Narrated Ibn Abbas: When the Prophet came to Medina , he found (the Jews) fasting on the day of ‘Ashura’ (i.e. 10th of Muharram). They used to say: “This is a great day on which Allah saved Moses and drowned the folk of Pharaoh. Moses observed the fast on this day, as a sign of gratitude to Allah.” The Prophet said, “I am closer to Moses than they.” So, he observed the fast (on that day) and ordered the Muslims to fast on it. [Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 609]
“This is a righteous day” – in a report narrated by Muslim, [the Jews said:] “This is a great day, on which Allaah saved Moosa and his people, and drowned Pharaoh and his people.”
“Moosa fasted on this day” – a report narrated by Muslim adds: “… in thanksgiving to Allaah, so we fast on this day.”
According to a report narrated by al-Bukhaari: “… so we fast on this day to venerate it.”
A version narrated by Imaam Ahmad adds: “This is the day on which the Ark settled on Mount Joodi , so Nooh fasted this day in thanksgiving.”
“and commanded [the Muslims] to fast on that day” – according to another report also narrated by al-Bukhaari: “He said to his Companions: ‘You have more right to Moosa than they do, so fast on that day.”
The practice of fasting on ‘Aashooraa’ was known even in the days of Jaahiliyyah, before the Prophet’s mission. It was reported that Aaishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) said: “The people of Jaahiliyyah used to fast on that day…”
Al-Qurtubi said: “Perhaps Quraysh used to fast on that day on the basis of some past law, such as that of Ibraaheem, upon whom be peace.”
It was also reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to fast on ‘Aashooraa’ in Makkah, before he migrated to Madeenah. When he migrated to Madeenah, he found the Jews celebrating this day, so he asked them why, and they replied as described in the hadeeth quoted above. He commanded the Muslims to be different from the Jews, who took it as a festival, as was reported in the hadeeth of Abu Moosa (may Allaah be pleased with him), who said: “The Jews used to take the day of ‘Aashooraa’ as a festival [according to a report narrated by Muslim: the day of ‘Aashooraa’ was venerated by the Jews, who took it as a festival. According to another report also narrated by Muslim: the people of Khaybar (the Jews) used to take it as a festival and their women would wear their jewellery and symbols on that day].
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘So you [Muslims] should fast on that day.’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari). Apparently the motive for commanding the Muslims to fast on this day was the desire to be different from the Jews, so that the Muslims would fast when the Jews did not, because people do not fast on a day of celebration. (Summarized from the words of al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar – may Allaah have mercy on him – in Fath al-Baari Sharh ‘ala Saheeh al-Bukhaari).
Fasting on ‘Aashooraa’ was a gradual step in the process of introducing fasting as a prescribed obligation in Islam. Fasting appeared in three forms. When the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) came to Madeenah, he told the Muslims to fast on three days of every month and on the day of ‘Aashooraa’, then Allaah made fasting obligatory when He said (interpretation of the meaning): “… observing the fasting is prescribed for you…” [al-Baqarah 2:183] (Ahkaam al-Qur’aan by al-Jassas, part 1).
The obligation was transferred from the fast of ‘Aashooraa’ to the fast of Ramadaan, and this one of the proofs in the field of Usool al-Fiqh that it is possible to abrogate a lighter duty in favour of a heavier duty.
Before the obligation of fasting ‘Aashooraa’ was abrogated, fasting on this day was obligatory, as can be seen from the clear command to observe this fast. Then it was further confirmed later on, then reaffirmed by making it a general command addressed to everybody. It was reported from Ibn Mas’ood that when fasting Ramadaan was made obligatory, the obligation to fast ‘Aashooraa’ was lifted, i.e., it was no longer obligatory to fast on this day, but it is still desirable (mustahabb).
The virtues of fasting Aashooraa
Narrated Ibn Abbas: “I never saw the Prophet seeking to fast on a day more (preferable to him) than this day, the day of ‘Ashura’, or this month, i.e. the month of Ramadan.” [Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 224]
The meaning of his being keen was that he intended to fast on that day in the hope of earning the reward for doing so.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “…For fasting the day of ‘Aashooraa’, I hope that Allaah will accept it as expiation for the year that went before.” [Sahih Muslim, Book 006, Number 2602]. This is from the bounty of Allaah towards us: for fasting one day He gives us expiation for the sins of a whole year. And Allaah is the Owner of Great Bounty.
Which day is ‘Aashooraa’ ?
Al-Nawawi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “ ‘Aashooraa’ and Taasoo’aa’ are two elongated names [the vowels are elongated] as is stated in books on the Arabic language. Our companions said: ‘Aashooraa’ is the tenth day of Muharram and Taasoo’aa’ is the ninth day. This is our opinion, and that of the majority of scholars. This is the apparent meaning of the ahaadeeth and is what we understand from the general wording. It is also what is usually understood by scholars of the language.” (al-Majmoo’)
‘Aashooraa’ is an Islamic name that was not known at the time of Jaahiliyyah. (Kashshaaf al-Qinaa’, part 2, Sawm Muharram).
