Which day is ‘Aashooraa’?
Ibn Qudaamah, may Allah have mercy on him, said: “‘Aashooraa’ is the tenth day of Muharram..”. It was what was reported by Ibn ‘Abbaas, who said: ‘The Messenger of Allah commanded us to fast ‘Aashooraa’, the tenth day of Muharram.’ [At-Tirmithi] ‘Ataa’ reported that he said: ‘Fast the ninth and the tenth, and do not be like the Jews.’ If this is understood, we can say on this basis that it is likable to fast on the ninth and the tenth, for that reason. This is what Ahmad said, and it is the opinion of Ishaaq.”
It is likable to fast Taasoo’aa’ with ‘Aashooraa’
‘Abdullaah Ibn ‘Abbaas, may Allah be pleased with them , said: “When the Messenger of Allah fasted on ‘Aashooraa’ and commanded the Muslims to fast as well, they said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, it is a day that is venerated by the Jews and Christians.’ The Messenger of Allah said: ‘If I live until the next year, we will fast on the ninth day too.’ But it so happened that the Messenger of Allah passed away before the next year came.” [Muslim]
Al-Shaafi'i and other scholars may Allah have mercy on them said: “It is likable to fast on both the ninth and tenth days, because the Prophet fasted on the tenth, and intended to fast on the ninth.”
On this basis, it may be said that there are varying degrees of fasting ‘Aashooraa’, the least of which is to fast only on the tenth, and the best of which is to fast the ninth as well. The more one fasts in Muharram, the better it is.
The reason why it is likable to fast on Taasoo’aa’
An-Nawawi, may Allah have mercy on him, said: “The scholars – our companions and others – mentioned several reasons why it is likable to fast on Taasoo’aa’:
- The intention behind it is to be different from the Jews, who only venerate the tenth day. This opinion was reported from Ibn ‘Abbaas may Allah be pleased with him.
- The intention is to add another day’s fast to ‘Aashooraa’. This is akin to the prohibition on fasting a Friday by itself, as was mentioned by Al-Khattaabi may Allah have mercy on him and others.
- To be on the safe side and make sure that one fasts on the tenth, in case there is some error in sighting the crescent moon at the beginning of Muharram and the ninth is in fact the tenth.”
The strongest of these reasons is being different from the People of the Book. Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allah have mercy on him, said: “The Prophet forbade imitating the People of the Book in many Ahaadeeth (narrations), for example, his words concerning ‘Aashooraa’: ‘If I live until the next year, I will certainly fast on the ninth day.’” [Al-Fataawa Al-Kubra]
Ibn Hajar, may Allah have mercy on him, said in his commentary on the Hadeeth: “If I live until the next year, I will certainly fast on the ninth day”: “What he meant by fasting on the ninth day was probably not that he would limit himself to that day, but would add it to the tenth, either to be on the safe side or to be different from the Jews and Christians, which is more likely. This is also what we can understand from some of the reports narrated by Muslim may Allah have mercy on him.”
Ruling on fasting only on the day of ‘Aashooraa’
Ibn Taymiyyah may Allah have mercy on him said: “Fasting on the day of ‘Aashooraa’ is expiation for a year, and it is not disliked to fast only that day…”
Ibn Hajar may Allah have mercy on him, said: “There is nothing wrong with fasting only on ‘Aashooraa’.”
Fasting on ‘Aashooraa’ even if it is a Saturday or a Friday
At-Tahaawi, may Allah have mercy on him, said: “The Messenger of Allah allowed us to fast on ‘Aashooraa’ and urged us to do so. He did not say that if it falls on a Saturday we should not fast. This is evidence that all days of the week are included in this. In our view – and Allah knows best – it could be the case that even if this is true (that it is not allowed to fast on Saturdays), it is so that we do not venerate this day and refrain from food, drink and intercourse, as the Jews do. As for the one who fasts on a Saturday without intending to venerate it, and does not do so because the Jews regard it as blessed, then this is not disliked…” [Mushkil Al-Aathaar]
Al-Bahooti, may Allah have mercy on him, said: “It is disliked to deliberately single out a Saturday for fasting, because of the Hadeeth of ‘Abdullaah Ibn Bishr, who reported from his sister: ‘Do not fast on Saturdays except in the case of obligatory fasts’ [Ahmad]
What should be done if there is confusion about the beginning of the month?
Ahmad may Allah have mercy on him said: “If there is confusion about the beginning of the month, one should fast for three days, to be sure of fasting on the ninth and tenth days.”
If a person does not know when Muharram began, and he wants to be sure of fasting on the tenth, he should assume that Thul-Hijjah was thirty days – as is the usual rule – and should fast on the ninth and tenth. Whoever wants to be sure of fasting the ninth as well should fast the eighth, ninth and tenth (then if Thul-Hijjah was twenty-nine days, he can be sure of having fasted Taasoo’aa’ and ‘Aashooraa’).
But given that fasting on ‘Aashooraa’ is likable rather than obligatory, people are not commanded to look for the crescent of the new moon of Muharram as they are to do in the case of Ramadan and Shawwaal.
Fasting ‘Aashooraa’ – for what does it offer expiation?
Imaam An-Nawawi, may Allah have mercy on him, said: “It expiates for all minor sins, i.e., it brings forgiveness of all sins except major sins.” Then he said: “Fasting the day of ‘Arafah (ninth day of Thul-Hijjah) expiates for two years, and the day of ‘Aashooraa’ expiates for one year. If when a person says ‘Aameen’ it coincides with the ‘Aameen’ of the angels, he will be forgiven all his previous sins… Each one of the things that we have mentioned will bring expiation. If there are minor sins for which expiation is needed, expiation for them will be accepted; if there are no minor sins or major sins, good deeds will be added to his account and he will be raised in status… If he had committed major sins but no minor sins, we hope that his major sins will be reduced.”