What is Muharram?

Iran is an Islamic country and for that, you may face a lot of religious ceremonies or mournings. One of the biggest of these religious events is Muharram.

History, Story and Significance of Muharram

Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar and it means “forbidden”. It is one of the four sacred months that God has mentioned in the Holy Quran, the religious book of Islam. Muharram is the time that Muslims commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad. It all started when Imam Husayn and his followers were going to Koufeh to join the Muslims in there who asked Imam Husayn to go there and become their ruler. However on the way, in Karbala, the forces of Yazid, Imam’s biggest enemy and the ruler of Koufeh, was expecting them. That was when the battle of Karbala took place but you can read the whole story in this article.

Religious Acts of Muharram

During Muharram, Muslims do different things with different intentions. The Iranians wear black clothes in mourning ceremonies to show their sorrow and sadness. They mourn for Hussein ibn Ali and refrain from all joyous events. In addition, the commemoration of this brutal massacre begins on the first day of Muharram and continues for 40 days. During the first 10 days of Muharram, millions of Shi’a (and Sunni) Muslims remember the massacre in Karbala and strive to feel some of Hussein’s pain. Also, there is an important Ziyarat book, called Ziyarat Ashura about Hussein ibn Ali. It is popular to read this Ziyarat on the Day of Ashura and send salutations to Imam Hussein. Muharram observances are carried out in countries with a sizable Shia population every year.

Muharram in Iran

Ashura and Tasoua

Day of Ashoura is the 10th day of Muharram which is the first month of Muslim lunar calendar. This day marks the martyrdom of Imam Hussain in 680 A.D. Imam Hussain, grandson of Prophet Muhammad, and his 72 companions which were killed in Karbala, so this day is the most tragic day for all Muslims. In Iran, Ashura, the commemoration of Imam Hussain has become a national holiday.

The second holiday on the 9th of Muharram is dedicated to the death of Hazrat-e Abolfazl, brother of Imam Husayn, who went to bring water for his family and the soldiers on the day of Tasoua but was killed brutally.

Asr-e Ashura painting

What is Ta’zieh?

Ta’zieh refers to a condolence theater in which the epics about Ashura are conveyed through music and dramatic narration. This theatre is performed during the month of Muharram. It depicts all of the events of the days of Ashoura. It is originally performed outdoors in public places.

Ta'zieh in Iran

Nazri: Giving Free Food to the People

The Iranians have an ancient tradition that they cook food and distribute free food among people. They provide food during Muharam especially on Ashura for the sake of God and for the love of Imam Hussain. This charity food or free food is called Nazri. They distribute free food in the mourning ceremonies like mosques or even in the streets. In Muslim culture, it is believed that the consumption of this food prevents illness, and also it has a healing quality.

Nazri Muharram

Mourning Ceremony ( Daste Azadari)

Mourning Ceremony ( Daste Azadari) in Iran contains a group of people especially men who come together to mourn for the death of Husayn Ibn Ali, the third imam of Shiites who is the grandson of Prophet Muhammad and was killed in the battle of Karbala. This group consists of the symbolic tools call Allam or Jaride that is usually made of metal and the average height of 5-6 meters with the colorful cloth attached to the top. Zanjir or chain is the other tool which is used by men for self-beating and mourning. Also, special kinds of music or mournful dirge is used which is played with musical instruments such as Daf and Sanj that changed during the time to Drum.

Daste Azadari of Muharram

Iranians implement this kind of mourning ceremony to show their sorrow for the loss of their dear and oppressed imam which fought for his family and his religion.


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