Ibn Qudaamah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
“ ‘Aashooraa’ is the tenth day of Muharram. This is the opinion of Sa’eed ibn al-Musayyib and al-Hasan.
It was what was reported by Ibn ‘Abbaas, who said: ‘The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) commanded us to fast ‘Aashooraa’, the tenth day of Muharram.’ (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, who said, a saheeh hasan hadeeth).
It was reported that Ibn ‘Abbaas said: ‘The ninth,’ and reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to fast the ninth. (Reported by Muslim). ‘Ataa’ reported that he said, ‘Fast the ninth and the tenth, and do not be like the Jews.’ If this is understood, we can say on this basis that it is mustahabb (encouraged) to fast on the ninth and the tenth, for that reason. This is what Ahmad said, and it is the opinion of Ishaaq.”
It is mustahabb (encouraged) to
fast Taasooaa with ‘Aashooraa
Taasooaa = 9th muharram
Aashooraa = 10th muharram
Ibn Abbas reported that when the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) fasted on the day of ‘Ashura and commanded that it should he observed as a fast, they (his Companions) said to him: Messenger of Allah, it is a day which the Jews and Christians hold in high esteem. Thereupon the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: When the next year comes, God willing, we would observe fast on the 9th But the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) died before the advent of the next year. [Sahih Muslim, Book 006, Number 2528]
Al-Shaafa’i and his companions, Ahmad, Ishaaq and others said: “It is mustahabb to fast on both the ninth and tenth days, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) fasted on the tenth, and intended to fast on the ninth.”
On this basis it may be said that there are varying degrees of fasting ‘Aashooraa’, the least of which is to fast only on the tenth and the best of which is to fast the ninth as well. The more one fasts in Muharram, the better it is.
The reason why it is mustahabb to fast on Taasoo’aa’
Al-Nawawi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “The scholars – our companions and others – mentioned several reasons why it is mustahabb to fast on Taasoo’aa’:
1. the intention behind it is to be different from the Jews, who only venerate the tenth day. This opinion was reported from Ibn ‘Abbaas…
2. the intention is to add another day’s fast to ‘Aashooraa’. This is akin to the prohibition on fasting a Friday by itself, as was mentioned by al-Khattaabi and others.
3. To be on the safe side and make sure that one fasts on the tenth, in case there is some error in sighting the crescent moon at the beginning of Muharram and the ninth is in fact the tenth.”
The strongest of these reasons is being different from the People of the Book. Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) forbade imitating the People of the Book in many ahaadeeth, for example, his words concerning ‘Aashooraa’: ‘If I live until the next year, I will certainly fast on the ninth day.’” (al-Fataawa al-Kubra, part 6, Sadd al-Dharaa’i’ al-Mufdiyah ila’l-Mahaarim )
Ibn Hajar (may Allaah be pleased with him) said in his commentary on the hadeeth “If I live until the next year, I will certainly fast on the ninth day”: “What he meant by fasting on the ninth day was probably not that he would limit himself to that day, but would add it to the tenth, either to be on the safe side or to be different from the Jews and Christians, which is more likely. This is also what we can understand from some of the reports narrated by Muslim.” (Fath, 4/245).
Ruling on fasting only on the day of ‘Aashooraa’
Shaykh al-Islam said: “Fasting on the day of ‘Aashoraa’ is an expiation for a year, and it is not makrooh to fast only that day…” (al-Fataawa al-Kubra, part 5). In Tuhfat al-Muhtaaj by Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, it says: “There is nothing wrong with fasting only on ‘Aashooraa’.” (part 3, Baab Sawm al-Tatawwu’).
Fasting on ‘Aashooraa’ even if it is a Saturday or a Friday
Al-Tahhaawi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) allowed us to fast on ‘Aashooraa’ and urged us to do so. He did not say that if it falls on a Saturday we should not fast.
This is evidence that all days of the week are included in this. In our view – and Allaah knows best – it could be the case that even if this is true (that it is not allowed to fast on Saturdays), it is so that we do not venerate this day and refrain from food, drink and intercourse, as the Jews do. As for the one who fasts on a Saturday without intending to venerate it, and does not do so because the Jews regard it as blessed, then this is not makrooh…” (Mushkil al-Aathaar, part 2, Baab Sawm Yawm al-Sabt).
The author of al-Minhaaj said: “ ‘It is disliked (makrooh) to fast on a Friday alone…’ But it is no longer makrooh if you add another day to it, as mentioned in the saheeh report to that effect. A person may fast on a Friday if it coincides with his habitual fast, or he is fasting in fulfilment of a vow, or he is making up an obligatory fast that he has missed, as was stated in a saheeh report.”
Al-Shaarih said in Tuhfat al-Muhtaaj:
“ ‘If it coincides with his habitual fast’ – i.e., such as if he fasts alternate days, and a day that he fasts happens to be a Friday.
