The New International Encyclopædia/Muharram
MUHAR'RAM (Ar. muḥarram, sacred, from ḥarama, to forbid). The first month of the Mohammedan year. Originally the Arabs had a solar year by means of intercalary months. The first month was called Ṣafar I., and came in the autumn. It was the month of fairs, pilgrimages, and festivals, and hence acquired the epithet al-Muḥarram, the sacred, which in time supplanted the real designation. When in the year 10 of the Hejira Mohammed restored the lunar year, on the ground that intercalary months were an impious interference with the order of things as established by God, Muharram and all the months began to come earlier in each succeeding year. Mohammed is said to have observed the tenth day of Muharram (the ‘āshurā) as a fast day, perhaps in imitation of the Jewish Day of atonement on the tenth of Tishri. Later he appointed the month of Ramadan (q.v.) for fasting. The Sunnites still consider the tenth of Muharram as sacred, and keep it as a fast. The Shiites lament the death of Hosein on the first ten days of the month. (See Hasan and Hosein.) Consult Wellhausen, Reste arabischen Heidenthums (Berlin, 1897).