India > Festivals > Muharram

The festival Muharram

According to Muslim community Muharram is the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Muslim count their year as 11 or 12 days shorter than the solar year. So, it is a little different from the Gregorian or solar calendar that is used in the western nations. When compared with the solar calendar, the lunar month of Muharram shifts from year to year. This year the first day of the month Muharram is held on 25th October and the end date is held on 22nd November, 2014, based on the Gregorian calendar.

Muslims provide an additional significance of the month of Muharram. They held the month of Muharram to be the most holy of all the months, apart from Ramadan. The word Muharram is often considered the same with "Ashura", the tenth day of the Muharram month by the Shia muslim community.

The festival Muharram 2014 in India: Current year Muharram will be celebrated on the sunset of Monday, 3rd November 2014. And the next day (4th November, 2014) is a Gazetted holyday by Indian government. The festival Muharram specially celebrates in those regions where Muslim community lives mainly like, Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra and Kerala. The Celebration day of Muharam is 04/11/2014 on Tuesday. (All date may vary)

Story behind Muharram

Tragedy at Kerbala: In the month of Muharram Hazrat Imam Hussain and Hazrat Imam Hassan (the grandsons of the Holy Mohammad Prophet), his family members and a number of his followers were surrounded by the forces of Yazid, the Muslim ruler of that time. The incident happened at a place called Karbala in Iraq on the bank of the river Euphrates in 61st year after Hijra (approximately, October 20th 680 A.D.).

Hussain and his followers were forced to pay allegiance to the Caliph (Muslim civil and religious leader considered to be Allah's representative on earth) of the time and submit to his authority. But they ware disagreed to do so. The ruler become angrier and ordered to kill all of them. After a little battle Hussain and his followers were tortured and killed by an army teems of the ruler and they Hussain's head was severed and presented to the king.

As this tragic incident happened on the tenth day of Muharram, Shia Muslims consider this a day of sorrow. They commemorate the death anniversary of Hussain as a religious occasion called Muharram.

Celebration of Muharram

The celebration of Muharram begins from the first day of month Muharram and it continuing for 10 days. On this occasion Muslims put on black clothes, as black is regarded as a color of sadness.

During the entire 10 day period, they keep themselves away from music and all joyous events (e.g. weddings) that can divert them in anyway from the sorrowful remembrance of that day.

During each of the first nine days of Muharram, "Majalis" (assemblies) are held where Shia orators vividly depict the incident of the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain.

Muharram in Kerala

According to the census of 2011 India, approximately 62481681 people reside in Kerala. Among them about 25% population belongs to Muslim and they locally known as Mappilas. Kerala Mappilas mainly inhabit in the regions of Calicut and Malapuram districts of the state.

Shia communities of Kerala celebrate the festival Muharram every year to memorize the tragic death of Imam Hasan al Askari. Many Muslims can be seen beating their chests and dolefully crying out Ya Hussein! Ya Hussein!

Most common feature of the Muharram in Kerala is Pulikali or Tiger Dance by which the Muslim who participate in the Tazias (Tazia means "to show sympathy") put on masks and paints their bodies so as to look like a tiger.

Muharram in Hyderabad city

Hyderabad is a Muslim predominant city with above 90% of city population. Muharram is one of the most popular festivals in Hyderabad. On the tenth day of Muharam Month (called as the day of Ashura) Shia communities of Hyderabad city arrange a procession.

This procession starts from Dabeerpura Flyover and reaches Alawa-e-Sartouq Mubarak at Darushafa which is a Shia Majority area in Hyderabad. At this place a short Majlis is arranged and after finishing this Majlis black flags are removed and red flags are hoist.

Celebration of The Day Ashura

Ashura is the last day of the festival. Ahura is a highly important day for both sects of Islam - the Shias and the Sunnis. Here are some rituals that are optional for the day of Ashurah:

1. To observe fast on this day.
2. To give as much gifts as you can pay for.
3. To perform Nafl Salat prayers.
4. To perform Surah Ikhlas 1000 times.
5. To place a hand of affection on an orphan's head.
6. To put surma in one's eyes.
7. To take a bath.
8. To cut one's nails.
9. To establish friendly ties with one's enemies.
10. To perform Ashurah

On Ashura, Muslims gather and arrange large processions. They parade on the streets holding posters and carrying models of Hazrat Imam Hussain and his followers, who cut down at Karbala. Some Shia sects observe Ashura by beating themselves with chains, cutting themselves with knives and sharp things. This is an appearance of sorrow death of their favorite leader Hussain, considered to be the representative of Allah.

It is a sad occasion and everyone in the procession chants "Ya Hussain", wailing loudly. Generally a white horse is beautifully decorated and included in the procession. Drinking posts are also set up temporarily by the Shia community where water and juices are served to all, free of charge.

While Shia Muslims consider Muharram to be a sorrowful occasion, Sunni Muslims observe it as a festival and look at Ashura as a happy day though the religious aspect remains intact.

Religious Sunnis keep a fast ("Roja") on Ashura as per the Hadith of Prophet Muhammad. Usually, Sunni Muslims are recommended to fast either on the 9th and 10th of Muharram.

Muslim community spread through out the all states of India. So, in the time of the festival season of Muharram they celebrate the festival in their locality. In India the state Lucknow, being the centre of Shia culture and religious activities, observes the rites of mourning with great passion.