Importance and Significance of the Month of Muharram
Dr. Mozammel Haque
The month of Muharram is important and it has so many significances. First of all, it is not only one of the twelve months of the Hijri calendar but it is the first month of the Hijri calendar. Secondly, it is also one of the four sacred or forbidden months of the Hijri calendar. Allah Subhanahu wa Taala said about the Ashhur ul Hurum, the sanctified four months, one of them is the month of Muharram. In the following paragraphs, I am going to discuss, narrate and explain the following subjects – such as Four Sacred Months, Ashhur ul Hurum, the Holy Places and Holy Times chosen by Allah Subhanahu wa Taala, Fasting in the month of Muharram, especially fasting in the day of Ashoorah, expiation of sins – small and big; Karbala – the Martyrdom of Hazrat Hussein on the day of Ashoorah accidentally and lastly the beginning of Hijri calendar. This is based on a talk given by Dr Ahmad al-Dubayan, the Director General of The Islamic Cultural Centre & the Regents Park Central London Mosque, London, on Muharram on Saturday the 15th of September 2018.
Four Sacred Months
Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan first mentioned about the four sacred months in the Hijri calendar and one of them is the month of Muharram. He said, “There are always four months in a year. These months are sacred actually they are holy months but they are not like Ramadan. These months are Dhul Qaida, Dhul Hijja, Muharram and Rajab. These four months according to the Hijri calendar are the sacred months – Ashhur al Hurum. Allah Subhanahu wa Taala said this in the Qur’an. The Holy Qur’an says, "The number of the months according to Allah is twelve months (mentioned) in the Book of Allah on the day in which He created heavens and the earth. Among these (twelve months) there are four sanctified”.
These four months, according to the authentic traditions, are the months; these months are Dhul Qaida, Dhul Hijja, Muharram and Rajab. All the commentators of the Holy Qur’an are unanimous on this point, because the Holy Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam in his sermon on the occasion of his last Hajj, has declared:"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."
Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned, “Allah said, don’t be unfair unjust to yourself during this time. It means you have to avoid conflict and wrong things especially in these four months. Of course every Muslim is asked every time but it is more confirmed in these four months. These are the months - Dhul Qaida, Dhul Hijja, the month of Hajj and this month, Muharram and Rajab, which is going to come inshaallah. Rajab is the seventh month of the Hijri calendar.”
The word Muharram itself means sacred or forbidden. Why they call it like this? Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned, because Arabs used not to fight; not to do any problem or dispute with other tribe especially during these four months even before Islam. May be this is one of the remaining of the traditions of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him).”
Thus, the sanctity of these four months was recognized right from the days of Sayyidina Ibrahim. Since the Pagans of Makkah attributed themselves to Sayyidina Ibrahim they observed the sanctity of these four months and despite their frequent tribal battles, they held it unlawful to fight in these months. In the Shari’ah of our Holy Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam the sanctity of these months was upheld and the Holy Qur’an referred to them as the "sanctified months".
In the Hijri calendar there are twelve months out of which these four months are sacred or forbidden months. Dr. al-Dubayan said, “Among these twelve months there are four months - the forbidden or sacred months – do not be unfair with yourself in these four months. Even the Companion of the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam Ibn Abbas said; if somebody commits sins in these four months it is even bigger more than the other times. Of course respect of the Shari’ah, of the teachings of Allah Subhanahu wa Taala must be more during these four months.”
Dr. Al-Dubayan said, “Nowadays we forget these four months. We just live in just like any other days. Muharram starts; or Safar or Rabi al Awwal do not have any meaning for us. We are always busy in this Dunya; we do not pay that much attention to these four months. We have to keep more of these four months in our mind - Dhul Qaida, the month before the Hajj, the Dhul Hijja, the month of Hajj and the next month, the month of Muharram which is we are now in and then the Rajab, the seventh month of the Hijri calendar.”
Dr. al-Dubayan continued, “As I said, the Arabs, even before Islam, stopped fighting during these four months. If somebody has revenge against someone who has killed his brother or father; he during these months does not do anything to him. He waits till actually the time passes when he is no longer in these months any more. New month starts; then they go back to their normal life. This is how they respect this.”
