Fasting the Day of ‘Ashura’

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‘Ashura’ commemorates the day that Allah saved the Children of Israel from Pharaoh.

Fasting on Muharram 10, known as the Day of ‘Ashura’, expiates for the sins of the past year. When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) arrived in Madinah in 622 CE, he found that the Jews there fasted on Muharram 10 and asked them the reason for their fasting on this day. They said,” This is a blessed day. On this day Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemy (in Egypt) and so Prophet Musa [Moses] fasted on this day giving thanks to Allah.”

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,

“We are closer to Musa than you are.”

He fasted on that day and commanded Muslims to fast on this day. (Al-Bukhari) The following year, Allah commanded the Muslims to fast the month of Ramadan, and the fasting of ‘Ashura’ became optional. It is also reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) intended to fast on the ninth and tenth. Ibn ‘Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah fasted on the day of ‘Ashura’ and ordered the people to fast on it. The people said, “O Messenger of Allah, it is a day that the Jews and Christians honor.” The Prophet said, “When the following year comes, Allah willing, we shall fast on the ninth.” The death of the Prophet came before the following year. (Muslim and Abu Dawud) For more on ‘Ashura’ and Muharram, please read: The Significance of Fasting the Day of ‘Ashura’  Virtues of the Month of Muharram & Fasting during It

Thus, according to scholars, you may choose to fast ‘Ashura’ on three days (ninth, tenth, and eleventh); two days (ninth and tenth); or one day only (the tenth). The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Fasting the day of ‘Ashura’ (is of great merits), I hope that Allah will accept it as an expiation for (the sins committed in) the previous year.” (Muslim) But this expiation of minor sins comes only if you avoid major sins. It is a big mistake to rely on fasting a single day to “wipe your slate clean.” If you neglect your daily Prayers or the fast of Ramadan, or if you backbite, lie, commit adultery or other major sins, fasting on ‘Ashura’ alone will not atone for your sins.

The great scholar Ibn Al-Qayyim Al-Jawziyya (b. 691 AH/1292 CE) wrote: This misguided person does not know that fasting in Ramadan and praying five times a day are much more important than fasting on the Day of Arafah and the Day of ‘Ashura’, and that they expiate for the sins between one Ramadan and the next, or between one Friday and the next, so long as one avoids major sins. But they cannot expiate for minor sins unless one also avoids major sins; when the two things are put together, they have the strength to expiate for minor sins. Among those deceived people may be one who thinks that his good deeds are more than his sins, because he does not pay attention to his bad deeds or check on his sins, but if he does a good deed he remembers it and relies on it.

This is like the one who seeks Allah’s forgiveness with his tongue (that is, by words only), and glorifies Allah by saying “subhan Allah” one hundred times a day, then he backbites about the Muslims and slanders their honor, and speaks all day long about things that are not pleasing to Allah. This person is always thinking about the virtues of his saying “subhan Allah” and saying “la ilaha illa Allah” but he pays no attention to what has been reported concerning those who backbite, tell lies, and slander others, or commit other sins of the tongue. They are completely deceived. (Al-Mawsu’ah Al-Fiqhiyyah, part 31, Ghuroor) You may hear of some customs associated with ‘Ashura’ such as cooking and eating certain foods on that day, wearing kohl or henna, or even merrymaking. Others consider this a day of mourning and wailing in honor of the Prophet’s grandson Al-Husayn, who was killed in battle on that day. The scholar Ibn Taymiyah (b. 661 AH/1263 CE) stated that all of these are bid’ahs (reprehensible innovations) that should be avoided. Take advantage of this opportunity to bring yourself closer to Allah on ‘Ashura’ by fasting and praying for forgiveness.

AElfwine Mischler is a writer who frequently writes on historical Islamic topics.


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  1. Have been living and working in Middle East for nearly a decade now and can see that the bad blood between Shia and Sunni are getting worse day by day, got friends, colleagues at work and acquaintances in both sides, basically many Sunni may accept some things concerning Imam Hussein however they will never accept that some Shia they call him a prophet as they do in some places like Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Iran and Pakistan, also the permanent combination of prayers where the Shia do not pray the five compulsory prayers daily although, many of the well educated Sunni that I talked to, even Saudi Wahabis, they say that that is between the beliver and God…anyway, the fact is that in the meantime they continue killing each other which is ok for those that have set agendas for the domination of the Middle East resources, economies and social fabric

  2. I wonder why the writer does not mention the greatest tragedy that

    took place on Ashura?

