The event of Hijrah, the migration of the Beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) from Makkah to Madinah in 622 AD was chosen to begin the Islamic Calendar because it was the first major sacrifice made by the whole Muslim Ummah for the preservation of Islam in its formative period. After the emigration to Madinah (formerly known as Yathrib), the Muslims were able to organise and establish the first real Muslim community, the real Islamic state with social, political, and economic independence.
Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar
Muharram is the first month of the Islamic Calendar.There are twelve months in the Islamic Calendar. As the Qur'an says:
Lo! The number of the months with Allāh is twelve months by Allāh’s Ordinance in the day that He created the heavens and the earth. Four of them are sacred: that is the right religion. So wrong not yourselves in them...(Al-Qur'an - 9:36)
"It is He Who made the sun to be a shining glory, and the moon to be a light of beauty, and measured out stages for it, that you might know the number of years and the count of time. Allah did not create this except in truth and righteousness. And He explains His signs in detail, for those who understand" (10:5).
In his final sermon before his death, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said, among other things, "With Allah the months are twelve; four of them are holy; three of these are successive and one occurs singly between the months of Jumaada and Sha'ban."
The four sacred months (al-Asshhur al-Hurum) are Rajab, Dhul Qa‘dah, Dhul Hijjah and Muharram. Out of the four sacred months, Muharram has been blessed with certain specific virtues.
The companions were also consulted on which month should mark the beginning of the year, Caliph Umar al-Khattab and Uthman ibn Affaan (May Allah be pleased with them), chose Al-Muharram due to it being a sacred month and because it follows the month of Dhul Hijjah, which is when the Muslims perform Hajj – or the pilgrimage, w2hich was the last pillar of Islam that Allah enjoined upon the Muslims. Al-Muharram also follows the month in which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) pledged allegiance to the Ansar (his Madinain supporters) to emigrate to Madinah and this pledge of Allegiance was one of the introductory acts of emigration. Due to all these reasons, Al-Muharram was deemed the most suitable month to begin the Islamic Calendar.
Muharram the first month of the Islamic Calendar, were considered sacred. Muharram is so called because it was unlawful to fight during this month; the word is derived from the word “haram” meaning forbidden.
The month of Muharram is also of great religious significance to Muslims the world over. It is held to be the most sacred of all the months, excluding Ramadan. The word “Muharram” is often considered synonymous with “Ashura”, the tenth day of the month of Muharram.
Fasting in the month of Muharram
Fasting is advocated in the month of Muharram. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upoon him) said: “The best fasts after the fasts of Ramadan are those of the month of Muharram.” Although the fasts of the month of Muharram are not obligatory, yet one who fasts in these days out of his own will is entitled to a great reward by Allah the Almighty.
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) said:
"The best of fasts besides the month of Ramadhan is the fasting of Allah's month of Muharram." (Muslim)
In another Hadeeth, Ibn Abbas reports: "that the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu-Alayhi-Wasallam) said: "The one that keeps a fast in the month of Muharram will receive the reward of thirty fasts for each fast (in this sacred month)." (Tabraani)
Although the fasts of the month of Muharram are not obligatory, the one who fasts in these days out of his own will and choice is entitled to a great reward by Almighty Allah. The Hadith citied above signifies that the fasts of the month of Muharram are the most rewardable among the Nafl fasts i.e. the fasts one observes out of his own choice without being obligatory on him.
10th day of Muharram (Aashora)
Although the month of Muharram is a sacred month as a whole, the 10th of Muharram is the most sacred among all its days. The day is named “ashurah”. It is one of the most important and blessed days of Allah in the Islamic Calendar. Some ulama (Scholars) are of the opinion that before the fasts of Ramadan, the fast of the day of Ashurah was compulsory upon the ummah. This is stated in a Hadith reported by A'ishah that the beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered the observance of the fast of Ashurah. However, when the fast of Ramadan became compul;sory, then whosoever wished, kept this fast and whosoever desired did not observe the fast. (Bukhari)
Ibn Abbas reported, “I did not see Rasulullah sallallahu 'alayhi wassallam anxiously await the fast of any day, which he gave preference to over other days, but this day, the day of Ashura.” (Bukhari)
It is also said by scholars that since the beginning of this world, Ashura day has been a very important day. On this day great signs of Allah’s power and glory have appeared in the world. On this day many Prophets were born and they were instituted to the office of prophecy. On this day, Prophets, Saints and Sincere servants of Allah were blessed with miracles and spiritual powers.
On Ashura Day the following have taken place:
1. Repentance of Prophet Adam (Allah’s blessing be upon him) was accepted by Allah
2. The ship of Prophet Nuh (Noah) (Allah’s blessing be upon him) came to rest on a mountain called Al-Judi.
3. Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) (Allah’s blessings be upon him) was born on this day.
4. He got the title Khalil-ullah (friend of Allah) on this day.
5. The fire in which Prophet Ibrahim (Allah’s blessings be upon him) was thrown by the king Namrud become cool and means of safety for Prophet Ibrahim, by the order of Allah.
6. Allah delivered Prophet Ayub (Job) (Allah’s blessings be upon him) from distress and he was restored to prosperity.
7. By the Grace of Allah, Prophet Yunas (Jonah) (Allah’s blessings be upon him), after being swallowed by a huge fish (whale) for forty days, was casted out on the shore.
8. Prophet Mussa (Moses) (Allah’s blessings be upon him) got victory over Pharaoh.
9. Prophet Suleman (Solomon) (Allah’s blessings be upon him) was made a king to rule over mankind, Jins, Animals and the air.
10. Prophet Idris (Enoch) (Allah’s blessings be upon him) and Prophet Issa (Jesus) (Allah’s blessings be upon him) were lifted up alive.
11. Imam Hussain (Allah be pleased with him), the grandson of our beloved Prophet, got martyred at Karbala in Iraq.
12. The day of resurrection and judgement will take place on this day (Ashura)
(Ghunia-Al-Talibeen & Tafseer-e-Sawi)
The practice of fasting on Ashura was known even in the days of Jajiliyyah, before the Prophet'ds mission. It was reported that A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) said: “The people of Jahiliyyah used to fast on that day.” It is also reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to fast on Ashura in Makkah, before he migrated to Madinah.
Abu Hurayrah (May Allah be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: 'The best of fasting after Ramadan is fasting Allah's month of Muharram.'” (Reported by Muslim, 1982)
Fasting on the day of Ashura (10th Muharram)
According to the Holy companion, Ibn Abbas (May Allah be pleased with him), when the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wassallam) migrated to Madinah, he found that the Jews of Madinah used to fast on the 10th day of Muharram. They said that it was the day on which the Holy Prophet Musa Alayhis Salaam 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 Sallallahu Alayhi Wassallam said, “We are more closely related to Musa than you.” So the Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wassallam directed the Muslims to fast on the day of Ashura. (Abu Dawood)
According to another Hadith, it is more advisable that the fast of Ashura should be either preceeded or suceded by an additional fast. It means that one should fast two days: the 9th and 10th of Muharram or the 10th and 11th . The reason of this additional fast as mentioned by the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wassallam is that the Jews used to fast on the day of Ashura alone, and the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wassallam wanted to distinguish the Islamic-way of fasting from that of the Jews. Therefore, he advised Muslims to add another fast to the day of Ashura.
Let us observe this great day according to the way of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and refrain from all innovations which deprive us of the blessings from Allāh the Almighty. May Allāh guide us all upon the Straight Path and save us from every act which brings His Displeasure. Āmīn.