Dear Brothers and Sisters in Islam,
السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته
1. Muharram and the day of Aashura
The Divine system of Allah Subhaanuwa Tha’aala
It is the divine system of Allah Subhaanuwa Tha’aala that He has afforded special virtue and significance to some things over others. From mankind, the Ambiyaa عليهم السلام have been blessed with distinguished positions and elevated statuses over others. From the different places in the world, the Haramain (Makkah Mukarramah and Madinah Munawwarah) have been accorded a special rank over the rest of the world. From the twelve months of the Islamic calendar, special sanctity and sacredness has been given to four specific months i.e. Zul-Qa’dah, Zul-Hijjah, Muharram and Rajab.
By the same token, amongst the days of the Islamic year the day of Aashura has been blessed with exclusive virtue and immense blessings.
عن أبي قتادة رضي الله عنه قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم صيام يوم عاشوراء إني أحتسب على الله أن يكفر السنة التي قبله
It is reported from Abu Qataadah (Radhiallahu Anhu) that Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said: “On account of observing the fast of Aashura, I have hope that Allah Subhaanuwa Tha’aala will expiate the sins of the past year.” (Ibnu Maajah 1/124, Saheeh Muslim 1/368)
The month of Muharram and the day of Aashura
Reward for fasting an entire month
عن ابن عباس رضي الله عنهما قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم : من صام يوم عرفة كان له كفارة سنتين ومن صام يوما من المحرم فله بكل يوم ثلاثون يوما
It is reported from Ibnu Abbaas (Radhiallahu Anhuma) that Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said: “The one who observes the fast of the day of Arafah two years of his sins will be forgiven and the one who fasts during the month of Muharram, for each day he fasts he will receive the reward of fasting for an entire month.” (At-Targheeb wat-Tarheeb, vol. 2, p. 46)
It is an exclusive virtue of the month of Muharram that each fast in this auspicious month is equivalent in reward to fasting for an entire month. No other month has been blessed with this virtue.
The greatness and virtue of Aashura
While the month of Shawwaal, Zul-Qa’dah and Zul-Hijjah have been divinely selected to accommodate the rituals of Haj and sacrifice, the month of Muharram is the month that enjoys the honour of being the month of Allah Ta’aala and of accommodating the fast of Aashura, which expiates the sins of the past year. The immense virtues and abundant blessings that this day holds could be somewhat understood through the desire and eagerness that Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) expressed to meet this day.
عن ابن عباس رضي الله عنهما قال ما رأيت النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يتحرى صيام يوم فضله على غيره إلا هذا اليوم يوم عاشوراء
Hazrat Ibnu Abbaas (Radhiallahu Anhuma) reports: “I did not see Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) anxiously await the fast of any virtuous day more than the day of Aashura.” (Saheeh Bukhari 1/268)
عن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أفضل الصيام بعد رمضان شهر الله المحرم وأفضل الصلاة بعد الفريضة صلاة الليل
It is reported from Abu Hurayrah (Radhiallahu Anhu) that Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said: “The best of fasts after the month of Ramadhaan is fasting in the month of Allah, which is Muharram, and the best of Salaahs after the faraaidh (obligatory Salaah) is the Tahajjud Salaah.” (Saheeh Muslim 1/368)
Fasting on the day of Aashura
Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) fasted on the day of Aashura and exhorted the Sahaabah to also observe the fast. The extent of enthusiasm and passion with which the Sahaabah enlivened and upheld this mubaarak sunnah of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) could perhaps be gauged from the following hadith.
