Fasting the Day of Ashura

Fasting the Day of Ashura

Fasting the Day of Ashura is a revered practice among Muslims worldwide. This day, observed on the 10th of Muharram, holds deep religious significance, rooted in both historical events and spiritual teachings.

The Day of Ashura is a sacred day in Islam, marking significant events in Islamic history. Certain days in the year hold more virtue than others, and one such day is the 10th of Muharram, known as the Day of Ashura, in the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The term “Ashura” comes from the Arabic word “Ashara,” meaning ten, indicating the tenth day.

The Prophet (PBUH) said: “We are closer to Musa than you are,” and advised Muslims to fast ‘Ashura’ either for three days (ninth, tenth, and eleventh); two days (ninth and tenth); or just the day of Ashura itself. In Islam, Ashura is a solemn occasion, as it marks the martyrdom of Imam Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, along with his family members and companions, in the Battle of Karbala in 680 CE.

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Muharram : Sacred Month of Allah

Muharram is one of the ‘Asyhurul Hurum’, the four sacred months of Allah SWT. In this blessed month, Muslims are encouraged to intensify their acts of devotion and righteousness. This includes giving more to charity, engaging in extra voluntary prayers, and increasing the recitation of the Quran. Among the notable practices of Muharram is the fast prescribed by Rasulullah s.a.w, known as the fast of Ashura.

The day of Ashura in Islamic history

According to a narration reported by Aishah (r.a), the wife of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w), fasting on the 10th day of Muharram was a pre-Islamic tradition among the Quraish and the people of Makkah. Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) continued this practice after receiving the revelation, recognizing its significance. However, upon migrating to Madinah, he observed that a group of ‘the People of the Book’ (likely Jewish communities) were also fasting on the same day.

Prophet Muhammed (S.A.W) inquired about their reason for fasting on that day, to which they responded:

هذا يَوْمٌ عَظِيمٌ، وهو يَوْمٌ نَجَّى اللَّهُ فيه مُوسَى، وأَغْرَقَ آلَ فِرْعَوْنَ، فَصَامَ مُوسَى شُكْرًا لِلَّهِ‏
“This is a blessed day. On this day, Allah saved Prophet Musa (Moses) and drowned the people of Pharaoh. So, Prophet Musa (a.s) fasted on this day to give thanks to Allah.”
(Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Upon hearing this explanation, Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) acknowledged the significance of the day and urged his companions to continue fasting on Ashura. This practice signifies the unity of faith across different prophetic traditions, as Muslims believe in all the prophets of Allah (a.s) and their teachings.

This historical event underscores the deep spiritual and historical connections between Islam and earlier monotheistic traditions, emphasizing gratitude and remembrance of Allah’s mercy and deliverance throughout history.

Certainly! Here’s an expanded section on the virtues of fasting on the day of Ashura, incorporating the provided Hadiths and details:

Virtues of Fasting on the Day of Ashura

In a Hadith narrated by Imam Muslim, Prophet Muhammad s.a.w declared:

أَفْضَلُ الصِّيامِ، بَعْدَ رَمَضانَ، شَهْرُ اللهِ المُحَرَّمُ
“The best of fasts after the month of Ramadan is in the Month of Allah, which you call Muharram.”
(Sahih Muslim)

The 10th day of Muharram, known as Ashura, holds immense significance in Islam. One of its greatest merits is that fasting on this day expiates the sins of the previous year. This profound benefit is emphasized in a Hadith also narrated by Imam Muslim, where Prophet Muhammad s.a.w supplicated to Allah:

صِيامُ يومِ عاشُوراءَ، إِنِّي أحْتَسِبُ على اللهِ أنْ يُكَفِّرَ السنَةَ التِي قَبْلَهُ
“Fasting on the Day of Ashura, I hope will expiate the sins of the previous year.”
(Sahih Muslim)

