The month of Muharram, which marks the beginning of the new Islamic Year, is the second holiest month for the Muslim community. Mohammad, considered to be the last Prophet sent to mankind, called Muharram the “the sacred month of Allah”. The Islamic Lunar calendar, also called the Hijri calendar, starts after the sighting of the moon. The year, like the Gregorian calendar, has 12 months but either 354 or 355 days, 11 less than those in the former. This year, the Islamic New Year will begin on August 10 and it will be called Hijri 1443.
Significance of the month for Muslims
The month of Muharram or Muharram-al-haram is important for Muslims for a number of reasons. In the same month of 622 AD, Prophet Mohammad and his associates, referred to as Sahabas, were forced to leave the city of Mecca, the birthplace of Prophet and Islam. Not only were they persecuted but also stopped from spreading the message of Islam. Prophet Mohammad and his companions returned to the city after the conquest of Mecca in 629 AD.
Muharram is of special significance to the Shia Muslims, one of the two major sects in Islam. In 680 AD, on the 10th day of Muharram, Imam Hussain, the Prophet’s grandson, along with at least 70 of his companions, including several family members, was martyred in the battle of Karbala. Some records show that 72 associates of Imam Hussain were killed in the battle. And therefore, Shia Muslims mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hussain for the first 10 days of Muharram.
Is it a public holiday?
The first day of Muharram is not a public holiday and all the government organisations will work during the normal working hours. All the markets remain open and public life continues just like any other day.
Ashura or the 10th day of Muharram, the day of Imam Hussain’s martyrdom, though, is a gazetted holiday in India. On this day, post offices, banks and government offices remain close. Businesses, shops, and stores run by Muslims may also remain shut or may open only for a few hours. Large Muharram processions and prayer meetings also take place, but this year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, large parades are unlikely to be held.
Earlier this month, the Uttar Pradesh government banned Muharram processions, in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Jammu and Kashmir administration has, however, lifted the ban on Muharram processions this year.