Muḥarram is the first month of the Islamic calendar. After Ramzan, Muharram is believed to be the holiest month according to the Islamic calendar and is one of the four sacred months of the year. The word ‘Muharram’ translates to forbidden, illegal or unlawful. It is considered to be one of the most important rituals in Islam. This year the mourning falls on 10th September.

Muharram is a month of remembrance and modern Shia meditation that is often considered synonymous with Ashura. Ashura (meaning ‘Tenth’ in Arabic), refers to the tenth day of Muharram. This year the month of Muharram began on September 1 and the mourning will be observed on 10th September, the tenth day of the month. It is well-known because of historical significance and mourning for the murder of Ḥusayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad

The last few days of the month, including the Day of Ashura, are significant because during this period about 14 centuries ago, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, Husayn, his family and followers were deprived of water from the 7th day onward. On the 10th day, Husayn and 72 of his followers were killed in the Battle of Karbala. The surviving members of Husayn’s family and those of his followers were taken captive, marched to Damascus, and imprisoned there.

Processions are carried out in lamentation for the martyrs of Karbala on this day. Male and female participants congregate in public for ceremonial chest beating as a display of their devotion to Imam Husayn and in remembrance of his suffering. In some Shi’a societies, such as those in Bahrain, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Iraq, male participants may incorporate knives or razors swung upon chains into their ‘matam’.

The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, and months begin when the first crescent of a new moon is sighted. Since the Islamic lunar calendar year is 10 to 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, Muharram migrates throughout the solar years.