Chosen Holy Times and Holy Places
After mentioning about the four sacred or forbidden months of the Hijri calendar, Dr. al-Dubayan spoke of the holy times and holy places. He said, “Allah Subhanahu wa Taala chooses certain places and certain times to be holy times and to be holy places. There are certain rituals for this. Allah is the One who decides this, not us. For example, the month of Ramadan, this is the time, this is the holy month. The Lailatul Qadr, which Allah Subhanahu wa Taala asks us to do our best to seek in the month of Ramadan - the Lailatul Qadr, to pray during the Lailatul Qadr. This is Allah Subhanahu wa Taala decided.”
“Allah Subhanahu wa Taala decided the last ten days of Ramadan as Lailatul Qadr, to pray during this Lailatul Qadr; the Yaum ul Arafah, the day of Arafah, the Ashoorah, which is going to come next Thursday. These things are decided by Allah Subhanahu wa Taala, not by us, not by people. For each day there are some teachings; sometimes fasting, sometimes praying. For example, Lailatul Qadr for more prayer; the Day of Arafah, fasting for those who are not in Hajj; the Day of Ashoorah, I am going to talk about this day of Ashoorah,” Dr. al-Dubayan said.
Chosen Holy Places
Dr. al-Dubayan then mentioned about certain holy places. Allah Subhanahu wa Taala has decided about these holy places – for example, Masjid al-Haram in Makkah; Masjid al-Nabawi in Madinah and Masjid al-Aqsa. Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned, “There are certain places Allah Subhanahu wa Taala grants them His blessings and call them the holy places, one of them is Masjid al-Haram in Makkah. Allah Subhanahu wa Taala calls this Masjid al-Haram. The Prophetic Mosque in Madinah, the Masjid al-Nabawi; Allah Subhanahu wa Taala said who pray here he call them equals to 1,000 prayers than anywhere else. And one prayer in Makkah in Masjid al Haram equals to 100,000 prayers. Can you imagine how the blessings in these places? If you pray one time in Masjid al Haram in Makkah as if you pray 100,000 times than somewhere else. If you pray at the Masjid of the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam it is equal to 1,000 prayers. If you pray at Masjid al-Aqsa it is equal to 500 prayers. We cannot add any other mosque on earth in this list of chosen holy places - mosque. It is Allah Subhanahu wa Taala who decides this, not us and nobody. This is very very important for all of you”
“Nobody can tell you - it is preferable to pray at this place or fast that day or to fast here or to pray here without the daleel of Kitab or Sunnah. Because it is Allah Subhanahu wa Taala who decides that. How do we know about Ashhur ul Hurum the four sacred or forbidden months? I told you. It is mentioned in the Qur’an. How do we know about Masjid al-Haram; if you pray there it is more than 100,000 prayer, because the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam said in the Hadis Sahih. How do we know the prayer at the Masjid al-Nabawi equals to 1,000, because Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam said that. We cannot say, for example, go there; it will be 100 or less or more; we cannot. You cannot choose any other place and say this is really preferable; similarly you cannot say to fast that day without proof; without daleel from the Kitab and Sunnah - the Qur’an and Sunnah, the traditions of the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam. I always advice you when someone tells something; you ask where it is? show me the daleel whether it is in the Qur’an or the Hadis Sahih of the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam This is very important,” mentioned Dr. al-Dubayan.
Dr. al-Dubayan then mentioned about lot of fake stories invented by people in the Muslim world. He said, “Many people created lot of things in the Muslim world. If you pray there mashallah there will be more benefits. How do you know? Can you show daleel? Did the Prophet said that? No. A man just came from Tur, the mountain where Allah Subhanahu wa Taala talked to Moosa alayes Salam it is in Sinai. This man witnessed the visit to that place, the mosque there, the place itself. And then he came to Abdullah al-Masood or Abu Hurairah; he said I just come; why did you go there; he said I wanted to pray there. He said, listen, I heard Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam saying: nobody travel to pray besides these three mosques - Masjid al-Haram in Makkah, The Masjid al-Nabawi, the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah and Masjid al-Aqsa. These three places you can travel just to pray. So the Companions of the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam never travel just to pray except these three places. Why? Because there is no daleel from the Kitab or Sunnah. it is said it is sacred or it is holy place; it is a place where there is given blessings. This is one of the principles of Aqidah you have to remember; I have told you all the time. Brothers and sisters, you have to remember this; anybody tells us about any mosque, ask where is this in the Qur’an or the Sunnah of the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam.”
