1. The meaning of 'Ashura
‘Ashura is derived from the word ‘Asharah, which means ten in Arabic. 'Ashura is the 10th day of Muharram and this year it falls on Thursday 19th August 2021.
2. 'Ashura falls within the Sacred Month of Allah (swt)
Al-Muharram is one of the sacred months alluded to in the following Qur’anic verse:
‘Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] months in the register of Allah [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred. That is the correct religion, so do not wrong yourselves during them…’ [The Noble Qur’an, 9:36]
Al-Muharram is further mentioned in the following hadith:
On the authority of Abu Bakrah (ra) that 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 months, four of which are sacred. Three of them are in succession: Dhul-Qa‘dah, Dhul-Hijjah, Al-Muharram and Rajab of Mudar [named after the tribe of Mudar as they used to respect this month], which stands between Jumada (ath-Thani) and Sha‘ban'. [Bukhari]
3. Allah saved Musa (as) and the Children of Israel on ‘Ashura
It was on ‘Ashura that Allah split the Red Sea so that Musa (as) and the Children of Israel could escape Pharaoh and his army.
'Then We inspired to Musa [as], “Strike with your staff the sea,” and it parted, and each portion was like a great towering mountain. And We advanced thereto the pursuers. And We saved Musa [as] and those with him, all together. Then We drowned the others. Indeed in that is a sign, but most of them were not to be believers. And indeed, your Lord - He is the Exalted in Might, the Merciful'. [The Noble Qur’an, 26:63-68]
Therefore, Musa (as) would fast on ‘Ashura to commemorate this righteous day and show gratitude to Allah - and the Prophet Muhammed (saw) followed in his footsteps.
Ibn Abbas (ra) said, 'The Prophet (saw) came to Madinah and saw the Jews fasting on the day of ‘Ashura. He said, "What is this?" They said, "This is a righteous day. It is the day when Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemies, so Musa [as] fasted on this day". He said, "We have more right to Musa [as] than you", so he fasted on that day and commanded [the Muslims] to fast on that day'. [Bukhari]
4. Giving charity on ‘Ashura is equal to an entire year’s worth of charity
The Sahabah (ra) not only fasted on 'Ashura, they also singled it out for giving charity. Abdullah bin Amr bin al-As (ra) said, 'Whoever fasts ‘Ashura it is as if he has fasted the entire year. And whoever gives charity this day it is like the charity of an entire year'. [Ibn Rajab’s Lata’if al-Ma‘arif]
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5. Fasting on ‘Ashura wipes out the sins of the past year
On the authority of Abu Qatadah (ra) that the Messenger of Allah (saw), was asked about fasting on the day of ‘Ashura, and he said, 'It expiates [wipes out the minor sins of] the past year'. [Muslim]
6. It is recommended to fast beyond the day of ‘Ashura
When the Prophet came to Madinah he noticed that the Jews would fast on ‘Ashura to commemorate the day Allah saved Musa (as) and the Children of Israel from Pharaoh. So, to distinguish the Ummah from the People of the Book, the Prophet (saw) advised the believers to fast for another day alongside ’Ashura - the 9th or the 11th of Muharram.
The Prophet (saw) said, 'Fast the Day of ‘Ashura and be different from the Jews by fasting a day before it or a day after it'. [Ahmad]
He (saw) also said, 'If I remain [alive] till the following year, I will most certainly fast the ninth [alongside the 10th al-Muharram]'. [Muslim]
7. ‘Ashura is an immense day of repentance
The Messenger of Allah (saw) said, 'If you will fast after the month of Ramadan, then fast al-Muharram. For indeed it is Allah’s month, in which there is a day that Allah accepted the repentance of a people (i.e. the people of Yunus (as)), and in which He accepts the repentance of other people'. [Tirmidhi]
8. Allah rewards generosity to your family on ‘Ashura
The Messenger of Allah (saw) said, 'One who generously spends on his family on the day of ‘Ashura, Allah will be generous on him for the entire year'. [Tabarani]
Regarding this, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (rh) quotes Sufyan ibn Uyayna (rh) as saying, ‘I have practiced this [spending on the family] for fifty or sixty years and have found nothing but good in it’. [Lata’if al-Ma‘arif]
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9. The covering (Kiswah) of the Ka‘bah used to be changed on ‘Ashura
Aishah (ra) said, 'The people used to fast on 'Ashura before the fasting of Ramadan was made obligatory. And on that day the Ka‘bah used to be covered with a cover. When Allah made the fasting of the month of Ramadan compulsory, Allah’s Messenger (saw) said, ‘Whoever wishes to fast (on the day of ‘Ashura) may do so; and whoever wishes to leave it can do so'. [Bukhari]
10. Nuh’s (as) ark landed on Mount Judiyy (modern day Turkey) on ‘Ashura
‘In a narration reported by Imam Ahmad (rh), it was on this day that the Ark of Nuh (as) came to rest on Mount Judiyy’. [Tafsir Ibn Kathir]
‘And it was said, “O earth, swallow your water, and O sky, withhold [your rain]”. And the water subsided, and the matter was accomplished, and the ship [the ark of Nuh (as)] came to rest on the [mountain of] Judiyy. And it was said, “Away with the wrongdoing people”’. [The Noble Qur’an, 11:44]
Muslim Hands is an award-winning charity, established in 1993 to tackle the root causes of poverty and provide emergency relief. We hope this article was helpful to you - please do share with friends and family! May Allah enable us to maximise our rewards and draw closer to Him on blessed 'Ashura, amin!