providing them with more food than on other days. The authenticity of these traditions is questionable according to Hadith science. But some Scholars, such as Baihaqi and Ibn Hibban, have accepted them as reliable.

What is mentioned above is all that is supported by authentic sources about Ashurah.


It is the first month of the Islamic Calendar. The word “Muharram” means “Forbidden.” Before Islam, this month was always known as a sacred month in which all unlawful acts were forbidden, prominently the shedding of blood.
A blessing of Muharram:- There are many bounties of this month, especially the tenth of Muharram.

Two of the many virtues of the 10th of Muharram:
On this day, he who spends more lavishly for the sake of his family members, Allah Almighty, will bestow a blessing upon the sustenance of the following year.

Abu Qatada has related that the Holy Prophet PBUH has reported having said, It is my thought that fasting on the 10th of Muharram Allah Taala will pardon the sins of the past year. (Tirmizi)

Events take place in month of Muharram

  • 1 Muharram: Seizure of the Grand Mosque in 1400 AH (1979 AD).
  • 3 Muharram: Hazrat Hussain ibn Ali (RA) enters karbala and establishes camp. Yazid’s forces are present. 61 AH (680 AD).
  • 7 Muharram: Access to water was banned to Hazram Imam Hussain ibn Ali (RA) by Yazid’s orders. 61 AH (680 AD).
  • 10 Muharram: Referred to as the Day of Ashurah (the tenth) the day Hazrat Imam Hussain was martyred in the Battle of Karbala.
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