Meaning of Ashura

What is the judgement about fasting on the Day of Ashura? How many days should we fast? Are there any prayers or ibadah to be done particularly on the tenth of Muharram?

Our prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) recommends fasting on the ninth and tenth of Muharram, which are the Days of Ashura. There is no other worship specific to the month of Muharram. Usual worships are continued in this month, such as nafilah -additional-  salat, Monday and Thursday fastings that are sunnah and praying…

The hadiths related to fasting on the Day of Ashura are as follows:

Narrated Aisha (r.a.):
“Quraish used to fast on the day of ‘Ashura’ in the Pre-lslamic period, and Allah’s Apostle too, used to fast on that day. When he came to Medina, he fasted on that day and ordered others to fast, too. Later when the fasting of the month of Ramadan was prescribed, he gave up fasting on the day of ‘Ashura’ and it became optional for one to fast on it or not. ” (Bukhari, Sawm 1, 68, Muslim, Siyam 113 (1125); Tirmidhi, Sawm, 49; Abu Davud, Sawm, 64; Muwatta, Siyam, 33)

Narrated Ibn ‘Umar:
Fasting was observed on the day of ‘Ashura’ (i.e. 10th of Muharram) by the people of the Prelslamic Period. But when (the order of compulsory fasting) in the month of Ramadan was revealed, the Prophet said, “It is up to one to fast on it (i.e. day of ‘Ashura’) or not.”

Narrated Ibn Abbas:
“When the Prophet arrived at Medina he found that the Jews observed fast on the day of ‘Ashura’.They were asked the reason for the fast. They replied, “This is the day when Allah caused Moses and the children of Israel to have victory over Pharaoh, so we fast on this day as a sign of glorifying it.” Allah’s Apostle said, “We are closer to Moses than you.” Then he ordered that fasting on this day should be observed.”

In two of the verses above, it is mentioned that Allah’s Apostle used to fast when He was in Mecca, too. However, the third one relates fasting started in Medina. This does not require a contradiction. Arabs may have been fasting as a tradition left from Abraham’s (a.s.) religion and Jews may have learned it from Moses (a.s.). The question may have been asked to learn the reason why Jews were fasting.

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Date: Dec 20, 2010