In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful
1. Why is this month sacred?
Alhamdulillah, we thank Allah Ta’aala for blessing us with the opportunity of opening another new year of the Islamic Calendar. The month of Muharram is the first month of the Islamic Calendar and is one of the four sacred months.
A true believer is one who is ceaselessly searching for a means to atone his wrongs and to gain closeness to his Sustainer, to achieve the esteemed and elite favor and pleasure of his Creator. The true believer is he who respects and holds sacred what Allah, Most High has decreed as sacred. Allah, Most High announces in the Holy Qur’an,
“Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve months (in a year), so was it ordained by Allah 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” [Surah At-Tawbah 9:36].
The sacredness of Muharram is expounded in this hadith narrated by Hazrat Abu Bakr Radiallahu anhu, that Rasulullah Sallallahu alayhi wasallam said:
"Time has come back to its original state which it had when Allah created the Heavens and the Earth; the year is twelve months, four of which are sacred. Three of them are in succession: Dhul-Qa`da, Dhul-Hijja and Al-Muharram, and (the fourth being) Rajab Mudar (named after the tribe of Mudar as they used to respect this month) which stands between Jumad (ath-Thani) and Sha`ban."
It was also narrated that Abu Hurayrah Radiallahu anhu said that Rasulullah Sallallahu alayhi wasallam said:
“The best fast after Ramadan is in the month of Allah, Muharram.”
2. How do we show reverence to the sacredness of this month?
Follow the Sunnah
The path leading to gaining proximity to Allah is based on our deeds. Our deeds must be in conformance to the Sunnah practice of the beloved of Allah, His final messenger Muhammad Sallallahu alayhi wasallam. Allah, Most High addresses His beloved in the Holy Qur’an that,
“Say (oh Muhammad to your people), if you love Allah then follow me and Allah will love you and forgive your sins.”
Allah, Most High further instructs him that,
“Say, obey Allah and the Messenger, then if they turn away verily Allah does not love the non-believers.”
Do not follow your nafs
The sanctity of this month and deeds which give practical expression to its sanctity have been explicated to us in numerous unambiguous narrations of the Messenger of Allah Sallallahu alayhi wasallam. It is now upon us to express our love to The Almighty and His beloved Messenger by ensuring that our deeds are in strict conformity to the Sunnah. We should seek sufficient knowledge and counsel from the Ulama to ensure that our deeds are not polluted by our base desires and that we don’t end up wasting our time and efforts by falling into the trap of Shaytaan, succeeding in nothing but to promote a trend flavored with Islam but which is irreconcilable with the Sunnah.
3. The 10th of Muharram
Amongst the days of Muharram, the most sacred day is the day of Aashuraa’ which falls on the 10th of Muharram.
Rasulullah Sallallahu alayhi wasallam said,
“Fasting the day of `Ashura' (is of great merits), I hope that Allah will accept it as an expiation for (the sins committed in) the previous year.”
Also, fasting the 9th of Muharram is highly recommended by the Sunnah. Imam At-Tirmidhi reported that Ibn `Abbas Radiallahu Anhu used to say:
"We should fast on two days: the 9th and 10th of Muharram to distinguish ourselves from the Jewish community."
Mu`awiyyah ibn Abi Sufyan reported that he heard Rasulullah Sallallahu alayhi wasallam say:
"Concerning the day of `Ashura’, it is not obligatory upon you to fast on it as I do. Whoever wishes may fast and whoever does not wish to is not obliged to do so."
According to another Hadith, it is more advisable that the fast of 'Ashura' should either be preceded or followed by another fast. It means that one should fast two days: the 9th and 10th of Muharram or the 10th and 11th.
4. Giving charity
As far as general charity is concerned, it has been reported from the Companion Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-As Radiallahu Anhu that Rasulullah Sallallahu alayhi wasallam said,
“Whoever fasts on the 10th of Muharram (Ashura), it is as though he has fasted the entire year. And whoever gives charity on this day, it is like the charity of an entire year.”
5. Spending on one’s family
As for spending and being generous on one’s family, Rasulullah Sallallahu alayhi wasallam said:
"He who expands on his family in the matter of nafqah (house expenses) on the day of Aashuraa', Allah will expand on him throughout the remaining part of the year."
In the aforementioned Hadith the term 'was-sa-ah' derived from the root word tausee', has been translated as 'expand'. The words 'lavish' and 'generous' do not convey appropriately its meaning. In the context of this Hadith, the term means: spending more than usual on your dependants.
In other words, a bit lavishly, with greater generosity but without waste. The authorities of the Shariah, (the Akaabir Senior Ulama) have restricted the lavish expenditure of this day to food. We are required to spend a bit more on food and provide delicious dishes for the family on this day.
6. The joy of a truly obedient believer
For a true believer, one who aspires to taste the sweetness of Imaan, to taste the sweetness of his faith and his love for Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wasallam, the joy of the day of Aashuraa’ comes from enjoying it in a manner conforming to the Sunnah.
The joy does not come from satisfying his base desires. The joy does not come from interpreting the Sunnah and to succumb it to the trend of exchanging of gifts, emulating the manner of how gifts are exchanged by the People of the Book (Yahood and Nasaaraa), upon whom, in the opening Surah of the Holy Quran, Allah The All Powerful has declared His anger upon.
We recite it in every prayer beseeching the All Mighty to guide us to the straight path, and not the path of those upon whom His anger is.
7. Is ‘Shopping for Aashura’ part of the Sunnah?
The Deen of Islam has become a means of commercial interest. Do not labor under the misconception that to roam the shopping mall with the intention of procuring gifts to exchange with family members on the day of Aasuhraa’ is something which finds its source in the Sunnah of our beloved Nabi Sallallahu alayhi wasallam. This is contrary to the essence of Islam and its teachings.
8. Extra opportunity for the wealthy
For the affluent amongst us it is exceptionally meritorious to spend in charity and benefit the underprivileged, deprived and downtrodden.
Let it not be that we blindly pursue in our mundane activities without pondering over the sanctity of this sacred month. Who will be more deprived and destitute than us if we do not discharge our deeds in the Sunnah manner and thereby divest ourselves of its significance and blessings and its myriad of treasures, virtues and wealth in this world and in the hereafter.