The Month of Muharram
Muharram is the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar. It is one of the four sanctified months (Al-Ashhur-Al-hurum) mentioned in the Qur’an.
“Surely, the number of months according to Allah is twelve (as written) in the Book of Allah on the day He created the heavens and the Earth, of which there are Four Sacred Months.” [9:36]
Narrated Abu Bakrah Radhiyallahu Anhu:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Time has come back to its original state which it had when Allah created the Heavens and the Earth; the year is twelve months, four of which are sacred. Three of them are in succession; Thul Qa'dah, Thul Hijjah and Al-Muharram, and (the fourth being) Rajab Mudar (named after the tribe of Mudar as they used to respect this month) which stands between Jumaada (As-Saani) and Sha'baan."
(Saheehul Bukhari, Saheehu Muslim)
It is known as the month of Allah (Shahrullah). And known as Al-Asamm
The month of Muharram has certain other characteristics peculiar to it which are specified below.
1. Fasting during the month
Abu Hurairah Radhiyallahu Anhu reported that he (the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) ) was asked as to which prayer was most excellent after the prescribed prayer, and which fast was most excellent after the month of Ramadhaan. He said:
Prayer offered in the middle of the night and the most excellent fast after (fasting) in the month of Ramadhaan is the fast in God's month al-Muharram.
2. 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 ‘A'shurah
He was asked about fasting on the day of 'Ashurah (10th of Muharram), whereupon be said: It expiates the sins of the preceding year. (Saheehu Muslim)
According to Ibnu Abbaas Radhiyallahu Anhuma, the Holy Prophet (ﷺ), when migrated to Madeenah, found that the Jews of Madeenah used to fast on the 10th day of Muharram. The Prophet (ﷺ) asked them (about it) and they said that it was the day on which the Holy Prophet Musa (Moses) Alaihissalam and his followers crossed the Red Sea miraculously and the Pharaoh was drowned in its water. On hearing this from the Jews, the Holy Prophet (ﷺ) said, “We are more closely related to Musa than you” and directed the Muslims to fast on the day of 'Ashurah. (Abu Dawood)
Narrated Ibnu `Abbaas Radhiyallahu Anhu:
When Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) arrived at Madeenah, he found the Jews observing the fast on the day of 'Ashura' (10th of Muharram). The Prophet (ﷺ) asked them (about it) and they replied, "This is the day when Moses became victorious over Pharaoh." The Prophet (ﷺ) said (to the Muslims), "We are nearer to Moses than they, so fast on this day."
When the Holy Prophet ﷺ came to Madeenah, he fasted on the day of 'Ashurah and directed the people to fast it. But when the fasts of Ramadan were made obligatory, the obligation of fasting was confined to Ramadhaan and the obligatory nature of the fast of 'Ashurah was abandoned. One can fast on this day, if he so wills, or can avoid fasting, if he so wills.
Narrated `Aishah: Radhiyallahu Anha
Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) ordered (the Muslims) to fast on the day of 'Ashurah, and when fasting in the month of Ramadan was prescribed, it became optional for one to fast on that day ‘Aashooraa or not.
According to another Hadees, it is more advisable that the fast of 'Ashurah should either be prefixed or suffixed by another fast. It means that one should fast two days: the 9th and 10th of Muharram or the 10th and 11th of it. The reason of this additional fast as mentioned by the Holy Prophet ﷺ is that the Jews used to fast on the day of 'Ashurah alone, and the Holy Prophet ﷺ wanted to distinguish the Islamic-way of fasting from that of Jews. Therefore, he advised the Muslims to add another fast to that of 'Ashurah.
Abdullah bin 'Abbaas Radhiyallahu Anhuma reported that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) had said:
If I live till the next (year), I would definitely observe fast on the 9th. (Saheehu Muslim)