The literal meaning of Muharram is “forbidden, sacred and worthy of reverence”. It is one of the four months about which Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala states:
“Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] months in the register of Allah [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred months.” [at-Tawhbah : 36]
These four sacred months were explained by Prophet Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to be: Dhul-Qa’dah, Dhul-Hijjah, Muharram and Rajab. [Saheeh Bukhari]
Prior to the advent of Islam, these months were considered sacred months, which resulted in completed peace. Consequently, they performed Hajj during the first three months and Umrah in the fourth.
Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar. The Hijri calendar is based on the Hijrah (migration) of the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. However, its actual application began in 17 A.H. during the caliphate of Umar ibn al-Khattab radhiAllahu ‘anhu. He dispatched letters to his governors which did not bear any date. The governor of Yemen, Abu Musa Ashari adhiAllahu ‘anhu brought this concern before Umar adhiAllahu ‘anhu. He set up a small committee to resolve this issue wherein it was decided that the Hijri calendar will begin from the Hijrah of Muslims from Makkah to Madina. Therefore 622 A.D. became 1 A.H. and since the decision to migrate was made at the end of the month of Dhul-Hijjah, and the first moon to rise after this was that of Muharram, it became the first month of the Hijri calendar. [Fath al Bari]
The origin of the Hijri calendar serves as a great reminder of the sacrifices, devotion and love of those who migrated for Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and His Messenger, salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.