When the Messenger of Allah (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) came to
Medina he found the Jews fasting the Day of `Ashura’, the tenth of Muharram. He asked
them why they were fasting and they told him that it was an auspicious day: the day on
which Allah saved Musa and his people and drowned Firaun and his people.
Musa fasted out of gratitude to Allah and his people continued the practice after him. The Messenger
of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) told the Jews that his nation was
closer to Musa than them. He then fasted that day and ordered his Companions to fast.1
Several narrations point to the significance of this day from the earliest of times. It has
been narrated that it was the day on which Allah forgave our father Adam, the day on
which the Ark of Nuh came to rest on the mountain known as al‐Judi and the day on
which Allah forgave the people of Yunus (peace be upon him and all the Prophets).
The Messenger of Allah (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) taught us to
commemorate this day, primarily by fasting. He informed us that if we do so Allah
wipes out the sins of the previous year.2
We may ask: if we have already fasted the Day of `Arafat then Allah has already erased our sins in the previous and coming year so what more can be gained from fasting `Ashura’? Some of the scholars mention that continuously fasting both days leads to a deeper erasure of one’s wrongdoings, protection from falling into sin in the future and also has the effect of wiping out the wrongdoings of one’s family and neighbours.
Why does fasting the Day of `Arafat wipe out the sins of two years whereas fasting the
day of `Ashura’ only wipes out the sins of one year? One reason, the scholars say, is that
the Day of `Arafat is a day attributed to Sayyiduna Muhammad (May Allah bless him and
grant him peace) which is clearly superior to `Ashura’ which is attributed to Sayyiduna
Musa (peace be upon him).
He recommended (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) that his Ummah also fast
the day before or the day after so that our tradition be distinct from the tradition of the
We should also renew our repentance on `Ashura.’ The Messenger of Allah (may Allah
bless him and grant him peace) said that it is a day on which Allah allowed a certain
people to repent and He will continue to allow others to do the same.3
1 Narrated by al‐Bukhari and Muslim
2 Narrated by Muslim
3 Narrated by al‐Tirmidhi
It has been narrated that if someone spends generously upon his family on the Day of
`Ashura’ Allah will treat with him generosity for the rest of the year. Sufyan bin `Uyayna
said, “We tried this for fifty years and all that we saw was good.” It has likewise been
narrated that the one who gives charity on this day will have the reward of a whole