Moreover, Ibn Abbas r.a reported that Prophet Muhammad s.a.w prioritized fasting on the day of Ashura over other days, except for the days of Ramadan. He stated:

ما رَأَيْتُ النبيَّ صَلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّمَ يَتَحَرَّى صِيَامَ يَومٍ فَضَّلَهُ علَى غيرِهِ إلَّا هذا اليَومَ؛ يَومَ عَاشُورَاءَ، وهذا الشَّهْرَ. يَعْنِي شَهْرَ رَمَضَانَ
“I have never seen Rasulullah s.a.w so eager to fast like he is for Ashura and prioritizing it, besides Ramadan.”
(Sahih Al-Bukhari)

It’s important to note that fasting on the day of Ashura is a voluntary act (sunnah) and not obligatory (wajib), as Prophet Muhammad s.a.w clarified:

مَنْ شَاءَ صَامَهُ، وَمَنْ شَاءَ لَمْ يَصُمْهُ
“Fast if you wish and those who do not, are not obliged to do so.”
(Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Certainly! Here’s an expanded section on when Muslims should fast for Ashura, including details on recommended practices and optional fasts:

When Should We Fast for Ashura?

The fast of Ashura is observed on the 10th day of Muharram, a practice stemming from the traditions of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. Beyond fasting on Ashura itself, it is highly encouraged for Muslims to extend their fasting to include the day before and the day after Ashura, i.e., the 9th and 11th of Muharram. This recommendation is supported by a Hadith where Prophet Muhammad s.a.w advised:

صُومُوا قَبْلَهُ يَوْمًا، أَوْ بَعْدَهُ يَوْمًا
“Fast on the day before and the day after Ashura.”
(Musnad Ahmad)

Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim further elaborated on different levels of fasting during Ashura:

  1. Fasting for 3 consecutive days: This includes fasting on the 9th, 10th, and 11th of Muharram. It is considered the most complete form of fasting during Ashura.
  2. Fasting on 9th and 10th Muharram: This level involves fasting on the day before and on Ashura itself.
  3. Fast on 10th and 11th Muharram: This level involves fasting on the day before and on Ashura itself.

It’s important to note that fasting on Ashura, including the additional days, is a voluntary act (sunnah) and not obligatory (wajib). Muslims have the flexibility to choose the level of fasting that suits them best, based on their circumstances and capabilities.

Apart from Ashura, Muslims are encouraged to look forward to other days of fasting, such as the “white days” (ayyam al-beed), which occur on the 13th, 14th, and 15th of every Hijri month. These days hold special significance for their association with lunar brightness and are opportune times for increasing acts of worship.

Read more: Day of Ashura

Ashura Falls in Allah’s (SWT) Sacred Month

It’s fascinating how Ashura is embedded within the sacred framework of Allah’s (SWT) designated months. According to the Holy Quran, Allah has ordained twelve months in a year, out of which four are sacred. These sacred months, including Muharram, hold special significance in Islamic tradition as a time for reflection, devotion, and adherence to righteous deeds.

Abu Bakr (RA) elaborates on the sanctity of these months, highlighting their return to the original order set by Allah during the creation of the heavens and the earth. He emphasizes that these months—Dhul-Qa‘dah, Dhul-Hijjah, Al-Muharram, and Rajab of Mudar—are consecrated periods when acts of worship and piety earn particular merit.

Ibn Katheer (RA) provides further insight into the divine selection of these sacred months, explaining that Allah has chosen certain elements of creation for their special status. Just as Ramadan is chosen for fasting and spiritual growth, and mosques are chosen for prayer, those who seek wisdom and understanding should revere and honor the sacred months, including Muharram.

Prophetic Events on Ashura

1-The Battle of Karbala

The most significant event that occurred in the month of Muharram was the Battle of Karbala, which took place in Iraq in Muharram 61 AH. A small army consisting of the family and companions of Imam Hussein (AS), the grandson of the Prophet (PBUH), fought against a much larger army sent by Yazid ibn Muawiyah, the Umayyad Caliph at that time. The battle took place because Imam Hussein (AS) refused to pledge allegiance to Yazid ibn Muawiyah, who was tyrannical and had taken it upon himself to assume the Muslim leadership after the death of his father.

