• Muharram •
mu-hah-rêm • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: The first month of the Muslim year, second most sacred month next to Ramadan.
Notes: Today is the first day of Muharram and the first day of the new year 1435, according to the lunar calendar used by the Muslims. Since Muslims begin their days at sundown the previous day by the Gregorian calendar, some sources will say Muharram began at sundown yesterday.
In Play: Muslims do not celebrate the first day of Muharram, though in Muslim countries government offices and the like are often closed. For Shia Muslims it is a time for mourning the death of Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. The tenth of this month is known as Ashura ("Tenth"). This is the exact day on which Imam Hussein and his family were massacred in 680 AD in Karbala, in what is now Iraq. As a sign of devotion, some Muslims fast from dawn to dusk on this day, and it is the peak of the Shia mourning period for Hussein.
Word History: The Arabic word muharram is the passive participle of harrama "to forbid, prohibit". This month is so named because it is forbidden to fight during this month. It is related to harim "harem, sanctuary, forbidden place". These are all words that come from the Semitic root hrm. Arabic, like Hebrew, another Semitic language, distinguishes related words from the same root by changing the vowels inside the root, as well as by prefixes and suffixes.