We all know that Muharram is one of the sacred months, which Allah, the Sublime said about them in His Holy Book:
“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.” (At-Taubah 9:36).
The Arabs used to consider these months sacred during the time of Jahiliyyah, except for a group of them called Al-Basl, who held eight months of the year to be sacred as a way of exaggeration in religion. Muharram is an honorable month of the Islamic year, and it is called so (i.e. forbidden) because fighting was forbidden therein and Allah (SWT) forbade us from injustice in them as a kind honor to them, although injustice is extremely forbidden in all times. Therefore, we must adhere to the commandments of Allah (SWT) and His Messenger (PBUH) and not commit sins in this month, due to its sanctity and sacredness.
The specific mention of these months does not deny or reject the sanctity of the remaining months, days, and nights. The month of Ramadan is undeniably a sacred and sanctified month in the Islamic year. The day of Arafah has its own honor and nobility. Lailat-ul-Qadar (the Night of Decree or Power) admittedly has its special merits and virtues. But these four months were particularly labeled as sanctified just for one reason their sanctity and holiness were confirmed even by the polytheists of Makkah in pre-Islamic period.
It is Allah’s Month
The Prophet (PBUH) called this month ‘the month of Allah’. In fact, referring and attributing it to Allah (SWT) indicates its honor and merits. The sanctity of this month and attributing it to Allah implies that it has been declared sacred by the Will of Allah Himself and no one could make any changes to its sanctity and sacredness or replace it with another month as the pagans of pre-Islamic days of ignorance were used to do.
The Prophet (PBUH) said:
“Allah’s month Al-Muharram.” (Muslim 1163).
The attribution of Muharram to Allah is to express its nobility, virtuousness, and significance.
Fasting During This Month
One of the merits of this month is the fasting of this month. This is based on the following narration of the beloved Prophet (PBUH):
“The most virtuous fasting after the month of Ramadan is Allah’s month Al-Muharram.” (Muslim 1163).
This Hadith clearly declares that this month is the best month for observing the voluntary fast after Ramadan. Because it is Allah’s month.
Quraish used to observe fast on the day of Ashura in the Pre-Islamic Ignorance Period, and Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) too, used to observe fast on that day. When he migrated to Al-Madinah, he observed fast on that day and ordered others to observe fast too. Later when the fasting of the month of Ramadan was prescribed, he gave up fasting on the day of Ashura, and became optional for one to observe fast on it or to leave fasting.
The History of Ashura
Pharaoh ruled the entire nation of Israel enslaved and subjugated them, afflicted them with the worst torment, slaughtering their newborn sons and keeping their females alive. The reason why this tyrant king committed these criminal acts was the fear of the truth coming out from the offspring of this nation. They used to know, according to the glad tidings that came to them from the Prophet Ibrahim (AS). Ibrahim (AS) informed them that someone from his lineage would destroy this tyrant king and his kingdom. This news was famous among them, and pharaoh was informed of this news too. The tyrant king commanded his hosts to slaughter every newborn male child in this nation; in order to protect himself from due destruction.
In spite of such precautions, they did not change what Allah wanted. Musa (AS) was raised in this tyrant king’s home and Allah (SWT) chose for the Prophet Musa (AS) to be born safely under the guardianship and protection of Allah (SWT) until he became mature.
Musa (AS) was chosen as a Prophet by Allah and sent to this brutal king. Allah blessed him with many miracles as signs of Prophethood but the pharaoh behaved arrogantly and was stubborn. He claimed that these signs are no more than magic. He rejected his doctrine and decided to use different types of plans. Such as fear, force, and retaliation to overcome Musa (AS) and his followers. Pharaoh gathered his hosts, which were huge in numbers and well-equipped. They pursued Musa (AS) and his followers, hoping to destroy them completely. Musa (AS) and his followers ended up at the sea with the brutal king and his hosts behind them. Musa (AS) struck the sea with his staff and it opened up for them to cross.
Musa (AS) and all those who believed and were with him walked across the open paths in the sea. And Allah (SWT) drowned the brutal king and his army in the sea and destroyed them completely.
