We’re about to welcome Muharrm Month and the new Hijri year. You must be wondering about Ashura Day. If you want to know more about this special day of the Islamic months, you are in the right place.

Ashura day is more than a day on the calendar; it has historical and spiritual meaning to Muslims around the world. Not only is it part of the first month of the Islamic year, but it is also part of the four sacred months (Asyhurul Hurum). That’s why it is of great significance in Islam.

But why do we fast on Ashura Day, and what happened on this day that makes it so special? Today, we will answer these questions for you. In our article today, we will go through the following:

  • What is Ashura Day in Islam?
  • What happened on 10th Muharram?
  • When is Ashura 2024?
  • Why do Muslims fast on Ashura Day?
  • Why is Ashura significant?

Let’s get started!

What is Ashura Day in Islam?

To get a better view of the linguistic side of things. let’s explore Ashura’s meaning. Ashura is derived from the word عشرة “Asharah,”  which means ten in Arabic. Thus, Ashura means the tenth day.

Ashura Day is the 10th Muharram, the first month in the Islamic calendar. Muharram is known as the month of Allah, and it is one of the four sacred months (Asyhurul Hurum). In these four months, fighting is forbidden.

Abu Bakrah رضي الله عنه reported that the Prophet 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 Jumaada and Sha’baan.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 3197)

Simply put, Ashura Day meant the 10th of Muharram month. But what actually happened on this day? Let’s find out!

What happened on the 10th Muharram?

The 10th Muharram (Ashura Day) is a day of highly significant events in Islam. It is the day when Allah (SWT) rescued the believers. Let’s explain.

Firuan (Pharaoh) was an unjust tyrant who declared himself as God. Allah (SWT) sent the prophet Musa to him. However, he only got worse! Firuan sent an army to destroy Musa and his followers. On Ashura Day, Prophet Musa (AS) and his followers were being chased by the army. But, they trusted Allah to protect them. Prophet Musa (AS) made his famous dua in the Quran:

Moses reassured ˹them˺, “Absolutely not! My Lord is certainly with me—He will guide me.” (Quran 26:62)

قَالَ كَلَّآ ۖ إِنَّ مَعِىَ رَبِّى سَيَهْدِينِ ٦٢

As a result, Allah (SWT) rescued Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) and his followers from Pharaoh after years of torture. On Ashura Day, he parted the Red Sea, allowing Prophet Musa and the believers to cross to safety and freedom. Meanwhile, he drowned Firaun and his army.

﴿ فَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَىٰ مُوسَىٰ أَنِ اضْرِب بِّعَصَاكَ الْبَحْرَ ۖ فَانفَلَقَ فَكَانَ كُلُّ فِرْقٍ كَالطَّوْدِ الْعَظِيمِ وَأَزْلَفْنَا ثَمَّ الْآخَرِينَ وَأَنجَيْنَا مُوسَىٰ وَمَن مَّعَهُ أَجْمَعِينَ ثُمَّ أَغْرَقْنَا الْآخَرِينَ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً ۖ وَمَا كَانَ أَكْثَرُهُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ وَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الرَّحِيمُ [ الشعراء: 63-68]

” Then We inspired Musa (Moses), (saying): “Strike the sea with your stick.” And it parted, and each separate part (of that sea water) became like the huge, firm mass of a mountain. Then We brought near the others [Fir’aun’s (Pharaoh) party] to that place. And We saved Musa (Moses) and all those with him. Then We drowned the others. Verily! In this is indeed a sign (or a proof), yet most of them are not believers And verily, your Lord! He is truly the All-Mighty, the Most Merciful.

Qur’an | Surah Ash-Shu’ara | 26:63-68

More Events are said to have taken place on the Day of Ashura

The Day of Ashura was also significant in the time of other prophets. Some narration says that Ashura day is the day that Allah returned the prophet’s Nuh (As) arc to dry land (Mount Judi) after the great flood. What’s more, other narrations say that Ashura Day was also the day that:

  • Prophet Adam (AS) repented to Allah after eating the forbidden fruit
  • Allah released Prophet Yunus (AS) from the belly of the whale and forgave his people.

