The month of Muharram marks the Hijrah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم from Makkah to Madinah – to new beginnings – to the glory of Islam.
It also marks Allah helping Prophet Musa عليه السلام and his people when they were being chased by Pharaoh in the most impossible of conditions. There was certain death in front and behind them, all hope lost and despair everywhere. Then the impossible happened and the help of Allah arrived for the promise of Allah is never false nor late. It has perfect timing. A path forward opened which none could have imagined in their wildest dreams. Yet for Allah it’s as easy as, “كُنْ فَيَكُونُ” – “Be, and it is”
The Sahaba left everything they had and followed their Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم just like Bani Israel followed Musa عليه السلام. What separates the two groups and their imminent success/destruction was their adherence to the command of their Prophet.
The times might have changed, the people might have changed, the Pharaoh of the times might have changed but Allah remains The Most Powerful and Ever in Command. If tawakkul (complete faith in Allah) can part the Red Sea, then how big are our problems in comparison?
What is Muharram?
The blessed month of Muharram is the first month of the Hijri calendar and is one of the four sacred months concerning which Allah Almighty says:
إِنَّ عِدَّةَ الشُّهُورِ عِندَ اللَّهِ اثْنَا عَشَرَ شَهْرًا فِي كِتَابِ اللَّهِ يَوْمَ خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ مِنْهَا أَرْبَعَةٌ حُرُمٌ ذَٰلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ فَلَا تَظْلِمُوا فِيهِنَّ أَنفُسَكُمْ وَقَاتِلُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ كَافَّةً كَمَا يُقَاتِلُونَكُمْ كَافَّةً وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الْمُتَّقِينَ
Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] 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 yourselves during them. And fight against the disbelievers collectively as they fight against you collectively. And know that Allah is with the righteous (who fear Him).
[Surah At-Tawbah, Ayah 36]
Ibn Abbas said that this phrase (so do not wrong yourselves during them…) referred to all the months, then these four were singled out and made sacred, so that sin in these months is more serious and good deeds bring a greater reward.
Just like when it’s the time for a sale or let’s take into account the latest launch of Apple’s iPhone, people went absolutely crazy. Standing in line for hours at an end, spending enough money on a single mobile that could feed so many poor families as a whole. Now we don’t say that this is wrong and we shouldn’t enjoy the blessings that Allah has bestowed us with.
The point that I am trying to get across here is that this month of Muharram is a blessing from Allah to us. It is in this month that we should rake in as many rewards as we can. Take full advantage of Allah’s rewards and mercy which get doubled and tripled by His will in this blessed month. When we increase the degree of our worship Allah will increase his “promotions” for us. No, this is one plus I can confidently say that we won’t be duped by the Before-After sale scam. If we go in this month wanting to please Allah, the rewards will be magnified to numbers we can only imagine. This right here is one promotional offer we cannot afford to miss out. The awesome part being if you tell others about this promotion and they come to it, then whatever good they do, you also get a reward for it as if you did it yourself. I mean how cool is that? At the same time we must avoid sinning also, because the degree of punishment increases or intensifies as well.
We see the wisdom of Allah by selecting these months in the words of Al-Izz ibn Abdus-Salaam who said that Allah makes certain times and placed sacred or blessed in order to encourage his servants for righteous deeds and bestow a greater reward for them. [Qawaa’id Al-Ahkaam]. Such is our Rabb, The Most Merciful, The Most High.
We know the Hijri calendar is pinned to the Hijra, but how did Muharram become the first month of the year when the Hijra itself took place in Rabi’ al-Awwal?
The idea of counting the year’s was Umar Ibn al-Khattab’s رضي الله عنه idea. The idea of pinning it to the Hijra was from Ali Ibn Abi Talib رضي الله عنه. Now when the year was chosen they realized they needed to pick a month to start the year with. It was Uthman bin Affan رضي الله عنه who said we all come back from Hajj and start our records anew, so let’s make Dhul Hijjah the final month of the year. And therefore Muharram became the first month of the year.
Among the proposals given to Ameer ul-Mu’mineen Umar ibn al-Khattab رضي الله عنه to start the new calendar were:
- Adopt the Persian calendar
- Adopt the Roman calendar
- Begin from the date of the demise of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ
- Begin from the date of the first revelation.
- Begin from the migration of Muslims from Makkah to Madinah.
- Begin from the birth of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ
The Caliph, Umar Ibn al-Khattab رضي الله عنه was inclined to choose the date of the Hijrah because it is known when it occurred, and the Sahaba al-Kiraam agreed with him.’’ [al-Bidayah wa’n-Nihayah, 3/251-253]
So What Can We Do?
