Fasting Ashura – When, Why, and What to do when I’m not sure when to fast?

Allah’s sacred month of Muharram is a blessed and important month. It is the first month of the Hijri calendar and is one of the four sacred months about which Allah says:

“Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve months, so ordained by Allah the Day He created the heavens and the earth; of them, four are sacred; this is upright faith, so wrong not yourselves therein … “ [Al-Qur’an 9:36]

Abu Bakrah, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said:

“The year is twelve months of which four are sacred, the three consecutive months of Dhu’l-Qa’dah, Dhu’l-Hijjah and Muharram, and Rajab Mudar which comes between Jumada and Sha’ban.” [Reported by al-Bukhari, 2958]

Muharram is so called because it is a sacred (muharram) month and to confirm its sanctity.

Allah’s words: “… so wrong not yourselves therein … “ mean do not wrong yourselves in these sacred months, because sin in these months is worse than in other months. It was reported that Ibn ‘Abbas said that this phrase referred to all the months, then these four were singled out and made sacred, so that sin in these months is more serious and good deeds bring a greater reward.

One of the greatest deeds that a person can do is fast the day of Ashura, the 10th of Muharram.

Ibn ‘Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, came to Madinah and saw the Jews fasting on the day of ‘Ashura.

He asked: “What is this?”

They said: “This is a righteous day, it is the day when Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemies, so Musa fasted on this day.”

He said: “We have more right to Musa than you,”

so he fasted on that day and commanded [the Muslims] to fast on tha day. [Reported by al-Bukhari, 1865]

The Prophet, peace be upon him, said:

“For fasting the day of ‘Ashura, I hope that Allah will accept it as expiation for the year that went before.” [Reported by Muslim, 1976]

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]

It is recommended to fast the 9th and the 10th of Ashura, however if you only fast the 10th, there is not harm in that.

What if I am not sure when Ashura is?

Imam Ahmad 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.” (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).

[The following is all old information from years ago, consult your current calendar for the proper dates.]

When is Ashura this year?

Several people have written to me asking about the 10th of Ashura, and stating that they were informed that the 10th of Muharram is Monday, Dec. 5th this year.

This is incorrect for two reasons:

  1. Eid al-Adha, being the 10th of Dhul-HIjja, fell on the November 6th this year, making the 25thof November correspond to the 29th of Dhul-Hijja. While some countries announced the 25th as the first night based on the astronomical birth of the new moon, there were absolutely no positive sightings reported anywhere in the world, and visibility of the new moon was near impossible except for a very slight chance in the Pacific islands.
  2. Additionally, several of the countries that announced the 26th as the 1st of Muharram retracted this, and corrected their calendars to reflect actual sighting of the moon. Even in those countries whose governments have not made official corrections, scholars in those countries have announced Ashura to be on Tuesday, corresponding to Dec. 6th, 2011.

Due to this, we completed 30 days of Dhul-Hijja here in Jacksonville, making Nov. 26th the 30th of Dhul-Hijja, and Nov. 27th the 1st of Muharram

With November 27th being 1st day of Muharram, this makes Tuesday, Dec. 6th the day of Ashura, 10th of Muharram.

If one still is not sure about the date, then they should fast Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday; this way you will at least fast the 10th.

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