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History of The Day of Ashura

by Ustazah Eka Budhi Setiani

The word of ‘Ashura’ is a familiar term for us as a Muslim. The day of Ashura is a special historical day. This is mainly because the day of Ashura is in the month of Muharram that is included in the four sacred months which are often referred as the month of Allah SWT.

Muharram is a sign of the beginning of the Hijri month. In this month which marks the start of the Islamic year, we reflect on ourselves and express our gratitude for being given countless blessings. Especially the blessing of age as the main principal to increase our piety.

No wonder that in various part of the world –one of them is my country, Indonesia– Muslim community make a dua for the end of the year before sunset and dua for the start of the year after maghrib prayers. This is the embodiment of reflection of our supplication for forgiveness and hope to the Almighty. However, other parts of the world might have their own different traditions.

Muharram itself is one of the four sacred months mentioned in the Qur’an. In these sacred months, including Muharram, Arabs are prohibited from doing wrong and shedding blood.

The four sacred months (Dhul Qadah, Dhulhijjah, Muharram, and Rajab) are mentioned in the following verse of Surah At-Taubah:

Screenshot 2022 08 04 at 5.21.56 PM History of The Day of Ashura

Indeed, the number of months with Allāh is twelve [lunar] months in the register of Allāh [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred. That is the correct religion [i.e., way], so do not wrong yourselves during them. And fight against the disbelievers all together, as they fight you all together. And know that Allāh is with the righteous [who fear Him].

[At-Taubah 9:36]

There are various practices that we can do during Muharram. The most recommended practice is:

Fasting

The virtues of fasting in the month of Muharram is explained in the following hadith:

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَفْضَلُ الصِّيَامِ بَعْدَ رَمَضَانَ شَهْرُ اللهِ الْمُحَرَّمُ

“Abu Hurairah RA reported: The Messenger of Allah ﷺ  said, ‘The best of fasting after Ramadan is fasting Allah’s month of Muharram.’”

[Hadith Narrated by Imam Muslim]

What Is Ashura?

There are two opinions on the naming of Ashura. The first opinion said that Ashura is taken from the word Asyirah (the tenth) for pleonastis (exaggerated) and exalted. While the second opinion is the most common opinion: the word Ashura is the tenth day of the month of Muharram.

The History and The Commands of Fasting in The Day of Ashura

image 3 History of The Day of Ashura 

 

 

[Photo by: Pexels/ Khats Cassim]

 

A hadith mentioned about the history of fasting on the day of Ashura.

عن عبد الله ابن عبّاس رضي الله عنهما قال لَمّاَ قَدِمَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ المَدِينَةَ فَرَأَى اليَهُودَ تَصُومُ يَوْمَ عَاشُورَاءَ، فَقَالَ: «مَا هَذَا؟»، قَالُوا: هَذَا يَوْمٌ صَالِحٌ هَذَا يَوْمٌ نَجَّى اللهُ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ مِنْ عَدُوِّهِمْ، فَصَامَهُ مُوسَى، قَالَ: «فَأَنَا أَحَقُّ بِمُوسَى مِنْكُمْ»، فَصَامَهُ، وَأَمَرَ بِصِيَامِهِ

Ibn Abbas reported, he said: When The Messenger of Allah ﷺ  came to Medina and he found the Jews fasting on the day of Ashura. The Prophet said, ‘What is this day you are fasting?’ They said, ‘This is a great day in which Allah saved Moses and his people, and he drowned Pharaoh and his people. Moses fasted on it due to gratitude, so we also fast on it.’ The Prophet said, ‘We are more deserving and are closer to Moses than you.’ The Prophet fasted on the day of Ashura and he commanded fasting on it.

[Hadith Narrated by Imam Bukhari & Imam Muslim]

Not only on the day of Ashura (the tenth day), the Prophet ﷺ also encouraged his people to perform fasting on the day of Tasu’a or the ninth day. However, at that time the Prophet had been called by the Creator before his wish was fulfilled. Therefore in the study of hadith, that suggestion is known as the sunnah hamiyah (the wish of the Prophet which has not been fulfilled).

