Fasting Ashura: Why Muslims Fast on This Day

Not long ago, we welcomed the new Islamic year with the commencement of Muharram. For Muslims around the world, this is a time when intentions are renewed as many contemplate their plans for the forthcoming year. 

As we ease our way into the first Islamic month, the day of Ashura (10th of Muharram) gives us a chance to boost our spirituality. Being a significant and historic day, the Ashura (lit meaning tenth) is the perfect opportunity for Muslims to renew their faith and connection with Allah. 

Image Credit: Imad Alassiry (Unsplash)

The main reason why Muslims fast on Ashura is because the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ fasted on this day and encouraged his followers to fast also. According to prophetic traditions, fasting on Ashura alone is a way of getting our sins forgiven from the previous year! With a fresh start such as this, there can be no better way to start the new Islamic year.

Whilst Muharram is one of the most significant months in Islam, Ashura is the most significant day within the month. Initially, fasting on the tenth of Muharram was made obligatory. However, when the fasts of Ramadhan became obligatory, fasting on the day of Ashura was made optional. 

Fasting on Ashura was never abandoned by the Prophet ﷺ. According to one prophetic tradition, it is recorded, “There are four things which the Prophet never gave up: fasting Ashura, fasting during the ten days [of Dhul Hijjah], fasting three days of each month, and praying two rak’at before al-ghadah [i.e., Fajr].” [Sunan Al-Nasa’i]. 

The fast of Ashura was revived when the Prophet ﷺ first arrived in Madinah. In one Hadith we are told, “When the Prophet arrived at Madinah, the Jews were observing the fast on Ashura, and they said, ‘This is the day when Moses became victorious over Pharaoh.’ On that, the Prophet said to his companions, ‘You (Muslims) have more right to celebrate Moses’ victory than they have, so observe the fast on this day.’” [Sahih Bukhari]

Is There Another Reason Why The Tenth is Significant

The significance of Ashura can be traced back to the times of earlier prophets. Even before the Prophet ﷺ fasted on this day, the tribe of Quraysh fasted on this day and honoured it with their lives. Their reason for doing this was simple; it was a way of commemorating the prophets that came before them. 

According to one Hadith, Ashura “is the day that the ship of Prophet Nuh settled upon Mount Judi, and so Prophet Nuh fasted the day out of thankfulness to Allah.” [Musnad Ahmad]

After the Prophet’s ﷺ death, his grandson Hussain RA was martyred at Karbala on the very same day. Although death may seem like bad news for many, Hussain’s RA martyrdom is symbolic of being saved by Allah from tyrannical oppression, just as Prophet Musa was saved from Pharaoh on this day. 

Many events have come together to solidify the significance of Ashura. It seems that the lives of many prophets are tied via this day as it’s a day of being saved by Allah. Whether it’s the story of Prophet Nuh AS and his people, or Prophet Musa AS escaping from the oppressive ways of the Pharaoh, this day represents protection and strength. It’s for this reason that Muslims from around the world should reflect on these incidents whilst fasting. With examples of great individuals who stood up for the truth, opposed tyranny and paved the way for people to come, let us ask Allah to give us the ability to follow in their footsteps. 

How Should Muslims Fast on Ashura

It is advised that Muslims fast on either the 9th or the 10th or the 10th and the 11th. However, if one is unable to complete two fasts, fasting solely on the 10th is permissible. The reason for prefixing or suffixing a day is because the Prophet ﷺ advised, “Fast the day of ‘Ashura and be different from the Jews by fasting a day before it or a day after it.” [Musnad Ahmed]

Main Image Credit: Mosque in Samarkand – Nosirjon Saminjonov (Unsplash)

Juber Ahmed

Juber Ahmed is our Digital Editor and travel enthusiast with a keen interest in Islamic history and heritage. He travels with his wife to various places around the world and writes about his experiences.   Juber's favourite Quote... "The World Is a Book and Those Who Do Not Travel Read Only One Page" [Saint Augustine]

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