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Muharram & A’ashuraa

The first month of the Islamic year is Muharram. Muharram is a blessed month because of certain particular virtues. The Beloved Prophet ﷺ said, “The best of fasts besides the month of Ramadhan is the fasting of Allah’s month of Muharram and the best of Salaat besides the fardh (compulsory) Salaat is the Tahajjud Salaat (performed after Isha before dawn).” [Muslim,#1163]

The Day of A’ashuraa (10th Muharram)

The tenth day of this sacred month is known as A’ashuraa. It is one of the most important and blessed days in the Islamic calendar. Some Muslim scholars are of the opinion that before fasting in Ramadhan became compulsory, the fast of the day of A’ashuraa was obligatory upon the Muslims. A hadith reported by Sayyidah Aishah رضى الله عنها states that the Beloved Prophet ﷺ ordered the observance of the fast of A’ashuraa. However, when the fast of Ramadhan became compulsory, then whosoever wished kept this fast and whosoever desired did not observe this fast. [Bukhari, #2001].

The Beloved Prophet ﷺ continued to fast this day and encouraged his Companions to do the same. Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Abbas رضى الله عنه says, “I did not see the Messenger of Allah ﷺ anxiously await the fast of any day, which he gave preference to over other days, but this day, the day of A’ashuraa.” [Bukhari, #2006].

Humayd ibn Abdur-Rahman (May Allah have mercy on him) narrates that he heard Sayyiduna Mu’aawiyah ibn Abu-Sufyaan رضى الله عنه on the day of A’ashuraa, during the year he performed Hajj, saying on the pulpit, “O people of Madinah! Where are your ulama (scholars)? I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ saying, ‘This is the day of A’ashuraa. Allah has not enjoined its fasting on you, but I am fasting it. Whosoever wishes, keep (this) fast, and whosoever desires do not observe (this fast).’” [Bukhari, #2003].

In another hadith, Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Abbas رضى الله عنه narrates, “That the Beloved Prophet ﷺ came to Madinah and found the Jews fasting on the day of A’ashuraa. Hence the Beloved Prophet ﷺ inquired of them, ‘What is (the significance of) this day on which you fast?’ They replied, ‘This is a great day. On this day, Allah saved Musa (Peace be upon him) and his people and drowned Fir’own and his nation. Thus Musa (Peace be upon him) fasted on this day as a token of thanksgiving, therefore we too fast on this day.’ The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, ‘We are more worthy of Musa (Peace be upon him) and nearer to him than you.’ After that, the Prophet ﷺ fasted on this day and ordered (his Companions) that a fast be kept on this day.” [Muslim, #1130].

Virtue for Fasting on the Day of A’ashuraa

The Beloved Prophet ﷺ has encouraged his followers to fast on this day. Sayyiduna Abu-Qataadah رضى الله عنه narrates that someone asked the Prophet ﷺ regarding the fast of the day of A’ashuraa. The Prophet ﷺ replied: “It is a compensation for the (minor) sins of the past year.” [Muslim, #1162] Note: – Allah forgives minor sins. True tawbah (repentance) is required for the forgiveness of major sins.

One can also observe the fast of 9th Muharram. This fast will safeguard his deed from resemblance with the Jews who used to fast only on 10th Muharram. Sayyiduna Ibn Abbas رضى الله عنه said, “When the Messenger of Allah ﷺ observed the fast of the day of A’ashuraa and ordered (his Companions) to fast, they said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! It is a day revered by the Jews.’ Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, ‘The coming year if Allah wills, we will fast on the ninth (also).’ The following year never came because the Messenger of Allah ﷺ passed away” [Muslim, #1134].

It is recommended to either fast on the ninth and tenth of Muharram or the tenth and eleventh.

Question: Is it permissible to fast only on the tenth?

Answer: Both opinions exist amongst the Ulama.

  1. It is disliked (Makruh) to fast exclusively on the tenth, because of the above hadith,
    wherein the Messenger of Allah ﷺ expressed his firm intent to fast on the ninth as well
    the following year, but he passed away.
  2. It is not disliked (Makruh) to fast exclusively on the tenth because the Messenger of Allah
    ﷺ sufficed with the fast of A’ashuraa throughout his life in Madinah and expressed the
    virtues of fasting on this day.

It is preferable to fast on the 9th and 10th . However, if someone is unable to fast both days, then fasting only on the day of A’ashuraa will also be permissible and virtuous.

Generosity towards one’s family on the Day of A’ashuraa

The Beloved Prophet ﷺ is reported to have said: “Whoever expands (his expenditure) on his family on the day of A’ashuraa, Allah will expand (his sustenance and mercy) on him for his entire year.” [Bayhaqi].

The following five Companions have transmitted narrations with the above meaning:

  1.  Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Mas’ud رضى الله عنه
  2.  Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah رضى الله عنه
  3.  Sayyiduna Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri رضى الله عنه
  4.  Sayyiduna Jabir ibn Abdullah رضى الله عنه
  5.  Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Umar رضى الله عنه

The scholars of hadith have four views regarding the status of these narrations:

  1.  The narration is Sahih (sound)
  2.  The narration is Hasan (agreeable)
  3.  The narration is Weak
  4.  The narration is Baseless and Fabricated

Increasing expenditure on A’ashuraa is recommended (Mustahabb) provided there is no Takalluf (pretentiousness), and it does not become a practice that is believed to be a sunnah or fardh; otherwise, it will be disliked and a bid’ah. One should not criticize those who do not practice upon this narration and believe in its weakness or it being fabricated. Similarly, those who believe in the soundness of the narration and act upon it should not be criticized. It is permissible to accept weak hadith with some conditions. Great scholars of hadith support both views.

For detailed research on this hadith please refer to Al-Yawaaqit al-Ghaliyah [v.1 pg.326] by Sheikh Yunus Jownpuri (May Allah fill his grave with nur). 

The above are the only actions supported by Prophetic narrations for this month and A’ashuraa.

Impermissible acts on the Day of A’ashuraa

The significance of the day of A’ashuraa is from the time of the Beloved Prophet ﷺ. However, many people regard this day as the day of mourning the martyrdom of Sayyiduna رضى الله عنه. The martyrdom of Sayyiduna Husayn رضى الله عنه was indeed a great tragedy, but Islam is not a religion of continuous mourning. Sayyiduna Abu Sa’eed رضى الله عنه relates that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ has cursed (continuous) mourners and those who listen to them. [Abu Dawud #3128].

The following are some misconceptions with regards to A’ashuraa:

  • This is the day in which Adam عليه السلام was created.
  • This is the day in which Ibraheem عليه السلام was born.
  • This is the day on which Qiyamah will take place.
  • Whoever takes a bath on the day of A’ashuraa will never get ill.
  • Some regard the tenth of Muharram as a day of Eid. A’ashuraa is not a day of Eid; neither is it similar to a typical day.
  • Another misconception is that the month of Muharram is an unlucky month; hence, marriage ceremonies should be avoided in this month. This concept is also contrary to the teachings of the Beloved Prophet ﷺ.

By Mawlana Mushtaq Shaikh

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