The first month of the Islamic calendar
Muharram, the sacred month for the Muslims, falls in the first month of the Islamic calendar. Fighting is prohibited throughout this month. The word haram in Muharram means prohibited or forbidden; hence the name of the festival. Muharram is one of the four holy months of Islamic calendar. The tenth day of Muharram is looked upon by Shia Muslims as ‘the day of grief’. This is the most important day of the festival.
Highlights of the month of Muharram
Muslims generally fast during this whole month. They do not eat or drink during the day hours or sunlight hours. Fasting in the month of Muharram is not compulsory but Muslims do believe that in order to be blessed and greatly rewarded by the Almighty, fasting is necessary.
Muslims indulge in charity as much as possible during these times. They perform prayers and recite hymns several times. The companionship of Muslim learned men or religious gurus called Ulemas is greatly respected. They also apply kohl to their eyes and keep themselves clean by regular baths and cutting their nails. Visiting the relatives and family members and giving generous gifts form an integral part of the month’s celebrations. During this month, they also attend the sick and the orphans and embrace even enemies with brotherly feelings.
Muslims consider Muharram as an auspicious time
Muslims firmly believe that Allah or Almighty has created the heaven and the earth during these holy moments of Muharram. They also pray to the Prophet and ask for his divine blessings to continue to bestow his favor on the mankind and His entire creation.
The day of mourning
But the tenth day of Muharram is looked upon as the death anniversary of Husain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. So rightfully, this is not a day to be celebrating or indulging in festivities. It is in fact a day of mourning but at the same time it is a very important day in the life of every Muslim. Many centuries ago, during the month of Muharram, at a place known as Kerbala in Iraq, on the banks of River Euphrates, the leader of a small band of hundred men, Imam Hussain, died while fighting with the Caliph who had earn the wrath of this band because he was trying to deviate them from the religious and pious Islamic ways of life. On this day, the Muslims take out processions of colorfully decorated taziyas. The mourners walk barefoot to the beat of the drums and in utter grief beat or whip themselves drawing out blood while crying the name of Husain.