عن الربيع بنت معوذ بن عفراء رضي الله عنها قالت فكنا بعد ذلك نصومه ونصوم صبياننا الصغار منهم إن شاء الله ونذهب إلى المسجد فنجعل لهم اللعبة من العهن فإذا بكى أحدهم على الطعام أعطيناهم إياه عند الإفطار
Hazrat Rubayyi’ (Radhiallahu Anha) reports that the Sahaabah observed the fast of Aashura and encouraged their children to observe the fast. The Sahaabah used to make toys for their children out of wool and if any child felt hungry and wept for food then they kept them occupied with those toys until the time of iftaar. (Saheeh Muslim 1/360)
History of Aashura
Prior to the Hijrat, Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) and the Sahabah observed the fast of Aashura in Makkah Mukarramah as this conformed to the sharee’at of Ebrahim (Alaihis salaam). Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) migrated to Madinah Munawwarah in the month of Rabiul Awwal. The following year (2 A.H.), in the month of Muharram, Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) witnessed the Jews of Madinah Munawwarah fasting. Nabi (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) inquired from them as to why they were observing the fast on that day. They exclaimed that it was on that day that Allah Subhaanuwa Tha’aala delivered Moosa (Alaihis Salaam) and the Bani Israa’eel from the tyranny and oppression of Fir’oun and his people and Allah Subhaanuwa Tha’aala destroyed Fir’oun and his army. This is explained in the following narration:
عن ابن عباس رضي الله عنهما قال قدم النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم المدينة فرأى اليهود تصوم يوم عاشوراء فقال ما هذا قالوا هذا يوم صالح هذا يوم نجى الله بني إسرائيل من عدوهم فصامه موسى قال فأنا أحق بموسى منكم فصامه وأمر بصيامه
Hazrat Ibnu Abbaas (Radhiallahu Anhuma) said: “When Nabi (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) migrated to Madinah Munawwarah, he witnessed the Jews observing the fast of Aashura. After inquiring, they replied that this was a virtuous day. This was the day that Allah Subhaanuwa Tha’aala had delivered the Bani Israa’eel to safety from their oppressive enemy (Fir’oun and his army). In expression of gratitude and thanks to Allah Subhaanuwa Tha’aala, Moosa (Alaihis salaam) fasted on this day. Nabi (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) remarked, ‘We are more worthy of following Moosa (Alaihis Salaam) than you.’ Thereafter, Nabi (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) continued fasting on this day and ordered the Sahabah (Radiallahu Anhum) to fast as well.” (Saheeh Bukhari 1/268)
Prior to the fast of Ramadhaan becoming compulsory, fasting on the day of Aashura was Fardh (obligatory). After the fast of Ramadhaan became compulsory, fasting on the day of Aashura was optional.
عن عائشة زوج النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم أنها قالت :كان يوم عاشوراء يوما تصومه قريش في الجاهلية وكان رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم يصومه في الجاهلية فلما قدم رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم المدينة صامه وأمر بصيامه فلما فرض رمضان كان هو الفريضة وترك يوم عاشوراء فمن شاء صامه ومن شاء تركه
Hazrat Aa’isha (Radiallahu Anha) reports: “In the pre-Islamic era, the Quraish fasted on the day of Aashura. Nabi (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) also observed the fast of Aashura. After migrating to Madinah Munawwarah, Nabi (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) continued with this noble practice (of fasting on the day of Aashura) and instructed the Sahabah (Radhiallahu Anhum) to fast on this auspicious day (as it was made obligatory). However, after the fast of Ramadhaan became obligatory, fasting on the day of Aashura no longer remained fardh.” (Rather it was made sunnah (optional).) (Muatta Imaam Maalik, p. 240)
This remained the practice of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) and Sahaabah till the end of the life of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam). In the 11th year of Hijri (after the fast of Aashuraa prior to Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam)’s demise), Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) commanded the Sahabah (Radhiallahu Anhum) to oppose the Jews and to add another day of fasting together with the tenth. Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said that if he lived till the following year he would fast for two days.
