Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah

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Muharram series (cont.)

Posted by abu ameerah on Friday, January 26, 2007

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The Virtue of observing more nafil fasts during Muharram

Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

  ‘The best of fasting after Ramadan is fasting Allah’s month of Muharram.’” (reported by Muslim, 1982).

The phrase “Allah’s month”, connecting the name of the month to the name of Allah in a genitive grammatical structure, signifies the importance of the month. Al-Qari said: “The apparent meaning is all of the month of Muharram.” But it was proven that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) never fasted any whole month apart from Ramadan, so this hadith is probably meant to encourage increasing one’s fasting during Muharram, without meaning that one should fast for the entire month.

  It was reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to fast more in Sha’ban. It is likely that the virtue of Muharram was not revealed to him until the end of his life, before he was able to fast during this month. (Sharh al-Nawawi ‘ala Saheeh Muslim).

Allah chooses whatever times and places He wills

Al-‘Izz ibn ‘Abd al-Salam (may Allah have mercy on him) said:

  “Times and places may be given preferred status in two ways, either temporal or religious/spiritual. With regard to the latter, this is because Allah bestows His generosity on His slaves at those times or in those places, by giving a greater reward for deeds done, such as giving a greater reward for fasting in Ramadan than for fasting at all other times, and also on the day of ‘Ashura’, the virtue of which is due to Allah’s generosity and kindness towards His slaves on that day…” (Qawaa’id al-Ahkaam, 1/38).

`Ashura’ in History

Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said:

  “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came to Madeenah and saw the Jews fasting on the day of `Ashura’. He said, ‘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 that day.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, 1865).

“This is a righteous day” – in a report narrated by Muslim, [the Jews said:] “This is a great day, on which Allah saved Musa and his people, and drowned Pharaoh and his people.”

“Musa fasted on this day” – a report narrated by Muslim adds: “… in thanksgiving to Allah, so we fast on this day.”

According to a report narrated by al-Bukhaari: “… so we fast on this day to venerate it.”

A version narrated by Imam Ahmad adds: “This is the day on which the Ark settled on Mount Joodi, so Nooh fasted this day in thanksgiving.”

“and commanded [the Muslims] to fast on that day” – according to another report also narrated by al-Bukhaari: “He said to his Companions: ‘You have more right to Musa than they do, so fast on that day.”

The practice of fasting on `Ashura’ was known even in the days of Jaahiliyyah, before the Prophet’s mission. It was reported that ‘Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said:

  “The people of Jaahiliyyah used to fast on that day…”

Al-Qurtubi said:

  “Perhaps Quraysh used to fast on that day on the basis of some past law, such as that of Ibrahim, upon whom be peace.”

It was also reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to fast on `Ashura’ in Makkah, before he migrated to Madina. When he migrated to Madina, he found the Jews celebrating this day, so he asked them why, and they replied as described in the hadith quoted above. He commanded the Muslims to be different from the Jews, who took it as a festival, as was reported in the hadith of Abu Musa (may Allah be pleased with him), who said: “The Jews used to take the day of `Ashura’ as a festival [according to a report narrated by Muslim: the day of `Ashura’ was venerated by the Jews, who took it as a festival. According to another report also narrated by Muslim: the people of Khaybar (the Jews) used to take it as a festival and their women would wear their jewellery and symbols on that day]. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘So you [Muslims] should fast on that day.’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari). Apparently the motive for commanding the Muslims to fast on this day was the desire to be different from the Jews, so that the Muslims would fast when the Jews did not, because people do not fast on a day of celebration. (Summarized from the words of al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar – may Allah have mercy on him – in Fath al-Baari Sharh ‘ala Saheeh al-Bukhaari).

Fasting on `Ashura’ was a gradual step in the process of introducing fasting as a prescribed obligation in Islam. Fasting appeared in three forms. When the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came to Madina, he told the Muslims to fast on three days of every month and on the day of `Ashura’, then Allah made fasting obligatory when He said (interpretation of the meaning):

  “… observing the fasting is prescribed for you…” [al-Baqarah 2:183] (Ahkaam al-Qur’aan by al-Jassas, part 1).  

