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.
The word "Muharram" means "Forbidden" and is derived from the word harām, meaning "sinful". It is held to be the most sacred of all the months, excluding Ramadan. Fighting and waging war is forbidden unless one is defending in the month of Muharram, in fact it served as a means to halt ongoing lengthy disputes and wars people fought in the early days of Islam. The tenth day of Muharram is the Day of Ashura, which to Shīʿah Muslims is part of the mourning of Muharram.
The months of Muharram and Safar offer the yearly opportunity to commemorate the martyrdom of Husayn, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad and the third Imam of the Shiite Muslims, at Karbala on the tenth of Muharram in the year 61 AH. The tragedy and heroism of the event, the resistance and self‑sacrifice of the martyrs, are remembered during these days by the Shīʿah and the Ahl al‑Sunnah alike, and by the Shīʿah with a special ardor, fervor and enthusiasm.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that the ardor and enthusiasm inspired by the martyrs of Karbala is something unsurpassed in the history of religions. No individual or group in the history of the world has attracted such sustained admiration and love in the hearts of their followers as the martyrs of Karbala and in particular the figure of Husayn, an admiration which has not dwindled in the course of more than thirteen and a half centuries that have elapsed since that event.
In the words of the English historian Edward Gibbon: “In a distant age and climate, the tragic scene of the death of Husayn will awaken the sympathy of the coldest reader.”
Charles Dickens had said the following about Imam Husayn: “If Hussain fought to quench his worldly desires, then I do not understand why his sisters, wives and children accompanied him. It stands to reason therefore that he sacrificed purely for Islam.”
Thomas Carlyle has relayed this about the Tragedy of Karbala: “The best lesson which we get from the tragedy of Karbala is that Husayn and his companions were the rigid believers of God. They illustrated that numerical superiority does not count when it comes to truth and falsehood. The victory of Hussain despite his minority marvels me!”
Mahatma Gandhi (Indian political and spiritual leader): “I learned from Husayn how to achieve victory while being oppressed.”