Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar. It is one of the four sacred months of the year. Since the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, Muharram moves from year to year when compared with the Gregorian calendar.
Muharram is so called because it is unlawful to fight during this month, the word is derived from the word haraam, meaning "sinful". It is held to be the most sacred of all the months, excluding Ramadan. Some Muslims fast during these days. The tenth day of Muharram is the Day of Ashura, which to Shia Muslims is part of the Mourning of Muharram.
Some Muslims fast during this day, because it is recorded in the hadith that Musa (Moses) and his people obtained a victory over the Egyptian Pharaoh on the 10th day of Muharram; accordingly Islamic prophet Muhammad asked Muslims to fast on this day that is Ashura and on a day before that is 9th so that they are not similar to Jews (since, according to him, Jews used to fast for one day due to the same reason, and many practices recorded in the hadith are specifically performed to avoid any apparent similarity to those of contemporary neighbouring Jews and Christians). Many Muslims cook something sweet like sweet rice and distribute it throughout their family and circle of friends to eat when breaking their fast.
Fasting differs among the Muslim groupings; mainstream Shia Muslims stop eating and drinking during sunlight hours and do not eat until late afternoon. Sunni Muslims also fast during Muharram for the first ten days of Muharram, or just the tenth day, or on both the ninth and tenth days; the exact term depending on the individual. Shia Muslims do so to replicate the sufferings of Hussein ibn Ali on the Day of Ashura. Shia Muslims go further in their replication, including self-flagellation.
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