Updated: June 18, 2020
Muharram commemorates the death of the Prophet Mohammad's grandson, Hussein Ibn Ali for Shia's. Muharram is an Islamic New Year according to Hijri Calender. The word Muharram is an Arabic which came from another word Haram which means forbidden. Muharram is one of the most important months for Muslims and marks the start of the Islamic New Year. Many Muslims fast, give extra prayers, and spend longer hours in the mosque.
Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar. The months begin when the first crescent of a new moon is sighted. It is one of the four sacred months of the year during which warfare or any kind of violenec is forbidden. It is considered as the second holiest month, after Ramadan. Since the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, and the Islamic lunar calendar year is 10 to 11 days shorter than the solar year, Muharram moves from year to year when compared with the Gregorian calendar.
Ashura, which literally means the 'Tenth' in Arabic, refers to the tenth day of Muharram. This is a part of the Mourning of Muharram for Shia Muslims and a day of fasting for Sunni Muslims. It is believed that on the 10th day of Muharram, Musa (Moses) and his people obtained a victory over the Egyptian Pharaoh and Muhammad asked Muslims to fast on this day and on the day prior, the Day of Tasu'a. For many Sunni Muslims, this month is the beginning of the Islamic New Year and symbolises peace and reflection. For those Muslims who follow the Shia branch of Islam, this month represents a solemn, reflective day in Islamic history.
Shia Muslims mourn the death of Husayn ibn Ali and his family, honoring the martyrs by prayer and abstinence from joyous events. Shia Muslims do not fast on the 10th of Muharram, but some will not eat or drink until zawal or afternoon to show their sympathy with Husayn.
Muharram is a month of remembrance and modern Shia meditation that is often considered synonymous with Ashura. Shia Muslims begin mourning from the first night of Muharram and continue for ten nights. The mourning get over on the 10th of Muharram, known as the Day of Ashura. The last few days up until and including the Day of Ashura are the most important. This is because these were the days in which Husayn and his family and followers including women, children and elderly people were deprived of water from the 7th onward. On the 10th day, Husayn and 72 of his followers were killed by the army of Yazid I at the Battle of Karbala on Yazid's orders. The surviving members of Husayn's family and those of his followers were taken captive, marched to Damascus, and imprisoned there.
The mourning rituals include gathering at mosques to cry over Hussein's death and to remember the importance of what the Prophet's family did for justice. Some muslims perform public rituals that include chest-beating, self-flagellation with chains and forehead-cutting.