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Another virtue of Muharram is that the fasts during this month are second in excellence only to the fasts of Ramadhaan. Although every day and every month belongs to Allah Ta'ala, Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam has mentioned that Muharram is Allah's month. By saying this, Rasulullah Sallallahu alayhi wasallam intended to emphasise the added auspiciousness of this month.
Abu Hurayra Radhi-Allahu aanhu reports that Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam said: 'After the fasts of Ramadhaan, the best fasts are those observed during Allah's month of Muharram.' Ali Radhi-Allahu anhu narrates that he was once sitting with Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam when a person asked, 'O Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam! Besides the month of Ramadhaan, in which month would you advise me to fast?' Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam replied, 'If you wish to fast in any month after Ramadhaan, then fast in the month of Muharram because this is Allah's month. It has a day in which Allah Ta'ala had accepted the repentance of a nation and in which Allah Ta'ala will accept the repentance of others also.a The nation whose Taubah (repentance) was accepted on a day in this month was the Bani Israeel. It was on the 10th of Muharram (Ashura) that the Bani Israeel and Moosa Alayhis-Salam were saved from Firaaun and his army.
Some Ulema are of the opinion that the month of Muharram has been given prominence because of the day of Ashura. Others even say that when the Ahadith speak about the virtue of Muharram, they actually refer to the day of Ashura and not the entire month of Muharram. Therefore, in their estimation, it is only the fast of the day of Ashura that has special virtue and not the fasts of the entire month of Muharram. The details of this can be found in the book Arfush Shazia which is a commentary of Tirmidhi.
The Fast of the Day of Ashura (10th of Muharram)
The 10th of Muharram is a significant day in Islamic history. Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam used to fast on this day and commanded the Sahaabah Radhi-Allahu aanhum also to fast. The fast of this day was initially Wajib (compulsory), but the compulsion was waived when the fasts of Ramadhaan were made Fardh. The Muslims then had a choice to either fast on this day or not to fast. However, the virtues of this fast have been expounded in the Ahadith. Among these is the virtue that the previous yearas sins are forgiven.
Initially, the Muslims only fasted on the 10th but before his demise, Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam mentioned that if he were alive the next year, he would fast on the 9th as well. Sadly, Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam did not live to see the following Muharram. It is therefore necessary for Muslims to fast on the 9th and 10th of Muharram or on the 10th and 11th. Because certain narrations mention that one should fast a day before Ashura and a day after, it is best for a Muslim to fast on the 9th, 10th and 11th of Muharram (three days). However, to fast on only the 10th is Makrooh Tanzihi (i.e. an act disliked by the Shariah).
The history of this fast stems from the time of Moosa Alayhis-Salam. Because it was on the day of Ashura that Moosa Alayhis-Salam and the Bani Israeel were saved from Firaoun, Moosa Alayhis-Salam fasted on this day to express his gratitude to Allah Ta'ala. The Bani Israeel also did the same and the day was always regarded as a day of fasting among the Bani Israeel. Emulating this practice of the Jews, the Quraysh also fasted on this day.
Rasulullah Sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam also kept this fast (in Makkah). When Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam arrived in Madinah, he asked the Jews why they observed this fast. They informed him that they fasted because it was on this day that Allah Ta'ala delivered them from the tyranny of Firaoun. Therefore, Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam fasted on this day and instructed the Muslims to do so as well. Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam announced that he would fast on the 9th as well if he lived until the next Muharram.
Ahadith Concerning the Fast of Ashura (10th Muharram)
a'isha Radhi-Allahu aanha narrates that before the fasts of Ramadhaan were made Fardh, people fasted on the day of Ashura. They also shrouded the Ka`bah on this day. However, when the fasts of Ramadhaan were made Fardh (obligatory), Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam said, 'Those who wish to fast (on the day of Ashura) may fast and those who do not wish to do so may omit the fast.'
