The Islamic calendar, also called the Lunar calendar, is based on the movement of the moon around the earth. It starts from Muharram ul haram and ends at Zil`haj. It contains 12 months, just like the solar calendar. Muharram ul Haraam is the first month of the Islamic calendar, one of the most sacred months. It is one of the four sanctified months, that was respected by Arabs, even before the arrival of Islam. Any fight, robbery, dispute, or attack on other tribes, was prohibited in these months. Islam maintained their sanctity as well.
“Indeed, the number of months, with Allah, is twelve months, in the register of Allah, (from) the day he created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred, that is the correct religion, so do not wrong yourself during them.
Quran, 9; 36.
Sahib e Tafseer e Ibn e Kathir wrote regarding this aaya e kareema,
“Allah has chosen elites from His creations: from among the angels, He chose messengers from among mankind, He chose messengers, from among angels, He chose remembrance of Him (dhikr), from among speaches, He chose mosques, from among the spaces of earth, He chose the Ramadan and the sacred months, from among months. So, venerate that which has been chosen by Allah, for people of wisdom and understanding, respect that, which has been chosen by Him.
Tafseer Ibn e Kathir
Now the question arises, which are those sacred months? All the Islamic scholars are unanimous on the fact that these are Ze`Qaad, Zil`haj, and Muharram, and last but not least is Rajab. As Nabi e Rahmat SAW declared on the occasion of the Holy Sermon,
“One year consists of 12 months, of which four are sanctified, three are in sequence; Dul`Qaada, Zul`hajj, Muharram, and Fourth one is Rajab.”
The sacredness of these four months does not mean that other months of the year are not sacred, as it is clear that Ramadhan is the sacred month of the Lunar Calendar. The sanctity of these months was clear, as even the pagans also admitted and honored their sanctity. They abstain from wrong deeds, the war against one another, etc; in these months.
The second part of its name, Muharram ul haraam, reveals the sanctity and sacredness of this month. The sanctity of this month is clear from the Quranic verse and the Ahadees. It is clear from its name, as well. It is said that before fasting in the month of Ramadhan was made obligatory, fasting in Muharram was obligatory. But when fasting in the month of Ramadhan was made obligatory, fasting in Muharram ul Haraam was forbidden. Syeda Ayesha Siddiqa RA reported,
“When Prophet Muhammad SAW came to Madinah, He SAW fasted on the Ashura day and directed the people to fast. But when the fasts of Ramadhan were made obligatory, the obligation of fasting was confined to Ramadhan, and the obligatory nature of the fast of Ashura was abandoned. One can fast on this day, if he so wills, or avoid fasting, he so wills.”
Ashura is the 10th of Muharram ul Haraam. It is the most important day in the month of Muharram. There are some unauthentic events, that are associated with Ashura day. But the incidents don`t have any authenticity. Like Adam AS was born on Asura, Ibrahim AS was born on Ashura day. The resurrection will be established on Ashura day, but all these incidents are unauthentic and baseless.
Though the obligation of fast on Ashura Day was abond0ned by Muslims as an obligation, Prophet Muhammad SAW, used to fast in the month of Muharram. Abdullah bin Masood reports that
“Prophet SAW preferred the fast of Ashura to the fast of other days and preferred the fast of Ramadhan to the fast of Ashura. (Bukhari and Muslim)
Prophet Muhammad SAW always liked to fast, on days other than Ramadhan ul Mubarak. He fasted in the month of Shawwal and Zil`hajj and also otherwise. But He SAW liked to fast in the month of Muharram, on the Ashura day, more than in another month of the lunar calendar. Holy Prophet SAW said,
“The best fasts after the fasts of Ramadhan are those of the fasts of the month of Muharram”
Ashura day is not only important for the Muslims, but it had been a sacred day for other Ehl e Kitab, i.e; The Jews and the Christians. According to Jews, Musa (May God be pleased with Him) and His companions crossed the Red Sea, miraculously, and Pharaoh drowned in its water. According to Abdullah Bin Masood, May Allah Be Pleased with Him,
“The Prophet Muhammad SAW
, when migrated to Madinah, found that the Jews of Madinah used to fast on the 10th of Muharram. They said that it was the day on which Prophet Musa (May God be pleased with Him) and His followers crossed the Red Sea miraculously and the Pharaoh drowned in its water. On hearing this from the Jews, the Holy Prophet ( Peace be upon Him) said, We are more closely related to Musa than Jews and directed the Muslims to fast on the day of Ashura.
Muharram ul Haraam, as stated, is one of the sanctified months of the lunar month. It has a specific reference, particularly for Muslims. The Incident of Karbala took place in the month of Muharram. Where the grandson of the Holy Prophet SAW, Hazrat Imam Hussain RA, and his 72 companions and close family members were at the plain of Karbala. So this is the saddest month of the lunar calendar.