The Month of Muharram and The Day of Ashurah

Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar.  Its also one of the 4 sacred Islamic months. (The four sacred months are: Muharram, Rajab, Dhul Qadah, and Dhul Hijjah)
“The year is twelve months of which four are sacred, the three consecutive months of Dhul-Qa’dah, Dhul-Hijjah and Muharram, and Rajab Mudar which comes between Jumadah and Sha’ban.” [Reported by al-Bukhari, 2958]

The Virtues of the Month of Muharram

"Indeed this month of Muharram has virtue; the Messenger (sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam) said: ‘’The best fasting after the month of Ramadhaan is the fasting in the month of Muharram.’’  So it is desired to increase in fasting during this month.  It is the month that the companions—during Umar’s time (radiyallaahu-anhu)—chose to be the beginning of the Hijri calendar." (Source)


Yawmul Ashurah

Within the month of Muharram, there is a special day, the 10th, called Yawmul Ashurah or, the day of Ashurah (The number 10 in Arabic is "ashurah.");It is a significant day for Muslims as it commemorates the day that Musa and Bani Israel escaped from Firaun: The Story behind Fasting ‘Aashoorah: Musa  and the Pharoah

It is from the sunnah to fast on Yawmul Ashurah

Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
”The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
‘The best of fasting after Ramadhan is fasting Allah’s month of Muharram.’ ” [Reported by Muslim, 1982]
Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them both) said:
“I never saw the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) so keen to fast any day and give it priority over any other than this day, the day of ‘Ashura’, and this month, meaning Ramadhan.” [Reported by al-Bukhari, 1867]
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“For fasting the day of ‘Ashura’, I hope that Allah will accept it as expiation for the year that went before.” [Reported by Muslim, 1976] (Source)


It is also from the Sunnah to fast the day before Yawmul Ashurah and the Day After it (i.e. the 9th and 11th). 

Muharram Fatwas

Muharram Learning Resources

TJ Muharram Unit Study (2008) - Some years ago, I wrote up a little unit study on the month of Muharram. It's badly in need of modernizing, (in shaa Allah I'll get around to it one day) but I think the content is still beneficial for teaching children about this special month and its special day:

Muharram/Yawmul Asharah Review Questions

I like to write up review questions when we are done with a unit so that we can not only review, but so that I have them handy for the next go around, in shaa Allah.  We just went over them orally during each of the two days we studied this topic this go around.

Q: How many Islamic months are there?

Q: What is the first Islamic month?
A: Muharram

Q:How many sacred months are there? Name them. And what is the proof?
A: Rajab, Dhul Qadah, Dhul Hijjah, and Muharram. The proof is in Surah 9:36) and the actual naming comes from a hadith.

Q: Why are these months sacred?
A: Allah forbade fighting in these months so that those making the hajj and umrah could have a safe journey.

Q: There is a special day in the month of Muharram. What date is it?
A: Muharram 10

Q: What do we call this day? (In Arabic and English)
A: Yawmul Ashurah, or the Day of Ashurah (ashurah means 10 in English)

Q: What is it from the Sunnah to do on the Day of Ashurah?
A: Fast

Q: What is the reward for fasting on this day?
A: Expiation of sins (minor) from the previous year.

Q: Why is the Day of Ashurah singled out for fasting?
A: This is the day that Allah gave victory to Moosa (alayhi sallam) and his people, Bani Israel , and humiliated Firaun and drowned him and his people. (the parting of the Red Sea. So to be thankful to Allah, Prophet Moosa (alayhi sallam) fasted on this day.

Q: What group of people were fasting the 10th of Muharram when the Prophet (sallAlah Allahu alayhi wa sallam) became aware of fasting on this day?
A: The Jews

Q: What did the prophet state that he would do if he lived in the coming year after discovering that the Jews fasted on the day of Ashurah?
A: He stated that he would fast on the 9th as well.

Q: Why did he intend to fast on the 9th as well as on the 10th?
A: To be different from the disbelievers.

Q: What are some of the innovations that occur on this day that we need to stay away from?
A: The wailing and weeping and disfiguring of the faces that the Shia do in remembrance of the murder of the Prophet's grandson, Husain. Other people give gifts and serve special food on this day as if it is a celebration.  The correct action is to follow the Sunnah and fast.