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Fatwas / Fasting / Fasting on the day of ‘Ashurah and what is incumbent upon a Muslim on that day ?

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Dear respected Shaykh, assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh. What are the virtues of fasting on the day of ‘Ashurah and what is incumbent upon a Muslim on that day?

صيام يوم عاشوراء وما يجب على المسلم فيه؟


Praise be to Allah, and may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah, his family and his companions.   Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.   As to what follows:   In response to your question, we say:     The virtues of  fasting on the day of ‘Ashurah and what is incumbent upon a Muslim on that day? The virtues of the month of Muharram are clear; there are specific virtues and virtues that are shared with other months. The specific virtues which distinguishes Muharram from other months is that Allah the Exalted attributed the month to Himself. An authentic hadith states that when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked about the best fasting after Ramadan he said, “fasting in Muharram the month of Allah” [Muslim 1163]. There is no other month which Allah attributed to himself except this month and this is a virtue which is specific to Muharram. This specific virtue necessitates a type of attention because what Allah attributed to Himself like months, times, and people, He did so to honor these things. Thus if a created thing is attributed to Allah then that denotes honor like Allah’s camel, the House of Allah and so on. Thus attribution is specific to the distinguished month of Muharram. As for the shared quality: it is that this month is from the months which  Allah said, concerning them, “of them four are Sacred, (i.e. the 1st, the 7th, the 11th and the 12th months of the Islamic calendar). That is the right religion, so wrong not yourselves therein” [at-Tawbah 9: 36]. One of the opinions of the scholars concerning the verse, “so wrong not yourselves therein” [at-Tawbah 9: 36] is that the pronoun denotes the sacred months. Injustice is forbidden at all times and in all places but there was a specific prohibition of injustice in these months because they are venerated months, and whatever Allah has venerated deserves to be honored and precautions must be taken with regards to it. Another distinction for this month is a practical distinction: Muharram is from the months wherein fasting is recommended, because when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked about the best fasting after Ramadan he said, “fasting in Allah’s month Muharram”.  It has not been transmitted that the Prophet (peace be upon him) fasted for a whole month besides Ramadan, however, he fasted for the major parts of some months and this what has been transmitted about the Prophet (peace be upon him) and shows the virtue of the months and the encouragement to fast in them. However, practically the most voluntary fasts of the Prophet (peace be upon him) were in Sha’ban. The most specific virtue that is in this month is fasting on the day of ‘Ashurah, because of what been narrated in an authentic hadith by Abu Qataadah that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked about fasting on the day of ‘Ashurah. He said, “I seek from Allah that fasting on the day of ‘Ashurah may atone for the sins of the preceding year.” [Muslim (1162)]. It has also been transmitted in the Sahihayn from the hadith of Ibn ‘Abbas that the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not fast in any day because of its virtues except this day, that is the day of ‘Ashurah. [al-Bukhari (2006) and Muslim (1132)]. Thus the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to seek the virtues of this day, that is the day of ‘Ashurah and not the other days. Thus this day is the most special day in terms of the preferability  of fasting. In the beginning it was compulsory to fast on this day, however, this compulsoriness was abrogated when fasting in the month of Ramadan was made incumbent, and fasting on the day of ‘Ashura after that became recommendable for the ummah. Thus fasting on this day is an issue that is agreed upon in terms of its being recommended and its virtues. Fasting on this day is the least level of fasting in the month of Muharram, whereby  a person fasts to get the specific virtue for this day. However, the Prophet (peace be upon him) recommended fasting a day before ‘Ashurah. When the companions came to him they said, “It is  a day which is revered by the Jews. Then the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “If I live to the following year, I will fast on the night of Muharram”. [Muslim (1134)] This hadith indicates that a Muslim should fast an extra day  because of the following benefits: Firstly: Carrying out what the Prophet (peace be upon him) intended to do Secondly: Being different from the Jews and others who revere this day, because being different from the Jews and Christians is from the principles of legislation, and this is considered in various issues, especially if it is possible, and in this type of worship a person cannot be prevented by anyone from fasting a day before the day of ‘Ashura. Thirdly: It is a realization of the virtues of fasting in Muharram, because fasting in Muharram is better than fasting voluntarily in the other months. Fourthly: It is fasting a day for the sake of Allah the Exalted, and as has been transmitted in an authentic hadith which states, “Every servant of Allah who observes fast for a day in the way of Allah, Allah would remove, because of this day, his face farther from the Fire (of Hell) to the extent of seventy years' distance.” [Muslim (1153)] Thus fasting ensures acquisition of the reward and virtue that are dependent upon fasting that day. As for fasting a day after ‘Ashurah; this has been narrated in a hadith in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad but there is a mistake in the isnad of the hadith. The hadith states, “Fast a day before and after the fast of ‘Ashurah” However, the established issue in which there is no doubt after its establishment  and no difference of opinion about is the virtues of fasting the day of ‘Ashurah and fasting an additional day before it and that is the night day of al-Muharram. Some scholars mentioned third stage, and they made it the first stage, and it is that a Muslim should a day before and after the fast of ‘Ashurah, as was mentioned by al-Hafiz ibn Hajar and al-Hafiz ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy upon them) but there is no clear proof for that. However, whoever wants to fast on the eleventh of Muharram because it completes the voluntary fasting of three days a month, because he like to fast many days in the month of Muharram, or because he is taking precautions in instances where there are disputes about sighting the crescent whether that was earlier or later, and then he fasts a day after ‘Ashura, then they will be flexibility in the matter if Allah wills. If a Muslim fasts only on ‘Ashura, his fasting is accepted, rewarded and it is not detestable. A number of scholars including Shaykh al-Islam and others have stated that it is not detested by fasting only on the day of ‘Ashurah. This year the day of ‘Ashura coincides with Saturday. Here we come to an important issue which is based on a weak hadith , and it is hadith which has transmitted by the four authors of the Sunan and Imam Ahmad that  “Do not fast on Saturday except for what has been made obligatory upon you (by Allah). If one of you does not find but a grape peal or  a tree should do break his fast with it” [at-Tirmithi (744)]. In another  narration it states “let him chew it.” [at-Tirmithi (744)]. However, there occurred confusion in the chain of narrators of this hadith, and its text is weak. Thus it contradicts the popular authentic hadiths which permit fasting on Saturdays if this is joined to fasting of the preceding day, rather these hadiths permit fasting on Saturday without fasting the day before or after it. The hadith apparently forbids fasting on Saturdays except for compulsory fasts, and no scholar holds this opinion, even those who hold that it is detestable  or prohibited to fast on Saturday; they say this if a Muslim fasts on Saturday only. However, if a person fasts on Saturday in addition to other days like fasting on Friday, then fasting on Saturday, or fasting in Saturday and Sunday; then these people are not included in what the hadith states. If the day of ‘Ashurah is on Saturday it is better to fast on Friday and Saturday.    

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