Tuesday, December 14, 2010
The virtue of Ashura-Ashura in Sunni Islam: The 10th of Muharram According to Sunnah
Praise be to Allah.
Fasting the day of ‘Ashoora’ does expiate for the past year, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Fasting the day of ‘Arafah I hope Allah will expiate thereby for the year before it and the year after it, and fasting the day of ‘Ashoora’ I hope Allah will expiate thereby for the year that came before it.” Narrated by Muslim, 1162. This is by the bounty that Allah bestows upon us, whereby fasting one day expiates for the sins of a whole year. And Allah is the Owner of great bounty.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to be very keen to make sure he fasted on the day of ‘Ashoora’ because of its great status. It was narrated that Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: I never saw the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) so keen to make sure he fasted any day and preferring it over another except this day, the day of ‘Ashoora’, and this month – meaning Ramadaan. Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1867.
What is meant by being keen to make sure he fasted it is so as to earn its reward.
With regard to the reason why the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) fasted on the day of ‘Ashoora’ and urged the people to do likewise is mentioned in the hadeeth narrated by al-Bukhaari (1865) from Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with him), who said: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came to Madeenah and saw the Jews fasting on the day of ‘Ashoora’. He said, “What is this?” They said, “This is a good day, this is the day when Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemy and Moosa fasted on this day.” He said, “We have closer to Moosa than you.” So he fasted on this day and told the people to fast.
The words “this is a good day” – according to a version narrated by Muslim, “This is a great day when Allah saved Moosa and his people and drowned Pharaoh and his people.”
The words “so Moosa fasted on this day” – Muslim added in his report: “In gratitude to Allah, so that is we fast on this day.”
According to another version narrated by al-Bukhaari, “So we fast it out of respect for it.”
The words “and told the people to fast” – according to another version narrated by al-Bukhaari, “He said to his companions, ‘You are closer to Moosa than them, so fast this day.”
The expiation of sins that is achieved by fasting ‘Ashoora’ refers to minor sins; with regard to major sins, they need separate repentance.
Al-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
Fasting the day of ‘Arafaah expiates for all minor sins, in other words this brings forgiveness for all sins except for major sins.
Then he said:
Fasting the day of ‘Arafaah is an expiation for two years, and the day of ‘Ashoora is an expiation for one year, and if a person’s Ameen coincides with the Ameen of the angels, his previous sins will be forgiven… Each of the things mentioned may bring expiation. If he does something that expiates for minor sins he will be expiated, and if there are no minor or major sins, it will be recorded for him as good deeds and he will rise in status thereby… If there is one or more major sins and no minor sins, we hope that it will reduce his major sins. Al-Majmoo’ Sharh al-Muhadhdhab, part 6.
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: The expiation of purification, prayer, and fasting Ramadaan, ‘Arafah and ‘Ashoora’ applies to minor sins only. Al-Fataawa al-Kubra, part 5.
Ashura in Sunni Islam
Ashura is significant as the day that Allah (God) saved Moses (peace be upon him) and the Israelites by parting the Red Sea and drowning Pharaoh. When the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)* migrated to Medina, the Jews told him that Moses (peace be upon him) fasted in gratitude on Ashura, and Jewish practice was to fast Ashura as well.
Upon learning this, the Prophet (peace be upon him) replied, “We have more right to Moses than you,” and he commanded Muslims to fast Ashura. Later, when fasting the entire month of Ramadan became obligatory, the Ashura fast was declared optional, and Muslims were instructed to differentiate their fast from the Jews by fasting the 9th or 11th of Muharram along with the 10th.
Reward of Fasting Ashura
The tradition of optional fasting on the 9th and 10th of Muharram continues among present day Sunni Muslims, who believe fasting on Ashura offers the reward of having their previous year’s sins forgiven. This is based on the hadith in which the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "For fasting the day of Ashura, I hope that Allah will accept it as expiation for the year that went before." (Muslim)
Most Sunni scholars note that fasting should be the only way – if at all – that Muslims observe Ashura. Cultural traditions associated with Ashura – such as applying kohl to the eyes, taking a ritual bath, or giving gifts to children – are regarded as religious innovations (bid’ah), as they were not practices of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) or his companions.
Celebrating Ashura Contradicts the Sunnah
Displays of grief, however, contradict the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who said: "He is not from our group who slaps his checks, tears his clothes and cries in the manner of the people of jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic ignorance)." (Sahih Bukhari)
Furthermore, Ashura was not declared a holiday by the Prophet (peace be upon him), who cautioned Muslims about religious innovations: “Those of you who live after my death will see many disputes. I urge you to adhere to my Sunnah (teachings and traditions) and the Sunnah of my rightly-guided successors who come after me. Hold onto it as if biting it with your eye teeth. Beware of newly-innovated matters, for every innovation is a going astray.” (Saheeh Sunan Abi Dawood)
* Muslims invoke Allah's blessings on Muhammad and other Prophets when their names are mentioned.