Fasting in the month of Muharram
The Prophet Muhammad Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam used to fast a lot in the month of Muharram, this month; of course not fasting the whole month like Ramadan. But may be, every week two days three days; it is a Sunnah to fast as many as you can; or as much as you can in the month of Muharram, this month. But don’t fast like Ramadan. So, one day a week or two days a week according to what you can. This is a Sunnah; it is not a duty, of course. It’s not wajib; this is one of the principles of this month. In this month, there is a day of Ashoorah. What is a day of Ashoorah? The Day of Ashoorah is the tenth day of Muharram. The word Ashoorah came from the word ashara in Arabic. Ashara means ten.
Treaty of Madinah
Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned about the beginning of Ashoorah. He said, “The Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam came to Madinah, he stayed in Madinah and established first the Muslim community in Madinah as we all know. There was in Madinah some Jewish tribes, Jewish community. The Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam closed a Treaty with the Jewish community, which we called the Treaty of Madinah. According to this Treaty, not to fight with each other; to be fair with each other, not to hate some others against others. This is like a political agreement between the Muslims and the Jews in the Madinah itself; to share together, to live together as one society as it was mentioned in the Treaty which the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam himself signed.”
Fasting on the Day of Ashoorah
Why we had started to fast on the day of Ashoorah? Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan narrated the story behind the start of the fasting on the Day of Ashoorah. He said, “One of the things Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam noticed in Madinah; Jews at that time used to celebrate a certain day. The Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam asked them why you celebrate this day; they said we celebrate this day thanking Allah Subhanahu wa Taala because He has saved Moses, the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) with his people from the Pharoah of Egypt and to save them from the land there, to the holy land. The Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam said, we are closer to Moosa then. Why? Because the call of the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam, the message of the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam is Tawheed and the message of the Prophet Moosa (peace be upon him) is Tawheed. So the Prophets, all of them, came with the same message, the Tawheed, La ilaha Illalah.”
“Anybody who comes with this, he comes closer to the Prophet and anybody who goes away from this, he goes away from the Prophet. So the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam said, I am Prophet, he is Prophet and so I am closer to him. We will then celebrate this; do this in another way. How? Then the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam asked Muslims to fast that particular day. At that time the day was the day of Ashoorah, the tenth day of this month of Muharram, which is coming inshaAllah in the next Thursday. Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam fasted in that time and he asked the Companions to fast next year; he said if you fast next year, you fast another day with it either before or after. This is to be different from the Jewish community. Muslim community at that time in this ritual would be different. This is the beginning of it; this is a Sunnah,” Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned.
Expiation of Sins
Dr. al-Dubayan also said about a Hadith Sahih of the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam. He said, “The Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam said in another Hadith Sahih; I am asking Allah Subhanahu wa Taala this day to delete the small sins, the minor sins of everybody one year before; this means if you fast on this day with good intention, of course Allah Subhanahu wa Taala will remove from your record all the small sins that was done in the last year; the small ones, not the big ones. The big things; no. This prayer if you pray every time the small things will be deleted but not the big things. Big things you have to make Tauba; you have to have the Taubah. It is very very important.”
“This is also the same with Ramadan; the same with Jumah, the same with the day of Arafah; one year after or one year before. Some people think; okay, no problem. Whatever you did wrongs and then you can fast Arafah or Ashoorah Allah Subhanahu wa Taala washes away all the sins you have done. Allah will wash away from you and delete the minors or small ones, not the big ones; not the Riba, not the adultery, not the violating of the rights of parents. For these big things, no,” mentioned Dr. Al-Dubayan.
