Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar and second holiest month after Ramadan. The first day of Muharram this year fell on Tuesday, September 11 (after sunset) according to the lunar calendar followed in Islam and the beginning of the Islamic year 1440 Hijri.

The month is significant for both sects of Islam, the Shia and Sunni Muslims, as the tenth day of Muharram, also called Day of ‘Ashura is the day of mourning for the Shia Muslims and day of fasting and making extra prayers for Sunni Muslims.

As per the Hadith, the tenth day of ‘Ashura is a day of victory against the Egyptian Pharaoh defeated by Prophet Musa (Moses-pbuh), and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) asked the Muslims to fast on this day.

The Shia Muslims mourn the martyrdom and death of the grandson of Prophet Muhammad Imam Hussain (pbut) in the battle against the Pharaoh fighting for human rights and human dignity.

Sunni Muslims across the globe observe the Day of ‘Ashura by fasting, making extra prayers and reaching out to the poor and remembering the sacrifices made by Imam Hussain (pbuh) for his sacrifice for humanity.

Day of ‘Ashura in New Zealand will begin on Thursday evening (after sunset), September 20 and until Friday evening, September 21.

As reported in the Sahih Al-Bukhari, Ibn’Abbas (pbuh) narrates that  "I never saw the Messenger of Allah [Prophet Muhammad, pbuh] so keen to fast any day and give it priority over any other than this day, the Day of 'Ashura', and this month, meaning Ramadan."

Masjid at-Taqwa in Manukau/Papatoetoe South Auckland (IWK File Picture)

The meaning of his being keen was that he intended to fast on that day in the hope of earning the reward for doing so.

The Prophet (pbuh) said: "For fasting the day of 'Ashura', I hope that Allah will accept it as expiation for the year that went before."  as reported in Sahih Muslim, 1976.  This is from the bounty of Allah towards us: for fasting one day, He gives us expiation for the sins of a whole year. And Allah is the Owner of Great Bounty.

Several Masjids and Islamic centres across New Zealand are hosting a special session of prayer and sermon on this auspicious occasion inviting community members to participate and make extra prayers at the masjid. This year, Day of 'Ashura falls amid Islam Awareness Week (17-23 September) held across most Islamic centres and Masjids in different regions and cities in New Zealand.