The Virtues of Muharram and Fasting on ‘Aashooraa’

Allaah’s sacred month of Muharram is a blessed and important month. It is the first month of the Hijri calendar (Islamic calendar which started with the Prophet’s migration from Makkah to Madeenah) and is one of the four sacred months concerning which Allaah Says (what means):"Verily, the number of months with Allaah is twelve months (in a year) so was it ordained by Allaah on the day when he created the Heaven and the Earth; of them four are Sacred - that is the right religion, so wrong not yourselves therein….”[Quran 9:36]

Abu Bakrah may Allaah be pleased with himreported that the Prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention )said:“The year is twelve months of which four are sacred, the three consecutive months ofThul-Qa’dah,Thul-Hijjah and Muharram, and Rajab which comes between Jumaada and Sha’baan.”[Al-Bukhaari]
Muharram is so called because it is a sacred (Muharram) month and to confirm its sanctity.
Allaah’s Words (which mean)so wrong not yourselves therein….”mean: do not wrong yourselves in these sacred months, because sin in these months is worse than in other months.
Ibn ‘Abbaas may Allaah be pleased with himsaid that this phraseso wrong not yourselves therein….”referred to all the months, then these four were singled out and made sacred, so that sin in these months is more serious and good deeds bring a greater reward.
Qutaadah may Allaah be pleased with himsaid concerning the same phrase that wrongdoing during the sacred months is more serious and more sinful than wrongdoing at any other time. Wrongdoing at any time is a serious matter, but Allaah gives more weight to whichever of His commands He wills. Allaah has chosen certain ones of His creation. He has chosen from among the angels Messengers and from among mankind Messengers. He chose from within speech the remembrance of Him. He chose from upon the earth the mosques, from among the months Ramadhaan and the sacred months, from among the days Friday and from among the nights Laylat Al-Qadr, so venerate that which Allaah has told us to venerate. People of understanding and wisdom venerate the things that Allaah has told us to venerate. [Tafseer of Ibn Katheer]
The Virtue of observing more voluntary fasts during Muharram
Abu Hurayrah may Allaah be pleased with himsaid: “The Messenger of Allaah sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention )said:‘The best of fasting after Ramadhaan is fasting Allaah’s month of Muharram.’” [Muslim]
The phrase “Allaah’s month”, connecting the name of the month to the name of Allaah in a genitive grammatical structure signifies the importance of the month. Al-Qaari may Allaah have mercy on him said: “The apparent meaning is all of the month of Muharram.” But it was proven that the Prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention )never fasted any whole month apart from Ramadhaan, so this Hadeeth (Prophetic narration) is probably meant to encourage increasing one’s fasting during Muharram, without meaning that one should fast the entire month.
It was reported that the Prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention )used to fast more in Sha’baan. It is likely that the virtue of Muharram was not revealed to him until the end of his life, before he sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention )was able to fast during this month.
Allaah chooses whatever times and places He wills
Al-‘Izz Ibn ‘Abd As-Salaam may Allaah have mercy upon himsaid: “Times and places may be given preferred status in two ways, either temporal or religious/spiritual. With regard to the latter, this is because Allaah bestows His generosity on His slaves at those times or in those places by giving a greater reward for deeds done, such as giving a greater reward for fasting in Ramadhaan than for fasting at all other times, and also on the day of ‘Aashooraa’, the virtue of which is due to Allaah’s generosity and kindness towards His slaves on that day…”
‘Aashooraa’ in history
Ibn ‘Abbaas may Allaah be pleased with himsaid: “The Prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention )came to Madeenah and found the Jews fasting on the day of ‘Aashooraa’. He sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention )said:‘What is this?’They (Jews) said: ‘This is a righteous day, it is the day when Allaah saved the Children of Israel from their enemies, so Moosa (Moses may Allaah exalt his mention) fasted on this day.’ He sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention )said:‘We have more right to Moosa than you,’so he fasted on that day and commanded [the Muslims] to fast on that day.” [Al-Bukhaari]
The practice of fasting on ‘Aashooraa’ was known even in the days of Jaahiliyyah (pre-Islamic period), before the Prophet’s sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention )mission. It was reported that ‘Aa’ishah may Allaah be pleased with hersaid: “The people of Jaahiliyyah used to fast on that day…”
Al-Qurtubi may Allaah have mercy on him said: “Perhaps Quraysh used to fast on that day on the basis of some past law, such as that of Ibraaheem (Abraham may Allaah exalt his mention).”
It was also reported that the Prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention )used to fast on ‘Aashooraa’ in Makkah, before he migrated to Madeenah. When he sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention )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 sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention )commanded the Muslims to be different from the Jews, who took it as a festival.
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.
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 sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention )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 in the verse (which means):O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting…”[Quran 2:183]
The obligation was transferred from the fast of ‘Aashooraa’ to the fast of Ramadhaan, and this is one of the proofs in the field of Usool Al-Fiqh (Judicial fundamentals) that it is possible to abrogate a lighter duty in favour of a heavier duty.
The virtues of fasting ‘Aashooraa’
Ibn ‘Abbaas,  may Allaah be pleased with them, said: “I never saw the Messenger of Allaah sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention )so keen to fast any day and give it priority over any other than this day, the day of ‘Aashooraa’, and this month, meaning Ramadhaan.” [Al-Bukhaari]
The meaning of his being keen was that he sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention )intended to fast on that day in the hope of earning the reward for doing so.
The Prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention )said:“For fasting the day of ‘Aashooraa’, I hope that Allaah will accept it as expiation for the year that went before.”[Muslim]
Previous article Next article