Although the month of Muḥarram is a sanctified month as a whole, the 10th however is the most sacred among all its days. The day is named ʿĀshūrā’ as it is derived from the word ʿAsharah, which means ten in Arabic.
ʿIzz ibn ʿAbd al-Salām said: ‘The superiority of times and places is of two types: the first is worldly and the second is religious. This second type (religious superiority) stems from Allah bestowing His generosity on His slaves by giving a greater reward for deeds done. An example of this is Him bestowing a greater reward for fasting in Ramaḍān than for fasting during other times. The day of ʿĀshūrā’ is another example of this. Thus, the superiority is due to Allah’s generosity and kindness towards His slaves in these times and places …’
Virtues of Fasting on ʿAshura’
The following narrations highlight the virtues of fasting on ʿĀshūrā’
1. The Messenger ﷺ instructed the people of Madīnah to fast on this day
Al-Rubayyiʿ b. Muʿawwidh (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhā) said, “The Messenger of Allah ﷺ sent a messenger to the settlements of the Anṣār surrounding Madīnah, in the morning of ʿĀshūrā’ to announce, ‘Whoever is observing the fast should complete it, and whoever has eaten something should not eat and complete the (fast of the) rest of the day.’ After that, we used to fast on that day regularly and if Allah willed, we would also make our young children fast; and we would go to the Masjid. We used to make toys out of wool for them: if any one of them cried for food, we would give them the toy until it was time to open the fast.” (Bukhārī 1960, Muslim 1136)
2. Fasting on the day of ʿĀshūrā’ is a means of expiating (minor) sins
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ was asked about the fast of ʿĀshūrā’. He ﷺ replied, “It wipes away the sins of the previous year.” (Muslim 1162)
It is from Allah’s immense mercy upon us that just by fasting one day, He expiates the (minor) sins of a whole year.
3. The Messenger ﷺ was eager and anxiously awaited to fast on this day
ʿAbdullāh b. ʿAbbās (radiy Allāhū ʿanhumā) said, “I did not see the Messenger of Allah ﷺ single out any day’s fasting and prioritise it except for this day – the day of ʿAshūrā’ – and this month i.e. Ramaḍān.” (Bukhārī 1867)
4. Mūsā (ʿalayhis-salām) was saved from Firʿawn on this day & and he fasted on this day
ʿAbdullāh b. ʿAbbās (radiy Allāhū ʿanhumā) narrated that when the Messenger of Allah ﷺ came to Madīnah, he found the Jews fasting on the day of ‘Āshūrā’. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ asked them, “What is the (significance) of this day that you fast on it?” They replied, “This is a glorious day in which Allah saved Mūsā (ʿalayhis-salām) and his people, and He drowned Pharaoh and his people. Mūsā fasted on this day out of gratitude, so we also fast on it.” The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “I am closer to him (Mūsā) than you.” Subsequently, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ fasted on this day and ordered the Muslims to fast. (Bukhārī 2004)
Another narration in Musnad Aḥmad mentions that on this day, the Ark of Nūḥ (ʿalayhis-salām) settled on Mount Judi, so Nuḥ (ʿalayhis-salām) fasted out of gratitude.
5. The virtue of fasting on ʿĀshūrā’ was common even among the pagans of Makkah
ʿĀ’ishah (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhā) said, “The Quraysh used to fast on the day of ʿĀshūrā’ in the Jāhiliyyah (Age of Ignorance), and the Messenger of Allah ﷺ would observe the fast…” (Bukhārī 2002)
The sea was in front, the enemy just behind. This is it, thought the Banū Isrā’īl. But not Mūsā (ʿalayhis-salām). When his people cried out, ‘We’re finished!’ he stood firm and didn’t waver. Instead, he responded:
كَلَّا إِنَّ مَعِيَ رَبِّيْ سَيَهْدِيْن
“Absolutely not! My Lord is certainly with me – He will guide me.” (26:62)
And Allah certainly was with him. His heart was with Allah. His heart was with Allah, so Allah was with him. On this auspicious day of ʿĀshūrā’, Allah drowned Firʿawn and his army, and saved Mūsā (ʿalayhis-salām) & his people.
In today’s world of oppression and tyranny, let us overcome our weak hearts and pessimism. Let us instead develop the imān and yaqīn (conviction) of Mūsā (ʿalayhis-salām).
Fasting on the 9th and 11th
Along with fasting on the 10th of Muḥarram, we should try to fast on the 9th and 11th as well due to the following narrations:
ʿAbdullāh b. ʿAbbās (radiy Allāhu ʿanhumā) said, “The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, ‘If I live to see the next year, if Allah wills, we will fast on the 9th day too (alongside the 10th Muḥarram).’ The Messenger of Allah ﷺ passed away before the next year came.” (Muslim 1134)
He ﷺ also said, “Fast the Day of ʿĀshūrā’, and be different from the Jews by fasting a day before it or a day after it.” (Aḥmad 2155, Ibn Khuzaymah 2095)
On this basis it may be said that there are varying degrees of fasting ʿĀshūrā’, the least of which is to fast only on the 10th and the best of which is to fast the 9th, 10th and 11th. The more one fasts in Muḥarram, the better it is.
Option 1: (and this is the best option): Fast the 9th, 10th and 11th
Option 2: Fast the 9th and 10th
Option 3: Fast the 10th and 11th
Option 4: Fast only the 10th
There are three levels of fasting on ‘Āshūrā’:
1. Fasting on the 9th, 10th and 11th which is the most complete.
2. Fasting on the 9th and 10th
3. Fasting only on the 10th.
(Ibn Ḥajar & Ibn al-Qayyim)
We ask Allah, al-Qahhār (the All-Dominant) in these blessed days to lift tyranny and injustice from the Ummah, rescue the oppressed believers and subdue the modern day Pharaohs. Āmīn.
Click here to read Muharram: The Month of Allah