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Muharram – מוחרם

Men who practice chest beating מקור יוצר: Foad Ashtari

The Islamic Calendar

The Hijri year of 1441 (AH -Anno Hegirae) has begun with the sighting of the moon of Muharram-ul-Haram. It coincides with the Prophet’s journey from Mecca to Medina on the first day of Muharram in 622 CE. Interestingly, both the months of the Islamic calendar and the Roman calendar – Muharram and September – will go together side by side. The Islamic calendar has 12 months but only 354 days, as opposed to the 365 in the Gregorian calendar. Islam has a lunar calendar with days lasting from sunset to sunset. Islamic holy days fall on fixed dates of the lunar calendar, which means that they occur in different seasons in different years in the Gregorian calendar.


Muḥarram (محرّم), the Month of Allah, is the first month of the Islamic calendar. The meaning of the adjective muharram means “banned, barred, or forbidden. Similar to the other sacred months, waging war or indulging in any kind of violence during this month is forbidden. Muharram this year (2019) begins on 31 August 2019 and ends on 29 September 2019.


The sighting of the new moon ushers in the Islamic New Year. The first month, Muharram, is one of the four sacred months mentioned in the Quran, along with the seventh month of Rajab, and the eleventh and twelfth months of Dhu al-Qi’dah and Dhu al-Hijjah, respectively, immediately preceding Muharram. During these sacred months, warfare is forbidden. Before the advent of Islam, the Quraish and Arabs also forbade warfare during those months.

Civil and Hijri establishment dates of a library in Old City, Jerusalem Photo:Polskivinnik
Civil and Hijri establishment dates of a library in Old City, Jerusalem
Photo: Polskivinnik

Messages sent to friends and relatives on beginning of the year 1441

  • “May all the praises and thanks be to Allah to whom belongs all that is in heavens and on the earth. Have a blessed Muharram.”
  • “As the Hijri New Year begins, let us pray that it will be a year full of peace, happiness and abundance of new friends. May Allah bless you throughout the new year.”
  • “I pray for your and your family’s happiness and well-being. May you all have an amazing year ahead. Happy New Hijri Year!”
  • “May Allah shower you with gifts of love, bravery, wisdom, contentment, health, patience and cleanliness. Happy New Year!”
  • “Happy Islamic New Year to all. May this new year bring a lot of peace, prosperity & happiness to the world. May Allah protect us. ”
  • “May Allah bless you on Muharram – the first month of the Islamic calender and one of the four sacred months of the year”!

Shia Muharram and Ashura

Muharram is a month of remembrance and according to Shia Islam the month of Muharram is often considered synonymous with the “Ashura”. Ashura, which literally means the “Tenth” in Arabic, refers to the tenth day of Muharram. Shia’s begin mourning from the first night of Muharram and continue for ten nights, climaxing on the 10th of Muharram, known as the Day of Ashura.

Sunni Muharram and Ashura

Different factions of the Muslim community observe Ashura day differently. For Sunni Muslims, Ashura marks the day when Moses was saved by Allah from the Egyptians and believe that God created Adam and Eve on the 10th of Muharram. For Sunni Muslims, it is a day of celebration. However, both the factions have almost identical traditions. Both the factions observe fast on Ashura day, with the Sunni Muslims observing fast for an extra day, either before or after this day.

Jewish Ashura

According to Sunni Islam tradition, on the 10th of Muharram, Moses was saved by Allah from the Pharaoh by dividing the sea into two parts creating a pathway for his people to safely cross the sea, while the Pharaoh’s army drowned. Hence, the Jews used to fast on Ashura i.e. the 10th of Muharram, as thanksgiving. Mohammed’s Companions observed that Jews also consider the day as special day of fasting. So Mohammed announced that from next year they will fast on the 9th of Muharram so as to distinguish themselves from the Jews. However, Mohammed did not live to see the next year.

10th of the month of Muharrem in the Ottoman Empire
10th of the month of Muharrem in the Ottoman Empire – Public Domain

Shia Flagellation

Shia Muslims fast for the whole month of Muharrem and also flagellate themselves with sticks and rods on the day of Ashura. They harm themselves to commemorate the martyrdom at Karbala of Husayn Ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad, while fighting against the oppressive regime of Yazid. Husayn was beheaded during the Battle of Karbala on the tenth day of Muharram.

Emotions and commemorations of the ten days of Muharram in the holy city of Karbala

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