The Significance of the Day of Ashura

One cannot comment about the significance of the day of Ashura without mentioning the month of Muharram. This is the first month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar year. Muharram is also regarded as one of the four (4) sacred months in the Islamic Lunar Calendar.  Allah (Ta’aala) says in Surah 6, part of verse 36 “Surely the number of months according to Allah is twelve (12) (as written) in the Book of Allah on the day He created the heavens and the Earth, of which there are four (4) Sacred Months.”

Narrated by Abu Bakr (R.A). The Prophet (SAW) said: “Time has come back to its original state which it had when Allah created the Heavens and the Earth; the year is twelve (12) months, four (4) of which are sacred. Three (3) of them are in succession; Dhul Qa’da, Dhul Hijja and Al-Muharram, and the fourth being Rajab Mudar (named after the tribe of Mudar as they used to respect this month) which stands between Jumad (ath-thani) and Sha’ban.” – (Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 184).

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The Islamic Calendar is known as the Hijri Calendar. The latter was established by the second rightly guided Caliph and companion of the Prophet Muhammed (S.A.W), Umar Ibn al-Khattab (R.A) in 637/638 AD. There was much debate amongst the companions of the Prophet (SAW) of which month the Islamic calendar year should commence with. It was then decided by most of the companions that the month of Muharram makes the most sense to start the Islamic Calendar year with, because of its blessings and the fact that it also follows after Hajj which signifies new beginnings.

Ashura is the tenth (10th) day of the month of Muharram. Ashura literally means the tenth (10th) of Ashara. The importance of this day in the Islamic Calendar cannot be over-emphasized.

The Prophet (SAW) said: “For fasting the day of Ashura, I hope that Allah will accept it as expiation for the year that went before.” -(Muslim).

Narrated by Ibn ‘Abbas (R.A) – “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.” – (Bukhari Volume 3, Book 31, Number 224).

Narrated by Ashia (RAH) – “The people used to fast on the day of Ashura before fasting in the month of Ramadan was prescribed but when (the order of compulsory fasting in) Ramadan was revealed, it was up to the one to fast on it (i.e. Ashura) or not. (Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 29).

The Prophet (SAW) came to Madina and saw the Jews fasting on the day of Ashura. He asked them about that. They replied. “This is a good day, the day on which Allah rescued the Bani Israel from their enemy. So Moses fasted this day.” The Prophet (SAW) said: “We have more claim over Moses than you.” So, the Prophet (SAW) fasted on that day and ordered the Muslims to fast on that day. (Bukhari Volume 3, Book 31, Number 222).

The Prophet (SAW) indicated that if he was to live one more year he would fast the ninth (9th) and the tenth (10th). The scholars indicated that this was mentioned to make our ritual different from other religions and nations and therefore it is good to fast the ninth (9th)   and the tenth (10th) even though our Prophet (SAW) never did it as he passed away the very year that he said it. One can also fast the tenth (10th) and eleventh (11th) of Muharram. If one is not able to fast two (2) days, the tenth (10th) will suffice, Alghamdullilah.

Sadly, a historical tragedy also occurred on the day of Ashura and that is the massacre at Karbala where Imam Hussein (RAH), the grandson of the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) was martyred. That tragedy does not have anything to do with the sanctity of the day of Ashura. Imam Hussein (RAH)’s martyrdom was a coincidence that it occurred on the day of Ashura. The fasting and blessings on the day of Muharram is therefore separate to the historical tragedy that occurred on the day of Ashura. The unfortunate massacre as stated has therefore nothing to do with the sanctity of the month of Muharram and the tenth (10th) day of Ashura. Therefore, as Muslims we take the tenth (10th)  day of Muharram not as a day of mourning the death of Imam Hussein (RAH), but as a day of worshipping Allah (Ta’aala).

Considering the preceding, we must take advantage of this opportunity to bring ourselves closer to Allah (Ta’aala) by fasting and praying for forgiveness on the day of Ashura.

May Allah (Ta’aala) increase us in knowledge and make the knowledge gained beneficial to us all.

By Ustadh Nezaam Luddy
Resides in South Africa, Cape Town
17 August 2021
Muharram 1443

Al Quran (Surah 6: 36)
Sahih Al Bukhari volume 3: Book 31, Number 222.
Sahih Al Bukhari volume 3: Book 31, Number 224.
Sahih Al Bukhari volume 6: Book 60, Number 29.
Sahih Al Bukhari volume 6: Book 60, Number 184.
Sahih Muslim.


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