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Muharram/Ashura in India

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Muharram refers to the first month of the Islamic Calendar. The complete month of Muharram is sacred according to the Muslims. However, it is the tenth day which is of most significance. Different factions of the Muslim community observe this day for different reasons. While the Shia Muslims celebrate this day to mourn the death of Husayn Ibn Ali, the Sunni Muslims observe this day to celebrate the victory of Moses over Egyptian Pharaoh.

History of Muharram

According to the Holy Quran, Muharram is one of the four sacred months of the year (other three are Zulqadah, Zulhijjah, and Rajab). The English meaning of Muharram is “Forbidden” and it is celebrated as the first month of the twelve months of Islamic lunar calendar. People celebrate this day when they see the crescent moon. It is celebrated by the people of Muslim community to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (including his family members and followers), a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed. He was killed including with his family members and followers in AD 680 during the Battle of Karbala. People also remember Ali (the son-in-law of Prophet) and his elder son Hassan while celebrating the Muharram because they too suffered a lot and died for the rights of whole Muslim community.

General Information

Muslims believe that Allah wishes that people should not commit sins during the sacred month of Muharram. Many Muslim scholars believe that if one commits sin during this holy month then their sin shall be considered greater and so their punishment will also be more severe as compared to if it was committed at any other time of the year. And so, one should be careful as to not commit any wrong deeds during the sacred month of Allah.Large prayer meetings, parades and marches may cause local disruption to traffic. This is particularly true of areas of India with a predominantly Muslim population.

What is Muharram

Muḥarram is the first month of the Islamic calendar.An annual celebration in the month of Muharram commemorating the death of Husayn, grandson of Muhammad, and his retinue.Traditionally, some of them even break the fast only after zawal (afternoon), when they pay respect to Imam Hussein by beating themselves with chains in public, cutting themselves with knives and sharp objects and holding mournful public processions. This painful observance is an expression of their grief on the death of their leader Hussain, also considered to be the representative of Allah. But most people mourn in a more non-violent manner by holding sad processions, and by chanting "Ya Hussain", wailing loudly.

What Do People Do?

Imam Hussain stood for the Quranic principle of justice and fairness. Imam Hussain spoke on behalf of those who were marginalized by a class of rulers who were laying the foundation of dynastic rules in Islam. Imam Hussain refused to surrender to the forces of oppression knowing fully well that he could perish in the process. It is a month of serious reflections for the Muslim world. While Shia Muslims observe the first ten days as public mourning, the Sunni Muslims evade any overt display of happiness such as weddings etc. and focus on the fasting of the 10th day of Muharram in memory of Prophet Moses exodus from Egypt. By and large, most of the Sunni Muslim community avoid any explicit connection of that day to the martyrdom of Imam Hussain. In fact, in many parts of the world, the month has become a point of conflict between Shia and Sunni. Thus, Imam Hussain and his legacy are seen as a sectarian event. Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar. Some Muslims fast during daylight hours on the ninth and 10th or 10th and 11th days of the month. They may also attend special prayer meetings in mosques or private homes.


Muharram festival is celebrated all over the world by both Sunni and Shia Muslims for whole month or especially 10th day of Muharram. They celebrate Muharram as a month of mourning to commemorate the event took place at Kerbala with Imman Hussain, his family members and followers. It is celebrated as the gazetted holiday all over the India that’s why banks, government offices, post offices, Islamic stores, businesses, organizations and other offices remain closed for full day or opened for only sometime. This festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm with large prayer meetings (in the mosques or private homes), parades and marches which cause local traffic. It is celebrated in the same manner by the Muslim community all over the country. It is also celebrated as the month of mourning in order to commemorate the Battle of Karbala. Muslim people of Shia community, cry very loudly and beat their chest by being sorrow in order to commemorate all the sufferings of the Imam Hussain and his followers.


It was a sacrifice given in support of human rights and human dignity. It is this sacrifice that has held a profound impact on the history of ideas in the world as rooted in the famous line of one America's great founding father, Patrick Henry: "Give me liberty, or give me death." Muharram festival is the day of great significance and its first 10 days are celebrated by the Muslim people of Shia community by giving honour to the assassination of the Hazrat Imam Hussain and his family members (killed and imprisoned by the forces of Umayyad ruler Yazeed Ibn Muawiyah in the Battle of Karbala in 680AD). People of the Muslim religion keep fast for whole month (not mandatory) believing as the virtues and awards of this sacred month.Imam Hussain's humble army comprised of only his friends and family, including women and young children. But they were surrounded by a heavily-armed enemy army of thousands. They captured Hussain and his group and deprived them of water and food in the desert heat for three successive days. The cruel soldiers brutally killed Hussain and his 6-year-old son and took the women with them as captives.


It falls every year as the first month of the Islamic calendar and considered as one of the four sacred months of the year in Islam. It is a gazetted holiday (day off for the workers) all over the India in order to mark the start of Islamic year. Shia Muslims mourn the killing of Hussein during Muharram; public events are held, prayers organized and processions showcase ardent lovers of Ali and Hussein who flog themselves, walk on fire and reenact various plays to remember the pain Hussein was put through on the Day of Ashura.Not all Muslim groups observe this occasion in the same manner. Some Muslims regard Muharram as the month of mourning, commemorating the Battle of Karbala. Muharram is primarily an Islamic holiday but people of other religions may also take part in or observe the Muharram activities in India


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