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What is Ashura: Significance and Fasting on the Day of Ashura for Sunni Muslims

In the tapestry of Islamic history, certain moments stand out as profound and sacred, woven into the very fabric of the Muslim faith. One such significant occasion is Ashura, a day of great importance and reverence for Muslims around the world. As the first month of the Islamic calendar, Muharram heralds the arrival of Ashura, a day laden with historical and spiritual significance. But what is Ashura, exactly?

Well, Ashura, the 10th day of Muharram, holds deep-rooted meaning for the Muslim community for a number of reasons. This auspicious day is observed by all Muslims, though the ways in which it is commemorated may differ. Ashura’s significance stretches across the annals of history and is intertwined with tales of faith, sacrifice, and divine mercy.

As a matter of fact, did you know that over 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide observe Ashura in their unique ways? Whether it’s through prayer, fasting, or engaging in acts of charity, this day brings Muslims from all walks of life together in a collective expression of devotion and remembrance.

In this blog article, we delve into the essence of Ashura, its historical background, and its observance in the contemporary world. Join us as we explore the sacredness of this day and understand why it holds a special place in the hearts of millions, inspiring them to draw closer to their faith and seek the blessings of the Almighty.

Understanding Ashura

History of Ashura

Ashura, derived from the Arabic word “ashr,” meaning ten, is observed on the 10th day of Muharram, the start month of the Islamic lunar calendar, as we briefly mentioned earlier. This significant day carries historical significance dating back to the early days of Islam and even predates the advent of the Islamic faith.

One of the most notable events associated with Ashura is the story of Prophet Musa (Moses) and the Israelites. It is believed that on this day, Musa and his followers were delivered from the tyranny of Pharaoh as they crossed the Red Sea miraculously. Muslims commemorate this divine intervention and express gratitude for the liberation of their fellow monotheists.

For Muslims, Ashura also marks a solemn occasion as it recalls the martyrdom of Imam Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. Imam Hussein’s tragic death occurred in the Battle of Karbala in 680 CE, a significant event in Islamic history that ultimately led to the split between Sunni and Shia sects. The martyrdom of Imam Hussein is remembered with deep sorrow and reverence, particularly by the Shia Muslim community, who hold elaborate processions and ceremonies to honor his sacrifice.

Importance of Ashura in the Islamic Calendar

The Islamic calendar, also called as the Hijri calendar, follows a lunar system, making each month and day of immense spiritual significance. Ashura stands out as one of the most prominent days in this calendar, holding both commemorative and reflective elements.

Muslims view Ashura as a day of spiritual cleansing, forgiveness, and a chance for redemption. Fasting on the Day of Ashura is believed to expiate sins and pave the way for a fresh start in the upcoming year. The essence of Ashura lies in the opportunity it presents for Muslims to renew their commitment to their faith and seek Allah’s mercy and guidance.

The Connection Between Ashura and the Month of Muharram

Muharram is the month that sets the tone for the Islamic lunar year. It is considered a sacred month, where Muslims are encouraged to increase their devotion, perform good deeds, and avoid wrongdoing. The significance of Muharram is heightened with the arrival of Ashura, the 10th day, which holds various historical and spiritual dimensions.

Beyond the commemoration of events like the parting of the Red Sea and the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, Muharram, and Ashura are moments of reflection and introspection for Muslims. They ponder upon the lessons of sacrifice, faith, and steadfastness exemplified by the prophets and revered figures in Islamic history.

The Day of Ashura

What is the Day of Ashura

Now it’s time to answer the question, “What is the Day of Ashura this year?” Well,in the year 2023, the Day of Ashura, also known as Yawm Ashura, will fall on the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic lunar calendar and the 27th of July, according to the Gregorian calendar. As per the Hijri calendar, this day is designated as the 10th of Muharram, 1445 Hijri. The Islamic lunar calendar follows a 354 or 355-day year, making the timing of Islamic months and their corresponding dates in the Gregorian calendar vary each year. For Sunni Muslims, Ashura in 2023 is a day of utmost significance, prompting spiritual observances and acts of devotion.

Cultural and Religious Significance of the Day of Ashura

Muslims worldwide mark the holy Day of Ashura with fasting, prayers, and commemorative events to honor the historical significance and spiritual virtues of this sacred occasion. As discussed earlier, it holds dual importance – commemorating historical events like the deliverance of Prophet Musa and his followers and the martyrdom of Imam Hussein.

