Praise be to Allah.
Muharram is one of the ‘Asyhurul Hurum’, the four sacred months of Allah s.w.t. In this month, we are encouraged to increase our good deeds like giving more to charity, doing extra voluntary prayers and reciting the Quran frequently. In this month, there is also a fast, prescribed by Rasulullah s.a.w called the fast of Ashura.
Read: 4 Sacred Months in Islam
According to a narration reported by Aishah r.a, the wife of the Prophet s.a.w, it was a pre-Islamic tradition of the Quraish and people of Makkah to fast on the 10th day of Muharram. The Prophet s.a.w also observed it. However, when he migrated to Madinah, the Prophet s.a.w found that a group of ‘the People of the Book’ were also fasting on the same day. Rasulullah s.a.w asked them the reason why they were fasting on that day and they replied
هذا يَوْمٌ عَظِيمٌ، وهو يَوْمٌ نَجَّى اللَّهُ فيه مُوسَى، وأَغْرَقَ آلَ فِرْعَوْنَ، فَصَامَ مُوسَى شُكْرًا لِلَّهِ
"This is a blessed day. On this day, Allah saved (Prophet) Musa and drowned the people of Firaun (the pharoah), and so Prophet Musa a.s fasted on this day to give thanks to Allah.."
Upon hearing their response, the Prophet s.a.w urged his companions to uphold this good act as Muslims believe in all the prophets of Allah a.s.
In a Hadith narrated by Imam Muslim, the Prophet s.a.w said:
أَفْضَلُ الصِّيامِ، بَعْدَ رَمَضانَ، شَهْرُ اللهِ المُحَرَّمُ
"The best of fasts after the month of Ramadan is in the Month of Allah, which you call Muharram"
The day of Ashura is on the 10th of Muharram. One of the greatest merits of fasting on the day of Ashura is that Allah s.w.t will expiate the sins from the previous year!
In a Hadith narrated by Imam Muslim, our beloved Prophet s.a.w made Doa to Allah to forgive the sins, committed in the previous year, for all the people who fast on the day of Ashura.
Ibn Abbas r.a reported that Rasulullah s.a.w prioritised the fast on the day of Ashura over other days, besides the days in Ramadan, he said:
ما رَأَيْتُ النبيَّ صَلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّمَ يَتَحَرَّى صِيَامَ يَومٍ فَضَّلَهُ علَى غيرِهِ إلَّا هذا اليَومَ؛ يَومَ عَاشُورَاءَ، وهذا الشَّهْرَ. يَعْنِي شَهْرَ رَمَضَانَ
“I have never seen Rasulullah s.a.w so eager to fast like he is for Ashura and prioritising it, besides Ramadan.”
However, it is important to note that fasting on the day of Ashura is a voluntary act (sunnah) and not an obligation (wajib), as the Prophet s.a.w mentioned:
مَنْ شَاءَ صَامَهُ، وَمَنْ شَاءَ لَمْ يَصُمْهُ
"Fast if you wish and those who do not, are not obliged to do so.”
The fast of Ashura falls on the 10th day of Muharram. However, it is also encouraged for Muslims to fast a day before and after Ashura i.e 9th and 11th Muharram as well.
The Prophet s.a.w said in a hadith:
صُومُوا قَبْلَهُ يَوْمًا، أَوْ بَعْدَهُ يَوْمًا
"Fast on the day before and the day after Ashura.”
Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim mentioned that there are three levels of fasting on Ashura, the first one being ‘the best’ and most complete, followed by the other degrees accordingly:
1. Fasting for 3 consecutive days, 9,10 & 11 Muharam.
2. Fasting on 9 and 10 Muharram only.
3. Fast on the 10th of Muharram only.
However, there is no obligation. Feel free to perform that which is the most convenient and feasible for yourself.
Other days for fasting to look forward to include the white days, which are the 13th, 14th and 15th of every Hijri month when the moon is at its fullest and most luminous.
4) What other historical events took place on Ashura?
Beyond the liberating events that took place on this day, the 10th of Muharram is also the day where a dark episode in Islamic history had taken place. The grandson of our beloved Prophet Muhammad s.a.w, Sayyidina Hussein r.a, is believed to have been tragically killed on this day. He died while fighting for liberation from tyranny.
As we commemorate the Day of Ashura, let us not forget this horrific incident in our history. We commemorate this day by remembering how hatred and division can lead to the destruction and loss of innocent lives. Let us remember this day by reaffirming our commitments to continue spreading goodness and rejecting evil. We stand for unity and not division, for peace and not hostility, for love and not hate.
We pray for Allah s.w.t to shine His light of mercy upon us, and that we may attain the love of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w, his family members and his companions.
And Allah knows best.