The Month of Muharram

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THE DAY OF ASHURA (10th Muharram)

The tenth day of the month of Muharram is known as 'ashura. It is one of the most important and blessed days in the Islamic calendar. Some 'ulama (scholars) are of the opinion that before the fasts of Ramadan, the fast of the day of 'ashura was compulsory upon the Ummah. This is stated in a hadith reported by 'a'ishah radhiyallahu 'anha that the noble Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam ordered the observance of the fast of 'ashura. However, when the fast of Ramadan became compulsory, then whosoever wished, kept this fast and whosoever desired did not observe this fast. (bukhari)

But the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam, nevertheless, continued to fast this day and encouraged his companions to do the same. Ibn 'Abbas radhiyallahu 'anhu says, "I did not see Rasalullah sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam anxiously await the fast of any day, which he gave preference to over other days, but this day, the day of 'ashura." (bukhari)

Humayd Ibn 'Abdur Rahman radhiyallahu 'anhu narrates that he heard Mu'awiyah ibn Abi Sufyan radhiyallahu 'anhuma on the day of 'ashura, during the year he performed Hajj, saying on the pulpit, "O the people of Madinah! Where are your 'ulamaa I heard Rasalullah sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam saying, 'This is the day of 'ashura. 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)

In another hadith, Ibn 'Abbas radhiyallahu 'anhu narrates that the noble Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam came to Madinah and found the Jews fasting on the day of 'ashura. Hence the noble Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam inquired of them, "What is (the significance of) this day on which you fasta" They replied, "This is a great day. On this day Allah saved Masa 'alayhis salam and his people and drowned Fir'awn and his nation. Thus Masa 'alayhis salam fasted on this day as a token of thanksgiving, therefore we too fast on this day." The Messenger of Allah sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam said, "We are more worthy of Masa and nearer to him than you." Thereafter, the noble Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam fasted on this day and ordered (his companions radhiyallahu 'anhum) that a fast be kept on this day. (Muslim)


1) The noble Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam has exhorted and encouraged his Ummah to fast on this day. Aba Qatadah radhiyallahu 'anhu narrates that the noble Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam was asked regarding the fast of the day of 'ashura. The noble Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam replied, "It is a compensation for the (minor) sins of the past year." (Muslim)

NOTE: It must be borne in mind that wherever a promise of forgiveness of sins is made upon the fulfilment of some action, it is only the minor sins that are forgiven. The major sins are not forgiven without true tawbah (repentance).

2) One should also observe the fast of the 9th or 11th Muharram to safeguard his deed from resemblance with the non-Muslims who fast only on the 10th Muharram. Ibn 'Abbas radhiyallahu 'anhu said, "When Rasalullah sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam observed the fast of the day of 'ashura and ordered (his companions radhiyallahu 'anhum) to fast, they said, 'O Rasalullah sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam! It is a day revered by the Jews and Christians.' Rasalullah sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam said, 'The coming year, if Allah wills, we will fast on the ninth (also).'" (Muslim)

Ibn 'Abbas radhiyallahu 'anhu reports that Rasalullah sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam said, "Should I live until the coming year, I will definitely fast on the ninth (also)." (Muslim)

The noble Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam said, "Observe the fast of 'ashura and oppose the Jews. Fast a day before it or a day after." (Bayhaqa)

Hence, it is important to either fast on the ninth and tenth of Muharram or the tenth and eleventh. To fast only on the day of 'ashura is makrah tanzihi as stated by 'Allamah Ibn 'Abidin Shami rahimahullah.

3) One should be generous to one's family and dependants and spend more on them than is normally spent. Aba Hurayrah radhiyallahu 'anhu reports that Rasalullah sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam said, "One who generously spends on his family on the day of 'ashura, Allah will increase (his provision) for the whole year." (Bayhaqi, at-Targhib wat-Tarhib)

This hadith is not very authentic according to the science of hadith. However, scholars of hadith like Bayhaqi and Ibn Hibban rahimahumallah have accepted it as reliable.

These are the only actions supported by ahadith.


1) It is absolutely clear that the significance of the day of 'ashura is from the time of the noble Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam. However, many people regard this day as the day of mourning the martyrdom of Husayn radhiyallahu 'anhu. The martyrdom of Husayn radhiyallahu 'anhu was indeed a great tragedy, but Islam is not a religion of perpetual mourning. Aba Sa'id radhiyallahu 'anhu relates that Rasalullah sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam has cursed mourners and those who listen to them. (Aba Dawad)

The pages of Islamic History are filled with the blood of the martyrs. Should we begin to mourn the martyrdom of the Sahabah radhiyallahu 'anhum alone, every other day would be a day of mourning. Thus, to attribute the significance of 'ashura to the martyrdom of Husayn radhiyallahu 'anhu is baseless. Therefore, the host of baseless customs with regard to his martyrdom - mourning, lamenting and displaying grief - must be discarded. If mourning were permissible, then the day of the demise of Rasalullah sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam would have been more worthy for mourning and lamenting.

2) The following misconceptions with regard to 'ashura are baseless:

. This is the day in which adam 'alayhis salam was created.

. This is the day in which Ibrahim 'alayhis salam was born.

. This is the day on which Qiyamah will take place.

. Whoever has a bath on the day of ashura will never get ill.

3) Some regard the tenth of Muharram as a day of Eid. They indulge in adornment, applying surmah (collyrium), wearing new clothes, spending lavishly and cooking a particular type of  meal which is not generally prepared. All these actions are regarded as sunnah according to their belief, whereas no authentic narration sanctioning and permitting such actions can be found.

4) Another misconception is that the month of Muharram is an unlucky month; hence marriage ceremonies should be avoided in this month. This concept is again contrary to the teachings of Rasalullah sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam.

Let us observe this great day according to the way of Rasalullah sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam and the Sahabah radhiyallahu 'anhum and refrain from all innovations which deprive us of the blessings from Allah ta'ala. May Allah ta'ala guide us all upon the Straight Path and save us from every act which brings His Displeasure. Amin.

C Islamic Da'wah Academy