Ashura’ Day: History & Merits
Among the blessings and Graces of Allah upon his servants is that He continues to grant them seasons of goodness throughout the year to give them out of His Bounty and Abundant Reward. To give them a chance after another to come closer to Him and seek His Forgiveness.
When the season for Hajj (Pilgrimage) ends, an honourable month follows which is the month of Muharram. Imam Muslim narrated in his Sahih after Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The best fasting after (fasting in the month of) Ramadan is in Al-Muharram, the month of Allah.” (Sahih Muslim)
The Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) called the month of Al-Muharram as “the month of Allah” to denote its honour and merits, as Allah the Almighty privileges some of His creatures with traits and makes some better than others according to His Will.
In this month, there is a day in which a great event has happened; it was a great victory indeed as the right won over falsehood; it is the day in which Allah the Almighty saved Prophet Musa (Moses) and his people from Pharaoh and his troops and drowned them all in the Red Sea. This is the 10th day of Al-Muharram which is called Ashura’ Day or the Day of Ashura’.
Merits of Ashura’ Day
Narrated Abu Qatadah that when the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) was asked about fasting on the day of Ashura’, he said, “I hope Allah will expiate thereby for the year that came before it.” (Sahih Muslim)
Muslims are earnestly advised by Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) to fast one day before the day of Ashura’ and one day after it just to be different from other non-Muslims who used to fast on that day as well.
It is recommended that we fast this day as the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) used to fast it. Not only the Prophet fasted that day, but also his companions as well as Prophet Musa (Peace and blessings be upon him) who fasted it in a way to thank Allah the Almighty for saving him from Pharaoh and his people.
Ibn Abbas (May Allah be pleased with him) said: The Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) came to Madinah and saw the Jews fasting on the day of ‘Ashura’. He asked, “What is this?” They replied, “This is a good day, this is the day when Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemy and Musa fasted on this day.” He said, “We are closer to Musa than you.” So he fasted on this day and told the people to fast.” (Sahih Muslim)
Ashura’ day in history
Fasting the day of Ashura’ was known and practiced even by the Arabs during the pre-Islamic era, before the advent of Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) and the revelation of the last Message. It is narrated from Lady A’ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) that she said, “The people of Pre-Islamic era used to fast on that day.” Imam Al-Qurtubi commented on this by saying: Maybe the people of Quraish used to fast it in accordance with the legislation that was revealed to the peoples before them such as Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) and his people! It was also confirmed – as is mentioned above – that the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) noticed this day and asked about its nature when he arrived at Madinah and after being told about it he ordered Muslims to start fasting it.
The Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) used to be very keen to make sure he fasted on the day of Ashura’ because of its great status. It was narrated that Ibn Abbas (May Allah be pleased with him) said: “I never saw the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) so keen to make sure he fasted any day and preferring it over another except this day, the day of Ashura’, and this month – meaning Ramadan.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari)
What is meant by “being keen to make sure he fasted it” is so as to earn its reward.
The new year and self-accountability
It is incumbent upon every human being, Muslim or non-Muslim alike, to pause with himself at the beginning of the new year and to bring himself to accountability and review what he has done throughout the previous year. In this pause lies the salvation path and straight path of guidance. A wise man is the one who brings himself to accountability and review what he has done before death overtakes him and the smart one is the one who commits himself to the straight and good path and not to let it deviate from that path no matter what.
A man can be nothing but one of two persons: one who is righteous and doing well and one who is not. For the former, he should continue what he was doing of the good things. As for the latter, he should repent to Allah and regret what he was doing and make up his mind not to go further in that direction, rather, to start doing what may benefit him in this present life and the hereafter.
Partially based on a widely circulated post on Facebook by an unknown author.
Dr. Ali Al-Halawani is Assistant Professor of Linguistics and Translation, Kulliyyah of Languages and Management (KLM), International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He was Assistant Professor and worked for a number of international universities in Malaysia and Egypt such as Al-Madinah International University, Shah Alam, Malaysia (Mediu) and Misr University for Science & Technology (MUST), Egypt; Former Editor-in-Chief of the Electronic Da`wah Committee (EDC), Kuwait; Former Deputy Chief Editor and Managing Editor of the Living Shari`ah Department, www.islamOnline.net; Member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS); and member of the World Association of Arab Translators & Linguists (Wata). He is a published writer, translator and researcher. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.