the importance of fasting the day of 'ashoura'
'ashoura' is a blessed day that commemorates the day that allah saved the children of israel from pharaoh (in egypt), and so prophet musa [moses] fasted on this day giving thanks to allah.
the day of 'ashoura', is the 10th day of the month of muharram of the hijrah calendar. fasting the day of ashoura expiates the sins of the past year. when the prophet (pbuh) arrived in madinah in 622 ce, he saw that the jews there fasted on muharram 10th and asked them the reason for their fasting on this day. they said: "this is a blessed day. on this day allah saved the children of israel from their enemy (the pharaoh) and so prophet musa [moses] fasted on this day giving thanks to allah."
prophet muhammed (pbuh) said (to the jews),
"we are closer to musa than you are."
the messenger of allah fasted on the day of 'ashoura' and commanded muslims to fast on this day too. (reported by al-bukhari) the following year, allah commanded the muslims to fast the month of ramadan, and the fasting of 'ashoura' became optional. it is also reported that prophet muhammed (pbuh) intended to fast on the ninth and tenth.
ibn 'abbas reported: the messenger of allah fasted on the day of 'ashoura' and ordered the people to fast that day. the people said, "oh 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 on the ninth." the death of the prophet (pbuh) came before the following year. (reported by muslim and abu dawoud)
the prophet (pbuh) said:
"observe the fast of ashoura' and oppose the jews. fast a day before it or a day after."
the prophet (pbuh) said: "fasting the day of 'ashoura' (is of great merits), i hope that allah will accept it as an expiation for (the sins committed in) the previous year." (muslim) but this expiation of minor sins comes only if you avoid major sins. it is a big mistake to rely on fasting a single day to expiate all your sins. if you neglect your daily prayers or the fast of the holy month of ramadan, or if you backbite, lie, commit adultery or other major sins, fasting on 'ashoura' alone will not expiate for your sins.
there are sects, that consider this a day like a day of mourning and wailing in honor of the prophet's grandson al-husayn, who was killed in a battle on that day. others have some customs associated with 'ashoura', such as cooking and eating certain foods on that day, wearing kohl or henna, or even merrymaking. the scholar ibn taymiyah said that all of these are bid'ahs (reprehensible innovations) that should be avoided. according to some authentic ahadith reported by al-bukhary and muslim, mourning and wailing, beating oneself is forbidden (haram) in islam:
narrated 'abdullah: the prophet said, "he who slaps his cheeks, tears his clothes and follows the ways and traditions of the days of ignorance is not one of us."
he (pbuh) said, "do you not hear, allah does not punish for the shedding of tears or the grief of the heart, but punishes or bestows mercy for the utterances of this (and he pointed to his tongue).'' [al-bukhari and muslim]
take advantage of this opportunity to bring yourself closer to allah on 'ashura' by fasting and praying for forgiveness.