In the name of Allāh, all praise is due to Allāh, praise and security be upon the Messenger of Allāh.
The month of Muḥarram as explained the previous article is one of the Sacred Months. Exceptionally, this month is considered to be the best month of fasting after the month of Ramaḍān.
More specifically however, the 10th Muḥarram is singled out as an important day of fasting. This article discusses the important points you need to know about the virtuous day of ʿĀshūrāʾ.
Interestingly, the 10th of Muḥarram has always been a day on which the pagan Arabs would fast. The Prophet, praise and security of Allāh be upon him, himself, whilst living in Makkah amongst the polytheists would fast the day even before the beginning of his Prophet-hood.
ʿĀʾishah, Allāh be pleased with her, said:
“Quraysh used to fast the day of ʿĀshūrāʾ during Jāhiliyyah and the Messenger of Allāh would fast it in Jāhiliyyah as well. When he came to Madīnah he fasted it and ordered its fasting, when Ramaḍān was obligated he left fasting the Day of ʿĀshūrāʾ so whoever wanted he fasted it and whoever wanted he left it.” [Agreed upon]
The fasting of the Day of ʿĀshūrāʾ was continued when the Prophet emigrated to Madīnah as we learn from the above ḥadīth. Not only that, it was obligatory to fast. However, when Ramaḍān was obligated in 2AH the fast of the Day of ʿĀshūrāʾ became an optional act of worship left to the choice of a person.
Al-Rubayʿ bt. Muʿawwidh, Allāh be pleased with her said:
“The Messenger of Allāh sent a messenger to the village of the Anṣār in the morning of the Day of ʿĀshūrāʾ to announce: “Whoever has eaten something should not eat but complete the fast and whoever is observing the fast should complete it.”
She further said:
“Since then we used to observe fast on that day regularly and also make our children to observe fasting. We used to make toys of wool for the children and if anyone of them cried for food, he was given those toys until it was time to break the fast.” [Bukhārī].
Why was it obligatory fast the Day of ʿĀshūrāʾ? What was the significance of the fast? To understand these issues we need to study the background of the Day of ʿĀshūrāʾ.
The Jews and the Day of ʿĀshūrāʾ
When the Prophet arrived in Madīnah, he came across some Jews who would fast on this day just as he and the pagan Arabs would fast the day during Jāhiliyyah in Makkah. Interested by this act of theirs, the Prophet enquired as to why they were fasting to which the Jews explained the significance of the day to him. After having understood the significance the Prophet fasted it and ordered the rest of his Companions to fast it as well:
Ibn ʿAbbās narrates that the Prophet came to Madīnah and saw the Jews fasting the Day of ʿĀshūrāʾ and said:
“What is this?”
“This is a virtuous day, this is the day Allāh saved Mūsā and Banī Isrāʾīl from their enemies so Mūsā fasted it.”
“I have more right to Mūsā than you”, so he fasted it and ordered its fasting.””
In another narration, the Jews mention that it was Mūsā himself who initiated this practice of fasting on the Day of ʿĀshūrāʾ:
“So Mūsā fasted it out of gratitude so we fast it as well.”
And in another narration:
“So we fast in veneration of it.”
An ʿĪd for the Jews
Not only did the Jews fast that day out of gratitude, they also observed the day as a day of celebration and festivities:
Abū Mūsā al-Ashʿarī, Allāh be pleased with him, said:
“The Jews used to consider the Day of ʿĀshūrāʾ an ʿĪd so the Prophet said:
“Fast it you all.”
Being Different to the People of the Book
The fact that the Jews observed the day as a day of celebration and would fast it was something which did not sit well with the Companions, especially when the discovered that the local Christians also venerated that day. They took this matter to the Prophet who, in an effort to be different to the People of the Book, promised to fast the 9th along with the 10th if he were to live. Sadly, he did not live to see the coming year:
Ibn ʿAbbās, Allāh be pleased with them both, said:
“When the Messenger of Allāh fasted the Day of ʿĀshūrāʾ and commanded its fasting, they said: “O Messenger of Allāh! Indeed it is a day which the Jews and Christians venerate.”
So the Messenger of Allāh said:
“When next year comes, if Allāh wills, we will fast the ninth day.”
“The next year did not arrive until the Messenger of Allāh passed away.” [Muslim]
In another narration:
“If I live to next year, I will surely fast the ninth.” [Muslim]
In a ḥadīth narrated by ʿAbd al-Razzāq, al-Ṭaḥāwī and al-Bayhaqī through Ibn Jurayj – ʿAṭāʾ – Ibn ʿAbbās, that he said:
“Fast the ninth and tenth and be different to the Jews.”
Its isnād is ṣaḥīḥ mawqūf.
Fasting the 11th – Is It From The Sunnah?
There appears to be no authentic evidence supporting the fasting of the 11th along with the 10th. All reports stating that one should fast a day after the 10th are weak due to the narrator Ibn Abī Laylah who is unreliable as a result of his poor memory. For a more detailed analysis please refer to the ḥadīth verification of the editors of Musnad Aḥmad, vol. 4, p. 52, no. 2154, f.n. 2.
The Reward for Fasting the 10th of Muḥarram
Abū Qatādah, Allāh be pleased with him, said that the Prophet said:
“I anticipate from Allāh that the fasting of the Day of ʿĀshūrāʾ will expiate for the previous year.” [Muslim and others]
The scholars are united in their opinion that this refers to minor sins and that one has seek repentance for major sins.
Did The Prophet or His Companions Do Anything Else On The Day of ʿĀshūrāʾ?
There is no authentic evidence from the textual sources of the Dīn to prove that the Prophet or his noble Companions did anything other than fast on the Day of ʿĀshūrāʾ.
Thus they did not:
- Celebrate the day with joy, dress up, prepare special food, feast, engage in entertainment, visit relatives and friends, spend on their families and friends etc
- Mourn, beat themselves with objects, hold plays re-enacting events of the past, march through the streets, cry, grieve, express sorrow and sadness, visit graves etc
And all praise is due to Allāh