Fasting is one of those acts which are very dear to Allah. This is an act about which Allah doesn’t specify any reward but just says that he will take care of it as it is done solely for him We can let our imagination run amok and still fail to fathom just how brilliantly Allah will bless the one who fasts to please Allah.
2. Give Charity
Giving charity is one of the best things we can do. As we know everything we do is being multiplied by Allah in our accounts. Imam Ibn al-Qayyim رحمه الله stated in Madarij Al-Salikeen: “If those who give Sadaqah [charity] knows that their Sadaqah falls on Allah’s Hand before the hand of the poor, then surely, the joy of giving would be more than the joy of receiving.”
So why pass on such an offer. This is an investment which will surely reap tons and tons of good. So go ahead, don’t hold back and give charity like mad.
The Ulema of the Hanabila say that people in the month of Muharram should generously spend on their dependents (family).
Ibn Mansūr asked Imam Ahmad رحمه الله, “Do you know of a Hadith that says, ‘One who generously spends on his family on the day of ‘Ashurah, Allah will be generous to him for the entire year.'”
He replied, “Yes. It was narrated by Sufyan Ibn ‘Uyaynah from Ja’far al-Ahmar from Ibrahim Ibn Muhammad Ibn al-Muntashir – who was one of the best people of his time – that the following had reached him: ‘One who generously spends on his family on the day of ‘Ashurah, Allah will be generous to him for the entire year.'”
Sufyan Ibn Uyaynah رحمه الله said, “I have practiced this for fifty or sixty years and have found nothing but good in it.”
It also said that Jabir رضي الله عنه said, “We have practiced this and found it to be so.” Abu al-Zubair and Shu’bah رضي الله عنهم have also said the same.
These words have been reported from the Prophet ﷺ and authenticated by Imam al-Suyuṭi. Imam al-Bayhaqi strengthened this tradition considering the multiplicity of chains. These words are also reported from many of the Salaf including Umar Ibn al-Khattab authentically. It should be noted that although there is a difference of opinion about the authenticity of the chains of the hadith at hand, in practice, all four Sunni schools of thought are in agreement that generosity and increased spending on the family on the day of ʿAshurah is an encouraged practice.
We already know how by doing Dhikr we get so many rewards. By doing dhikr in this month just makes the math a lot more complicated and the rewards way more easier and abundant. Just keep in mind the multiplication part and you will be boosted to do it. This has got to be the easiest way to earn rewards. We can literally do it anywhere and everywhere. Let’s have a quick look at some amazing deals.
سُبْحَانَ للّهِ x 100 times = 1000 Rewards Added/1000 sins removed [Muslim]
سُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ وَبِحَمْدِهِ = A date palm is planted for him/her in Jannah. [Tirmidhi] (So much for FarmVille huh?)
سُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ وَبِحَمْدِهِ x 100 = Sins forgiven even if they were like the foam in the sea. [Bukhari]
لاَ إِ لَـٰهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ وَحْـدَ هُ لاَ شَـرِيْكَ لَـهُ ، لَـهُ الْمُـلْكُ وَلَهُ الْحَمْـدُ ، وَهُـوَ عَلَـى كُلِّ شَـيْ ءٍ قَدِ يْرٌ = Reward as given for manumitting ten slaves + 100 Good Deeds + 100 Sins Deducted + Shield for him from Shaitan on that day till night [Bukhari]
One has to only glance at a day in the blessed life of our beloved Rasul ﷺ and we will find so many more words of dhikr to beautify our day, hearts and souls.
4. Visit The Sick/Orphans
This will be a huge Iman booster and will make you realize and thank Allah for His blessings upon you and around you. Having a family that is in good health is also a very important blessings that we take for granted a lot of the time.
5. Uphold Family Ties
Might be tough for some but hey you get rewarded for talking to that uncle so why not. Take this time to be very good and dutiful to your parents and ask them to make dua for you. The dua of parents is a luxury which many don’t enjoy. Cherish and treasure it while you can. Allah loves those who are dutiful to their parents and if the parents are happy, then Allah is also happy with His slave.
While you are out there meeting family and friends, might as well smile. Just a small smile from you could liven up the day of your brother and change their mood for the better. Not just that, it also instills a sense of confidence and support within the person. Plus with all the stuff happening around us in the world, we definitely need a lot more smiles.
7. Reading the Quran
Mathematically speaking from a rewards perspective, reading the Quran is the best thing we can do. For every letter of a word in the Quran we get 10 rewards. Just imagine finishing the Quran and then Allah multiplies it for us out of his bounty. Sitting and actually calculating the rewards is worthless as we cannot put a cap or a number on the rewards Allah bestows upon His slave. Iqra!