For Sunni Muslims, Ashura is a day of fasting, self-reflection, and heightened devotion. It is believed that fasting on this day expiates sins, akin to fasting on the Day of Arafah during Hajj. Additionally, Prophet Muhammad is said to have observed Fasting on the Day of Ashura as a way to differentiate Muslims from the Jewish community who also observed it.

In some regions, Ashura is also a day of community service, where Muslims come together to participate in charitable activities, providing food and aid to the less fortunate. Mosques and Islamic centers organize lectures and events to educate the community about the historical importance and spiritual aspects of Ashura.

Regardless of the differences in how it is observed, Ashura remains a day of unity and shared devotion for Muslims worldwide. It serves as a reminder of the universal values of sacrifice, compassion, and resilience that hold deep meaning for followers of Islam.

The Significance of Fasting on Ashura

Importance of Fasting on Ashura According to Sunni Muslims

For Sunni Muslims, fasting on the Day of Ashura holds immense significance and is considered a highly recommended act of devotion. The tradition of fasting on this day traces back to the practices of the Prophet Muhammad, who observed the fast as a way to distinguish Muslims from the Jewish community, who also observed Ashura but for different historical reasons.

Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said, “Fasting in the Day of Ashura, I hope, will expiate for the sins of the previous year.” (Sahih Muslim) This narration emphasizes the belief that fasting on Ashura has the power to atone for sins committed in the past year, provided the fast is observed with sincere intention and devotion.

Religious and Spiritual Benefits of Observing the Fast

The act of fasting on Ashura goes beyond seeking forgiveness for past sins; it offers numerous religious and spiritual benefits that enrich the lives of those who observe it:

1.   Drawing Closer to Allah: Fasting on Ashura is a way to express devotion and draw closer to Allah. The act of abstaining from food and drink symbolizes self-discipline and reliance on Allah’s mercy and sustenance.

2.   Reflection and Repentance: The fast of Ashura provides an opportunity for self-reflection and repentance. It allows Muslims to introspect and identify areas of improvement in their lives while seeking Allah’s forgiveness for any wrongdoings.

3.   Enhanced Empathy and Charity: Experiencing hunger and thirst during the fast fosters’ empathy for those less fortunate and serves as a reminder of the blessings one possesses. This awareness often inspires Muslims to engage in acts of charity and kindness towards others.

4.   Strengthening Willpower: Fasting on Ashura requires patience and willpower to resist temptation. This practice helps individuals develop self-control and discipline, which can be applied to other aspects of life beyond the fasting period.

5.   Following Prophetic Tradition: Observing the fast on Ashura aligns with the Sunnah (the teachings and practices) of Prophet Muhammad. By emulating the Prophet’s actions, Muslims aim to attain spiritual closeness to him and strive to follow his example.

6.   Gratitude and Contentment: Through fasting, Muslims learn to appreciate the blessings they have and cultivate a sense of contentment with what Allah has provided. This sense of gratitude leads to a more positive outlook on life.

7.   Renewed Faith and Commitment: Fasting on Ashura serves as a reminder of the importance of faith and commitment to one’s religious beliefs. It rekindles the flame of faith in the hearts of believers and strengthens their connection with Allah.

Virtues of the 10th Muharram

Islamic Teachings and Hadiths Regarding the Virtues of the 10th of Muharram

The 10th day of Muharram, also known as the Day of Ashura, holds several virtues according to Islamic teachings and hadiths (sayings of Prophet Muhammad). As Muslims, we believe that observing this day with devotion and reverence brings about abundant blessings and rewards from Allah.

Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said, “Fasting the Day of Ashura, I hope, will expiate for the sins of the previous year.” (Sahih Muslim) This hadith highlights the significance of fasting on Ashura and the potential for forgiveness and cleansing of one’s past transgressions.

Another hadith mentions that the Prophet observed fasting on Ashura and also advised his followers to fast on either the day before or after Ashura, known as the 9th and 11th of Muharram. This practice of fasting on three consecutive days is believed to distinguish Muslims from the Jewish community, who only fast on the 10th of Muharram.

Special Rewards and Blessings Associated with this Day

Muslims believe that Allah bestows special rewards and blessings on those who observe the 10th of Muharram with piety and devotion. While the ultimate prize lies in seeking Allah’s pleasure and forgiveness, there are additional blessings associated with this sacred day:

1.   Forgiveness of Sins: Fasting on Ashura is believed to expiate sins and grant forgiveness for the previous year, as mentioned in the hadith. This act of worship symbolizes sincere repentance and devotion to Allah.