عن عَبْدَ اللهِ بْنَ عَبَّاسٍ رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُمَا يَقُولُ لَمَّا صَامَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَوْمَ عَاشُورَاءَ وَأَمَرَ بِصِيَامِهِ قَالُوا يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ إِنَّهُ يَوْمٌ تُعَظِّمُهُ الْيَهُودُ وَالنَّصَارَى فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَإِذَا كَانَ الْعَامُ الْمُقْبِلُ إِنْ شَاءَ اللهُ صُمْنَا الْيَوْمَ التَّاسِعَ قَالَ فَلَمْ يَأْتِ الْعَامُ الْمُقْبِلُ حَتَّى تُوُفِّيَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ

Ibn ‘Abbas reported: “The Messenger of Allah   fasted on the day of Ashura (10 Muharam). His Companion said: ‘O Messenger of Allah   , it is a day that the Jews and Christians honor.’ The Prophet   said, ‘When the following year comes–Allah willing–we shall fast (also) on the ninth.’ Ibn Abbas reported, ‘The death of the Prophet (saws) came before the following year.” [Hadith Narrated by Imam Muslim & Imam Abu Dawud]

عَنْ عَبْدِ اللهِ بْنِ عَبَّاسٍ رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُمَا قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ لَئِنْ بَقِيتُ إِلَى قَابِلٍ لَأَصُومَنَّ التَّاسِعَ 

Abdullah ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah ﷺ  said, “If I live until next year, I will certainly fast the ninth day of al-Muharram.”

[Hadith Narrated by Imam Muslim]

It is also reported by Imam Ahmad from the companion of Ibn Abbas RA, The Holy Prophet ﷺ has stated, “Fast on the day of Ashura, and differentiate yourself from the Jews in this by performing an additional fast one day before or one day after it.” 

Imam Syafi’i in his book al-Um and al-Imla’ emphasizes that it is recommended to fast for three days, Fasting on the day of Ashura, Tasu’a, and the eleventh day.

Ibnul Qayim also said, based on the existing narrations it can be concluded that there are three levels of fasting Ashura, the most complete is fasting for three days (9, 10, 11 Muharram). The second order is fasting on the 9th and 10th of Muharram, while the last is fasting on the 10th only.

The Origin Law of Fasting on The Day of Ashura

Based on the notion of some scholars, the fasting of Ashura was originally obligated before the fasting of Ramadan was made as an obligation in the second year of Hijri. Therefore, after the mandatory fasting of Ramadan, this fast (Ashura) becomes a sunnah ‘muakkad’ fasting (highly recommended). This is one of the notions of most scholars.

However, another notion says that this fast has always been sunnah ‘muakkad’ (not obligatory) until the time comes when fasting is obligatory for Ramadan. So the law is back to the common sunnah. Yet this opinion is weak, as emphasized by Imam Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani.

On the other hand, fasting Ashura has its significance because it is classified as a fasting which is highly recommended by Islam.

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَفْضَلُ الصِّيَامِ بَعْدَ رَمَضَانَ شَهْرُ اللهِ الْمُحَرَّمُ 

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ  said, “The best of fasting after Ramadan is fasting Allah’s month of Muharram.”

[Hadith Narrated by Imam Muslim] 

سئل رسول الله صلّى الله عليه وسلّم عن صيام عاشوراء فقال يكفّر السّنة الماضية

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ  was asked about fasting on the Day of Ashura (10th of Muharram). He answered: “It expiate the sins of the preceding year.” [Hadith Narrated by Imam Muslim]

As you might know, what is meant by the expiation of sins here only includes minor sins, not major sins.

Dhikr In The Day of Ashura

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Dhikr [Photo by: Pexels/RODNAE Productions]

 

There are several dhikr that can be read on the day of Ashura as explained by Al-Allamah ad-Dairobi and Sayyid Muhammad Al-Amir who took information from Al-‘Allamah Al-Ajhuri.

حسبنا الله ونعم الوكيل، نعم المولى ونعم النّصير

In addition to the dhikr above, we are also encouraged to recite more tasbih, tahmid, and tahlil.

سبحان الله والحمد لله ولااله إلاّ الله والله أكبر 

May all of us be given tawfiq by Allah SWT, so that we are able to carry out worship in this sacred month of Muharram, especially on the day of Ashura. Amen.

 

 

Contributed by Eka Budhi Setiani

Ustadzah Eka Budhi Setiani, Lc is one of the sharia advisors at Muslim Pro. A servant of Allah who studies the science of Usuluddin at Al-Azhar University – Cairo, Egypt. Currently she is devoting her knowledge by teaching at an Islamic school managed by the Education Department in a province. In addition, together with her husband, now she also manages her own Islamic boarding school in a small town in Banten Province called Ponpes Balonk Faidhul Barokaat.