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Ashura (10th Muḥarram): A Day of Joy or Grief?
Much confusion surrounds this day. Some Muslims treat this occasion as a day of celebration and joy, and a time where special dishes are prepared. Conversely, some spend the very same day, beating and injuring themselves, and marking it as a day of sadness and mourning.
ll praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, and may the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon his Messenger, his family and on all of his companions.
Throughout the year Allah (subḥānahu wa ta`āla) grants His servants with ample opportunities to have their past sins forgiven and to start anew. One of these special occasions is closely approaching us, known as `Ashura. Much confusion surrounds this day. Some Muslims treat this occasion as a day of celebration and joy, and a time where special dishes are prepared. Conversely, some Shi’ites spend the very same day, beating and injuring themselves, and marking it as a day of sadness and mourning. In this short article, I hope to dispel some of the myths surrounding this day and explain the position of Ahl as-Sunnah with regards to the above two practices.
I have gathered some of the aḥādīth regarding the merits of `Āshūra; I have made an effort to distinguish between the authentic and the weak narrations. Then in the following two sections, I discuss the innovation of taking `Āshūra as a day of mourning and the innovation of taking it as a day of joy, respectively.
Authentic Aḥādīth Regarding `Āshūra
1. `Ā’īshā (raḍī Allāhu anhā) said, “The people of Quraysh used to fast on the day of `Ashūra in the pre-Islamic days. When the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) migrated to Madīnah, he observed this fast and commanded others to observe it. But when fasting during the month of Ramaḍān was made obligatory he left the [fast of] `Āshūra (i.e. it was no longer obligatory);1 so whosoever wished to observe this fast, did so, and whosoever wished to leave it, did so.”2
2. Abū Musā al-Ash`arī (raḍī Allāhu anhu) said, “The day of `Āshurā was one that the Jews respected and treated as a day of festival. The Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) instructed us: ‘You should also observe fast on this day.’3
3. Humayd b. `Abd ar-Raḥmān narrated that he heard Mu`āwiyah b. Abū Sufyān (raḍī Allāhu anhumā) say, while delivering a sermon on the pulpit on the day of `Āshūra in the year he came for Hajj, “People of Madīnah, where are your scholars? I heard the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) say: ‘This is the day of `Āshūra. Allāh has not made fasting on this day compulsory on you, but I am fasting. So whosoever wishes to observe the fast from amongst you, should do so, and whoever does not wish to observe it, may do so.’”4
4. Ibn `Abbās (raḍī Allāhu anhu) said: “When the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) came to Madīnah, he found the Jews fasting on the day of `Āshūra. He asked: ‘What is this [that you are doing]?’ They replied: ‘This is a righteous day. On this day Allāh saved the Israelites from their enemies, and so Moses, on this day, observed a fast.’ The Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: ‘I have a greater right on Moses (alayhis salām) than you.’ So, he observed the fast [on that day] and ordered the Muslims to also fast.’5 6
5. Ar-Rab`ī b. Mu`awadh (raḍī Allāhu anhā) said: “The Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) sent an envoy to the village of the Anṣār in the morning of the day of `Āshūraannouncing: ‘Whoever has eaten something should not eat but complete the fast, and whoever is observing the fast should complete it.’” She further said: “Since then we fasted regularly on that day and also make our sons fast. We used to make toys of wool for the boys and if anyone of them cried for food, we would give them these [toys] until it was time to break the fast.”7
6. `Abd Allāh b. `Umar (raḍī Allāhu anhu) narrated: “The Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) observed the fast on the day of `Āshūra and ordered others to also fast. When fasting during Ramaḍān was made compulsory, he left it.” `Abd Allāh would not fast on this day unless it coincided with his [normal days of] fasting.8
7. Ibn `Abbās (raḍī Allāhu anhumā) narrated: “I do not know the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) singling out any days for fasting, and considering it more excellent than another, except for this day [the day of `Āshūra] and that month – meaning the month of Ramaḍān.”9
8. Abū Qatāda al-Anṣārī (raḍī Allāhu anhu) narrated that the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Fasting three days every month and [fasting] the whole [month] of Ramaḍān every year is a perpetual fast. The fast of the day of `Arafah, [I consider it to] expiate the sins of the preceding and the coming year. The fast of the day of `Āshūra, [I consider it to] expiate the sins of the preceding year.”10 11