2.   Increased Spirituality: Observing the 10th of Muharram with fasting and acts of worship leads to increased spirituality and a stronger connection with Allah. Muslims feel a sense of tranquility and closeness to the Divine during this blessed day.

3.   Protection from Misfortune: It is believed that those who observe Ashura with sincerity are granted protection from misfortunes and calamities by Allah. This protection serves as a shield against trials and hardships.

4.   Answered Prayers: Muslims often seize this opportunity to make fervent supplications (duas) to Allah on Ashura. It is believed that sincere prayers made on this day have a higher chance of being accepted by Allah.

The Historical Events and Context Behind These Virtues

The virtues of the 10th of Muharram are intertwined with significant historical events, as mentioned earlier in the article.

  • Prophet Musa’s Deliverance: According to Islamic tradition, the Prophet Musa (Moses) and the Israelites were delivered from the tyranny of Pharaoh on the Day of Ashura. This event symbolizes the victory of truth over falsehood and serves as a source of inspiration for Muslims to seek liberation from oppression.
  • Imam Hussein’s Sacrifice: The martyrdom of Imam Hussein at Karbala on Ashura is a profound event in Islamic history. His unwavering stand for justice and righteousness against tyranny and oppression left an indelible mark on the Muslim community. Observing Ashura becomes a way for Muslims to commemorate the sacrifices made by Imam Hussein and his companions in upholding the principles of Islam.

Ashura 2023 and its Observance

Preparations and Anticipation for Ashura 2023

As the sacred day of Muharram is tomorrow, Muslims worldwide have already begun their preparations and anticipation for Ashura 2023. The arrival of this significant day evokes a sense of reverence and spiritual enthusiasm among believers, who eagerly anticipate the opportunity to partake in its observance.

Leading up to Ashura, Muslims engage in various preparatory activities. Families come together to plan special meals for breaking the fast, ensuring that the day is observed with a spirit of communal harmony. Devout individuals embark on a period of increased devotion and reflection during the preceding days, deepening their connection with Allah and seeking His guidance and blessings.

How Muslims Around the World Plan to Celebrate and Observe the Day

The observance of Ashura varies among Muslims, with diverse cultural and regional practices shaping its celebration. Sunni Muslims predominantly focus on fasting and engaging in acts of worship, as well as reflecting on the virtues of the day.

Regardless of their sect, many Muslims also use Ashura as a day of charity and compassion. They extend a helping hand to the less fortunate by providing food, clothing, and assistance to those in need. This act of selflessness aligns with the core values of Islam, emphasizing the importance of generosity and caring for others.

Online Resources and Classes Available on the Website to Enhance the Understanding of Ashura

Now hopefully, you have a clear idea of Ashura: What is it, when is it, and how is it celebrated. As the significance of Ashura expands beyond its cultural and historical context, seeking knowledge about this sacred day becomes crucial for every Muslim. For those eager to gain a deeper understanding of Ashura and its observance, our website offers a range of interactive online classes that cater to diverse interests and age groups.

1.   Ashura in Islamic History: A comprehensive class that delves into the historical events associated with Ashura, examining the significance of Prophet Musa’s deliverance and the martyrdom of Imam Hussein.

2.   Fasting and Worship on Ashura: An in-depth class exploring the importance of fasting on this day, its spiritual rewards, and other acts of worship to engage in.

3.   Ashura Across Cultures: Discover the diverse ways in which Muslims worldwide observe Ashura, exploring cultural practices and regional significance.

4.   The Spirit of Compassion and Charity: An inspiring class that highlights the spirit of giving and charity on Ashura, encouraging Muslims to make a positive impact in their communities.

By further reading our other articles, learners can enhance their knowledge and appreciation of Ashura & Islam, thereby fostering a stronger connection with their faith and its rich historical heritage. As Ashura 2023 is upon us, let us all embark on this journey of spiritual growth and remembrance. Whether through fasting, prayers, acts of charity, or joining our online classes, may this sacred day become a means of seeking Allah’s blessings, forgiveness, and guidance in our lives. Together, let us commemorate Ashura with reverence and unity, embodying the timeless values it represents for Muslims across the globe.

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