Which day is ‘Ashura?
An-Nawawi, may Allah have mercy on him, said:
“‘Ashura and Tasu’a are two elongated names [the vowels are elongated] as is stated in books on the Arabic language. Our companions said: ‘Ashura is the tenth day of Muharram and Tasu’a is the ninth day. This is our opinion, and that of the majority of scholars. This is the apparent meaning of the ahadith and is what we understand from the general wording. It is also what is usually understood by scholars of the language.” [Al-Majmu’]
‘Ashura is an Islamic name that was not known at the time of Jahiliyyah. [Kashshaf al-Qina’, Part 2: Sawm Muharram]
Ibn Qudamah, may Allah have mercy on him, said:
“‘Ashura is the tenth day of Muharram. This is the opinion of Sa’id ibn al-Musayyib and al-Hasan. It was what was reported by Ibn ‘Abbas, who said: ‘The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, commanded us to fast ‘Ashura, the tenth day of Muharram.’ [Reported by al-Tirmidhi, who graded it a sahih hasan hadith] It was reported that Ibn ‘Abbas said: ‘The ninth,’ and reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, used to fast the ninth. [Reported by Muslim] ‘Ata 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 mustahabb (encouraged) to fast on the ninth and the tenth, for that reason. This is what Ahmad said, and it is the opinion of Ishaq.”
It is mustahabb (encouraged) to fast TasU’a with ‘Ashura
‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas, may Allah be pleased with them both, said:
“When the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, fasted on ‘Ashura 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, peace be upon him, said:
‘If I live to see the next year, insha’Allah, we will fast on the ninth day too.’
But it so happened that the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, passed away before the next year came.” [Reported by Muslim, 1916]
Ash-Shafi’i and his companions, Ahmad, Ishaq and others said:
“It is mustahabb to fast on both the ninth and tenth days, because the Prophet, peace be upon him, 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 ‘Ashura, 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 mustahabb to fast on TasU’a
An-Nawawi, may Allah have mercy on him, said:
“The scholars – our companions and others – mentioned several reasons why it is mustahabb to fast on Tasu’a:
– the intention behind it is to be different from the Jews, who only venerate the tenth day. This opinion was reported from Ibn ‘Abbas …
– the intention is to add another day’s fast to ‘Ashura. This is akin to the prohibition on fasting a Friday by itself, as was mentioned by al-Khattabi 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. Shaykh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allah have mercy on him, said:
“The Prophet, peace be upon him, forbade imitating the People of the Book in many ahadith, for example, his words concerning ‘Ashura:
‘If I live until the next year, I will certainly fast on the ninth day.’ ” [Al-Fatawa al-Kubra]
Ibn Hajar, may Allah be pleased with him, said in his commentary on this hadith:
“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.” [Fath, 4/245]
Ruling on fasting only on the day of ‘Ashura
Shaykh ul-Islam said:
“Fasting on the day of ‘Ashura is an expiation for a year, and it is not makruh to fast only that day … ” [Al-Fatawa al-Kubra].
In Tuhfat al-Muhtaj by Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, it says:
“There is nothing wrong with fasting only on ‘Ashura.”
Fasting on ‘Ashura even if it is a Saturday or a Friday
At-Tahawi, may Allah have mercy on him, said:
“The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, allowed us to fast on ‘Ashura 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 makruh … ” [Mushkil al-Athar]
The author of Al-Minhaj said:
“‘It is disliked (makruh) to fast on a Friday alone … ‘ But it is no longer makruh if you add another day to it, as mentioned in the sahih report to that effect. A person may fast on a Friday if it coincides with his habitual fast, or he is fasting in fulfilment of a vow, or he is making up an obligatory fast that he has missed, as was stated in a sahih report.”
Al-Sharih said in Tuhfat al-Muhtaj:
“‘If it coincides with his habitual fast’ – i.e., such as if he fasts alternate days, and a day that he fasts happens to be a Friday. ‘If he is fasting in fulfilment of a vow, etc.’ – this also applies to fasting on days prescribed in Shari’ah, such as ‘Ashura or ‘Arafah.”
