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Muharram 2020: Everything you need to know

As one of the most important festivals in the Muslim calendar, Muharram marks the beginning of the new Islamic year. It follows Ramadan as the second holiest divine month and is one of the four sacred months mentioned in the Koran. The UAE Federal Authority for Government Human Resources (FAHR) recently declared a holiday for the beginning of the new Islamic year on August 23, 2020. In this Pacific Prime Dubai article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Muharram 2020.

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What is Muharram?

The word Muharram translates to “forbidden, banned, illicit, or prohibited”. It is the second most significant month following Ramadan and is often a period of fasting for practicing Muslims. Celebrations last for 10 days, starting once the new moon has been sighted on the final day of the Islamic calendar. The tenth day of Muharram, which is known as the day of Ashura, is the most significant for Muslims for various reasons. In 2020, the day of Ashura is expected to begin on Friday, August 28, and end on Saturday, August 29.

When does Muharram begin?

Muslim holidays fall on different dates every year since they are based on the lunar calendar. Since its length differs from the Gregorian calendar that is commonly used in the West, celebrations take place on a different day each year. Many Muslims note the beginning of Muharram at the initial sighting of the moon following the new moon in the same month.

While it’s possible to see the crescent moon a day or two after the new moon, factors such as weather conditions can affect the sighting. Alternatively, different criteria are used by other Muslims to decide the start of the Islamic New Year. For example, the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) calculates the date based on the following criteria:

  • The moon must become new before sunset in Makkah
  • The moon must set after sunset

According to the FCNA, the first day of the Islamic New Year in 2020 is August 20th at sundown, followed by August 8 in 2021 and July 28 in 2022. It’s worth noting that the dates might be a day or two earlier than a visible sighting. This year, Muharram is expected to end on September 17.

Why is Muharram celebrated?

The Day of Ashura, or the tenth day of Muharram, is an important day for Muslims. It marks the day that Nuh, or Noah, left the Ark. It is also the day that God saved Prophet Musa, or Moses, from the Pharaoh of Egypt by helping him and his people cross the Red Sea.

Shia and Sunni Muslims regard Muharram differently. For Muslims who follow the Sunni branch of Islam, the month marks the start of the Islamic New Year, and represents peace and contemplation. For many Shia Muslims, it symbolizes a serious, reflective day in Islamic history.

It commemorates the death of Hussein Ibn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. Hussein had questioned the authenticity of the caliph Yazid and was later murdered during the Battle of Karbala. The Battle of Karbala occurred on the Day of Ashura in 680 AD. Due to Hussein’s murder and the brutality of the battle during a period when fighting is prohibited, many Shia grieve and remember the Prophet family’s bravery.

How is Muharram celebrated?

Many Muslims choose to fast during Muharram, such as on the day of Ashura and other days in the month, to show gratitude. According to Prophet Muhammad, fasting on the day of Ashura will absolve all sins from the previous year. Therefore, many Muslims opt to fast on the ninth and tenth days of Muharram. People also like to cook sweet dishes, such as sweet rice, and eat it with their family and friends when breaking their fast.

It’s common to give extra payers and spend a lot of time in the mosque during this period. Shia Muslims take part in morning rituals as well. Some go to mosques to mourn over Hussein’s death and to remember what the Prophet’s family did for justice. Similarly, other Shia Muslims perform public rituals that include forehead-cutting, chest-beating, and self-flagellation.

While Muharram can be celebrated as the beginning of the Islamic New Year or mourning death, either way, it is a significant and holy month for all Muslims. Muharram will always be a month of profound reflection for Muslims all over the world.

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Content Creator at Pacific Prime Dubai
Jantra Jacobs is a content writer at Pacific Prime. On a typical work day, she writes and edits articles, guides and anything else word-related. She aims to produce content that is easy for readers to understand and enjoyable at the same time.

When she’s not writing, she’s likely searching for a new restaurant or cafe to try, reading or doing yoga.