عن ابن عباس رضي الله عنه قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم صوموا يوم عاشوراء و خالفوا فيه اليهود صوموا قبله يوما أو بعده يوما (البيهقي)
Hazrat Ibnu Abbaas (Radiallahu Anhuma) reports that Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said: “Observe the fast of Aashura and oppose the Jews by fasting a day before it or after it (as well) i.e. the ninth and tenth or tenth and eleventh of Muharram.” (As-Sunan Al-Kubra Baihaqi 4/287 / Talkheesul Habeer 2/819)
عن ابن عباس رضي الله عنه قال قال رسول الله صلي الله عليه و سلم لئن بقيت الى قابل لأصومنّ التاسع (مسلم 359/1)
Hazrat Ibnu Abbaas (Radiallahu Anhuma) reports that Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said: “If I live until the following year, I will definitely fast on the ninth (together with the tenth).” (Saheeh Muslim 1/359) (Awjaz-ul-Masaalik, vol. 5, p. 192 / Addurrul Mandhood, vol. 4, p. 254)
While reaping the virtues of fasting on the day of Aashura, an important lesson is emphasised by means of this fast. This is the lesson of firmly maintaining one’s Islamic identity at all times, totally refraining from imitating the kuffaar (disbelievers) and even avoiding any resemblance with them. Hence, Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) instructed the ummah to fast for two days (i.e. the ninth and tenth or tenth and eleventh) in order to oppose the Jews.
Imitating the kuffaar can occur in any and every aspect of life. However, the most obvious and apparent is in the aspect of appearance and dressing. Imitating “others,” which is known as‘tashabbuh’ is completely forbidden in cases where it opposes the sunnah of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam). So abhorred is this practice that Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) has declared: “The one who imitates a nation is from amongst them.”
Thus when the dressing and appearance taught by Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) is not adhered to, and the kuffaar are imitated, at times it becomes difficult or even impossible to distinguish a Muslim from a Jew, Christian or an atheist.
Desire to resemble Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam)
The Fast of Aashura highlights the importance of avoiding any resemblance to the Jews and Christians. No person prefers to resemble the one who is his enemy. Rather, he will prefer to resemble those whom he loves. A true follower of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) will love to resemble, in fact imitate, his beloved. He would love to be identified with Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), not with those who are the enemies of Islam and the Muslims.
There are also many baseless practices and customs which people engage in on the tenth of Muharram. Among these baseless customs and practices is mourning over the martyrdom of Hazrat Husain (Radiyallahu Anhu). This practice was introduced in the tenth century of Islam (946 A.H.) by the deviated group known as the shia. Undoubtedly the gruesome martyrdom of Hazrat Husain (Radiyallahu Anhu) was among the tragic and heart breaking events that occurred in the annals of history. However despite that, it has no connection with the blessed occasion of Aashura. Instead Aashura had received its virtue and auspiciousness even before the birth of Hazrat Husain (Radiyallahu Anhu). Hence the custom of mourning the martyrdom of Hazrat Husain (Radiyallahu Anhu) has no basis whatsoever in Islam.
2. Aashura of Muharram – A Shia and Sunni Muslim Observance
10th of Muharram (the day of Aashura / Ashoora) is observed as an important day by both Sunni and Shia Muslims – however, for different reasons.
Most scholars believe that Aashura is named as such because of “tenth” of Muharram (ten is translated as “Ashara” in the Arabic language)
Sunni Muslims look at Aashura as a day of “respect and gratitude” (for Prophet Moosa and his nation), while Shia Muslims believe that day to be a day of mourning and sorrow. The following is an explanation of the difference.
Based on the Hadith of Prophet Muhammad (saws), Sunni Muslims celebrate Aashura as the day when Prophet Moses (Moosa) fasted on that day because Allah saved the Israelites from their enemy in Egypt. One of the many Ahadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad) that attests to that is in Bukhari that states:
Narrated by al-Bukhaari (1865) from Ibn ‘Abbaas, who said: The Prophet (saws) came to Madinah and saw the Jews fasting on the day of Aashura. He said, “What is this?” They said, “This is a good day, this is the day when Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemy and Moosa fasted on this day.” He (the Prophet Muhammad) said, “We are closer to Moosa (Prophet Moses) than you.”
So he (the Prophet Muhammad) fasted on this day and told the people to fast.
There are many other versions of this Hadith in the books of “Muslim” and “Bukhari”.
According to a version narrated by Muslim,
This is a great day when Allah saved Moosa (Moses) and his people and drowned Pharaoh and his people.”
Sunni Muslims celebrate Aashura by fasting on that day. Usually, Sunni Muslims are recommended to fast on the 9th and 10th of Muharram.