    Hussein Ibn Ali(as), the beloved grandson of the holy Prophet

    Muhammad (saw) was mercilessly murdered along with his family and

    companions, including a6 month old baby. The women were chained and


    Prophet Muhammad(saw) loved Hussein immensely. For this important

    event to be ignored by a Muslim writer is strange if not surprising

    • Many events took place on Ashora in history or many events took place some other day as well . The writer is clearly placing a Hadith (quote of our Nabi saw) in which he recommended fasting based on the event of a previous Prophet Musa . As Muslims . We believe in Allah his Quran . We believe Muhammad was his last Prophet and we follow his practices . We don’t follow things that happened after his death . His guidance 1400 yrs ago guides us till today . His grandson was precious but Nabi didn’t mention or encouraged anything , not even his own grave to be mourned at or celebrated

  3. The Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “I am worthier of Moses than you are.”

    Thereupon, he fasted on that day and ordered (the Muslims) to fast.

    1. al-Sahih of al-Bukhari, Vol.3; Egypt ed.; p.54

    2. Mishkatul-Masabih; Delhi ed.; 1307 A.H.; p.l72

    It is noted by the commentator of Mishkatul-Masabih that “it was in

    the second year, because in the first year the Prophet had arrived

    at Medina after ‘Ashura, in Rabi’ul-awwal.”

    How much importance was this fast supposed to have may be judged

    from another tradition narrated in al-Sahih of al-Bukhari: “The

    Prophet (s.a.w.) ordered a man from the (tribe of) Aslam: Announce

    to the people that whoever has eaten should fast the rest of the

    day, and whoever has not eaten should fast (the whole day), because

    today is the ‘Ashura (10th day of Muharram).”

    That very year the fast of Ramadan was ordained and the obligation

    to fast on ‘Ashura was abrogated, as has been claimed in other

    traditions narrated in the same book. Still, reportedly, it carries

    much importance as a voluntary fast.

    Now let us look closely at these traditions:

    First: The Jews had their own calendar and months. There is no logic

    in saying that they fasted on the 10th of Muharram – unless it could

    be proved that this date always coincided with a Jewish day of fast.

    It was mentioned in my article, “Martyrdom of Imam Husayn and the

    Muslim and the Jewish Calendars” (Al-Serat, Vol. VI, No’s 3 & 4;

    Muharram 1401 Nov. 1980) that the first month of the Jews (Abib,

    later named Nisan) coincided with Rajab of the Arabs. W.O.E.

    Oesterley and Theodore H. Robinson have written that in Arabia “the

    most important of all the new-moon festivals was that which fell in

    the month of Rajab (sic), equivalent to the Hebrew month ‘Abib, for

    this was the time when the ancient Arabs celebrated the Spring

    festival.” (Hebrew Religion; S.P.C.K., London; 1955; p.128)

  4. I don’t think it is right for you to say that your slate can’t be cleaned from a single day.

    Where in the Quran does it say that? Many people fail to do their daily prayers

    because they may have been depressed or lost their connection to Allah but want to

    fast on this day to have a religious awakening and to feel like they can begin fresh

    and start becoming close to Allah again. By saying certain sins are not forgiven shuts

    out many people from trying to pursue Allah this day. Only Allah knows who He will

    forgive and it is said in the Quran he is all forgiving. Please choose your words wisely

    in the future because you could cause people to, having had fasted on ashura and

    thinking they can reconnect to Allah again since their sins are forgiven, to forever be

    in a perpetual cycle of sin.

  5. Ashura martyred grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions at

    Karbala to pass the time said:

    Hussein when my son found this place to witness the birth of his

    grandson, was disturbed by this and it was crying.

    We are sorry the day of martyrdom of the Prophet’s grandson to know

    them a happy day.

  6. I don’t understand how can people negate the Ahadeeth of Sahih Bukhari ? These people don’t even know how the Ahadeeth were collected and how hard Imam Bukhari strived to ensure the most accurate hadith are recorded. Imam Bukhari was so strong in collecting Ahaadeeth that he would sometimes classify and remove his own collected Ahaadeeth on mere doubt that it could be da’eef (weak hadith) on which his student Imam Muslim recorded in his books based on Imam Bukhari’s principle.

    The practice of fasting Ahsura was done when Prophet Muhammad (Sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa aalihi wasallam) migrated Madina long time before the incident of Imam Hussain (radhiAllaahu ‘anhu). This fasting is a voluntary fast, but Shirk (Associating partner with Allah) is so grave that will never be forgiven ! Quran is so clear on Shirk, yet we fail to understand ??

