By Mufti Taqi Usmani
September 14, 2018
MUHARRAM is the month with which the Muslims begin their lunar Hijrah Calendar. It is one of the four sanctified months about which the Holy Quran says, “The number of the months according to Allah is twelve (mentioned) in the Book of Allah on the day He created heavens and the earth. Among these (twelve months) there are four sanctified.” These four months, according to the authentic traditions, are Ziqadh, ZilHijjah, Muharram and Rajab. All the commentators of the Holy Quran are unanimous on this point, because the Holy Prophet (PBUH), in his sermon on the occasion of his last Hajj, declared: “One year consists of twelve months, of which four are sanctified months, three of them are in sequence; Ziqadh, ZilHijjah, Muharram, and the fourth is Rajab.”
The specific mention of these four months does not mean that any other month has no sanctity, because the month of Ramazan is admittedly the most sanctified month in the year. But these four months were specifically termed as sanctified months for the simple reason that their sanctity was accepted even by the pagans of Makkah. In fact, every month, out of the twelve, is originally equal to the other, and there is no inherent sanctity that may be attributed to one of them in comparison to the other months. When Allah Almighty chooses a particular time for His special blessings, the same acquires sanctity out of His grace.
Thus, the sanctity of these four months was recognised right from the days of Sayyidna Ibrahim (AS). Since the Pagans of Makkah attributed themselves to Sayyidna Ibrahim (AS), 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 Shariah of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), the sanctity of these months was upheld and the Holy Quran referred to them as the “sanctified months”. Muharram has certain other characteristics that are specified below. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) has said: ‘The best fasts after the fasts of Ramazan are those of the month of Muharram.” Although the fasts of the month of Muharram are not obligatory, yet one who fasts in these days out of his own will is entitled to a great reward by Allah Almighty. The Hadees cited above signifies that the fasts of the month of Muharram are most rewardable ones among the Nafl or voluntary fasts. The Hadees does not mean that the award promised for fasts of Muharram can be achieved only by fasting for the whole month. On the contrary, each fast during this month has merit. Therefore, one should avail of this opportunity as much as he can.
Although Muharram is a sanctified month as a whole, yet, the 10th day of Muharram is the most sacred among all its days. The day is named ‘Ashurah’. According to the Holy Companion Ibn ‘Abbas (RA), 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 on which the Holy Prophet Musa (AS) and his followers crossed the Red Sea miraculously and the Pharaoh was drowned in its waters. On hearing this from the Jews, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, “We are more closely rotated to Musa (AS) than you,” and directed the Muslims to fast on the day of ‘Ashura’. (Abu Dawood) It is also reported in a number of authentic traditions that in the beginning, fasting on the day of ‘Ashura’ was obligatory for the Muslims.
It was later that the fasts of Ramazan were made obligatory and the fast on the day of ‘Ashura’ was made optional. Sayyidna ‘Aisha (RA) has said: “When Holy Prophet (PBUH) came to Madinah, he fasted on the day of ‘Ashura’ and directed the people to fast. But when the fasts of Ramazan were made obligatory, the obligation of fasting was confined to Ramazan and the obligatory nature of the fast of ‘Ashura’ was abandoned. Whoever so desires should fast on it and any other who so likes can avoid fasting on it.” (Sunan Abu Dawud)
However, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) used to fast on the day of ‘Ashura’ even after the fasting in Ramazan was made obligatory. Abdullah ibn Musa (RA) reports that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) preferred the fast of ‘Ashura’ on the fasts of other days and preferred the fasts of Ramazan on the fast of ‘Ashura’. (Bukhari and Muslim)
In short, it is established through a number of authentic Ahadees that fasting on the day of ‘Ashura’ is Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and makes one entitled to a great reward. Some other people attribute the sanctity of ‘Ashura’ to the martyrdom of Sayyidna Husain (RA), during his battle with the Syrian army. No doubt, the martyrdom of Sayyidna Husain (RA) is one of the most tragic episodes of our history. Yet, the sanctity of ‘Ashura’ cannot be ascribed to this event for the simple reason that the sanctity of ‘Ashura’ was established during the days of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) much earlier than the birth of Sayyidna Husain (RA). On the contrary, it is one of the merits of Sayyidna Husain (RA) that his martyrdom took place on the day of ‘Ashura’.
All the authentic jurists are unanimous on the point that the mourning of this type is impermissible. Even Sayyidna Husain (RA), shortly before his Shahadat, had advised his beloved sister Sayyidah Zainab (RA), at not to mourn over his Shahadat in this manner. He said, “My dear sister! I swear upon you that in case I die you shall not tear your clothes, nor scratch your face, nor curse anyone for me or pray for your death.” (Al-Kamil, ibn al-Athir vol. 4 pg. 24) It is evident from this advice of Sayyidna Husain (RA), that this type of mourning is condemned even by the blessed person for the memory of whom these mourning ceremonies are held. Every Muslim should avoid this practice and abide by the teachings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and his beloved grandchild Sayyidna Husain (RA). —