Muharram marks the first month of the Islamic calendar. On the first day of Muharram, the Islamic New year is celebrated, which is considered a very holy celebration. Although it marks the first Islamic month, the tenth day of Muharram is also known for being a period where the Muslim community commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (AS), the son of Hazrat Ali and the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Some fourteen hundred years ago on the day of Ashura, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), Imam Hussain (AS) and his little son, were mercilessly martyred by a cruel and oppressive ruler in the battle of Karbala. Although Imam Hussain (AS) was slain in the battle, his message of kindness, justice and equality lives on among people who love him. The real story behind the mourning of Muharram is a very tragic one. On the 10th day of Muharram, also called Ashura, in the 61st year of the Islamic calendar, the fierce battle of Karbala took place. The battle was fought between a small group of supporters and relatives of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Imam Hussain (AS), and a much larger military of Yazid I, the Umayyad caliph. 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 (AS) and his group and deprived them of water and food in the desert heat for three successive days. The cruel soldiers brutally martyred Hussain (AS) and his six year old son and took the women with them as captives. It is a very emotional story and Muslims honour the sacrifice of the innocent lives in the month of Muharram.
While the Shia Muslims mourn the death of Imam Hussain (AS) on Ashura, Sunni Muslims hold a fast following Muhammad (SAW) as Prophet Muhammad (SAW) has said that fasting on the day of Ashura will kill away all the sins of the previous year.
Muslims respect their sacrifice and pray in abundance as well as refrain from all joyous events. The mourning period starts on the 1st day of Muharram and lasts for ten days until the death day of Imam Hussain (AS). Ashura, the 10th day of Muharram also commemorates the day that Allah saved the Children of Israel from Pharaoh. When Prophet Muhammad came across the people of Medina is 622 CE, he learnt from the Jews that they fasted on this day because Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemy, the Pharaoh in Egypt and that Prophet Musa (Moses) also fasted on this day as a sign of gratitude to Almighty Allah. Since then, Muhammad (SAW) also wanted his followers to observe a two day fast on the day of Ashura and the day prior. While the Shia Muslims mourn the death of Imam Hussain (AS) on Ashura, Sunni Muslims hold a fast following Muhammad (SAW) as Prophet Muhammad (SAW) has said that fasting on the day of Ashura will kill away all the sins of the previous year.