The obligation was transferred from the fast of `Ashura’ to the fast of Ramadan, and this one of the proofs in the field of Usool al-Fiqh that it is possible to abrogate a lighter duty in favour of a heavier duty.

Before the obligation of fasting `Ashura’ was abrogated, fasting on this day was obligatory, as can be seen from the clear command to observe this fast. Then it was further confirmed later on, then reaffirmed by making it a general command addressed to everybody, and once again by instructing mothers not to breastfeed their infants during this fast. It was reported from Ibn Mas’ud that when fasting Ramadan was made obligatory, the obligation to fast `Ashura’ was lifted, i.e., it was no longer obligatory to fast on this day, but it is still desirable (mustahabb).

The virtues of fasting Ashura

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah 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).

This is from the bounty of Allah towards us: for fasting one day He gives us expiation for the sins of a whole year.

Which day is Ashura?

Al-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’eed ibn al-Musayyib and al-Hasan. It was what was reported by Ibn ‘Abbas, who said: ‘The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) commanded us to fast `Ashura’, the tenth day of Muharram.’ (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, who said, a saheeh hasan hadith).

It was reported that Ibn ‘Abbas said: ‘The ninth,’ and reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah 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’

‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them both) said:

  “When the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah 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 and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, ‘If I live to see the next year, in sha Allah, we will fast on the ninth day too.’ But it so happened that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) passed away before the next year came.” (Reported by Muslim, 1916).

Al-Shafa’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 and blessings of Allah 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’

Al-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’:

  1. the intention behind it is to be different from the Jews, who only venerate the tenth day. This opinion was reported from Ibn ‘Abbas…
  2. 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.
  3. 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 al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said:

  The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) forbade imitating the People of the Book in many ahaadeeth, for example, his words concerning `Ashura’: ‘If I live until the next year, I will certainly fast on the ninth day.’” (al-Fataawa al-Kubra, part 6, Sadd al-Dharaa’i’ al-Mufdiyah ila’l-Mahaarim )

Ibn Hajar (may Allah be pleased with him) said in his commentary on the hadith

  “If I live until the next year, I will certainly fast on the ninth day”: “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 al-Islam said: “Fasting on the day of ‘Aashoraa’ is an expiation for a year, and it is not makrooh to fast only that day…” (al-Fataawa al-Kubra, part 5). In Tuhfat al-Muhtaaj by Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, it says: “There is nothing wrong with fasting only on `Ashura’.” (part 3, Baab Sawm al-Tatawwu’).

Fasting on `Ashura’ even if it is a Saturday or a Friday

Al-Tahhawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said:

  “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah 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 makrooh…” (Mushkil al-Aathaar, part 2, Baab Sawm Yawm al-Sabt).

The author of al-Minhaj said: “ ‘It is disliked (makrooh) to fast on a Friday alone…’ But it is no longer makrooh 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 saheeh report.”

Al-Sharih said in Tuhfat al-Muhtaaj:

“ ‘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 sharee’ah, such as `Ashura’ or ‘Arafah. (Tuhfat al-Muhtaj, part 3, Bab Sawm al-Tatawu’)

Al-Bahuti (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “It is makrooh to deliberately single out a Saturday for fasting, because of the hadith of ‘Abd-Allah 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: 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’, part 2, Bab Sawm al-Tatawu’).

Fasting `Ashura’ – for what does it offer expiation?

Imam al-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 (may Allah have mercy on him):

  “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, part 6, Sawm Yawm ‘Arafah).

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said:

  “Taharah, salah, and fasting in Ramadan, on the day of ‘Arafah and on `Ashura’ expiate for minor sins only.” (al-Fatawa al-Kubra, part 5).

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