On the 10th of Muharram, the Day of Ashura, the enemy camp brutally martyred Imam Hussein (AS).This is a very significant day in Islamic history as Imam Hussein (AS) and 72 other martyrs, mainly consisting of the male members of the family of the Prophet (PBUH), all nobly sacrificed their lives as a stand against oppression and to preserve Islam. Imam Hussein (AS) was extremely close to and precious to the Holy Prophet (PBUH).As a child, he would climb on the Prophet’s back freely during prayer, and the Prophet loved him dearly. The enemy brutally decapitated him during the Battle of Karbala, one of the most tragic events in Islamic history.

Imam Hussein’s significant position in Islam is highlighted in the following Hadith: “Al-Husain is from me and I am from Al-Husain. Whoever loves Al-Husain is loved by Allah”
(Musnad Ahmad).

2-The story of Musa

On the Day of Ashura in the time of Prophet Musa (AS), Allah saved the Prophet and Bani Israel from the tyrannical Pharaoh and his army. The Pharaoh was extremely violent and corrupt in his rule and spread blasphemy as he declared himself as God. The Prophet Musa (AS) refused to follow the Pharaoh and instead encouraged him to worship Allah. The Pharaoh would not accept that there was a power higher than himself, and in response sent a large army to destroy the Prophet and his followers.

On the Day of Ashura, Prophet Musa (AS) and his followers were being chased by the army but trusted Allah alone in protecting them. Prophet Musa (AS) made the following famous Dua which was later revealed in the Holy Quran: “Truly my Lord is with me, He will guide me through” (Quran 26:62). As a result of his patience and firm faith in Allah’s help, Allah parted the Red Sea so that Prophet Musa (AS) and his followers could pass to safety. As punishment, the Pharaoh and his army were then submerged in the sea.

The Quran narrates: “Then We inspired to Moses, ‘Strike with your staff the sea,’ and it parted, and each portion was like a great towering mountain. And We drew forward the others [i.e., the pursuers]. And We saved Moses 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”
(Quran 26:63-68).

3-Prophet Nuh

After enduring years of preaching and facing rejection, Prophet Noah witnessed the fulfillment of Allah’s promise to save the believers from the flood:

  • Settling of the Ark: On Ashura, tradition holds that Prophet Noah’s ark, carrying a remnant of humanity and pairs of animals, came to rest upon Mount Judi (Judi Mountains) in what is now Turkey. This marked the end of the cataclysmic flood sent as a punishment for humanity’s disobedience.
  • Divine Covenant: Following the flood, Allah SWT made a covenant with Prophet Noah and his descendants, promising never to destroy humanity in the same manner again and establishing the rainbow as a sign of this covenant.

4-Prophet Jonah (Yunus)

  • Swallowed by the Fish: After fleeing from his mission to the people of Nineveh out of frustration, Jonah boarded a ship that encountered a severe storm. Realizing his mistake, Jonah allowed the sailors to throw him overboard to calm the seas. He was then swallowed by a large fish as a form of punishment and reflection.
  • Release and Mission: In the belly of the fish, Jonah repented and sought Allah’s forgiveness. On Ashura, Allah commanded the fish to release Jonah onto dry land, whereupon he returned to his mission to call the people of Nineveh to repentance, illustrating Allah’s mercy and the potency of sincere repentance.

5-Prophet Adam

  • Repentance Accepted: After being expelled from Paradise along with Eve for eating from the forbidden tree, Prophet Adam sought forgiveness through sincere repentance. Believers hold that on Ashura, Allah SWT accepted his repentance, signifying divine mercy and offering redemption to all humanity.