‘ if he is fasting in fulfilment of a vow, etc.” – this also applies to fasting on days prescribed in sharee’ah, such as ‘Aashooraa’ or ‘Arafaah. (Tuhfat al-Muhtaaj, part 3, Baab Sawm al-Tatawwu’)
Al-Bahooti (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “It is makrooh to deliberately single out a Saturday for fasting, because of the hadeeth of ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Bishr, who reported from his sister: ‘Do not fast on Saturdays except in the case of obligatory fasts’ (reported by Ahmad with a jayyid isnaad and by al-Haakim, who said: according to the conditions of al-Bukhaari), and because it is a day that is venerated by the Jews, so singling it out for fasting means being like them… except when a Friday or Saturday coincides with a day when Muslims habitually fast, such as when it coincides with the day of ‘Arafaah or the day of ‘Aashooraa’, and a person has the habit of fasting on these days, in which case it is not makrooh, because a person’s habit carries some weight.” (Kashshaaf al-Qinaa’, part 2, Baab Sawm al-Tatawwu’).
Fasting ‘Aashooraa’ – for what does it offer expiation?
Imaam al-Nawawi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
“It expiates for all minor sins, i.e., it brings forgiveness of all sins except major sins.”
Then he said (may Allaah have mercy on him):
“Fasting the day of ‘Arafaah expiates for two years, and the day of ‘Aashooraa’ expiates for one year. If when a person says ‘Aameen’ it coincides with the ‘Aameen’ of the angels, he will be forgiven all his previous sins… Each one of the things that we have mentioned will bring expiation. If there are minor sins for which expiation is needed, expiation for them will be accepted; if there are no minor sins or major sins, good deeds will be added to his account and he will be raised in status… If he had committed major sins but no minor sins, we hope that his major sins will be reduced.” (al-Majmoo’ Sharh al-Muhadhdhab, part 6, Sawm Yawm ‘Arafaah).
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “Tahaarah, salaah, and fasting in Ramadaan, on the day of ‘Arafaah and on ‘Aashooraa’ expiate for minor sins only.” (al-Fataawa al-Kubra, part 5).
Not relying too much on the reward for fasting
ome people who are deceived rely too much on things like fasting on ‘Aashooraa’ or the day of ‘Arafaah, to the extent that some of them say, “Fasting on ‘Aashooraa’ will expiate for the sins of the whole year, and fasting on the day of ‘Arafaah will bring extra rewards.” Ibn al-Qayyim said: ‘This misguided person does not know that fasting in Ramadaan and praying five times a day are much more important than fasting on the day of ‘Arafaah and ‘Aashooraa’, and that they expiate for the sins between one Ramadaan and the next, or between one Friday and the next, so long as one avoids major sins. But they cannot expiate for minor sins unless one also avoids major sins; when the two things are put together, they have the strength to expiate for minor sins. Among those deceived people may be one who thinks that his good deeds are more than his sins, because he does not pay attention to his bad deeds or check on his sins, but if he does a good deed he remembers it and relies on it. This is like the one who seeks Allaah’s forgiveness with his tongue (i.e., by words only), and glorifies Allaah by saying “Subhaan Allaah” one hundred times a day, then he backbites about the Muslims and slanders their honour, and speaks all day long about things that are not pleasing to Allaah. This person is always thinking about the virtues of his tasbeehaat (saying “Subhaan Allaah”) and tahleelaat (saying “Laa ilaaha ill-Allaah”) but he pays no attention to what has been reported concerning those who backbite, tell lies and slander others, or commit other sins of the tongue. They are completely deceived.” (al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah, part 31, Ghuroor).
Fasting ‘Aashooraa’ when one still has days to make up from Ramadaan
The fuqahaa’ differed concerning the ruling on observing voluntary fasts before a person has made up days that he or she did not fast in Ramadaan. The Hanafis said that it is permissible to observe voluntary fasts before making up days from Ramadaan, and it is not makrooh to do so, because the missed days do not have to be made up straight away. The Maalikis and Shaafa’is said that it is permissible but is makrooh, because it means that one is delaying something obligatory. Al-Dusooqi said: “It is makrooh to observe a voluntary fast when one still has to make up an obligatory fast, such as a fast in fulfilment of a vow, or a missed obligatory fast, or a fast done as an act of expiation (kafaarah), whether the voluntary fast which is being given priority over an obligatory fast is something confirmed in sharee’ah or not, such as ‘Aashooraa’ and the ninth of Dhoo’l-Hijjah, according to the most correct opinion.” The Hanbalis said that it is haraam to observe a voluntary fast before making up any fasts missed in Ramadaan, and that a voluntary fast in such cases does not count, even if there is plenty of time to make up the obligatory fast. So a person must give priority to the obligatory fasts until he has made them up.. (al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah, part 28, Sawm al-tatawwu’).
Muslims must hasten to make up any missed fasts after Ramadaan, so that they will be able to fast ‘Arafaah and ‘Aashooraa’ without any problem. If a person fasts ‘Arafaah and ‘Aashooraa’ with the intention from the night before of making up for a missed fast, this will be good enough to make up what he has missed, for the bounty of Allaah is great.
(to be continued…)