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Ashura procession in Iran, 2016
Native nameٱلْمُحَرَّم (Arabic)
CalendarIslamic calendar
Month number1
Number of days29-30 (depends on actual observation of the moon's crescent)
Significant daysAshura

Muḥarram (Arabic: ٱلْمُحَرَّم) is the first month of the Islamic calendar, and one of the four sacred months of the year when warfare is forbidden. The tenth of Muharram is known as Ashura, an important day of commemoration in Islam. For Sunni Muslims, the day marks the parting of the Red Sea by Moses and the salvation of the Israelites, celebrated through supererogatory fasting and other acceptable expressions of joy. By contrast, Ashura is a day of mourning for Shia Muslims, who annually commemorate the death of Husayn ibn Ali, grandson of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and the third Shia imam. Husayn was killed, alongside most of his relatives and his small retinue, in the Battle of Karbala in 680 CE against the army of the Umayyad caliph Yazid ibn Mu'awiya (r. 680–683). The Shia rituals span the first ten days of Muharram, culminating on Ashura with mourning processions in Shia cities. Also in Muharram, the Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem was initially set as the direction of prayer for early Muslims.


Muharram (lit.'sacred') is the first month of the Islamic calendar, with (at most) thirty days. Warfare in Muharram is forbidden and it has been so since before the advent of Islam.[1] The word Muharram is short for "Muharram Safar" (lit.'sacred Safar'), which distinguishes in the ancient Arab calendar between Safar I, which was sacred, and Safar II, which was not. Over time, however, the adjective Muharram itself became the name of the first month of the year.[1]


Tenth of Muharram is known as Ashura, an important day of commemoration in Islam. For Sunni Muslims, Ashura marks the parting of the Red Sea by Moses and the salvation of the Israelites.[2][3] Also on this day, Noah disembarked from the Ark,[3] God forgave Adam, and Joseph was released from prison, among various auspicious events on Ashura in Sunni tradition.[4] Ashura is celebrated in Sunni Islam through supererogatory fasting, and also other pious acts and acceptable expressions of joy.[4][4] In some Sunni communities, the annual Ashura festivities include carnivals, bonfires, and special dishes,[5][6] even though some Sunni scholars have criticized such practices.[4][7]

By contrast, for Shia Muslims, Ashura is a day of mourning as they commemorate the death of Husayn ibn Ali, grandson of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and the third Shia imam.[8][9] Husayn refused on moral grounds to pledge his allegiance to the Umayyad caliph Yazid ibn Mu'awiya (r. 680–683) and was subsequently killed, alongside most of his male relatives and his small retinue, by the Umayyad army in the Battle of Karbala on Ashura 61 AH (680 CE).[10][11] Among the Shia minority, mourning for Husayn is viewed as an act of protest against oppression, and as such a struggle for God (jihad).[12][13] Mourners also hope to secure the intercession of Husayn in the afterlife.[14][15] Ashura is observed annually through mourning gatherings, processions, and dramatic reenactments.[16][17]

Muharram mourning gathering in Tanzania
Muharram mourning procession in Iran


Conversion of Hijri years 1343 to 1500 to the Gregorian calendar, with first days of al-Muharram (brown), Ramadan (grey) and Shawwal (black) bolded, and Eid al-Adha dotted – in the SVG file, hover over a spot to show its dates and a line to show the month

The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, and months begin when the first crescent of a new moon is sighted. Since the Islamic lunar calendar year is eleven or twelve days shorter than the solar year, Muharram days are different in consecutive solar years.[18] The estimated start and end dates for Muharram are as follows, based on the Umm al-Qura calendar of Saudi Arabia.[citation needed]

Muharram dates between 2020 and 2024
Islamic calendar First day (CE) Last day (CE)
1442 20 August 2020 17 September 2020
1443 09 August 2021 07 September 2021
1444 30 July 2022 27 August 2022
1445 19 July 2023 16 August 2023
1446 07 July 2024 04 August 2024

Battle of Karbala[edit]

  • 2 Muharram: Arrival of Husayn ibn Ali in Karbala, Iraq, in 680. On their way to the nearby Kufa, Husayn and his small caravan were intercepted by the Umayyad army and eventually forced to camp in the desert lands of Karbala, away from water and fortifications.[10]
  • 7 Muharram: The Umayyad army cut off Husayn's access to the drinking water of the nearby Euphrates river.[19] Under the siege, Husayn's camp suffered from thirst and hunger in the coming days.[20][21][22]
  • 9 Muharram (Tasu'a): Negotiations between Husayn and the Umayyads failed on this day in 680. The Umayyad commander Umar ibn Sa'd (d. 686) was set to attack after the afternoon prayer on Tasu'a but was persuaded to delay the confrontation until the following day.[23][10] Husayn and his men spent the night in prayer.[24][25]
  • 10 Muharram (Ashura): The Battle of Karbala was fought on this day in 680. Husayn and most of his male relatives and his small retinue were slaughtered by the Umayyad army by the end of the day. After the battle, the women and children in Husayn's camp were taken prisoner and marched to the Umayyad capital Damascus in Syria.[26]

Other Islamic events[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Plessner 2012.
  2. ^ Newman.
  3. ^ a b Katz 2007, p. 149.
  4. ^ a b c d Reid 2011.
  5. ^ Wensinck & Marçais 2012.
  6. ^ Katz 2007, p. 113.
  7. ^ Katz 2007, pp. 115–116.
  8. ^ Aghaie 2013.
  9. ^ Beverley 2011, p. 48.
  10. ^ a b c Madelung 2004.
  11. ^ Momen 1985, pp. 28–31.
  12. ^ Ayoub 1978, pp. 142–143.
  13. ^ Nakash 1993, p. 165.
  14. ^ Blank 2001, p. 84.
  15. ^ Munson 1988, p. 24.
  16. ^ Calmard 1987.
  17. ^ Calmard 2004.
  18. ^ Gent, R.H. van. "The Umm al-Qura Calendar of Saudi Arabia".
  19. ^ Qutbuddin 2019, p. 106.
  20. ^ Veccia Vaglieri 2012.
  21. ^ Pinault 2000, p. 71.
  22. ^ Hamdar 2009, pp. 85–86.
  23. ^ Bahramian & Bulookbashi 2015.
  24. ^ Munson 1988, pp. 23.
  25. ^ Sindawi 2002, p. 91.
  26. ^ Momen 1985, pp. 30–31.
  27. ^ Osman 2014, p. 133.
  28. ^ Momen 1985, p. 240.
  29. ^ Radwan, Rawan (16 April 2020). "The siege of Makkah". Arab News. Retrieved 26 August 2023.
  30. ^ "Mecca 1979: The mosque siege that changed the course of Saudi history". BBC. 27 December 2019. Retrieved 26 August 2023.
  31. ^ Khaliq Ahmad Nizami (1955). The Life and Times of Shaikh Farid-u'd-din Ganj-i-Shakar. Department of History, Aligarh Muslim University. p. 1.
  32. ^ Ali Riaz (23 July 2013). Islam and Identity Politics Among British-Bangladeshis: A Leap of Faith. Manchester University. ISBN 978-0719089558.
  33. ^ Emad Ullah Shahidul Islam (19 October 2016). আরেক শহীদ দিবস [Another Martyrs' Day]. Bangladesh Pratidin (in Bengali). Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  34. ^ Jalwa Gah-e-Dost (Urdu) 2nd edition (2008) by Khwaja Muhammad Tahir Bakhsh Archived 7 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  35. ^ Wensinck & Jomier 2012.


External links[edit]