Muharram, which is likely to fall on Friday, is the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The Islamic New Year, first day of the second holiest month is known as Al Hijri. It marks the day when Prophet Muhammed and his followers migrated from Mecca to Yathrib, which is now Medina.
The 12 months of the Hijri/Islamic lunar calendar are al-Muharram, Safar, Rabi-al-Thani, Jumada al-Awwal, Jumada ath-Thaniyah, Rajab, Shaban, Ramadan, Shawwal, Zu al-Qadah and Zu al-Hijjah. Muharram, the first month of the calendar, is the second holiest month after Ramadan and is observed differently by Shias and Sunnis - the two major denominations of Islam.
The sacred month is observed by Shias with abstinence and prayers to mourn the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain in the battle of Karbala in the 7th century. Processions with Tazias and Majlis at Imambaras are held. An Imambara is a place or a building with a hall where people assemble for Majlis (mourning congregation) for Husayn ibn Ali and the martyrs of Karbala. Maatam of Muharram is also done to remember the martyrdom.
Meawnhile, Sunis observe fast on the first day of Muharram as they believe that Prophet Muhammed also observed a fast on this day. Some people also observe fast on the tenth day of Muharram, Ashura, which marks the anniversary of the battle of Karbala where the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Imam Hussain Ibn Ali was killed. On Ashura, a unique sharbat is prepared to signifies the martyrdom of Imam Hussein. It also commemorates the day Prophet Noah left the Ark and the day that Prophet Moses was saved from the Pharaoh by God creating a path in the sea.