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Indian festivals are a treat to enjoy, and other religious events gain importance too, as there are so many cultural differences and religions in India. Be it a festival or an occasion, it is observed by all Indians irrespective of their cultural and religious differences. Muharram or Moharam as colloquially known, is an Islamic eve which is observed throughout the world. To be precise, Muharram is not a festival – it is a day on which certain important events occurred and they are remembered every Islamic year. The Islamic year, which is also known as Hijri, is based on lunar calendar. The days of the month are calculated based on the appearance of moon. The most important month of muslims – Ramadhan – begins and ends with the sighting of crescent. The same goes for Muharram also. Let’s explore the significance of Muharram.

Muharram photoPhoto by Gabby Canonizado 02 (New account)

When is the eve of Muharram?

Muharram is the name of first month of Islamic calendar, like January for Gregorian calendar. So literally Muharram 1 is the birth of new Islamic year. But the new year is not celebrated highly. On the other hand, the tenth day of Muharram gets importance due to the occurrence of certain events.

The tenth day of Muharram is also known as Aashura which comes from the Arabic word Ashr, meaning “ten”.

What is the importance of this festival?

A few important incidents of Islamic belief has occurred on the tenth day of Muharram. The splitting of sea and escape of Prophet Moses (Peace Be Upon Him) with his followers from the tyrant Pharoah, as mentioned in the holy book of Qur’an has happened on this day as quoted in hadith texts – the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him)

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Another important incident widely known is the battle of Karbala in Iraq which happened in the year 680 A.D. Imam Hussain was martyred in the battle and this is marked as an important day in Islamic history.

What muslims do on this day?

As mentioned previously, Muharram (or Aashura) is not a festival to celebrate or rejoice. On this day, muslims observe fasting from dawn to dusk. It is highly encouraged to fast for two days, including the day preceding or following Aashura. Prayers are made on this day with extreme humbleness and there is a holiness in air on this eve.

Some misconceptions and rituals

First misconception regarding Muharram is its festivity. Unlike Eid, this festival is not a day to celebrate. Next misconception is regarding the rituals followed in some Indian states.
On the eve of Muharram, people can be seen hurting themselves with sharp objects, as they lament and express sorrow. Such practices can be seen in a very few Indian communities, and they are not widely observed and accepted. These are done based on the people’s own will and there are no strong evidences for such things in religious texts.

Observing Muharram in India

Though muslims are found worldwide and they all observe this festival, in India it is not all the same. Muharram is an official holiday in many states and those who are aware of its importance observe fasting. Other rituals of lamenting and sorrow are followed in few sects, mainly in north India. This day is a peace eve where a religious holiday is accepted by all Indians in spite of religious and cultural differences.

Apart from the two Eid festivals, this is another important day for muslims. But the its significance and importance is little known, or incorrectly known. It is important to educate ourselves with the right facts in order to pass correct information to the next generation.

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