Al-Bahuti, may Allah have mercy on him, said:
“It is makruh to deliberately single out a Saturday for fasting, because of the hadith of ‘Abdullah ibn Bishr, who reported from his sister: ‘Do not fast on Saturdays except in the case of obligatory fasts’ [Reported by Ahmad with a jayyid isnad and by al-Hakim, who said it was according to the conditions of al-Bukhari], and because it is a day that is venerated by the Jews, so singling it out for fasting means being like them … except when a Friday or Saturday coincides with a day when Muslims habitually fast, such as when it coincides with the day of ‘Arafah or the day of ‘Ashura, and a person has the habit of fasting on these days, in which case it is not makruh, because a person’s habit carries some weight.” [Kashshaf al-Qina’]
What should be done if there is confusion about the beginning of the month?
“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.” (Al-Mughni of Ibn Qudamah]
If a person does not know when Muharram began, and he wants to be sure of fasting on the tenth, he should assume that Dhul-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 eight, ninth and tenth (then if Dhul-Hijjah was twenty-nine days, he can be sure of having fasted Tasu’a and ‘Ashura).
But given that fasting on ‘Ashura is mustahabb rather than wajib, people are not commanded to look for the crescent of the new moon of Muharram as they are to do in the case of Ramadhan and Shawwal.
Fasting ‘Ashura – for what does it offer expiation?
Imam 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 expiates for two years, and the day of ‘Ashura expiates for one year. If when a person says ‘amin’ it coincides with the ‘amin’ 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.” (Al-Majmu’ Sharh al-Muhadhdhab]
Shaykh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allah have mercy on him, said:
“Taharah, salah, and fasting in Ramadhan, on the day of ‘Arafah and on ‘Ashura expiate for minor sins only.” [Al-Fatawa al-Kubra]
Not relying too much on the reward for fasting
Some people who are deceived rely too much on things like fasting on ‘Ashura or the day of ‘Arafah, to the extent that some of them say, “Fasting on ‘Ashura will expiate for the sins of the whole year, and fasting on the day of ‘Arafah will bring extra rewards.” Ibn al-Qayyim said:
“This misguided person does not know that fasting in Ramadhan and praying five times a day are much more important than fasting on the day of ‘Arafah and ‘Ashura, and that they expiate for the sins between one Ramadhan 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 (i.e., by words only), and glorifies Allah by saying subhanallah one hundred times a day, then he backbites about the Muslims and slanders their honour, and speaks all day long about things that are not pleasing to Allah. This person is always thinking about the virtues of his tasbihat and tahlilat 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]
Fasting ‘Ashura when one still has days to make up from Ramadhan
The fuqaha’ differed concerning the ruling on observing voluntary fasts before a person has made up days that he or she did not fast in Ramadhan. The Hanafi school said that it is permissible to observe voluntary fasts before making up days from Ramadhan, and it is not makruh to do so, because the missed days do not have to be made up straight away. The Maliki and Shafi’i schools said that it is permissible but is makruh, because it means that one is delaying something obligatory. Ad-Dusooqi said:
“It is makruh to observe a voluntary fast when one still has to make up an obligatory fast, such as a fast in fulfilment of a vow, or a missed obligatory fast, or a fast done as an act of expiation (kafarah), whether the voluntary fast which is being given priority over an obligatory fast is something confirmed in Shari’ah or not, such as ‘Ashura and the ninth of Dhul-Hijjah, according to the most correct opinion.”
The Hanbali school said that it is haram to observe a voluntary fast before making up any fasts missed in Ramadhan, and that a voluntary fast in such cases does not count, even if there is plenty of time to make up the obligatory fast. So a person must give priority to the obligatory fasts until he has made them up. [Al-Mawsu’ah al-Fiqhiyyah]
Muslims must hasten to make up any missed fasts after Ramadhan, so that they will be able to fast ‘Arafah and ‘Ashura without any problem. If a person fasts ‘Arafah and ‘Ashura with the intention from the night before of making up for a missed fast, this will be good enough to make up what he has missed, for the bounty of Allah is great.
Courtesy : IslamQA.com