The Day of Ashura - An Islamic Perspective


The Prophet, peace 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]

This is from the bounty of Allah towards us: for fasting one day He gives us expiation for the sins of a whole year. Indeed Allah is the Owner of Great Bounty.

The History of Ashura:

Ibn ‘Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, came to Madinah and saw the Jews fasting on the day of ‘Ashura.

Prophet asked: “What is this?”

They said: “This is a righteous day, it is the day when Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemies, so Moosa fasted on this day.”

Prophet said: “We have more right to Moosa than you,” so he fasted on that day and commanded the Muslims to fast on that day. [Reported by al-Bukhari, 1865]

“This is a righteous day” – in a report narrated by Muslim, [the Jews said:]

“This is a great day, on which Allah saved Musa and his people, and drowned Pharaoh and his people.”

“Moosa fasted on this day” – a report narrated by Muslim adds:” in thanksgiving to Allah, so we fast on this day.”

According to a report narrated by al-Bukhari: “so we fast on this day to venerate it.”

A version narrated by Imam Ahmad adds: “This is the day on which the Ark settled on Mount Judi, so Nuh fasted this day in thanksgiving.”

“Prophet Mohammed commanded [the Muslims] to fast on that day” – according to another report also narrated by al-Bukhari, he said to his Companions: “You have more right to Musa than they do, so fast on that day.”

The practice of fasting on ‘Ashura was known even in the days of Jahiliyyah, before the Prophet’s mission. It was reported that ‘Aishah, may Allah be pleased with her, said:

“The people of Jahiliyyah used to fast on that day…”

Al-Qurtubi said: “Perhaps the Quraysh used to fast on that day on the basis of some past law, such as that of Ibrahim, upon whom be peace.”

The Day of Ashura – Significance of Ashura as per Sunni Muslims

Day of Ashura - 10 Muharram 1433-2011It was also reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, used to fast on ‘Ashura in Makkah, before he migrated to Madinah. When he migrated to Madinah, he found the Jews celebrating this day, so he asked them why, and they replied as described in the hadith quoted above. He commanded the Muslims to be different from the Jews, who took it as a festival, as was reported in the hadith of Abu Musa, may Allah be pleased with him, who said:

“The Jews used to take the day of ‘Ashura as a festival [according to a report narrated by Muslim: the day of 'Ashura was venerated by the Jews, who took it as a festival. According to another report also narrated by Muslim: the people of Khaybar (the Jews) used to take it as a festival and their women would wear their jewellery and symbols on that day]. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said:

‘So you [Muslims] should fast on that day.’ ” [Reported by al-Bukhari]

Apparently the motive for commanding the Muslims to fast on this day was the desire to be different from the Jews, so that the Muslims would fast when the Jews did not, because people do not fast on a day of celebration. [Summarized from the words of al-Hafidh Ibn Hajar, may Allah have mercy on him, in Fath al-Bari)

Fasting on 'Ashura was a gradual step in the process of introducing fasting as a prescribed obligation in Islam. Fasting appeared in three forms. When the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, came to Madinah, he told the Muslims to fast on three days of every month and on the day of 'Ashura, then Allah made fasting obligatory when He said (interpretation of the meaning):

"Observing the Fasting is prescribed for you ... " [Al-Qur'an 2:183] [Ahkam al-Qur'an by al-Jassas, Part 1]

The obligation was transferred from the fast of ‘Ashura to the fast of Ramadhan, and this one of the proofs in the field of Usul ul-Fiqh that it is possible to abrogate a lighter duty in favour of a heavier duty.

Before the obligation of fasting ‘Ashura was abrogated, fasting on this day was obligatory, as can be seen from the clear command to observe this fast. Then it was further confirmed later on, then reaffirmed by making it a general command addressed to everybody, and once again by instructing mothers not to breastfeed their infants during this fast. It was reported from Ibn Mas’ud that when fasting Ramadhan was made obligatory, the obligation to fast ‘Ashura was lifted, i.e., it was no longer obligatory to fast on this day, but it is still desirable and simply recommended. Insha Allah we should make niyah to undergo the fasting on these days.

:::Day of `Ashura An Islamic Perspective by Imam Karim AbuZaid:::


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