The Ninth and Tenth… a Blessed Fast

Question and answer details
What is so important about 9th and 10th of Muharram, known to be Tasu`a' and Ashura? Why do Muslims fast these days?
Shahul Hameed
Salam Dear Meryam,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

Muharram is the first month in the Muslim lunar calendar, known as the Hijrah calendar. This month is marked by the fasting recommended for Muslims on the 9th (Tasu`ah) and 10th (Ashura).

These fasts are not obligatory like the fast of Ramadan. Yet, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has laid great emphasis on them, as his hadith shows.

For example, upon his arrival in Madinah, he found the Jews observing fast on the day of Ashura. When asked about this, they said:

"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."

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) responded:

"We have more right and closer connection with Musa (peace be upon him) than you have."

So, God's messenger observed fast on the day of Ashura and taught us to observe it. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said:

"If I survive till next year, I will definitely observe fast on the 9th of Muharram [as well]." (Muslim)

As it is evident from the above hadiths, the two days are important to us. This is because we Muslims are the real inheritors of the tradition of Moses, a great prophet of Islam.

In fact, the Quran narrates the story in details, as to how Allah delivered Prophet Moses and the Children of Israel from the tyranny of the Pharaoh and his hordes.

Moses is one of five great prophets known to be Ulul-`Azm (The Resolute Ones). These are Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all), as mentioned in the Quran. So there is no wonder that the day of Ashura that commemorates the liberation of the Children of Israel, is important for the followers of the final Prophet too.

Thus, fasting on the day of Ashura is a sunnah of Prophet Muhammad. A believer who follows the Prophet in this regard gets a great reward, as in following him in other aspects of sunnah.

Fasting the day of Ashura expiates for the sins of the past year. The Prophet (peace 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)


It is noteworthy in this connection that there are some unfounded ideas about Ashura, prevailing among some Muslims. For example, this is like the belief that the Judgment Day will take place on the Day of Ashura. Such fanciful beliefs have no basis in authentic Islamic sources.

There is also the idea that the importance of Ashura is due to the martyrdom of the Prophet's grandson Al-Husain (may Allah be pleased with him) at Karbala. This was a real tragic episode in the history of Islam.

Yet, to attribute the sanctity of Ashura to the martyrdom of Al-Husain is wrong. This, as it was the Prophet himself who established its significance for Muslims, long before the birth of his grandson.

The same idea is associated also with the belief that the month of Muharram is an unlucky month. So, some people avoid holding marriage ceremonies throughout this month. This is definitely a superstition opposed to the teachings of Islam.

We may notice on these days people organizing elaborate lamentation and mourning ceremonies in memory of the martyrdom at Karbala. There is no doubt that the martyrdom of Karbala was one of the most tragic events in our history, as mentioned before.


Yet, the processions and pageants held in that connection are far from Islamic; rather they are redolent of the jahiliyya (mental ignorance of truth) customs.

The Quran and Prophetic Sunnah teach us that in the event of a person's death, we should be patiently forbearing and say:

{to Allah we belong and to Him is our return.} (Al Baqarah 2:156).

So, there is no question of "celebrating" such an occasion. In fact, it is a practice that crept into the community after the time of Prophet Muhammad and has no basis in the Quran and Sunnah.

We as Muslims are enjoined to follow the explicit commands and prohibitions of the Quran and Sunnah in our life. Let us pray to Allah Almighty to help us all and guide us to be His sincerely obedient servants.

Thank you and please stay in touch.


Useful Links:

Karbala: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction

Fasting the Day of Ashura

Virtues of Muharram