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Muharram 2024: Ashura Observed on August 17 in Saudi Arabia, UAE, India, US, UK, Iran

Exploring the Significance of Muharram and Ashura in the Islamic Calendar

Muharram 2024: Ashura Observed on August 17 and 18 Across the World

Muharram, one of the most sacred months in Islam after Ramadan, marks the beginning of the lunar calendar which Muslims follow. It is the first month in the Islamic calendar, followed by the lunar months of Safar, Rabi-al-Thani, Jumada al-Awwal, Jumada ath-Thaniyah, Rajab, Shaban, Ramadan, Shawwal, Zu al-Qadah (or Dhul Qadah), and Zu al-Hijjah (or Zil Hijjah/Dhul Hijjah). The Islamic calendar, also known as the Hijri calendar, is based on the lunar cycle, and therefore, each month begins with the sighting of the new moon.

Significance of Muharram

The word Muharram means ‘not permitted’ or ‘forbidden’; hence, Muslims are prohibited from taking part in activities like warfare and use it as a period of prayer and reflection. It was also in this holy month that Prophet Muhammad migrated from Mecca to Medina, an event known as the Hijra, which marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. This migration was a significant turning point in Islamic history, as it led to the establishment of the first Muslim community (ummah) in Medina.

Muharram is a time for Muslims to reflect on their faith, seek forgiveness, and engage in acts of worship. Many Muslims fast during the first ten days of Muharram, especially on the 10th day, known as Ashura, as it is believed to bring great spiritual reward. Fasting on the day of Ashura is highly recommended in Sunni Islam, as Prophet Muhammad is reported to have observed fasting on this day and encouraged others to do so.

What is Ashura?

Ashura, which falls on the 10th day of Muharram, holds great significance for both Sunni and Shia Muslims, though their observances differ. For Sunni Muslims, Ashura is a day of fasting and remembrance of several historical events, including the day Noah’s Ark came to rest on Mount Ararat and the day Moses and the Israelites were saved from Pharaoh by the parting of the Red Sea.

For Shia Muslims, Ashura is a day of profound mourning and sorrow, commemorating the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Hussain Ibn Ali, in the Battle of Karbala. This battle took place on the 10th of Muharram in the year 680 CE (61 AH) and is seen as a pivotal moment in Islamic history. Hussain’s stand against the Umayyad caliph Yazid I is remembered as a symbol of resistance against tyranny and injustice. The events of Karbala are deeply embedded in Shia identity and are marked with elaborate mourning rituals, including processions, recitations of elegies, and reenactments of the battle.

Date of Ashura:

Unlike the Gregorian calendar, which consists of 365 days, the Islamic calendar has about 354 days divided into 12 months and depends on the sighting of the crescent moon, which varies from country to country. This year, the Islamic New Year is referred to as Hijri 1446 AH (Anno Hegirae in Latin, or the year of the Hijra). This means that it has been 1446 years since Prophet Mohammed’s migration from Mecca to Medina.

Observance of Ashura 2024

This year, Muslims across the United Kingdom, Canada, the USA, and those in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Iraq, Qatar, Bahrain, and other Arab states, marked the onset of the New Islamic Year 1446 AH on Sunday, July 07, 2024, which was the first day of the Holy Month of Muharram al Haram. Hence, Ashura in these countries will be marked on August 17, 2024.

Muslims in India marked the start of the Islamic New Year 1446 AH on Monday, July 08, 2024, and Youm-e-Ashura on August 18, 2024. Similar announcements are made by religious authorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh after the Muharram moon sighting.

In summary, the observance of Ashura 2024 is as follows:

  • Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Iraq, Bahrain, US, UK, Canada: August 17, 2024
  • India: August 18, 2024
  • Pakistan, Bangladesh: Varies based on moon sighting, likely around August 17-18, 2024

Cultural Practices

Ashura is marked by various cultural practices and rituals. In many countries, public processions and gatherings are organized, where participants recite poetry, perform plays, and engage in acts of charity. In Shia-majority regions, the observance includes the recitation of the tragic story of Karbala, self-flagellation, and other forms of expressing grief. Sunni Muslims often observe the day by fasting and engaging in extra prayers and charitable acts.

Muharram and Ashura hold immense religious significance for Muslims worldwide. They are times of reflection, remembrance, and renewal of faith. The events commemorated during these days serve as reminders of the values of sacrifice, resilience, and standing up against injustice, which are central to the Islamic faith. As Muslims around the world observe these holy days, they are united in their reverence for the profound historical and spiritual lessons they embody.

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