Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar. It is one of the four sacred months of the year. Since the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, Muharram moves from year to year when compared with the Gregorian calendar.
The word “Muharram” means “Forbidden” and is derived from the word harām , meaning “sinful”. It is held to be the second holiest month, following Ramadan. Some Muslims fast during these days. The tenth day of Muharram is the Day of Ashura, which to Shia Muslims is part of the Mourning of Muharram.
Sunni Muslims fast during this day, because it is recorded in the hadith that Musa (Moses) and his people obtained a victory over the Egyptian Pharaoh on the 10th day of Muharram; accordingly Muhammad asked Muslims to pray on this day that is Ashura and on a day before that is 9th (called Tasu’a).
Shia Muslims during Muharram do different things. They observe and respect Muharram as the month that killed Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad and son of Ali, in battle of Karbala. They mourn for Hussein ibn Ali and refrain from all joyous events.
Unlike Sunni Muslims, Shiite do not fast in this month especially on the 9th and 10th days of Muharram. In addition there is a very important Ziyarat book which is called “Ziyarat Ashura” about Hussein ibn Ali. In Shia religion it’s very popular to read this ziyarat in the “Day of Ashura”. Although most of the Shias try to read Ziyarat Ashura every day and they send salutations toHusayn ibn Ali. Hussain ibn Ali was the grandson of Mohammed, and was killed on the land of Karbala ordered by the caliph Yazid ibn Muawiah.
Muharram is a month of remembrance and modern Shia meditation that is often considered synonymous with Ashura. Ashura, which literally means the “Tenth” in Arabic, refers to the tenth day of Muharram. It is well-known because of historical significance and mourning for the murder of Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad.
Shiite begin mourning from the first night of Muharram and continue for ten nights, climaxing on the 10th of Muharram, known as the Day of Ashura. The last few days up until and including the Day of Ashura are the most important because these were the days in which Imam Hussein and his family and followers (including women, children and elderly people) were deprived of water from the 7th onward and on the 10th, Imam Hussain and 72 of his followers were killed by the army of Yazid I at the Battle of Karbala on Yazid’s orders. The surviving members of Imam Hussein’s family and those of his followers were taken captive, marched to Damascus, and imprisoned there.