Try fulfilling as many Sunnah acts as possible. This is highly pleasing to Allah as we imitate and copy the acts done by our Prophet Muhammad ﷺ to please Allah. There is a reason he was sent to us and is the Best of Examples.
Another very important aspect would be to teach the people and especially the children and the teenagers the Seerah of the Prophet ﷺ. Many are hesitant and gloss over our history which speaks about what lead to the Battles of Jamal and Siffeen, the Battle of Karbala, the martyrdom of Hussain رضي الله عنه and the Ahlul Bayt in general. This is an approach which has a very bad long term impact on the upcoming generation. If they don’t learn it from us and the balanced scholars, they will the hear the twisted versions of it from the Shia and other misguided sects which will lead to many doubts and controversies.
The Day of Ashurah
Although the month of 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. So what is so special about this day?
Sheikh Bilal Ismail حفظه الله narrates that the Makkans used to take the 10 of Muharram as a day of sanctity. Something from the remnant teachings of Prophet Nuh or Ibrahim must have reached them regarding it. The Quraysh used to change the coverings of the Kabah on the 10 of Muharram and the Prophet would fast this day. When he migrated to Madinah, the Prophet found that the Jews were also fasting the 10 of Muharram.
Fasting the day of Ashurah used to be an obligation and the sahaba would train their children to fast it as well. When Ramadan became an obligation, fasting the 10 of Muharram became a recommendation. On a side note, our Sheikh, Ibrahim Nuhu حفظه الله stated, “Fasting went through 3 stages:
1. Maintaining the order prescribed upon the earlier nations. They had to fast 3 days every month. In addition to this, once the Prophet reached Madinah, fasting Ashura (10 Muharram) also became an obligation. These are among the Sunnan now instead of an obligation.
2. Revelation of the Ayat of Ramadan:
شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَىٰ وَالْفُرْقَانِ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ وَمَن كَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ وَلِتُكْمِلُوا الْعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُوا اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَاكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ
3. The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful. [Surah al-Baqarah, Ayah 125]
This Ayah abrogated the first stage. Now, it was obligatory upon the Muslims to fast but they were given an option. They could either fast or feed the needy instead. This option was removed and fasting became obligatory upon everyone except those with a genuine excuse.
4. The people couldn’t eat once they had slept. This caused a lot of hardship to the companions of the Prophet. Allah revealed the ayah:
أُحِلَّ لَكُمْ لَيْلَةَ الصِّيَامِ الرَّفَثُ إِلَىٰ نِسَائِكُمْ هُنَّ لِبَاسٌ لَّكُمْ وَأَنتُمْ لِبَاسٌ لَّهُنَّ عَلِمَ اللَّهُ أَنَّكُمْ كُنتُمْ تَخْتَانُونَ أَنفُسَكُمْ فَتَابَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَعَفَا عَنكُمْ فَالْآنَ بَاشِرُوهُنَّ وَابْتَغُوا مَا كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ الْخَيْطُ الْأَبْيَضُ مِنَ الْخَيْطِ الْأَسْوَدِ مِنَ الْفَجْرِ ثُمَّ أَتِمُّوا الصِّيَامَ إِلَى اللَّيْلِ وَلَا تُبَاشِرُوهُنَّ وَأَنتُمْ عَاكِفُونَ فِي الْمَسَاجِدِ تِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّهِ فَلَا تَقْرَبُوهَا كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ آيَاتِهِ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ
It has been made permissible for you the night preceding fasting to go to your wives [for sexual relations]. They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them. Allah knows that you used to deceive yourselves, so He accepted your repentance and forgave you. So now, have relations with them and seek that which Allah has decreed for you. And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct to you from the black thread [of night]. Then complete the fast until the sunset. And do not have relations with them as long as you are staying for worship in the mosques. These are the limits [set by] Allah , so do not approach them. Thus does Allah make clear His ordinances to the people that they may become righteous. [Surah al-Baqarah, Ayah 187]
This brought the fasting of Ramadan the way we know of today.”