  7. I am agreeing with it but there is something in it that I would like to elaborate on and that is

    1) there are not three options fasting on the day of Ashura but TWO. Either you fast on Nineth and Tenth or Tenth and Eleventh Ashura . Because jews also fast on this day therefore in order to differentiate ourselves, we Muslims are being ordered to fast either one day before or one day after Ashura.

    2) yes beating one ownself is as much bad as one can say. BUT cooking something good on this day and bathing etc are , Suni Preacher says , very good.

  8. This hadith is not correct. Prophet Mohammad s.a.w.a. told to his sahaba in several occasion that this Ummah will slaughter Hussein.

    The tubah and repentant of Adam a.s. was accepted on Zihajeh, Prophet Yunnus a.s. was taken from the wahle stomach on Zighadeh, Noha’s ark came down on Jodi in 18 of Zihajeh and the sea was open for Prophet Mussa a.s. on Rabiol awal, May Allah s.w.t. forgive those who have respect for Imam Hussein a.s. and understand what he did in Karbala, sacrifice his family for the sake of Islam.

  9. May Allah give the whole Ummah taufiq to follow the footsteps of our beloved Rasulullah and his faithful companions who followed him to the minutest detail.Unfortunately we are so divided on trivial isuues by making them so important forgeting our maqsad and the responsibility which Allah has shouldered on thus guiding and inviting people to the right path and forbiding them from evil. The whole humanity have rights on us to show them the truth.But we have to be truthful and sincere to our Deen first before we invite others.As they say if your house is on fire you have to put it off first before you go to your neighbours house which is also on


  10. Asalam…

    Alhamdulilah. Since it was recommended by Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) fasting in this day of Ashura is Sunnah but not compulsory like Ramadan. May almighty Allah spare our life with good deeds and guide us to the right path. Ameen!

  11. Fasting is has a positive effect on the body.The beloved Prophet(saw) fasted every monday and thursday and most of his life.So from a health and spiritual point of view fasting is excellent so there nothing wroing if you fast on the 9th,10th,11th,12th of Muharram or whenever you want besides the eid days.Fasting has has blessings(barakah).Muslims want to quote this Shayk/Imaan when simple logic dictates that the more one fasts the better your health and spirituality.The beloved said dont make you stomach a container for diseases.

  12. This article is among many articles that shows whats wrong with the Ummah. That hadith

    is a bani Ummayad hadith that was fabricated to cover up the true significance of Ashura.

    Ashura is ONLY for Seyenda Hussein and no one else. Who cares about the Jews where our

    own kind killed grandson of our holy prophet.

    Oh Ummah of Muhammad (sa). The time is running out. Do you want to continue reading

    such nonesense or accept the truth. That our holy prophet prophceisze killing of his

    favorite grandson at hands of very those that kissed his hands.

    Oh Hussain, we salute you! Labik Ya Hussein!

  13. Asa,

    As mentioned in your article fasting was recommended by prophet Muhammad(PBUH)to please Allah, it was started by Prophet Musa (AS).If you believe that this Hadith is true and if you are

    a true follower of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH ) everyone should fast if possible and he should not be seen as taking sides.

    May Allah guide us to the right path and prevent division in Islam.

  14. We should fast on this day since the Prophet (peace be upon him) told the Muslims to fast and NOT base this or mix this with other events, historical or otherwise.

  15. what i read fasting on 10th Muharram, Rasul(saws) used to fast on 10th. but when Rasul(saws) came to know that jews also fast on this day..then to distinguish from jews he(saws) said if i live… next year i will fast 9th and 10th. so it is sunnah to fast 9th and 10th or 10th and 11th.

    i also read 10th muharram was obligatory before but when ramadhan fasting became obligatory then fasting on 10th Muharram was made optional.

    As Muharram is among one of the sacred months(three other sacred months are dilqaddha, dilhajj and rajjab) and after reading about past on fasting this in my view…it is very encouraging to fast on 10th Muharram and also to fast most of the days of this sacred month.

  16. Assalamualaikum,

    Sister Zainab,

    Please correct me if I am historically wrong here. Didn’t Sayyidina Hussein died after the passing away of our beloved Prophet Muhammad

    ( s.a.w ) ? I could be wrong Sister, but that was what I understood from the pages of history.

    And didn’t the Prophet ( s.a.w ) used to fast on Ashura and commanded Muslims to do so until the command from Allah that Muslims fast in Ramadhan, the Command that abrogated the Ashura fasting ? However the Ramadhan fasting is compulsory while the Ashura fast is optional.

    Listen Sister, nobody not even Sunnis deny history and the incident at Karbala. In fact I have no slightest doubt on the villian in that incident. And Sunnis, most of them I would say love Hussein ( r.a.). Then why keep on pointing accusations at us as though we, the Sunnis distorted history ?

