Muharram

When is Muharram?

Muharram is a holiday that marks the start of the Islamic New Year. Not only is it the first month on the Islamic calendar, but it is also one out of the four sacred months, as outlined in the Quran. Muslims around the world celebrate the first days of Muharram every year through related customs and traditions. The exact date of Muharram varies every year because of variations in the lunar calendar it is based on.

History of Muharram

This sacred month on the Islamic calendar stems from events that have occurred throughout the history of the Muslim religion on the same month of the lunar calendar. Most of these events are centered on Husayn ibn Ali, who was the grandson of Muhammad. Among these events include the beginning of the Battle of Karbala, which Ali’s army ultimately lost in 680 CE. The tenth day of Muharram is particularly important within Islam because it marks the anniversary of Ali’s death.

Traditions

Muharram is first, and foremost, a time of prayer. Prayers are conducted throughout the first day of Muharram, and may be done so in groups on the tenth day. Evening prayers are commonplace throughout the months of Muharram. This sacred tradition may be conducted individually or by group. Prayers are focused on mourning of Muharram, as well as on peace.

Fasting is another major tradition of Muharram, but the act varies between dominations of the Islamic religion. Sunni Muslims often fast more frequently over the course of Muharram than Shi’a Muslims. In some Sunni Muslim groups, followers will fast the first ten days of Muharram. The fasting consists of restricted food and drink during daylight hours, but eating and drinking is permitted during the evening.

The tenth day of Muharram is typically the primary day for fasting. Not only does it commemorate the martyrdom of Mohammad’s grandson, but it is also a special day when Muslims commemorate the escape of Moses and the Israelites from the Pharaoh. However, fasting traditions may start as early as the first day of Muharram. Fasting is also of particular significance on the seventh day because Ali and his army were denied access to water.

Other Muharram celebrations may consist of charitable deeds. This is accomplished in an effort to promote a sense of peace and goodwill. Fighting and violence are prohibited during Muharram. Muslims in Indonesia host a special day of meditation on this holiday.

Regional Celebrations

Muharram is celebrated around the world. Some of the ways the holiday is celebrated varies by region. For example, while fasting is commonplace at the beginning of Muharram globally among Muslims, month-long fasting isn’t as common in some countries. While the U.S. doesn’t regard Muharram as a public holiday, it is considered as such in other countries. In areas where Islam is the predominant religion, businesses and government offices are often closed.

In 2013, Muharram will occur on November 5th. Because of variations in the lunar calendar, Muharram will occur on October 25th in 2014, and on October 15th in 2015.

By: Kristeen Cherney




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