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What is Ashura?

There are certain days in the year which are more virtuous than others, one such day is the 10th of Muharram which is known as the Day of Ashura.

The word Ashura is derived from the word “Asharah”, which means ten in Arabic. The Day of Ashura is the 10th day of Muharram.

When is Ashura 2023?

The Day of Ashura is the 10th day of Muharram. In 2023, the Day of Ashura will be on 28th July. 

Give Sadaqah or Zakat on this blessed day

One of the most virtuous acts of worship on Ashura is to give charity to our Muslim brothers and sisters suffering across the world. You can give your Sadaqah or Zakat with Islamic Relief.

What is the history and significance of Ashura?

The Battle of Karbala

The most significant event that occurred in the month of Muharram was the Battle of Karbala, which took place in Iraq in Muharram 61 AH.

It was fought between a small army consisting of the family and companions of Imam Hussain (AS), the grandson of the Prophet (PBUH), and a much larger army sent by Yazid ibn Muawiyah, the Umayyad Caliph at that time.

The battle took place because Imam Hussain (AS) refused to pledge allegiance to Yazid ibn Muawiyah, who was tyrannical and had taken it upon himself to assume the Muslim leadership after the death of his father.

On the 10th Muharram, the Day of Ashura, Imam Hussain (AS) was brutally martyred by the enemy camp. This is a very significant day in Islamic history as Imam Hussain (AS) and 72 other martyrs, mainly consisting of the male members of the family of the Prophet (PBUH) all nobly sacrificed their lives as a stand against oppression and to preserve Islam.

Imam Hussain (AS) was extremely close to and precious to the Holy Prophet (SAW). As a child, he would climb on the  Prophet (SAW)’s back freely during prayer, and was beloved to him. He was brutally decapitated during the Battle of Karbala, which is one of the most tragic events to happen in Islamic History.

Imam Hussain’s significant position in Islam is highlighted in the following Hadith:

Al-Husain is from me and I am from Al-Husain. Whoever loves Al-Husain is loved by Allah

Hadith | Musnad Ahmad

The day Allah freed Musa

On the Day of Ashura in the time of Prophet Musa (AS), Allah saved the Prophet and Bani Israel from the tyrannical Pharaoh and his army.

The Pharaoh was extremely violent and corrupt in his rule, and spread blasphemy as he declared himself as God. The Prophet Musa (AS) refused to follow the Pharaoh and instead encouraged him to worship Allah. The Pharaoh would not accept that there was a power higher than himself, and in response sent a large army to destroy the Prophet and his followers.

On the Day of Ashura, Prophet Musa (AS) and his followers were being chased by the army but trusted Allah alone in protecting them.

Prophet Musa (AS) made the following famous Dua which was later revealed in the Holy Quran:

“Truly my Lord is with me, He will guide me through.” (Quran 26:62)

As a result of his patience and firm faith in Allah’s help, Allah parted the Red Sea so that Prophet Musa (AS) and his followers could pass to safety. As punishment, the Pharaoh and his army were then submerged in the sea.

Then We inspired to Moses, “Strike with your staff the sea,” and it parted, and each portion was like a great towering mountain. And We drew forward the others [i.e., the pursuers]. And We saved Moses and those with him, all together. Then We drowned the others. Indeed in that is a sign, but most of them were not to be believers. And indeed, your Lord – He is the Exalted in Might, the Merciful.

Qur’an | 26:63-68

The story of Ashura and other Prophets

The Day of Ashura was also significant in the time of other prophets. For example, in the time of prophet Nuh (AS), some narrations say that on the day of Ashura, Allah returned his arc back to dry land after the flooding stopped. It was a day of relief and celebration for the Prophet and his devoted companions.

Some narrations also say that The Day of Ashura was also the day that Prophet Adam (AS) repented and was forgiven to Allah after eating the forbidden fruit, as well as the day that Prophet Yunus (AS) was released from the belly of the whale and Allah forgave his people.

Commemorating the Day of Ashura

As well as fasting the day of Ashura which is one of the most virtuous acts, there are many other beneficial deeds you can do which can earn great rewards on the blessed day.

These include giving Sadaqah and Zakat to help those in need across the world, as well as spending money on one’s family.

Prophet Muhammed (SAW) said, ‘’one who generously spends on his family on the day of Ashura, Allah (SWT) will be generous on him for the entire year (Baihaqi)

It’s also important to increase worship on the Day of Ashura, such as reading more Qur’an, sending salutations to the Prophet (PBUH) and offering naffal (optional) prayers. It’s also a good time to reflect on the significant events which took place on the Day of Ashura and to draw important lessons from them which can help us in our lives, for example to rely on the power of Allah to help us in our time of need.

Ziyarat Ashura and other duaas 

The Shi‘a Muslim community offer a salutatory prayer to Imam Hussain (AS) and the martyrs of the battle of Karbala called The Ziyarat Ashura.

Do Muslims observe Ashura differently?

For Shi‘a Muslims observing the day of Ashura, the period is marked by mourning, due to the anniversary of the martyring of Imam Hussain (AS), in the Battle of Karbala.

For Sunni Muslims, as well as being a time for mourning Imam Hussain and his companions, Ashura also commemorates when the Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) and the Children of Israeel were freed from Pharaoh and his pursuing army by Allah (SWT).

Fasting on the Day of Ashura

Muslims are encouraged to fast the Day of Ashura by the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

I never saw the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) so keen to fast any day and give it priority over any other than this day, the day of ‘Ashura’, and this month, meaning Ramadhan.

Hadith | Sahih al-Bukhari

Why did the Prophet (PBUH) fast on Ashura?

Fasting the 9th of Muharram

The scholars of Islam consider it recommended to fast on the 9th of Muharram along with the 10th of Muharram (‘Ashura). This is due to the Hadith:

When the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) fasted on the day of ‘Ashura and told the people to fast, they said, “O Messenger of Allah, this is a day that is venerated by the Jews and Christians.” The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, “Next year, if Allah wills, we will fast on the ninth day.” But by the time the following year came, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) had passed away. (Muslim)

The Prophet (pbuh) wanted to fast on the 9th, in order to differ from the People of the Book.

Fasting the 11th of Muharram?

Some of the scholars also considered fasting on the 11th of Muharram to be recommended. This could be if one misses the 9th or it could be in order to ensure one catches the 10th of Muharram. Therefore it is virtuous to fast:

  • Just the day of Ashura
  • or to fast the 9th and 10th,
  • or to fast the 10th and 11th.
  • Some scholars would even fast the 9th, 10th and 11th of Muharram.

Any one of these options is recommended.

Virtues of Ashura

Here are some recommended actions or Sunnah for Ashura.

  • Fast: Keep a fast on the 9th and 10th Muharram (the day of Ashura), or on the 10thand 11thMuharram. Fasting expiates sins.
  • Read the Qur’an: If you are unable to fast, reading the Qur’an or doing Dhikr can help you to feel the blessings of Muharram. Remember, any gathering for the sake of Allah SWT will also be filled with barakah and the Angels will join you.
  • Give SadaqahHelping those in need around the world is one of the most virtuous deeds and doing so on this blessed day can earn great rewards, It is also a Sunnah to spend money on one’s family on the day of Ashura.

Prophet Muhammed (SAW) said, ‘’one who generously spends on his family on the day of Ashura, Allah (SWT) will be generous on him for the entire year (Baihaqi)

Muharram marks the beginning of the Islamic New Year, so it’s the perfect time to make resolutions and establish good habits like giving regular charity, so that you can gain blessings all-year round.

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