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Muharram 2023: A Day That Marks the Beginning of the Islamic New Year

By FathimaJuly 23, 2023
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Muharram 2023: History, Significance, and How To Observe It

India observed the first day of Muharram on Wednesday 19th July 2023. This day marks the beginning of the new Islamic year. It was declared after the crescent moon was located, indicating the end of the month of Dhul Hijjah on July 18. During this blessed month, every deed, good or bad, weighs heavier on the scales. Muharam means "forbidden," referring to the fact that it is one of the four sacred months during which warfare is forbidden. This month is also known as Muharram-ul-Haram, and it was referred to as 'the Sacred Month of Allah' by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It is a highly important and auspicious month for a variety of reasons, which we will discuss further below.

The day of Muharram differs annually based on the Gregorian calendar because of the lunar cycle on which the Islamic schedule is established. Nations like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Morocco observe the events a day later than the nations like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, and other Gulf Nations.



When is Muharram 2023 Celebrated?

Significance of Muharram

Beginning of Islamic new year

9th of Muharram (Day Before Ashura)

27th July, 2023

10th of Muharram (Day of Ashura)

28nd July, 2023

11th of Muharram (Day After Ashura)

29th July, 2023

Why is Ashura Celebrated on the 10th of Muharram?

Muharram is the first of the four sacred months of the Islamic calendar (also known as the Lunar or Hijri calendar). The Islamic calendar is based on 12 lunar months, the sighting of a new moon determines the start of a new month. During this holy month, Muslims abstain from any Haram or sinful acts. Muharram 2023 was observed on 19th July 2023 in India. Muslims engage in fasting, praying, and self-reflection during this period.

The Day of Ashura, celebrated on the 10th of Muharram, is one of the most pious days of the Islamic calendar because:

  • It is believed that Prophet Muhammad migrated from Mecca to Medina in this period. This journey is called Hijrah, marking the essential event of Hijrah for the Muslim Community.

  • The Day of Ashura remembers the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (AS) in the Battle of Karbala.  Shia Muslims, one particular branch of the Muslim community, observe Ashura as the day of mourning. 

  • It also remembers Allah's deliverance of the Prophet Musa (AS) and the Children of Israel from the Pharaoh and his troops by splitting the Red Sea, which they passed through.

  • The day of Ashura was when Prophet Nuh (Noah) (AS) finally left from the Ark.

  • Prophet Isa (AS) was born on 10th of Muhraam.

  • Prophet Yunus got out of the belly of the fishon.

  • Prophet Yunuf came out of the well that he was thrown.

  • Muslims also believe that the end of the world will come on the 10th of Muharram as mentioned in Quran.

The Battle of Karbala: A Defining Moment in Islamic History

The Battle of Karbala took place on October 10, 680 AD in Karbala, Iraq. It was a battle between the army of Caliph Yazid I of the second Umayyad dynasty and the family and followers of Imam Husayn Ibn Ali, the beloved grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Imam Husayn built a camp in Karbala on the third day of Muharram. He was up against a formidable army of roughly 4,000 soldiers led by Umar Ibn Saad, the son of Kufah's founder. On the seventh of Muharram, on Yazid I's instructions, Imam Husayn, his family, and associates were barred from getting water, causing them to become frail and many to die.

On the 10th of Muharram, known as Ashura, both parties took a combat position and engaged in a horrific battle, during which Imam Husayn was cruelly slain along with many of his family and followers. His death was a historic moment in Islamic history, resulting in a huge split between the Shia and Sunni branches of Islam.

Imam Hussein's followers, known as Shia Muslims, began to commemorate his martyrdom during the first 10 days of Muharram after his death. This practise is still carried out today, with Shia Muslims all over the world doing numerous rituals to commemorate Imam Hussein and the sacrifices he made for the cause of Islam.

Virtues of Muharram

Muharram has many qualities, and there are simple things which Muslims do to reap the advantages of the holy month. 

  • Fasting on the 9th and 10th Muharram (Ashura day) or the 10th and 11th Muharram. Fasting atones for sins.

  • If unable to fast, they read the Qur'an or performing Dhikr.

  • Because Muharram marks the start of the Islamic New Year, it's the ideal time to make resolutions and build healthy habits, such as providing frequent charity, so that you can reap the benefits all year round.

Interesting Facts To Know About The Islam Year

There are various commonly heard and exciting facts about the Islamic Year are:

1. Shia Muslims observe Muharram by practicing activities like chest-beating, which is referred to as Latyma or self-flagellation, and cutting their foreheads. They portray pain and sorrow for the demise of a leader who was Allah’s messenger on Earth. Some people chant hymns and utter slogans like “Ya Hussain.”

2. As per the Prophet Muhammad, if people fast on the day of Ashura, it results in the end of all sins from the previous year. Muslims observe the ten days of Muharram in Black clothes and fast on the 9th or 10th day, known as Ashura. Some people break their fasts in the afternoon or in Zawal.

3. During this period of Muharram, Muslims refrain from taking part in happy ceremonies or events. No celebrations or weddings are held in the family during this period.

4. It is customary for all Muslims to read the Ziarat Ashura on the day of Ashura. This book contains salutations to the martyrs of the Karbala.

5. Other than indulging in prayers, exchanging Muharram wishes, and visiting Mosques, Muslim families cook sweets and dishes and share them with their family and friends to consume while breaking their fasts.


Muharram is an important month in the Islamic calendar since it marks the beginning of the new year and the beginning of a period of grief and recollection for Shia Muslims. This month is associated with various significant events in Islamic history, notably the Battle of Karbala and Prophet Muhammad's journey. Muharram is observed in a variety of ways around the world, including extravagant processions, fasting, charity, and religious gatherings. The observances reflect the month's significant religious and cultural significance, with an emphasis on devotion, compassion, and unity.

FAQs on Muharram 2023: A Day That Marks the Beginning of the Islamic New Year

1. What exactly is Ashura, and why is it significant in Muharram?

The tenth day of Muharram is Ashura, which marks the end of the mourning period for Shia Muslims.

2. Where is Muharram Celebrated?

Muharram is celebrated by Muslims all across the world, wherever there are Muslim communities. It is seen in Muslim-majority countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Indonesia, as well as Muslim-minority countries with Muslim communities. Muharram is commemorated in different ways according on the cultural and religious traditions of the local community.

3. How long does the Muharram festival last?

The Muharram observance normally lasts ten days, culminating on Ashura, the tenth day of Muharram. The actual length and rituals of the observance, however, may differ by region and community.

4. Why does the Muharram date change each year?

Because the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, which is shorter than the solar cycle used in the Western Gregorian calendar, Muharram dates vary from year to year. The beginning of Muharram is established by the observation of the new moon, which can vary depending on weather and geographic location.

5. Does Muharram have a designated holiday status?

Indeed, it is observed as a Gazetted (official) Holiday.