Muharram linguistically means forbidden. It is the first month in the Islamic calendar signifying a new beginning. It is one of the Sacred months in Islam and we are instructed by Allah ﷻ not to engage in sins during them. (To read more about the Sacred months click here
This is the only month that is called the Month of Allah ﷻ. This is a high honor because Allah ﷻ associated Himself with this month and this speaks volume of its significance. As the Month of Allah ﷻ it is different from the other month in the Islamic calendar. This month has great virtue, making the beginning of the month special. It is recorded that the people of Quraish used to make tawba (repentance) during this month. They apologise to people for the wrongdoing they committed. They seek forgiveness from Allah ﷻ in this month.
A virtuous act of worship to engage in this month is to fast for:
‘The best fast after the month of Ramadan is fasting in the month of Allah, al-Muharram.’ [Sahih Muslim]Prophet Muhammed ﷺ
Therefore, there are more rewards for fasting in this month. Especially on the Day of Ashura. It is the best day to fast in Muharram because it is narrated that the Prophet ﷺ was keen to fast the Day of Ashura as much as he was keen to fast in Ramadan.
Ubaydallah رضي الله عنه reported: Ibn Abbas, رضي الله عنه, said: ‘I did not see the Prophet ﷺ as eager to fast a day and preferring it over others except for this Day of Ashura and this month of Ramadan’ [Sahih Bukhari and Muslim]
The Prophet ﷺ informs us of the reward of fasting on this day:
‘It serves as an expiation of forgiveness from the previous year.’ [Sahih Muslim]
The recommended way to fast is to fast a day before or after and some scholars even say it’s better to fast the 9th, 10th and 11th consecutively.
Ibn ‘Abbas رضي الله عنه said that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, ‘If I remain [alive] till the following year, I will most certainly fast the ninth alongside the tenth of al-Muharram’ [Muslim].
It is also reported that Ibn ’Abbas رضي الله عنه narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said, ‘Fast the Day of Ashura and be different from the Jews by fasting a day before it or a day after it. [Ahmad]
Therefore, we should endeavor to strive for excellence by fasting more. Do not be limited to fasting only the Day of Ashura. Ibn Hajar al-ʿAsqalani says رَحِمَهُ ٱللّٰهُ that fasting of Ashura is of 3 levels.
The first is to fast on the 10th of Ashura. The second is to fast on the 9th and 10th or 10th and 11th. And the highest is to fast on the 9th, 10th, and 11th.
The least we can try to do is to fast on the 10th for it serves as an expiation of minor sins.
Why is the Day of Ashura important in Islam?
The Day of Ashura is special in Islam for so many reasons
- It was the Day Allah ﷻ saved Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, and the Israelites from Firawn.
Allah says: ‘Then We inspired to Moses, “Strike with your staff the sea,” and it parted, and each portion was like a great towering mountain. And We advanced thereto the pursuers. And We saved Moses and those with him, all together. Then We drowned the others. Indeed in that is a sign, but most of them were not to be believers. And indeed, your Lord – He is the Exalted in Might, the Merciful.’ Qur’an 26: 63-68
The sea was parted miraculously for Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ and the Israelites. After the Israelites passed the sea closed up and Firawn and his army got drowned.
- Fasting on the Day of Ashura was previously mandated.
Besides, fasting on the Day of Ashura was previously compulsory, but with the introduction of Ramadan as an obligation. ‘O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting…’ – Qur’an 2:183 fasting on Ashura became voluntary. Mother Aisha رضي الله عنهما narrates ‘The people used to fast on ’Ashura before the fasting of Ramadan was made obligatory… When Allah made the fasting of the month of Ramadan compulsory, Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said, ’Whoever wishes to fast (on the day of ‘Ashura’) may do so; and whoever wishes to leave it can do so’. (Bukhari)
- Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ also fasted on the Day of Ashura to express gratitude to Allah. We know this from the Prophetic tradition which goes thus: ‘On the authority of Ibn ’Abbas رضي الله عنه who said, “The Prophet ﷺ came to Madinah and saw the Jews fasting on the Day of Ashura. He said, ‘What is this?’ They said, ‘This is a righteous day, it is the day when Allah ﷻ saved the Children of Israel from their enemies, so Musa عليه السلام fasted on this day’. He said, ‘We have more right to Musa عليه السلام than you’, so he fasted on that day and commanded [the Muslims] to fast on that day”’.[Sahih Bukhari and Muslim]
- This was also the day Prophet Nuh’s عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) ark landed on mount Judi (now Turkey).
A narration reported by Imam Ahmad رَحِمَهُ ٱللّٰهُ reads: it was on this day that the Ark of Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ came to rest on Mount Judi. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir)
And it was said, ‘O earth, swallow your water, and O sky, withhold [your rain].” And the water subsided, and the matter was accomplished, and the ship came to rest on the [mountain of] Judiyy. And it was said, “Away with the wrongdoing people.’ (Qur’an 11:44)
What goes wrong on Ashura Day?
Some people celebrate/mark the tragedy of the Death of Hussein رضي الله عنه but this massacre of Karbala has no significance as the Day of Ashura was holy before the death of Hussein رضي الله عنه. It is not a day of mourning, rather we should worship Allah. There should be no wailing or any tearing of clothes as practiced in some places.
Abdullah ibn Mas’ud رضي الله عنه reported that the Prophet ﷺ said: ‘He is not one of us he who slaps his cheeks, tears open his clothes, and wails in the manner of the days of ignorance.’ [Sahih Bukhari and Muslim]
As a season of goodness we should engage in more Ibadah and refrain from bad deeds. May Almighty Allah make it easy for us to fast the Day of Ashura and allow us to reap its reward. Amen… Till next time Fi Amanillah!