Muharram - By Mufti Taqi Usmani
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 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 of Zul-Qa'dah, Zul-Hijjah, Muharram and Rajab. All the commentators of the Holy Quran are unanimous on this point, because the Holy Prophet Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam in his sermon on the occasion of his last Haj has declared:
"A year consists of twelve months, of which four are sanctified months, three of them are in sequence; Zul-Qa'dah, Zul-Hijjah, 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 Ramadhaan 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 which 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 recognized right from the days of Sayyidina Ibrahim Alayhis salaam. Since the Pagans of Makkah attributed themselves to Sayyidina Ibrahim Alayhis salaam 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 our Noble Prophet Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam the sanctity of these months was upheld and the Holy Qur'an referred to them as the "sanctified months".
Misconceptions and Baseless Traditions
However, there are some legends and misconceptions with regard to 'Ashura' that have managed to find their way into the minds of the ignorant, but have no support of authentic Islamic sources, some very common of them are these:
- This is the day in which Adam Alayhis salaam was created.
- This is the day in which Ibrahim was born.
- This is the day in which Allah accepted the repentance of Sayyidina Adam Alayhis salaam
- This is the day on which the Qiyaamah (doomsday) will take place.
- Whoever takes bath in the day of 'Ashura' will never get ill.
All these and other similar whims and fancies are totally baseless and the traditions referred to in this respect are not worthy of any credit.
Some people take it as Sunnah to prepare a particular type of meal in the day of 'Ashura'. This practice, too, has no basis in the authentic Islamic sources.
Some other people attribute the sanctity of 'Ashura' to the martyrdom of Sayyidina Husain Radhiyallaahu Anhu during his battle with the Syrian army. No doubt, the martyrdom of Sayyidina Husain Radhiyallaahu Anhu 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 Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam much earlier than the birth of Sayyidina Husain Radhiyallaahu Anhu.
On the contrary, it is one of the merits of Sayyidina Husain Radhiyallaahu Anhu that his martyrdom took place on the day of 'Ashura'.
Another misconception about the month of Muharram is that it is an evil or unlucky month, for Sayyidina Husain was killed in it. It is for this misconception that people avoid holding marriage ceremonies in the month of Muharram. This is again a baseless concept which is contrary to the express teachings of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah. Such superstitions have been totally negated by the Holy Prophet Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam. If the death of an eminent person on a particular day renders that day unlucky for all times to come, one can hardly find a day of the year free from this bad luck because every day is associated with the demise of some eminent person. The Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam have liberated us from such superstitious beliefs.
Lamentations and Mourning
Another wrong practice related to this month is to hold the lamentation and mourning ceremonies in the memory of martyrdom of Sayyidina Husain Radhiyallaahu Anhu. As mentioned earlier, the event of Karbala is one of the most tragic events of our history, but the Holy Prophet Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam has forbidden us from holding the mourning ceremonies on the death of any person. The people of jahiliyyah (ignorance) used to mourn over their deceased through loud lamentations, by tearing their clothes and by beating their cheeks and chests. The Holy Prophet Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam stopped the Muslims from doing all this and directed them to observe patience by saying "Innaa lillaahi wa innaa ilayhi raaji'oon". A number of authentic Ahadith are available on the subject. To quote only one of them:
"He is not from our group who slaps his cheeks, tears his clothes and cries in the manner of the people of jahiliyyah." (Sahih Bukhari).
All the authentic jurists are unanimous on the point that the mourning of this type is absolutely impermissible. Even Sayyidina Husain Radhiyallaahu Anhu shortly before his demise, had advised his beloved sister Sayyidah Zainab Radhiyallaahu Anha not to mourn over his death in this manner.
He said, "My dear sister, I swear upon you that you, in case I die, shall not tear your clothes, nor scratch your face, nor curse anyone for me or pray for your death". (Al-Kamil, ibn Kathir vol. 4 pg. 24)
It is evident from this advice of Sayyidina Husain Radhiyallaahu Anhu 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 (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) and his beloved grand child Sayyidina Husain Radhiyallaahu Anhu.