    I had the wonderful experience of performing the umra at Makkah and in my line at one prayer, I had Syiahs beside me, all praying to ALLAH. Then we recite the same verses of the Quran. We drank the wondeful and delicious zam zam water. We put on the same attire, the simple white cloth. There was no faces of Sunnis or Syiahs then, only Muslims. We ask for ALLAH Mercy and Compassion all the same.

    Therefore rather than being engrossed with this differences among us, let us unite and face our real foe in today’s world. The same foe that the Syiahs are also facing now. On our differences and disagreements, let ALLAH be the sole and final Supreme JUDGE of it.

    May ALLAH Bless you and your family and all the Muslims and Muslimah always.

  17. the prophet did not fast on the day of ashura becuase that is the day his grandson, imam hussein died. Why would he fast on a sad and horrible day?? People fast to thank ALLah for a given sitution. But the fact that imam hussein (as) died should not be day to fast. it should be a day to mourn him and the people that died with him. Propher mohamad said, “I am from hussein and Hussein is from me.” How can you fast on this day when Yazid and his followers(may allah curse them all) were happy that they killed the Prophet’s grandson???

    • We will fast cause it’s the sunnah ! For Muslims , it’s Allah and then to follow his messenger Muhammad (saw) . There is no one to be mourned in Islam for more than 3 days . Any extension of the deen besides what Quran and Nabi has taught is simply not Islam . May be another religion

  18. Assalamualaikum,


    Brother Ali, I’ll call you a Brother even though I believe that you are a Syiah but nevertheless we are all Muslims aren’t we not ?

    You asked in your post ” which side do you stand on when you fast on this day “.

    My reply and all right thinking Muslims replies are this ” On no side Brother Ali. On no individual human side . But for the love of ALLAH, that’s the reason why we should fast ! For that reason alone.

    I don’t fast for Hussein ( r.a ) even though I love him as he was the much loved grandson of the Prophet ( s.a.w ). Of course I’ll never think good of Yazid, he’s a murderous tyrant. I detest the way Muawiyah got his caliphate. I disagree with the war and the incident at Karbala.


    It is shirk to attribute fasting to any individual. I trace my love for Hussein ( r.a.) and I pray for him and Sayidina Hassan and even Ali ( Karamullah waj ha or r.a – whichever you want to address ) and the entire family of the Prophet because of the hadith of our Prophet ( s.a.w ) which encourages us to do so. Let me be very frank that I rarely find a Sunni who claims to love Muawiyah and his descendants.

    But fasting is a worship and I stand on no side except with a humble hope of getting the Rahmah and Baraqah from Allah when I fast. Fasting during the month is not about Hussein ( r.a.) or Ali ( r.a. / k.m w h ) but part of our devotion to ALLAH. The Ashura began long before the incident of Karbala infact it was started at the time of Moses ( a.s ) and our Prophet ( s.a.w ) continued the practice by commanding Muslims to fast during that period until the commandment of ALLAH for Muslims to fast during Ramadhan. That is the history Brother Ali.


  19. Yazid massacred the grandson of the Holy Prophet and his family on the 10th of Muharram. Yazid, the grandson of Hind (who ate the liver of Hamza the uncle of the Holy Prophet) and Abu Sufyan celebrated his victory over the grandson of the Holy Prophet, Imam Hussein A.S. by fasting on this day. Now you decide whose side you stand on when you fast on this day.

  20. Assalamalaikum,

    I chose to fast on the 8th. day of Muhharam which is a Thursday in Malaysia. I can’t fast

    ( I mean I find it slightly difficult )to fast on the 9th. Muharam which is a Friday because normally after the Friday prayers, generous friends would give all sorts of food or even treat me to lunches.

    I hope to fast on the 10th. Muharram which is a Saturday, the 19th. January 08. Be that as it may, I’m aware that the authentic hadith encourages Mulims to fast either on the 9th., 10th. and 11th, or 9th. and 10th. or only the 10th. Muharam. If I’m not wrong there is one which also encourages Muslims to fast at 10th. and 11th. Muharram as well. Be that as it may, I leave it to ALLAH to Judge my acts. I’ll try to fast on the 10th. Muharram day itself.

    While it is true that there is no authentic hadith which prescribed the preparation of special food on the 10th. day of Muharram, i.e the Ashura’ but here in Malaysia, Muslim Brothers and sisters are always generous on the good food that they like to donate, a reflection of the good hearted souls and the Muslim brotherhood that they have deep inside them.

    Come what may, May ALLAH Bless even the simple giver of meals and good food !

    And to the rest who followed, Happy Fasting !