What is Muharram ?
Muharram is a significant and vital festival of Muslims. It states the start of the Islamic New year. The real meaning of Muharram is forbidden, illegal, unpermitted, impermissible, and so on. It is a festival which indicates the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain.
For a long ten days, people celebrate it with some special activities. Though this is the festival of all Muslim Ummah but mainly Shia community carries great significance. There are arrangements of Taziyas and green alarms which people bring in the procession. To express mourning, men beat their breast and recite mourning verse.
When is Muharram Celebrated ?
According to the Islamic calendar Muharram month stars with the beginning of the first crescent of a new moon. But in the comparison of the solar year, it is shorter by 10 to 11 days than the Islamic Lunar calendar.
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Why is Muharram Celebrated ?
History of Muharram
The history of it goes behind almost fourteen hundred years ago. Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, was the main hero of the story. A cruel and oppressive king killed Imama Hussain and his son mercilessly in the battle of Karbala.
Though Imam Hussain lost his life in the struggle, he gained real victory over evil by expressing a message. The message is about kindness, justice and equality which live on among people age to age.
Story Behind Muharram
The story goes behind it very tragical and painful. The fierce battle of Karbala took place on the ten the day of Muharram. Another name of Muharram is Ashura, and it was in the 61st year of the Islamic calendar.
Imam Hussain was the chief of the supporters of Prophet Muhammad, and they were far less in number. On the other side, Yazid was the chief of the Umayyad Caliph, and he had a much larger military than Imam Hussain.
Imam Hussain and his humble army included his friends and family tried their best to own the battle. But the large-armed enemy army of Yazid surrounded them from all sides. They captured Imam Hussain and his supporters and left them in a water and food less desert.
They stayed in that hot desert for three days as they could not get any water and food, so they lost their strength. By the command of Yazid, his soldiers slain Hussain and his 6- years son. Then they kept the women with them as a captive.
The story is very emotional. To honour the sacrifice of the innocent lives, Muslims celebrate a mourning time in the month of Muharram.
Significance of Muharram
The month of Muharram is immensely pure for the Muslim and Shia Muslims. On the days they mourn for the death of Imam Hussain and his family. With due respect and dignity, they commemorate their sacrifice. Also, they pray in adequacy besides refrain from all gleeful events.
The mourning period begins on the 1st day of Muharram and stays for long ten days. It does not end until the dying days of Imam Hussain come. People usually put on black dresses to express mourning. They also observe abstinence and keep fasting. On the day of Ashura, the 10th day they break their fast.
Traditionally some of them break their fast only after Zawal (afternoon). They observe some activities to pay respect on Imam Hussain such as beating themselves with chain in public, cutting themselves with knives and holding mournful public processions. They do all the painful observance to express their grief on the death of Imam Hussain.
They consider him as a representative of Allah who shows them the path of light and hope. Some of them mourn violently, but some people cry in a non- violent manner. They only hold procession and chant “Ya Hussain” weeping loudly.
There is another sign of it. Some people think that it was the day when Allah saved the children of Israel from Pharaoh. It was the time when Prophet Muhammad went to the people of Madina in 622 CE.
There he came to know from the Jews that They observed fasting on this day. And the reason behind it that Allah saved the children of Israel from their enemy, the Pharaoh in Egypt. On this day, Prophet Musa also fasted to reveal his gratitude towards Allah.
From then Prophet Muhammad also desired that his followers will observe a two-day fast on the day of Ashura. Since then, the two communities celebrate it in two different ways.
The Shia community mourn the death of Imam Hussain by harming themselves. On the other hand, Sunni Muslims observe it by holding a fast following Muhammad.
Another story is about Adam and Eve. Muslims believe that on the 10th day of Muharram Allah created Adam and Eve. So to commemorate the holiness people observe fast on this occasion.
How is Muharram Celebrated ?
Muharram marks the first month of the Islamic calendar. Before coming to this occasion, people arrange the elements to celebrate. They fast during the hours of daylight. 9th and 10th or 10th and 11th they chose either of the two to observe fasting.
People went into mosques to attend the special prayer meeting. Sometimes they made their prayers with due respects from home.
All Muslim groups do not observe this occasion in the same manner. Some consider Muharram as a month of Mourning when Imam Hussain lost his life in the battle of Karbala. Some perceive it as a sign of holy admiration.
Muharram is generally a public holiday for all Muslims, but the people of other religions may also observe the activities throughout the world.
Foods of Muharram
In every occasion, there are lots of varieties in foods. Muharram is not except them. To follow the significance of Muharram, people arrange different items of food. They share meals with their family and friends. Here I include some unique recipes of Muharram.
- Zarda Rice: Almost every Muslims make zarda rice at home on this occasion. It is one kind of sweet dish. To make it properly you need white rice, cardamom, oil, cream, raisins chopped walnuts, almonds, orange zest and orange food colour.
- Sooji halwa: This is another tasty sweet dish which people make on this day. This sweet dish is not only delicious but also easy to prepare. You need sooji, water, ghee, sugar, almonds, cashew nuts and cardamom powder for making the sweet dish.
- Muharram ka Sherbat: On the battle of Karbala Imam Hussain and his followers did not get a drop of water. To commemorate the sacrifice and tragedy of the Muslim, people try to serve this milk sherbet on this day. You can easily make it by mixing milk, water, sugar, almonds and cashew.
- Poha Kher: Kheer is always a famous dish in the society of Muslims. You can get a good taste of kheer when you mix with Poha. Together the two items invent a healthier version with sound effects. You can get iron from this item because the red rice poha contains fibre and bran.
- Egg Biriyani: Biriyani is a popular dish for all celebration. When the name comes, you feel craving for this. Biriyani is full of healthy twist, and when you add an egg on it, it becomes the most robust dish. You need Brown rice, egg, ghee, sour yoghurt, biriyani masala and some other ingredients to prepare it.
- Nazri food: Nazri is one kind of exceptional food of Muharram. Usually Iranian make this food in Muharram. People wait for long times in long lines to get Nazri. They use saffrons and fresh lamb coming from animal votive in it to increase the taste of it.
Khorest Gheymeh is known as the most popular Nazri dish in Iran. For cooking this, they use chopped lamb, tomatoes and split peas. They serve it alongside rice.
Facts about Muharram
- Muslim considered Muharram as a holy month. After Ramadan, it is the month when Muslims observe fast with respect and dignity.
- According to hadith, Gabriel( the angel) told Prophet Muhammad that his progeny and grandson Hussain would befall. To resist tyranny and revive the Islamic Ummah, they will lose their life on 10th day of Muharram.
- Throughout the world, people observe mourning for a ten days long period.
- Shia community show their mourning on Muharram by wearing a black dress. They also beat their hands and chest as a sign of sorrow.
- Earlier fasting during Muharram was obligatory, but later it is considered optional fasting after Ramadan.
- Muharram marks the new year of the Muslim world, which means a month of non-violent. For this reason, Muslim ere not permitted to wage war or involve themselves in any form of violence.
- The death of Imam Hussain became the most valuable conventional ritual for Shiites since 680 A. D.
So Muharram is a holy month for Muslims. It is a month not for mourning and not for celebrating only. We should value this month as one of Allah’s holy month in which we should do good deeds and be careful of sinning.