Narrated Ibn Abbas: When the Prophet ﷺ arrived at Madinah, the Jews were observing the fast on Ashurah and they said, “This is the day when Musa became victorious over Pharaoh,” On that, the Prophet ﷺ said to his companions,
أَنْتُمْ أَحَقُّ بِمُوسَى مِنْهُمْ، فَصُومُوا
“You (Muslims) have more right to celebrate Musa’s victory than they have, so observe the fast on this day.” [Al-Bukhari]
After this we see another narration from Ibn Abbas who said, “I never saw the Messenger of Allah ﷺ so keen to fast any day and give it priority over any other time than the day of ‘Ashurah’ and the month of Ramadan.” [Al-Bukhari]
The Prophet صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم said,
صِيَامُ يَوْمِ عَاشُورَاءَ إِنِّي أَحْتَسِبُ عَلَى اللَّهِ أَنْ يُكَفِّرَ السَّنَةَ الَّتِي قَبْلَهُ
“Fasting the day of ‘Ashura’, I hope, will expiate for the sins of the previous year.” [Muslim]
Things just seem to get better and better now doesn’t it. Till now our good deeds were getting multiplied. Allah being The Most Generous told us that fasting on this day would erase a WHOLE years worth of minor sins. Sheikh Bilal Ismail حفظه الله highlight an important point. It is not a given that those fasting will by default be forgiven. It depends on Allah’s acceptance. We should ask Allah not only for the tawfique to fast but also to accept the fast.
Another important narration in this regard is from Abdullah Ibn Abbas who said, “When the Messenger of Allah,صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم fasted on Ashurah 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 ﷺ said,
فَإِذَا كَانَ الْعَامُ الْمُقْبِلُ صُمْنَا يَوْمَ التَّاسِعِ
`If I live to see the next year, InshaAllah, we will fast on the ninth day too.’ But it so happened that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ passed away before the next year came.” [Muslim]
It is recommended to fast the ninth in addition to the tenth of Muharram to mark a difference from the practice of the Jews. Sheikh Bilal Ismail حفظه الله elaborates and states, “We have our own identity, sets of values and beliefs. There is no harm in standing out, rather it is something to be proud of. We do not blindly follow whatever they practice. A little bit of action gets a mighty reward from Allah. Allah wants to give us the opportunity to change. It is up to us to decide now.”
The Shia dampen the mood of the Blessed Month of Muharram and instead of celebrating the mercy of Allah, they take it as a month of mourning on the martyrdom of Hussain رضي الله عنه. The pages of Islamic History are filled with the blood of the martyrs. Should we begin to mourn the martyrdom of the sahabah alone, every other day would be a day of mourning.
Thus, to attribute the significance of Ashurah to the martyrdom of Hussain رضي الله عنه is baseless. In fact it was a blessing of Allah upon him that he was granted martyrdom is this blessed month. Therefore, the host of baseless customs with regard to his martyrdom must be discarded. There are two extremes and both are to be rejected. One side that makes it a month of mourning (Shia) and those that make it a month of widespread celebration (Nasibi and Khawarij). The Ummah stays in the middle and does not exaggerate in either.
Sheikh Tawfique Chowdhury حفظه الله once asked a Shia, “Why do you beat yourself and mourn?” The man replied that they mourn at the death of al-Hussain. The Sheikh further pushed him and said, “Why do you mourn, when without a doubt Hussain is in Jannah. Not only is he in Jannah, but he is of the leaders in Jannah as the Prophet described to us. The Shia and the Sunnis agree on this that Hussain is of the People of Jannah.”
We need to remember the teachings of our Prophet ﷺ, who even taught us the Adab of mourning, “It is not lawful for a Muslim woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day to mourn for more than three days, except for her husband, for whom she should mourn for four months and ten days.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]
Being that start of the Hijri Calendar, people get a bit too excited and start celebrating it just like the others celebrate the New Year of the Gregorian Calendar. We need to calm down, like seriously. Instead of spamming social media we can spend this time actually multiplying our deeds like a good businessman and not fighting online wars if saying it is permissible. Our Imam, the Imam of Ahlus Sunnah, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal said: “I do not initiate the greeting but if someone greets me I return the greeting, because responding to the greeting is obligatory. But being the first to offer congratulations is neither Sunnah nor forbidden.”
Many of our brothers have fallen into superstition and bid’ah and attribute things to this month like bad luck, abstaining from marriage and what not. We should be aware of such things and try clarifying the matter and show them the love and mercy of Allah.
Know that this is the month in which Allah gave victory to Musa عليه السلام and his followers, despite the fact that they were vastly outnumbered, over the tyrant Pharaoh. Let us make constant and sincere dua from the heart that Allah elevates us like he elevated Musa عليه السلام and His People and not humiliate us any further and forgive us for being so weak in our duty towards him. We should be assured that while we are performing our prayers, fasting and rushing to perform all other types of righteous deeds that Allah will support us and that He will protect us. Whenever we are involved in an act of worship, Allah will love us due to this and will give a magnificent reward. This is because Allah only enables those whom He loves to perform righteous deeds and He only guides those who repent to Him.
May Allah accept this from us and multiply for us our good and divide our bad and replace it with even more good from his immense bounty.