Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar. It is one of the four sacred months of the year. Since the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, Muharram moves from year to year when compared with the Gregorian calendar.
The word "Muharram" means "Forbidden" and is derived from the word harām, meaning "sinful". It is held to be the most sacred of all the months, excluding Ramadan. Some Muslims fast during these days. The tenth day of Muharram is the Day of Ashura, which to Shia Muslims is part of the Mourning of Muharram.
Azadari procession carried out by Shia Muslims in Indian city of Hardoi on the Day of Ashura.
Some Muslims fast during this day, because it is recorded in the hadith that Musa (Moses) and his people obtained a victory over the Egyptian Pharaoh on the 10th day of Muharram; accordingly Muhammad asked Muslims to fast on this day that is Ashura and on a day before that is 9th (called Tasu`a).
Fasting differs among the Muslim groupings; mainstream Shia Muslims stop eating and drinking during sunlight hours and do not eat until late afternoon. Sunni Muslims also fast during Muharram for the first ten days of Muharram, or just the tenth day, or on both the ninth and tenth days; the exact term depends on the individual. Shia Muslims do so to replicate the sufferings of Hussein ibn Ali on the Day of Ashura.
According to Shia sources, The Azadari of Muharram was started by the family of Muhammad (the Ahl-ul-Bayt) after the death of Muhammad's grandson Husayn ibn Ali at the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD. Following the battle of Karbala, Muhammad's granddaughter Zaynab bint Ali and sister of Husayn, began mourning for the fallen and making speeches against Husayn ibn Ali's opponents: Ibn Ziyad and Yazid I. News of Husayn ibn Ali's death was also spread by Imam Zain-ul-Abideen, who succeeded Husayn as the Shia Imam, via sermons and speeches throughout Iraq, Syria and Hejaz.
Zainab and Zain-ul-Abideen informed the people that Yazid had martyred Imam Husayn and seventy-two of his companions including his six month old son Ali Asghar, and that their women and children were taken as prisoners to Syria. When word of mourning reached Yazid he decided to release the captive women and children from the prison in Damascus, out of fear of public revolt against his rule. He sent for Zain-ul-Abideen, informed him of the impending release and asked if he wished for anything further. Zain-ul-Abideen said he would consult with Zainab. She asked Yazid to provide a place where the people could mourn for Imam Husayn and others of Muhammad's household. A house was provided, and here Zaynab binte Ali held the first Majlis-e Aza of Husayn and started the Mourning of Muharram.
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