Muharram marks the beginning of a the new year in the Islamic calendar. This festival holds great historical significance for Muslims all over the world. Both Sunnis and Shias observe the days of Muharram, though not always in the same manner.

Shi'ite Muslims commemorate Ashura in Kerbala, Iraq. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani

Shi’ite Muslims commemorate Ashura in Kerbala, Iraq. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani

The month of Muharram is considered the second-holiest month, after  Ramadan. Islamic months are different from those mentioned in the regular calendar.

The term Muharram has been derived from the word ‘Haram’ which means forbidden. According to the Holy Quran, it is forbidden and considered unlawful to fight in the month of Muharram.

According  to the holy Quran, Allah (arabic word for God) created twelve months out of which four are considered scared.

Sunni muslims follow a different set of practices with regards to the month of Muharram. Sunni Muslims fast on the 9th and 10th day and celebrate the day of Ashura (10th day of Muhharam) observing the tide of Musa over the Pharaohs.

Though the religious sentiments are the same, Shia Muslims cry on this holy day observing the sacrifice of Hussain at the war of Karbala. When Muharram approaches, Shias put on black clothes and keep themselves away from all the joyous events and music for the entire 10 day period.

Every day till the ninth day of Muharram, assemblies called ‘Majalis’ are held where Shia speakers depict the story of martyrdom of Hussain and his comity, avoid music, and refuse to attend joyful like wedding. On Ashura, they come to streets with colourful banners and Tahajiya. Some whip themselves until they start bleeding.



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