Archive for the ‘period of mourning’ Category


January 6, 2009

Muharram, or the sacred month, marks the beginning of the Muslim year. It is the first month of the Islamic calendar. As the Islamic calendar is lunar Muharram moves from year to year when compared with the Gregorian calendar.

Muharram is so called because it was unlawful to fight during this month; this is the month in which fighting is prohibited. In the word Muharram the word “harram” means forbidden.

Like the month Ramjaan it is also meant to be very sacred.  Some Muslims fast during theses days.


The word Muharram also means respect. The first ten days of the month are observed as a period of mourning. The Shias observe the entire month as a period of mass mourning. There is no celebration or expression of joy of any kind. Women are expected to forsake all adornments.
It is observed by the Shia community of Muslims in commemoration of the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, Imam Hussain, who killed in the Battle of Karbala in AD 680. The prophet’s son-in-law Ali, and Ali’s elder son Hassan, are also remembered during this period as having suffered and died for righteous causes.
The killing of Hussain happened on the tenth day of month of Muharram, and the event was called Ashura. It is now observed as a day for public expression of grief. These circumstances divided the Muslim community into the Shias and the Sunnis. The Shias consider Ali, Hassan and Hussain the rightful successors of Prophet Mohammed and mourn their death during Muharram.
The first nine days are also spent in making bamboo and paper replicas of the martyr’s tomb.



On Ashura, the tenth day, decorated taziyas, or tombs embellished with precious metals, are carried through the city streets. A horse is led in procession in memory of Hussain’s horse, Dul Dul.

Bare-chested Shia men strike their body with chains or walk barefoot over burning coal while uttering cries of anguish for the torture that Hussain suffered.