The Virtues of the Month of Muḥarram

The Virtues of the Month of Muḥarram

by | Oct 24, 2014 | Articles | 0 comments

In the Name of Allāh, all praise is due to Allāh, praise and security be upon the Messenger of Allāh.

To proceed:

Another Islāmic year and another blessed month is drawing to a close and by the mercy of Allāh another Sacred Month is about to arrive and welcome us. The first month of the Islāmic year, al-Muḥarram is expected to begin from Maghrib tonight In shāʾa Allāh.

The months of the year are 12 in the sight of Allāh, four of them are considered to be Sacred Months and Allāh warns us sternly not commit any injustice or wrongdoing therein. He says, the Most Exalted:

{Verily the number of months with Allāh is 12 months, so it was ordained by Allāh on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are Sacred. That is the right religion, so wrong not yourselves therein, and fight against the polytheists as collectively as they fight against you collectively. But know that Allāh is with those who are pious} [9:36]

Gravity of Sins during the Sacred Months

Ibn Kathīr [7: 197-8] explains the words {so wrong not yourselves therein…} to mean: in these sacred months because they are more emphatic and serious in sin than others just as the sins in the Sacred Land is multiplied due to His saying:

{And whoever inclines to evil therein or to do wrong, him We shall cause to taste a painful torment}. [22: 24]

Likewise the sacred months, sins are considered graver.

Allāh made them sacred and magnified their sacredness and made sins in them greater and righteous actions and reward greater.

Qatādah said that the oppression/wrong doings during the sacred months are more serious and more sinful than at any other time even though wrong doing at any time is grave. However Allāh magnifies whatever He wills from His command. He also said that indeed Allāh chose elite ones from His creation, He chose from the angels Messengers and from mankind Messengers, He chose from His Speech His ẓikr, He chose from the earth the masājid, He chose from the months Ramaḍān and the Sacred Months, He chose from the days the Day of Jumuʿah and He chose from the nights the Night of Qadar so magnify what Allāh has magnified.

Al-Qurṭubī [10: 198-9] says that one of the views regarding the meaning of ẓulm in this āyah is that it means not to wrong oneself by committing sins because when Allāh has honoured and magnified something from one aspect it acquires one form of sacredness. When He magnifies it from two angles or many angles its sacredness multiplies thus the punishment for perpetrating an evil act is multiplied just as the reward for good acts are multiplied.

For indeed the reward of the one who obeys Allāh in the Sacred Months in the Sacred Land is not like the one who obeys Him in the Permissible Months in the Sacred Land. Likewise, the reward of the one who obeys Him in the Permissible Month in a Sacred Land is not the same as one who obeys Him in a Permissible Month in a non-sacred land. Indeed, Allāh the Exalted indicated to this with His saying:

{O wives of the Prophet, whoever from amongst you perpetrates an open illegal sexual intercourse, the torment for her will be doubled and that is ever easy for Allāh}[33: 30]

Another point al-Qurṭubī makes regarding this āyah is that Allāh singled out these four Sacred Months and prohibited ẓulm therein as an honour for them even though ẓulm at all times is prohibited just as He said: {he should not have sexual relations nor sin nor dispute unjustly during Ḥajj} [2: 197]

The Sacredness of al-Muarram

Abū Bakrah narrated: The Prophet [ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam] said:

“Time has come back to its original state which it had when Allāh created the heavens and the earth. The year is 12 months, 4 of which are sacred; 3 of them are in succession: Dhūl-Qaʿdah, Dhūl-ijjah and al-Muarram, and [the 4th being] Rajab Muar which is between Jumādā [al-Thāniyah] and Shaʿbān.” [Bukhārī, no. 3197]

So, from this ḥadīth we learn that the Four Sacred Months are 11th, 12th, 1st and 7th month of the Islāmic calendar.

11th     Dhūl-Qaʿdah

12th     Dhūl-Ḥijjah

1st        Muḥarram

7th       Rajab

Al-Kirmānī [13:156] states in his commentary of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī that Muḍar is a famous tribe and that Rajab was only appended to them because they used to observe its sanctity more strongly than the other Arabs. He also states that the Prophet [ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam] described Rajab as being between Jumādā and Shaʿbān to emphasise and remove any doubt regarding it from al-nasīʾ [postponement]. He references al-Zamaksharī who said that al-nasīʾ is delaying or postponing the sanctity of a month to another month out of the year. So they would make the Sacred Month permissible and make any other month sacred in its place. At times they would add another month or two to the year. Thus the meaning is that the months have returned to what they were and that Ḥajj had returned to Dhūl-Ḥijjah and the concept of delaying the Sacred Months as done in Jāhiliyyah was abolished.

It is also said that Rabīʿah used to make Ramaḍān sacred and they would call it Rajab, however the Muḍar Tribe would make Rajab sacred on its own and this is why the Prophet [ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam] called it Rajab of Muḍar to emphasise and clarify the correctness of Muḍar’s position.[i]

Al-ʿAynī [15: 156] says that the meaning of the ḥadīth is that the Arabs used to delay Muḥarram to Ṣafar and this is known as al-Nasīʾ as mentioned in Allāh’s statement: {Indeed the postponing is an addition to disbelief} [9:37]. They did that so they could fight therein and they would do that year after year such that Muḥarram would move from one month to the next until they put it through all of the months of the year. So when that year returned to its specified time it was said: the year has returned to its original state.

