By Amreen Pathan
Origins and Beliefs
Narrated on the authority of Abu Hurairah t: “A man came to the Prophet s said: ‘Which fasting is better after the month of Ramadan?’ He said: ‘The month of Allah which is called Muḥarram.’ [Sunan Ibn Majah)
Muḥarram (Arabic: ٱلْمُحَرَّم) is the first month of the Islamic [Hijri] calendar and marks the beginning of the Islamic new year.
You may recognise its root letters: H – R – M or ح ر م (ḥ-r-m) in Arabic. Understanding what ‘ḥaram’ means will help us to understand the origins of and beliefs associated with the month of Muḥarram.
The etymology of ḥaram reveals the following:
- forbidden, prohibited, interdicted
- holy, sacred, sacrosanct
Definitions one and three are what we are concerned with: forbidden and sacred.
In the above hadith, we see the Prophet s referring to Muḥarram as the month of Allah. This is the only month in the Hijri calendar which is attributed in this manner and this in itself indicates its sacred nature. Sacred describes something that is dedicated or set apart, worthy of spiritual respect and devotion and this is exactly what Muḥarram is. Its sacredness is also synonymous with the first definition i.e. forbidden because the sanctity of something means common and customary actions are now harām or forbidden. By not adhering to the rulings prohibiting these otherwise permissible actions, one would be violating the sanctity of the person, object, time or place in question.
Take Allah S’s house as an example: Masjid-al-Haram. Its name derived from the same root word of Muḥarram. Just as we consider Masjid-al-Haram a sacred space wherein we would refrain from doing even the slightest of unsavoury acts or worldly pursuit, the month of Muḥarram is considered a sacred time in which every deed, good or bad, weighs heavier on the scales.
NB: Muḥarram is actually the first of four months considered sacred. The other three months are Rajab, Dhul-Qa’dah and Dhul-Hijjah. For the purpose of this article, we will only be focusing on Muḥarram but my humble write-up on Dhul-Hijjah can be found here.
Why so sacred?
Quite simply, because Allah S says so. In Surah Tawbah He S declares:
“Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] months in the register of Allah [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred. (9:36)
Ibn Kathir v offers the following commentary: ‘Allah S has chosen the elite from his creation; from amongst the angels and the people, He chose a messenger; from his speech, He chose His remembrance; from the earth, He chose the Mosques; from the months He chose Ramadan and the four sacred months; from the days, He chose Friday and from the nights he chose Laylatul Qadr. So revere that which Allah S has esteemed by selection. People of understanding and wisdom respect that which has been chosen by Him.’ (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Vol.1, p. 113)
Muḥarram is special because Allah S says so.
What is forbidden?
Muḥarram has been called hurum because:
- Fighting and killing is prohibited during this months. This injunction was rescinded in the Shariah of Islam. (Fighting and killing are prohibited in all months of our era. The previous ruling was bound to a time where it would be difficult for pilgrims to perform Hajj because of the fear of war and banditry).
- This month must be held in high esteem. Mufti Muhammad Shafi v explains in his Ma’ariful Qur’an that all religious codes of past prophets are unanimous that every act of worship during these four consecutive months is more rewarding. Similarly, should one commit a sin during these months, its nature is exacerbated.
Whilst Muḥarram is a time of peace and reflection, this month also holds a special significance for Shia Muslims who commemorate the martyrdom of the Prophet s’s grandson Hussain t. He was killed during the Battle of Karbala on the 10th of Muharram or Ashura – the significance of which I will in sha’ Allah cover in a separate article.
Happy New Year
Hadhrat ‘Abdullah bin Hisham t reports that the companions of the Prophet s used to recite the following Du’a on the approach of a new year or month:
Allahumma adkhilhu alayna bil amni wal imaani, was salamati wal islaami, wa ridwaanim minar rahmaani, wa jiwarim minash shaytān.
O Allah! Let this (year or month) pass over us with peace, Imaan, safety, Islam, divine pleasure and refuge from Shaytaan.
Please follow this link for the Arabic text.
Just as we set intentions and resolutions with the advent of the new year according to the Gregorian calendar, the above supplication is the first step in committing to good habits and good intentions. Our happiness and good fortune only lies in the hands of Allah S. For this reason, Muslims should make the habit of reciting the above supplication at the commencement of a new year or new month, particularly an Islamic one.
What are some of my intentions for the year? Read more, look after my health in line with the Sunnah and be more present in all my prayers.
What are your new year’s resolutions? I’d love to know! Share them below so we can inspire one another.
May Allah S truly make the coming year a prosperous one in all senses of the word; in faith, love, kindness, health, happiness, sustenance and wisdom.
#Muharram #New Year #Resolutions