6-Story of Prophet Yusuf

  • Thrown into the Well: Prophet Joseph’s story begins with his jealous brothers throwing him into a well and deceiving their father, Prophet Jacob, about his fate. This act of betrayal led to Prophet Joseph being sold into slavery in Egypt.
  • Rise to Power: Despite the trials and tribulations, including imprisonment and false accusations, Prophet Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams brought him to the attention of the Egyptian ruler. He eventually rose to a position of prominence and authority, illustrating Allah’s plan and divine intervention in guiding his chosen servants.

7-Story of Prophet Jesus (Isa)

  • Birth and Mission: While some traditions link significant milestones in Prophet Jesus’s life with Ashura, there is no universal agreement on the exact events of his birth and ascension to heaven on this day. Prophet Jesus, revered as a prophet and messenger, emphasized monotheism, compassion, and justice.

8-Prophet David (Dawud)

  • Sincere Repentance: Prophet David, known for his wisdom and piety, once erred in judgment. Upon realizing his mistake, he sought Allah’s forgiveness with deep repentance. Ashura commemorates the day when Prophet David repented and Allah SWT subsequently forgave him, emphasizing the importance of humility, repentance, and rectitude.

9-Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim)

  • Birth Celebrated: Islamic tradition celebrates Prophet Abraham’s birth on Ashura as a momentous occasion. He is revered as the patriarch of monotheism (tawhid) and embodies unwavering faith and submission to Allah’s will.

Benefits of Fasting During Ashura

Fasting during Ashura, the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar, holds significant spiritual and health benefits for Muslims worldwide. This article explores the virtues and rewards associated with fasting on this auspicious day.

Spiritual Rewards

Fasting on Ashura holds deep roots in Islamic tradition, with Hadith literature outlining numerous spiritual benefits. Believers hold the belief that fasting on this day expiates sins and earns immense rewards from Allah. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) emphasized the importance of fasting on Ashura as a means of seeking forgiveness and drawing closer to Allah.

Prophetic Tradition

The tradition of fasting on Ashura traces back to Prophet Muhammad (SAW), who observed this fast and encouraged his followers to do so. According to Hadith, fasting on Ashura is a means to differentiate oneself from the Jewish tradition of fasting on the same day, commemorating the exodus of Prophet Moses (AS) from Egypt.

Expiation of Sins

One of the significant benefits of fasting on Ashura is its potential to expiate minor sins.Believers hold that fasting on this day can wipe away sins committed in the past year, demonstrating Allah’s mercy and forgiveness towards His servants.

Health Benefits

Beyond its spiritual rewards, fasting during Ashura also offers health benefits. The intermittent fasting practiced from dawn until sunset helps regulate metabolism, improve insulin sensitivity, and promote detoxification. It encourages mindful eating practices and can contribute to overall physical well-being.

Strengthening Community Bonds

Fasting on Ashura is a communal practice among Muslims worldwide. It fosters a sense of unity and solidarity within the Muslim community as believers come together in worship and reflection. It provides an opportunity for communal prayers, charity, and acts of kindness towards others.

Renewal of Faith

For many Muslims, fasting on Ashura serves as a renewal of faith and commitment to Islamic principles. It reinforces the importance of self-discipline, patience, and gratitude towards Allah’s blessings. The spiritual cleanse experienced through fasting encourages believers to strengthen their relationship with Allah and seek spiritual growth.

Commemoration of Historical Events

The Day of Ashura is not only a day of fasting but also a time to reflect on significant events in Islamic history. It marks when Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his companions fasted in gratitude and obedience to Allah. It also commemorates the deliverance of Prophet Moses (AS) from the tyranny of Pharaoh.


Fasting during Ashura offers a multitude of benefits, both spiritual and physical, for Muslims who observe this sacred day. It exemplifies the principles of faith, self-discipline, and community solidarity within the Islamic tradition. By fasting on Ashura, believers seek spiritual rewards, health benefits, and uphold Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) teachings.

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