9. Ibn `Abbās (raḍī Allāhu anhumā) narrated that when the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) fasted on the day of `Āshūra and commanded that it be observed as a fast, they (his Companions) said to him: “Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), it is a day which the Jews and Christians hold in high esteem.” Thereupon the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “When the next year comes, Allāh willing, we will observe fast on the ninth.” The Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) died before the advent of the next year.12 13
10. Abū Mūsā (raḍī Allāhu anhu) narrated that the people of Khaybar, most of whom were Jews, observed the fast on the day of `Āshūra and treated it as a festive day. Their women would wear ornaments and beautiful dresses. The Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “You (only) observe fast on this day.”14
Muharram is one of our sacred months in the Islamic calendar and it is generally encouraged to fast throughout this month. The Prophet Muhammad (sall Allahu – alayhi was sallam) said:
“The best of fasting after Ramadan is fasting during Allah’s month. Muharram”
Allah stated in the Quran:
“Indeed, the number of months with Allah is 12 months in the register of Allah[from] the day He created the heavens and earth: of these, four are sacred (1st;7th;11th and 12th months of the Islamic Calendar) That is the correct religion, so do not wrong yourselves during them.”
The day of ‘Ashura falls on the 10th of Muharram, ‘Ashura is the day when Allah (subhānahu wa taʿālā) saved Bani Israel (Children of Israel) and Musa (‘alayhi al-Salām) from the Firʿaun (Pharoah). Regarding this day, Ibn ʿAbbās (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) reports:
“The Prophet Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) came to Madīnah and observed that the Jews were fasting on the day of Ashura. He asked: ‘What is this?’ They replied: ‘This is a righteous day; it is the day when Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemies, so Mūsa fasted on this day.’ He (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) replied: ‘We have more right to Mūsa than you’, so he fasted on that day and commanded the Muslims to do likewise.”
In a hugely symbolic act, the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) stated his intention to be distinct from other religions by fasting the 9th of Muharram also. ʿAbdullāh b. ʿAbbās (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhumā), said:
“When the Messenger of Allah (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) fasted on Ashura and commanded the Muslims to do likewise, they said: ‘O Messenger of Allāh! It is a day that is venerated by the Jews and Christians.’ The Messenger of Allah (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) replied: ‘If I live to see the next year, inshāAllāh, we will fast on the ninth day, too.’ But it so happened that the Messenger of Allah (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) passed away before the next year came.’
This year, 9th and 10th of Muharram 1439, corresponds to 29th and 30th of September 2017 respectively.
The Prophet Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was so keen to observe this fast when he stated: “For fasting the day of Ashura, I hope that Allah will accept it as expiation for the year that went before.”
Assalamu Alaykum Brothers and Sisters
The noble month of Ramadaan is upon us. In South Africa, the 1st Taraweeh Salaah will insha-Allah take place tomorrow night, the 9th of July, 2013. Ramadaan is known as a month where Muslims all over the world, exert themselves in the path of Allah more than any other months. One of the aims of a Muslim is seek Allah’s (SWT) forgiveness. I have attached a link to a publication by Sheikh Abdur-Razzaaq ibn Abdul-Muhsin al-Abbaad. This lecture details the virtues and benefits of seeking forgiveness providing examples from the noble Quraan.
I hope that this will prove a benefit to each and everyone that makes the effort to read this document, Ameen.
All Praise is due to Allah, The Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds, for being kind and generous to us in securing the land for the Mosque, and may the finest blessings of Allah be upon our master, Muhammad (SAW), upon his family and friends.
The Organisation is a Non Profitable Organisation, and is in the process of acquiring an NPO.No. and a PBO.No. AIDT. was pioneered as a community based and Trust, dedicated to fulfil the needs of the Muslim Communities, such as Mosques, Madaris, Libraries, a Community hall, Burial support, etc. The organisation will also promote religious, social, spiritual and educational needs and advancement of the community at large.