Islamic Articles

What is Muharram and significance of Muharram


Muharram, the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar, holds profound significance for Muslims worldwide. It is a time of deep reflection, mourning, and remembrance, particularly for the martyrdom of Imam Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). This sacred month is observed with great reverence, symbolizing the struggle for justice, steadfastness, and resilience. In this article, we will explore the historical and spiritual significance of Muharram, its rituals, and the universal lessons it imparts to humanity.

The Importance of Muharram:

Muharram is deemed one of the four sacred months in Islam, along with Rajab, Dhu al-Qi’dah, and Dhu al-Hijjah. In Islamic tradition, any acts of aggression and violence are strictly prohibited during these months, fostering an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. However, Muharram is distinguished by its special significance, as it marks a momentous event in Islamic history – the Battle of Karbala and the martyrdom of Imam Husayn.

The Tragedy of Karbala:

In the year 680 CE, Imam Husayn, the son of Imam Ali and Lady Fatimah (the daughter of Prophet Muhammad), faced an agonizing ordeal in the desolate land of Karbala (present-day Iraq). He stood up against the oppressive Umayyad caliphate, led by Yazid ibn Muawiya, who had deviated from the principles of Islam. Despite Imam Husayn’s peaceful and just intentions, Yazid’s forces confronted him with brutality and deceit. Along with his family and a small band of loyal followers, Imam Husayn endured immense hardships, culminating in a tragic battle that resulted in his martyrdom on the tenth day of Muharram, known as Ashura.

The Significance of Ashura:

Ashura is a day of profound grief and reflection for Muslims worldwide. It is a time when Muslims commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Husayn and his companions in Karbala. The events of Ashura serve as a reminder of the struggle for truth, justice, and resistance against tyranny. Despite the overwhelming odds, Imam Husayn refused to submit to injustice, displaying unwavering faith and a commitment to principles that continue to inspire generations.

Mourning Rituals:

During Muharram, Muslims partake in various mourning rituals to express solidarity with Imam Husayn’s suffering and the tragedy of Karbala. The atmosphere is somber, and in some communities, processions are held where mourners, clad in black, march through the streets reciting elegies and chanting slogans in memory of the martyrs. The rituals are a potent symbol of unity and collective grief, reinforcing the message of empathy and compassion for those oppressed and marginalized.

Fasting on Ashura:

Fasting on the tenth day of Muharram, Ashura, is a widespread practice among Muslims. It holds particular significance as it was the day when Prophet Moses (Musa) and the Israelites were saved from the tyranny of Pharaoh. Fasting on this day is a way to express gratitude for divine deliverance and to remember the sacrifices made by Imam Husayn and his companions. It is also a time for self-purification, seeking forgiveness, and making resolutions to live a life of righteousness.

Lessons from Muharram:

The observance of Muharram and the commemoration of Ashura offer several valuable lessons that extend beyond religious boundaries:

Standing up against Injustice: The sacrifice of Imam Husayn teaches us the importance of standing up against oppression and injustice, even in the face of daunting challenges.

Upholding Principles: Imam Husayn’s refusal to compromise on his principles emphasizes the significance of integrity, even in the most adverse circumstances.

Resilience in Adversity: Despite the tragic outcome, Imam Husayn’s resilience and unwavering faith continue to inspire people to remain steadfast in the face of adversity.

Unity and Compassion: Muharram brings people together, transcending cultural and social barriers, fostering compassion and empathy for the suffering of others.


Muharram is a month of deep spiritual reflection, mourning, and remembrance for Muslims worldwide. The tragic events of Karbala and the martyrdom of Imam Husayn hold profound significance, resonating with universal themes of justice, resilience, and compassion. The rituals and observances during this month serve as a powerful reminder of the importance of standing up against injustice, upholding principles, and fostering unity and empathy among humanity. As we commemorate Muharram, let us imbibe the lessons it offers and strive to make the world a better place through compassion and righteousness.

What is Muharram?

Muharram is the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar and is considered one of the sacred months in Islam. It holds great significance for Muslims, as it marks the beginning of the Islamic New Year.

Why is Muharram important?

Muharram is significant for several reasons. Firstly, it commemorates the migration (Hijrah) of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) from Mecca to Medina, which marks the establishment of the first Muslim community. Additionally, Muharram is a month of reflection and remembrance, particularly the tragic events of Karbala that occurred on the 10th day of Muharram.

What is Ashura?

Ashura is the 10th day of Muharram and holds immense importance for Muslims. It is a day of both mourning and fasting for different reasons. For Sunni Muslims, it is a day of gratitude and remembrance of Prophet Moses (Musa) and the Israelites’ escape from Pharaoh. For Shia Muslims, Ashura is a day of deep mourning and remembrance of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and his companions in the Battle of Karbala.

What happened on the Day of Ashura at Karbala?

On the Day of Ashura, which occurred on October 10, 680 CE, Imam Hussein and his small group of followers were surrounded by a larger army of the Umayyad Caliphate in Karbala, Iraq. They were denied access to water for several days and were ultimately killed in a brutal battle. This event has become a symbol of sacrifice, resistance against injustice, and standing up for one’s principles.

How do Muslims observe Muharram?

Observances during Muharram differ between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Sunni Muslims often observe the day of Ashura by fasting and offering additional prayers. They also use the occasion to reflect on the significance of migration and the historical events related to Prophet Moses.Shia Muslims, on the other hand, engage in various mourning rituals throughout the month. These rituals may include recitations of elegies, passion plays (called “Ta’ziya”), and processions where believers express their grief and solidarity with the sufferings of Imam Hussein.

Is Muharram a joyous or mournful occasion?

Muharram carries a mixed sentiment for Muslims. The first day of Muharram is considered a day of celebration and thanksgiving for the Islamic New Year. However, as the month progresses and the Day of Ashura approaches, it becomes a period of grief and mourning, especially for Shia Muslims, who remember the tragedy of Karbala.

Is Muharram a public holiday in Muslim-majority countries?

In some Muslim-majority countries, the first day of Muharram is observed as a public holiday, marking the Islamic New Year. The extent of observance and public holidays may vary depending on the country’s cultural and religious practices.

Can non-Muslims participate in Muharram observances?

While the religious aspects of Muharram are specific to Islam, some cultural events and processions may be open to non-Muslims as observers. However, it is essential to be respectful and sensitive to the significance of the occasion for Muslims, particularly during their mourning rituals.

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