Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar and is considered the second holiest month after Ramzan. Muharram, one of the four sacred months, is observed by Muslims across the world. The word 'Muharram' means forbidden and sinful. On the tenth day of the month, Imam Hussain Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and the third Imam of the Shia community, was killed in the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD. The Shia Muslims mark the ceremonial mourning on this day and it's called Ashura.
The Shia Muslim community mourns Imam Hussain Ali's death on the day of Ashura by flagellating themselves with sharp objects on Muharram. This exemplifies the suffering Imam Hussain Ali experienced shortly before his beheading. The day stands as a symbol of struggle against injustice and oppression. In recent years, some Shia clerics have been discouraged the bloodletting, saying it creates a negative image of their community.
Since Muharram is a period of intense grief and mourning for Shia Muslims, the mourners congregate at a mosque for sorrowful poetic recitations. Some Shia Muslims observe the mourning with blood donation.
Ashura also marks the day Musa (Moses) was saved from the Pharaoh of Egypt by God. The Prophet Muhammad used to fast on Ashura in Mecca, where it became a common tradition for the early Muslims. Sunni Muslims commemorate the day through voluntary fasting. When fasting during the month of Ramadan became obligatory, the fast of Ashura was made non-compulsory. This year, the day of Ashura falls on September 21, Friday.
During the month of Muharram, some mosques provide free meals on certain nights of the month to all people.