The day before Ashoorah which is ninth; in Arabic it is called Teesa, the word comes from the number Teesa. Dr. al-Dubayan said, “Most Muslims actually fast Taswah which is the 9th and the 10th. Why? In case, there is a mistake in the beginning of the month and they will definitely have the 10th day; of course; if you do your best and if you fast and later on you find that you fast the wrong day not the right day; you follow the wrong calendar, Allah will reward you for fasting exactly because this is the best you have done. Allah wanted to do the best; not to know everything completely absolutely. The absolute knowledge is for Allah Subhanahu wa Taala, not for us.”
Karbala – Martyr of Hazrat Hussein
Dr. al-Dubyan narrated the history of Karbala – the martyrdom of Hazrat Hussein in brief. He mentioned, “Fifty days after this, Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam passed away in the year 11 Hijri. He went for Hajj in the year 10 Hijri. Then the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam came back. Few months after the Hajj, he passed away, he died. Fifty years after, Hussein bin Abu Talib was moving to Karbala in Iraq and there he was killed; he was killed accidently on that day of Ashoorah. That was fifty years after. This means fifty years after the death of Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam; after Abu Bakr, Umar, Othman, and Ali himself; then Hussein was killed; the year was 61 Hijri precisely. Of course everybody was regretting what had happened. Everybody said who killed him they were criminals, they were wrong; there is no doubt about this. No Muslims on earth is happy about what had happened that day at all.”
“But we are also following the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam. We cannot add to the day of Ashoorah anything the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam did not do it. Some people exaggerate about this; they make rituals especially for the day which is not Sunnah to show sadness; for example, to wear black dresses etc. In the Sunnah it is not done that way. We follow our prophet; to fast this day to follow the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam; anything else more than the Sunnah don’t do it; that’s the wrong. We said that. Even the Khulafah Arba, the four Caliphs, Abu Bakr, Umar, Othman, Ali did not do anything on that day more than fasting,” mentioned Dr. al-Dubayan.
Dr. al-Dubayan also continued, “This is all created after. It was not even created 50 years after. It was created 300 years after. That was in the third century. All these rituals you see, all these caravans, festivals, this was created in the fourth century; not in the first, not in the second. You have to be aware of this. Other people also make other things; they add certain other things; they do certain kind of foods, certain people dress themselves white on that day to show their happiness because of the killing of Hussein. This is something very awful. Nobody says they are happy about what had happened. This is a matter of rituals; it is not a matter of traditions. Wearing white, cooking certain food, cooking rice, giving something – these are all bidah. That was added all to the Sunnah. The Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam did not do this. The Four Caliphs did not do it; the great Imams, the Imam Hanifah, the Imam Safieh, the Imam Maliki, the Imam Ahmad did not do it. These are all created after. We stick to the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam. This is very very important I have to mention it.”
Fake Hadiths relating to Ashoorah
Dr. al-Dubyan then mentioned some of the fake Hadiths made relating to Ashoorah. He said, “You will find some fake Hadith; fake made just for Ashoorah; one of them for example, he who spends more money Allah will give him more money for the year; this is fake Hadith, it is not true. Somebody fake this to celebrate or to do something. This is fake, this is not true; not Hadith. Some people drink milk on that particular day; this is also bidah, this is not Sunnah. Just follow Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam.”
“When Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam died, when he passed away, everything in the religion was clear. He told us everything; nothing hidden; he did not hide anything; he did not give any special thing to certain people only for other things. The Qur’an is for all of us; the Sunnah is for all of us; so if anybody told you that some part of the Qur’an is only for certain people; don’t believe this. If someone tells you there are some Hadiths only for some people, nobody knows about them especially for this person; it is not true,” said Dr. al-Dubyan.
Prophet Mercy for whole Mankind
“Why? Because Allah Subhanahu wa Taala says in the Qur’an we just send you as a Mercy for the whole Mankind for the whole world. How the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam would be mercy for me, for him, for her for everybody when something is hidden. How come the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam talk about equality of man; all mankind are equal. Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam said there is no superiority for any Arab for someone not Arab; for any white for someone who is black. You are all equal; you are brothers and sisters; your father is one and your mother is one. And your father is Adam and your mother is Hawwa, Eve. That means we come from the same father and the same mother. So we always put borders saying I am better than you and you are better than that,” mentioned al-Dubyan.
Seven years exactly after the death of the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhe Wassallam Hijri calendar was started. (It will be dealt in detail in the next issue)