Bismillah. The no-nonsense guide to Muharram, the month of Allah:
What is the Significance of Muharram
Muharram is one of the four sacred months. The sacred months are sacred from the time Allah created everything, as Allah says in Surah Tawbah, “Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve months (in a year), so it was ordained by Allah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them, four are sacred…” (9:36).
The Prophet said: “The year is twelve months of which four are sacred, the three consecutive months of Dhu’l-Qa’dah, Dhu’l-Hijjah and Muharram, and Rajab” (reported by Bukhari).
What is the Significance of the Sacred Months
Allah says, “Allah has made the Ka’bah, the Sacred House, the sacred month, the sacrificial animal, and the necklaces put around sacrificial animals as a qiyam for mankind” (5:97). Qiyam means that by which something is made to stand/prop. The Ka’bah, the sacred months and sacrificial animals are called the prop for mankind because Allah propped life in Arabia using Hajj, its rituals, and the sacred months.
The Ka’bah and its precincts were made a place of safely and security wherein hostilities and violence were prohibited. Similarly, the institution of the sacred months – Dhul Qa’dah, Dhul Hijjah, Muharram, and Rajab – prohibited killing and violence.
What to do in the Sacred Month of Muharram
Stop Committing Sins
As mentioned above, Allah says in Surah Tawbah, “Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve months (in a year), so it was ordained by Allah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them, four are sacred. That is the right religion, so wrong not yourselves therein” (9:36).
The phrase, “so wrong not yourselves therein…” means do not wrong yourselves in these sacred months by committing sins, because sin in these months is worse than in other months. And if we fall in the trap of Shaitaan, repent excessively and resolve firmly.
The Prophet said, “The best of fasting after Ramadan is fasting Allah’s month of Muharram” (reported by Muslim).
The phrase, “Allah’s month” shows us the honor of this month that the Prophet associated the month to Allah. For example, the Ka’bah is honored with this type of association when it is called the house of Allah.
Fasting on Ashoora
Fasting throughout Muharram is encouraged, but fasting on the day of Ashoora is particularly encouraged. Ashoora is the tenth of Muharram (for 2009, it will be January 6th), and it is reported from Bukhari that the Prophet confirmed that Musa and his followers were saved from Firawn on this day.
The Prophet was extremely keen to fast on this day. Ibn Abbaas said, “I never saw the Messenger of Allah so keen to fast any day and give it priority over any other than this day, the day of Ashoora” (reported by Bukhari). So, we should be looking forward to it too by marking our calendars and setting reminders for ourselves.
Moreover, the Prophet said, “For fasting the day of Ashoora, I hope that Allah will accept it as expiation for the year that went before” (reported by Muslim). So we should hope for the same reward as well.
Fasting on the day before Ashoora
Ibn Abbaas said:
“When the Messenger of Allah fasted on Ashooraa and commanded the Muslims to fast as well, they said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, it is a day that is venerated by the Jews and Christians.’ The Messenger of Allah said, ‘If I live to see the next year, insha Allah, we will fast on the ninth day too.’ But it so happened that the Messenger of Allah passed away before the next year came” (reported by Muslim).
On this basis, it is better to fast the ninth as well as the tenth of Muharram. And of course, the more one fasts in Muharram, the better it is.