According to another narration, a'isha Radhi-Allahu aanha mentions that the Quraysh used to fast on the day of Ashura during the period of ignorance. Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam also observed this fast. When Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam migrated to Madinah, he continued observing this fast and also instructed the Muslims to do so. However, when the fasts of Ramadhaan were made compulsory, the instruction to fast on the day of Ashura was repealed. Thereafter, whoever wished to fast, fasted and whoever did not wish to fast did not fast.
Rubayyi bint Muaawwidh Radhi-Allahu aanha reports that on the morning of the day of Ashura, Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam had an announcement made in all the quarters of the Ansar that whoever had already eaten or drunk anything should complete the day (without eating and drinking) and whoever had not yet had anything to eat or drink should fast for the day. She reports further that they all fasted and also made their children fast. Whenever their children cried for food, they distracted them with woollen toys until sunset. According to a narration of Muslim (Vol. 1 Pg. 360), they also took their children to the Masjid.
Abdullah bin Abbas Radhi-Allahu aanhu reports that when Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam came to Madinah, he noticed that the Jews fasted on the day of Ashura. When he asked them the reason for this, they replied, 'This is a great day. It was on this day that Allah Ta'ala delivered the Bani Israeel from their enemy. On this day Allah Ta'ala granted victory to Moosa Alayhis-Salam and the Bani Israeel. We fast because of the distinction of this day.' Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam also observed this fast and instructed the Muslims to follow suit.
Abu Moosa Ashaari Radhi-Allahu aanhu states that when Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam arrived in Madinah, he discovered that some Jews commemorated the day of Ashura and also fasted on this day. They regarded this day as a day of celebration. Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam said that the Muslims are more deserving of the fast on this day and he instructed the Muslims to fast on this day.
Abdullah bin Abbas Radhi-Allahu aanhu also mentioned that among all the fasts that are more virtuous than the rest, he did not see Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam attach more importance to or look more forward to any fast more than the fast of the day of Ashura and those of Ramadhaan. This Hadith makes it clear that the fast of the day of Ashura and the fasts of Ramadhaan are accorded precedence over all other fasts and Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam was particular about observing them.
When Ameer Muaawiya Radhi-Allahu aanhu was travelling from Hajj, he happened to be in Madinah on the day of Ashura. Standing on the Mimbar (pulpit) of Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam, he addressed the people stating, 'O people of Madinah! Where are your Ulema? I have heard Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam say, 'This is the day of Ashura. Allah Ta'ala has not made its fast compulsory for you. I am fasting, so whoever wants to fast may do so and whoever does not want to fast need not fast.
Ashaath bin Qais Radhi-Allahu aanhu narrates that he once visited Abdullah bin Mas'ood Radhi-Allahu aanhu on the day of Ashura and found him eating. Seeing him arrive, Abdullah bin Mas'ood Radhi-Allahu aanhu called to him, 'Come and join me for lunch, O Abu Muhammad.' Ashaath Radhi-Allahu aanhu said, 'Is today not the day of Ashura?a Abdullah bin Mas'ood Radhi-Allahu aanhu asked him, 'Do you know what is the day of Ashura?' When Ashaath Radhi-Allahu aanhu asked to be informed, Abdullah bin Mas'ood Radhi-Allahu aanhu said, 'This is a day in which Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam used to fast before the fasts of Ramadhaan were made Fardh. When the fasts of Ramadhaan were made compulsory, this fast was omitted.
Imam Nawawi Rahmatullahi Alayhi has mentioned that the jurists of the Ummah are unanimous about the fact that the fast of the day of Ashura is not Fardh but Mustahab (optional).
The Reward for the Fasting on the day of Ashura – Abu Qatadah Radhi-Allahu aanhu narrated that Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam said, 'I have strong hope that Allah Ta'ala will forgive the previous yearas sins for fasting on the day of Ashura.' The sins referred to here are minor sins. Taubah is required to secure forgiveness for major sins.
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