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Muharram and Significance of Fasting on Ashura

According to the Hijri Calendar, the month of Muharram marks the start of the new Islamic year. Like other months on the calendar, Muharram-ul-Haram opens up various chapters from Islamic history. Let’s have a look at why Muharram is considered so special as an Islamic month!

Importance of Muharram-ul-Haram

Muharram, also known as Muharram-ul-Haram, is a sacred month of the Hijri Calendar. Our beloved Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (S.A.W.W) denoted Muharram as ‘the Sacred Month of Allah’. The literal meaning of the word Muharram means ‘forbidden’ for some of the acts are forbidden that are likely to violate the sanctity of the blessed month.

This month is considered one of the four sacred Islamic months. Quran refers to the significance of Muharram based on this verses:

“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 [i.e., way], so do not wrong yourselves during them. And fight against the disbelievers collectively as they fight against you collectively. And know that Allah is with the righteous [who fear Him].” [Qur’an, 9:36]

Ibn Katheer elaborates this Quranic verse as:

’Allah has chosen elites from His creation: from among the angels He chose Messengers, from among mankind He chose Messengers, from among speech He chose remembrance of Him (dhikr), from among spaces on earth He chose the mosques, from among the months He chose Ramadan and the sacred months…So, venerate that which has been chosen by Allah, for people of understanding and wisdom respect that which has been chosen by Him’. (Tafseer Ibn Katheer)

With this reference, Muharram is special because Allah has chosen it to be so. Moreover, we have been guided to follow the right path and avoid any wrongdoings in this sacred month.


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For the spiritual revitalization, fasting on the Day of Ashura provides an opportunity to earn countless blessings and forgiveness for the sins accumulated in the last year. The Almighty Allah is the most beneficent and the most merciful to forgive us all if we repent with pure intentions. But the question is why we prefer to fast on the day of Ashura?

Remember that time when the Prophet Musa (A.S) freed the slaves in Egypt and escaped from the Egyptian tyranny. The time when Allah marked the defeat of the Pharaoh and his soldiers with the miracle of parting the Red Sea.

Hazrat Musa (A.S) stood against oppression and the false worshipping of Pharaoh. At that time, Allah rewarded the Prophet Musa’s (A.S) for his belief and the way he struggled to liberate the Israeli Children; and that was on the day of Ashura.

To thank Allah for his rewards and blessings, Hazrat Musa (A.S) used to fast every year on this day.

According to Al-Tirmidhi, it was mentioned that Ibn Abbass (R.A) used to say, “We should fast on two days to recognise our closeness to Musa (A.S) above others.”

The wife of the Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (S.A.W.W), Hazrat Ayesha (R.A), narrated that the Quresh used to fast on the 10th of Muharram. It was practised as a pre-Islamic tradition. When the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.W) migrated to Madinah, he observed ‘the people of the book’ fasting on the same day. When he asked for the reason, they responded:

هذا يَوْمٌ عَظِيمٌ، وهو يَوْمٌ نَجَّى اللَّهُ فيه مُوسَى، وأَغْرَقَ آلَ فِرْعَوْنَ، فَصَامَ مُوسَى شُكْرًا لِلَّهِ‏

“This is a blessed day. On this day, Allah saved (Prophet) Musa and drowned the people of (the Pharoah), and so Prophet Musa (A.S) fasted on this day to give thanks to Allah..” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Another important event on the Day of Ashura was when Hazrat Imam Hussain (R.A) was martyred in the battle of Karbala for he stood righteously on his beliefs against Yazid. The beloved grandson of Hazrat Muhammad (S.A.W.W) fought for the dignity of his religion and while protecting his innocent family, lost his life.

Furthermore, Islamic history reveals the Day of Ashura as the time when Hazrat Nuh’s (A.S) ark landed on Mount Judiyy as torrential flood subsided. That was the time when the Prophet Nuh (A.S) warned his people for leaving the worship of false idols and to stay away from all the sinful ways they have been living on. However, they refused to do so and it was that they refused Allah’s message.

Therefore, Allah told Hazrat Nuh (A.S) to build an ark, and take along pairs of every animal, his family and the group of believers. Then the whole land was destructed by the Great Flood. As a gesture of thanks to the Almighty Allah, Hazrat Nuh (A.S) used to fast on the 10th of Muharram to seek blessings.

With respect to all these important events from Islamic history, we observe fasting on the Day of Ashura every year. 

Our beloved Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (S.A.W.W) also fasted on the 10th of Muharram to honour Hazrat Musa’s (A.S) dedication towards thanking Allah.

The Prophet (S.A.W.W) said, “Fasting the day of Ashura, I hope that Allah will accept it as an expiation for (the sins committed in) the previous year.” (Muslim)

Our beloved prophet Hazrat Muhammad (S.A.W.W) said:

“The best of fasting after Ramadan is fasting Allah’s month of Muharram.” (Muslim 6: 2661)

According to a hadith by Ibn Abbas (R.A),

“I never saw Allah’s Messenger (S.A.W.W) so keen to fast any day and give it priority over any other than this day, the Day of Ashura, and this month, meaning Ramadan” (Bukhari).

So, if you want to seek forgiveness for the sins of last year this month of Muharram and gain multiplied rewards in this holy month, do observe fasting as it is emphasized with reference to the above mentioned sources.

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