Al-Shaafa’i and his companions, Ahmad, Ishaaq and others said: It is mustahabb [recommended] to fast both the ninth and the tenth, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) fasted the tenth and intended to fast the ninth. Based on this, there are different ways of fasting ‘Ashoora’, the least of which is to fast the tenth only, but it is better to fast the ninth as well. The more one fasts in Muharram, the better. (islamqa.info)
In Jewish tradition, this festival is celebrated as the Passover, which is their way to commemorate their liberation over 3,300 years ago by God from slavery in ancient Egypt that was ruled by the Pharaohs, and their freedom under the leadership of Prophet Moses. It commemorates the story of the Exodus as described in the Hebrew Bible especially in the Book of Exodus, in which the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt.
Other Ahadith on the subject are the following:
The prophet observed the fast on Ashuraa (the 10th of Muharram), and ordered (Muslims) to fast on that day. (Agreed upon Hadith i.e. Bukhari & Muslim).
Narrated by Abi Katada: The prophet was asked about fasting on ‘Aashura’ (the 10th of Muharram), he said: “it expiates the previous year (for sins).” (Sahih Muslim)
It was proven from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that the best fasting after Ramadan is fasting in the month of Muharram. It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The best fasting after Ramadan is the month of Allah Muharram, and the best prayer after the obligatory prayer is prayer at night.” Narrated by Muslim, 1163.
Shia Muslims Observance
Shia Muslims observance of Ashura is different altogether. They observe Ashura as the day of martyrdom of Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad at the Battle of Karbala. Shia Muslims, therefore, consider this a day of sorrow and observe it as such by refraining from music, listening to sorrowful poetic recitations, wearing mourning attire, and refraining from all joyous events (e.g. weddings) that in anyway distract them from the sorrowful remembrance of that day.
Virtue of spending on one’s family on the Day of Aashura
Apart from the virtue of fasting on the Day of Aashura, Nabi (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) has also encouraged that one should be generous upon one’s family on this auspicious day.
عن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم قال : من أوسع على عياله و أهله يوم عاشوراء أوسعالله عليه سائر سنته
Abu Hurairah radiyallahu anahu reports that Nabi Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam said, “Whoever spends freely upon his family on the day of Aashura Allah Subhaanuwa Tha’aala will bless him with abundant sustenance for an entire year.” (At-Targheeb wat-Tarheeb, vol. 2, p. 48)
قال السخاوي رواه الطبراني والبيهقي في الشعب وفضائل الأوقات وأبو الشيخ عن ابن مسعود والأولان فقط عن أبي سعيد والثاني فقط في الشعب عن جابر وأبي هريرة وقال إن أسانيده كلها ضعيفة ولكن إذا ضم بعضها إلى بعض أفاد قوةبل قال العراقي في أماليه لحديث أبي هريرة طرق صحح بعضها ابن ناصر الحافظ وأورده ابن الجوزي في الموضوعات من طريق سليمان بن أبي عبد الله وقال سليمان مجهول وسليمان ذكره ابن حبان في الثقات فالحديث حسن على رأيه قال وله طريق عن جابر على شرط مسلم أخرجها ابن عبد البر في الاستذكار من رواية أبي الزبير عنه وهي أصح طرقه ورواه هو والدارقطني في الأفراد بسند جيد عن عمر موقوفا عليه والبيهقي في الشعب من جهة محمد بن المنتشر قال كان يقال فذكره قال وقد جمعت طرقه في جزء قلت واستدرك عليه شيخنا رحمه الله كثيرا لم يذكره وتعقب اعتماد ابن الجوزي في الموضوعات قول العقيلي في هيصم بن شداخ راوي حديث ابن مسعود إنه مجهول بقوله بل ذكره ابن حبان في الثقات والضعفاء (المقاصد الحسنة ص505)
قال المنذرى في الترغيب: رواه البيهقى و غيره من طرق و عن جماعة من الصحابة و قال البيهقي:هذه الأسانيد وإن كانت ضعيفة فهي إذا ضم بعضها الى بعض أخذت قوة والله أعلم (الترغيب و الترهيب 2/48)
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في امان الله
Your brother in Islam,
A Shabbir Ahmed