Fasting On the Day of Ashura
Although the entire month of Muharram is a holy and sanctified month, yet, the 10th day of this month is called Ashura and it is the most blessed among all its days. Narrated Ibn Abbas:
“The Prophet (PBUH) came to Al-Madinah and saw the Jews observing fast on the day of Ashura. He asked them about that. They replied, “This is a good day, the day on which Allah rescued Bani Israel from their enemy. So, Musa (AS) observed fast on this day.” The Prophet (PBUH) said, “We have more claim over Musa than you.” So, the Prophet (PBUH) observed fast on that day and ordered (the Muslims) to observe fast (on that day). (Al-Bukhari 2004).
The Prophet (PBUH) also said:
“Fasting the Day of Ashura, I ask Allah that it may expiate for (the sins of) the year that comes before it.” (Muslim 1162).
To summarize, there are many authentic Ahadith, which describe that fasting on the day of Ashura is the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet (PBUH), and fasting makes a Muslim entitled to receive great rewards both in this temporal world and on the Day of Resurrection.
The Right Opinion about Fasting Ashura
The observance of two saum (fast) on this occasion is a Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH). These two fasts can either be observed on the 9th and 10th or the 10th and 11th of Allah’s month. Some people think that:
“If I live until next year, I will certainly fast on the ninth day.” (Muslim 1134).
This means that he would have observed fast on the 9th of Muharram only. But this opinion and interpretation do not agree with other Ahadith. In order to oppose the Jews, the Prophet (PBUH) resolved to observe one more fast with that of the 10th of Muharram and ordained it for the Muslims.
Sheikh Al-Islam, Imam Ibn Taymiyyah (RA) said:
“The most authentic opinion is that it is desirable for anyone who fasts the day of Ashura to fast it along with the 9th day because it is the last status of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH). He said: “If I live until next year, I will certainly fast on the ninth day.” This had been stated in detail in some Ahadith and it is legislated by Allah’s Messenger (PBUH).” (Majmu Al-Fatawa: 25/312).
In short, one can fast Ashura a day before it or after it to oppose the Jews, or fast the 9th with the 10th (it is the most authentic opinion and this is what is mentioned in the majority of narrations), or fast the 10th day (Ashura) alone.
Misconceptions and Baseless Rituals
There are many misconceptions and baseless rituals with regard to this day (Ashura), which specifically took place in our society. These misconceptions do not have any authentic support in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH), which are the basic sources of the religion. The following are some of them:
- It is the day on which Adam (AS) was created. This misconception contradicts with the narration of the Prophet (PBUH), which is reported in the books of Ahadith. The Prophet (PBUH) said: “The best day that the sun has risen upon is Friday. On it Adam was created.” (At-Tirmidhi 491).
- It is the day when Ibrahim (AS) was born.
- It is the day on which Allah (SWT) accepted the repentance of Adam (AS).
- Whoever takes a bath on this day will never get sick.
- It is the day when Qiyamah (The Day of Resurrection) will take place. This misconception is also clearly contradicted with the following statement of the Prophet (PBUH): “And the Hour will not be established except on Friday.” (At-Tirmidhi 488).
All the above-mentioned whims are totally baseless misconceptions and traditions referring to the religion of Allah, and they are worthless and have no credit.
Mourning on This Day
A wrong practice related to this occasion is that a large number of people hold mourning ceremonies and gatherings in the memory of martyrdom of Sayyidna Husain (RA). The incident of Karbala is one of the most tragic and darkest events of Islamic history, but Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) prohibited us from such ceremonies and gatherings on the death of anybody. The polytheists of pre-Islamic days of ignorance used to mourn in such way over their deceased ones, by slapping their cheeks, beating their chests, and tearing their clothes. The Prophet (PBUH) has strictly forbidden Muslims from behaving in such a way and exhorted them to be patient. The Prophet (PBUH) said:
“He who slaps (his) cheeks, tears (his) clothes and calls with the calls of Jahiliyyah is not one of us.” (Al-Bukhari 1294).
It is natural to feel sad upon the death of a loved one and sometimes tears roll on cheeks with grief. It is but natural, and faith does not hinder the flow of sentiments. Sometimes some people exceed the limits and go beyond that, they cry, tear off their clothes; rip out their hair, and do many other things to show their grief. It is unlawful to behave this way.
Such kind of mourning is condemned even by the blessed person for the memory of whom such mourning gatherings are held on this day. Muslims should keep away from such practice and stick to the true and holy teaching.