As humans, we are constantly growing and evolving.  Throughout our lives, we search for new beginnings, chances to restart and reinvent. We work hard to broaden our horizons, and seize opportunities which we know will benefit us.  As Muslims, we need not look any further. We have been gifted this, once again, through the arrival of a sacred month filled with opportunity and virtue: the month of Muharram.

What is Muharram?  

Muharram is the first month of the Hijri calendar and marks the beginning of the Islamic year.  It is referred to as the month of Allah. And when Allah has ascribed something to Himself it is a sign of its noble status and immense virtue.

Muharram is a month of great spiritual significance. One of the four sacred months, it’s a time where we benefit from the blessing of good deeds being multiplied. It’s also a time where we should exercise more caution. 

“Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve months (in a year), so it was ordained by Allah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them, four are sacred. That is the right religion, so wrong not yourselves therein … ” (Qur’an 9:36)

The interpretation of ‘so wrong not yourself therein’ highlights the sanctity of Muharram by reminding us not to wrong ourselves within the sacred months, where sins are graver.

5 Steps to Success in the Sacred Month of Allah

Just as we strive to make the most of Ramadhan, we should exert our efforts in Muharram too by taking full advantage of maximising our good deeds. We can do this by increasing our acts of worship to please Him and by endeavoring to stay away from actions that are displeasing to Him. 

Here are a few ways in which you can strive for success this Muharram:

1. Increase in Fasting

From all the good deeds that we can perform, Allah only ascribed fasting to Himself, saying, “It is for Me” it is befitting then that the month of Allah, Muharram, was selected for this performing this specific act of worship.

The blessed and sacred month is long standing at all time,The fasting therein is sunnah and doubled for the one fasting at that time.The reward for the one fasting this time is the Face of His God and Lord, To look upon in eternity as he is in front of His King with a rank!
(Ibn Rajab)

We should try to fast as much as possible during the month of Muharram, as the Prophet (saw) said:

“The best of fasting after Ramadhan is fasting Allah’s month of Muharram” (Muslim)

Try to increase your fasting this month, whether that’s on Mondays and Thursdays, or the three white days (13th, 14th, 15th).

The jewel in the crown however which you cannot afford to miss, is fasting on Ashura (the 10th of Muharram). Not only did the Prophet (saw) fast on this day, but so too did Musa and Nuh (as). If you fast on Ashura, Allah (swt) will wipe away your sins from the previous year (Muslim).  The opportunity to have our sins forgiven is something we all strive for. It is a bounty from Allah towards us, one we should take full advantage of.

Superogatory fasting carries a special reward. It has also been narrated that the people who regularly fast shall have a floor table placed for them under Allah’s Throne – or in another narration, in the fruit pastures of Paradise – where they will eat while the other people are being held to account on the Day of Judgement. The people shall say, “What is going on with these people? They are eating while we are being reckoned?” It will be said to them, “These were the people that regularly fasted while you did not.” (Ibn Abi ad-Dunya)

During Ramadhan, we enjoy the communal spirit of fasting, having suhoor and iftar with friends and family. This year, we were not really able to revive that spirit in the same way due to the pandemic. However, communal fasting does not need to be restricted to Ramadhan. As the lockdown has eased, invite your friends and family to fast with you throughout Muharram, so you can motivate and encourage each other. You could even host a virtual HHUGS iftar or a small gathering or picnic outdoors a great way of combining the reward of feeding the fasting person with raising awareness and funds for those in need whilst having a great time!

2. Make the Qur’an Your Companion

Many scholars said that the fact this month was attributed to Allah is an indication that this sacred time should be devoted solely to Him. So the month of Muharram is the perfect time to read and reflect on the words of your Lord. Connect with the Qur’an in this blessed time. If you have been meaning to begin or increase your recitation, then why not in the month of new beginnings?

Ibn Mas’ud said “None of you needs to ask himself [about anything] except for the Qur’an: If he loves the Qur’an, he loves Allah, and if he detests the Qur’an, he detests Allah and His Messenger.”  

We may feel overwhelmed if we set ourselves an unrealistic goal. Although we may want to recite more, commitments and timings may prevent us. Therefore, set yourself a realistic goal, personalised to you. You can choose a time of day where you can fit in the time to recite daily, making it easier to fulfil this commitment as it turns into a routine.

