Muharram 2024

17 July 2024
All States    Regional holiday

Muharram refers to the Islamic New Year celebration or the first 10 days of the first month in the Muslim calendar. Both Sunnis and Shias observe the days of Muharram, though not always in the same manner. The month of Muharram is considered the second-holiest of months, only Ramadan “outranking” it. While only one in seven Indians are Muslim, this adds up to over 170 million, making Islamic holidays like Muharram widely kept in India. Most of Indias Muslim population is Sunni, but about a quarter of Indian Muslims are Shias, and some members of both groups consider themselves Sufis (Muslim mystics).

While there are other marked days during Muharram, the most important day of Muharram that Muslims in India and elsewhere observe is the 10th day, known as the Day of “Ashura” (“tenth” in Arabic). On Ashura, Muslims believe that Muhammads grandson, Imman Hussain, died fighting in the Battle of Karbala in A.D. 680.

Karbala is a city in central Iraq, and the battle concerned a dispute over who was rightful Caliph in the area. It is also believed that this is the day on which Adam and Eve were created and on which Musa (Moses) led Israel through the Red Sea, while the sea collapsed onto Pharaoh and his army of war chariots. Shias mourn on Ashura and throughout Muharram. They dress in black, attend solemn assemblies called “majlis,” listen to speeches on the bloody Battle of Karbala, avoid music, and refuse to attend joyful events like weddings. Sunnis, on the other hand, fast and pray. They do not observe the day with the fanfare of the Shias and even regard the fasting as purely voluntary. Those who do choose to fast are thought to be rewarded by Allah, and only Ramadan is considered to be a higher fast than Muharram.