With the sighting of the new moon the Islaamic new year is ushered in. The first month Muharram is one of the four sacred months that Allah has mentioned in the Holy Qur’aan:
Lo.’ The number of the months with Allah is twelve months by Allah ‘s ordinance in the day that He created the heavens and the earth. Four of them are sacred: that is the right religion. So wrong not yourselves in them. (9:36)
The specification of these four sacred months is stated in a hadeeth narrated by Abu Bakrah radhiyallahu anhu ; Verily time has completed its cycle and returned to its original stage as it was on the day Allah created the heavens and the earth. The year consists of twelve months, four of which are sacred. Three of them occur consecutively; Zil Qa’dah, Zil Hijjah and Muharram , (the fourth being) Rajab of Mudhar (named after the tribe of Mudhar as they used to respect this month) which occurs between Jamadiul Aakhir and Sha’baan. (Bukhari Vol.2 Page 622)
From out of the four sacred months, Muharram has been blessed with certain specific virtues. The Holy Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam said: The best of fasts besides the month of Ramadhaan is the fasting of Allah’s month of Muharram and the best of salaat besides the fardh (compulsory) salaat is the tahajjud salaat (performed after midnight before dawn). Muslim Vol.1 Page 368
In another hadeeth, Ibne Abbas radhiyallahu anhu reports that the Messenger of Allah sallallahu alayhi wasallam said: He who fasts on the day of Arafah (9th Zil Hijjah), his fast will be a compensation for the sins of two years and the one that keeps a fast in the month of Muharram will receive the reward of thirty fasts for each fast (in this sacred month). Tabraani, At Targheeb WatTarheeb Vol.2 Page 114.