The Month of Allāh

In Laṭāʾif al-Maʿārif [p.81] Ibn Rajab al-Ḥanbalī states that the Prophet called al-Muḥarram the Month of Allāh. The appending of it to Allāh indicates its prestige, honour and virtue for indeed Allāh only appends to Himself the elite of His creation. Thus He attributed Muḥammad, Ibrāhīm, Isḥāq, Yaʿqūb and others from the Prophets to His ʿubūdiyyah and He attributed to Himself His House and His camel.

Why Is It Called the Month of Allāh?

Ibn Rajab explains that it could be as an indication its Sacredness established by Allāh is not for anyone to change it just as those in Jāhiliyyah would by substituting it with Ṣafar. Thus Allāh indicates that it is the Month of Allāh which He has made sacred so it is not for anyone of His creation to come along and change that and alter it.

In al-Kawkab al-Wahhāj [13: 189ff] the author states that this month has been specified exclusively as belonging [to Allāh] even though within the months there are those that are better because it has an Islāmic name unlike the rest of the months. During Jāhiliyyah it was called Ṣafar al-Awwal and the month after it was called Ṣafar al-Thānī.

Fasting in Muḥarram

Abū Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allāh [ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam] said:

“The best fast after Ramaḍān is the Month of Allāh al-Muḥarram and the best prayer after the obligatory is the night prayer.” [Muslim, no. 1163]

The ḥadīth contains a clear encouragement to fast during the month of Muḥarram. There is however no clear evidence that our beloved Prophet [ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam] or his noble Companions fasted the whole of the month. It is recommended for a person to fast as much as possible. It is highly recommended to fast on the Day of ʿĀshūrāʾ which falls on the 10th of Muḥarram [we will deal with this in our next article in shāʾa Allāh].

Additionally, al-Nawawī states [under ḥadīth 2747] that the ḥadīth is evidence that the night prayers are superior to the rawātib [the optional prayers connected to the obligatory ones] even though some hold the view that the rawātib are superior due to their close resemblance and attachment to the obligatory prayers. However, this ḥadīth is clear evidence supporting the former view.

So Why Did The Prophet Fast More Days in Shaʿbān Than Muḥarram?

Al-Nawawī [ibid] explains why, despite al-Muḥarram being the best month for fasting after Ramaḍān, we find that the Prophet [ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam] fasted more in Shaʿbān than any other month apart from Ramaḍān. He explains that it could be due to the following reasons: firstly, the virtue of fasting the month of al-Muḥarram was revealed to him late in his life. Secondly, he was unable to fast the month due to a number of excuses such as sickness, travelling etc.

Misconceptions and Innovations

Displaying Sadness or Happiness

ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. Aḥmad al-Tuwayjirī, the author of al-Bidaʿ al-Ḥawliyyah [Periodic Innovations] in which the author discusses acts of innovation which are practiced throughout the Islāmic year, includes a chapter on al-Muḥarram.

He describes two types of innovations which take place during the month:

  1. The innovation of displaying sorrow, grief and sadness as practiced by the Rāfiḍah
  2. The innovation of displaying happiness, joy and celebration

As for the first, it is when the Rāfiḍah, from the first day of the month, clean, tidy and wash their houses, prepare food, recite Sūrah al-Fātiḥah over it, the beginning portions of al-Baqarah and the four Quls. They then pray over the Prophet [ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam] and give the reward of the food to the dead.

During the month they disallow beautification and women will not dress up. They avoid eating meat, do not hold any joyous celebrations, they will not even hold marriages during this time. What is worse is that a woman will prevent her husband if they have not been married for more than 2 months!

As for the second, it is when those who hate Ahl al-Bayt, known as the Nawāṣib, display happiness and joy based upon fabricated narrations and lies. They put on kohl, dye their hair, spend abundantly on their families and prepare special food as if it is a joyous and celebratory occasion.

There is no evidence from the Qurʾān and authentic Sunnah to prove either of these practices for the month of Muḥarram.

Marrying in Muḥarram

There is a common misconception amongst the ignoramuses that it is disliked [makrūh] for a person to marry in Muḥarram. There is no such evidence to prove this ruling.  This misconception may have arisen from the fact that al-Ḥusayn was martyred in this month and the deviant Shiʿah take the month as a month of mourning and sadness.

However, if this is the reason for not marrying during the month of Muḥarram then it would be difficult for one to get married in any month of the year because Companions who were greater than al-Ḥusayn passed away or were martyred in other months of the year. In fact, the Prophet [ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam] is said to have passed away sometime in Rabīʿ al-Awwal. Does that mean we should not marry during that month as well?


Allāh the Mighty and Exalted has blessed us with another season and opportunity to please Him. He has designated four of the months of the year as Sacred Months in which the gravity of sins is worse than outside of these Sacred Months. Conversely, the reward of good deeds is also greater than in other months as al-Qurṭubī argues in his tafsīr as we have seen. Muḥarram is one of the Sacred Months and is the first month of the year, in fact Allāh refers to it as the Month of Allāh thereby further accentuating its importance. Fasting during this month is considered to be superior to all months except the month of Ramaḍān.

Accordingly, knowing all of these immense benefits of Muḥarram, we should take the opportunity and strive harder to avoid sins and strive harder to do more good deeds; especially fasting.  Equally, however, it is important to avoid the innovations and to clarify the misconceptions attributed to this Sacred Month. Thus it is a month of worship and not a month of despair or celebration as two opposing deviant groups claim. It is important for us to adhere to the evidences which show which acts of worship Allāh is pleased with during this month and to limit ourselves to that and nothing else.

In the next article we will discuss the issue of the Day of ʿĀshūrāʾ and the rulings related to it.

May Allāh grant us the blessing of benefitting from this immense month and using it as a means to gain nearness to Him.

And all praise is due to Allāh.

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