It is also important to carve out time to read the Qur’an and its tafsir in English, an action we often neglect, especially if you are unable to read or understand Arabic. You can also listen to recitation of the Qur’an throughout your day, be it whilst doing household chores or on your journey.

3. Give Charity

As we enter a new year, during this sacred month, we should set up good habits which we can continue throughout the year ahead. One such habit could be giving in charity in such a blessed time, singling out the days of Jumu’ah and especially on the Day of Ashurah.

Although many of us are aware that there are many benefits to giving in charity, how many of us pay attention to reaping them? The Prophet (swt) said: “Charity does not in any way decrease the wealth.” (Muslim)

We are reminded that charity removes sin, in fact increases wealth and stands in the way of calamity.  These are just a few of the benefits, there are many more, yet we still do not give often enough.

Let us not delay in taking full advantage of giving in charity.  Charity is due on us every day. This Muharram, help HHUGS families who are isolated, lonely and struggling to survive.

Why not set up a standing order to kick start that good habit? For these individuals, hardship really is a daily reality.  Your regular support will help provide financial and practical assistance to our sisters and children in the UK, in dire need.

No amount is too small. Remember the Prophet (saw) told us ‘…the best deeds are those done regularly, even if they are few’ (Ibn Mājah).

4. Build Better Habits

This month is a chance for us reboot our lives. The new year provides the perfect opportunity to reflect and re-evaluate what we have achieved, where we’re failing short and where we are headed. We may have been waiting for an opportunity to connect with Allah, to draw closer to him, to the religion of Islam. We may want to give up a bad habit, or pick up a good one. 

Let us not wait for another chance, another opportunity. We are not guaranteed another moment, another week, let alone another Muharram.

As Imam Ibn Rajab said about this month:

Heedlessness and frivolity cut the months of the year with no benefit,

You did not respect the time when Al-Muharram came, so what did you get out of it?!

You didn’t give Rajab its right that it deserved in truth,

You didn’t even fast in the month of fasting to complete affairs in your youth!

So you didn’t take advantage of Dhul Hijjah’s first ten days,

They have already passed without you in ihram while the people enjoyed these days.

Do you no wipe out the sins through reflection on what you did?

And weep for the loss and regret what you didn’t do and what you did?!

Approach the new year with repentance, sincere and true,

So what the sins you did before get wiped out and you begin anew.

You may not need to completely restart your life to make a change. A small change can also have a dramatic impact on your daily life and in the hereafter. You can do this by incorporating more good deeds into your day, such as your morning and evening Dhikr, reciting Qur’an, keeping a journal to reflect on the verses of the Qur’an, giving in charity, performing supererogatory prayers.

You can also do this by improving your character by being patient, respectful, and kind to others; by helping your neighbours, the elderly, and strangers alike.  We can also take this time to be mindful of the innumerable blessings we enjoy, things we can overlook and have grown accustomed to having. We should be grateful to Allah, for what we have been bestowed with, as it is a worship we often overlook.

And ˹remember˺ when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will certainly give you more.” (14:7)

Allah promised us in this verse that gratitude is the key to an increase in our blessings. Muharram is the perfect time to start a simple gratitude journal to exercise this muscle. Each morning or evening, take the time to reflect and try to identify 5 blessings you’ve enjoyed that day – and then say ‘Alhamdulillah’ (all praise is due to Allah). This month is indeed a Month of Mercy and a time to seek His forgiveness, for as the Prophet (saw) said, “it has a day in which Allah forgave an entire people, and He turns to others in repentance in it.” (at-Tirmidhi)

5. Develop your Tawakkul

Within Muharram, the Day of Ashura falls; a day in which we are reminded of the power and might of Allah (swt). The day that Allah (swt) miraculously parted the Red Sea so Musa (as) and the Children of Israel could flee the murderous tyrant Firawn.  The story of Musa reminds us that relief comes after having tawakkul, true reliance upon Allah.

If you are going through a trial or hardship, even when the odds seem insurmountable, then take the Day of Ashura as a promise.  Allah (swt) is reminding you that He parted the sea for someone He loves. He is the Most Powerful, capable of anything. Relief will come, and for Allah (swt), it’s simply a case of ‘“Be,” and it is’. (Qur’an 36:82)

So call out to Him, and have firm faith that He will uplift you in your darkest times.

Let us not miss out on the opportunities that Muharram presents us with. Let this truly be a month where you strive to devote it to Him. Reap the virtues of this sacred month and use this time to grow closer to Him.