Whether it is the story of Musa, Nuh, or other prophets, all these events tell us one true thing for sure; Ashura Day is one of those (more blessed than other) days. So when do we get to witness this great day this year? Let’s figure it out.

When is Ashura 2024?

The new Hjiri year (1446) started with Muharram the first on July 6, 2024, after evening prayers. This means that in 2024, Ashura Day (10th of Muharrm) will take place on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2024.

Get ready to make the most of this blessed day. You may have already heard a friend or family member reminding you to fast on Ashura Day. But do you know why we, as Muslims, fast on this day? Keep reading to find out!

Why do Muslims fast Ashura Day?

The simple answer to this question is that we want to follow in the footsteps of the prophets. Not only does the Arabic word “Ashura” share the same root as the Hebrew word ‘āsōr, but both Jews and Muslims share a story of fasting on Ashura Day

Let’s elaborate more.

Ibn `Abbas Narrated: “When the Prophet (ﷺ) came to Medina, he found (the Jews) fasting on the day of ‘Ashura’ (i.e. 10th of Muharram). They used to say: “This is a great day on which Allah saved Moses and drowned the folk of Pharaoh. Moses observed the fast on this day as a sign of gratitude to Allah.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “I am closer to Moses than they.” So, he observed the fast (on that day) and ordered the Muslims to fast on it.” Sahih al-Bukhari 3397

So, Musa (As) used to fast on Ashura day as a sign of gratitude to Allah for saving him and his followers. Hence, Jews used to follow in his footsteps and fast this day out of respect for its significance and meaning.

The Prophet Muhammed (ﷺ) used to fast this day even before this. So when he found out about it he encouraged Muslims to fast on Ashura Day!

“During the pre-Islamic Era of Ignorance (Jahiliyya), the Quraysh used to observe fasting on the day of Ashura, and the Prophet ﷺ himself used to observe fasting on it too. But when he came to Madinah, he (continued) fasting the day and ordered the Muslims to fast it too. When (the command of fasting) Ramadan was revealed, fasting in Ramadan became an obligation, and fasting on Ashura was made voluntary. Whoever wished to fast did so, and whoever did not wish to fast on it, did not fast.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari #4504]

Fasting on Ashura was obligatory until Ramadan was obligatory. After that, fasting on Ashura Day became voluntary As narrated by Ayesha (R.A.), the Prophet (S.A.W.) said:

 “Whoever wishes to fast (on the day of ‘Ashura’) may do so, and whoever wishes to leave it can do so.” (Sahih Bukhari:1592)

To sum up, Muslims fast on Ashura Day to follow the steps and sunnah of our beloved prophet! Did you know that Muslims can also fast on the 9th and 11th of Muharram as well?

Fasting the 9th and 11th of Muharram

Some Islamic scholars recommend fasting on the 9th along with the 10th of Muharram (‘Ashura day). Why? To be different from the Jews and Christians.

Some people may think that Muslims fast this day as imitations of Jews. Yet, this is not true (as we saw earlier, the prophet used to fast this day even before he knew that Jews did). This is shown in the following hadith:

When the Messenger of Allah ﷺ 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 ﷺ 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 ﷺ had passed away. (Muslim)

What’s more, some of the scholars also recommend fasting on the 11th of Muharram. In case one misses the 9th or to ensure one catches the 10th of Muharram.

Thus, you can fast:

  • The 9th, 10th, and 11th of Muharram
  • The 9th and 10th of Muharram
  • The 10th and 11th
  • The 10th of Muharram (Ashura day)

Whichever option you go for, make sure to fast on Ashura Day to earn all the blessings Allah rewards on this day! Although it’s not obligatory to fast on this day, it is still desirable (mustahabb). Keep reading to learn more!

Why is Ashura significant?

Ashura Day is of high significance to all Muslims. It is filled with countless rewards and blessings. As it comes in the sacred month of Muharram, it is one of the best days to fast! This is highlighted in a hadith reported by Abu Hurayrah رضي الله عنه.

He narrates that the Messenger of Allah said: “The most virtuous fasting after Ramadan is Allah’s month, Al-Muharram.” (Jami` at-Tirmidhi 740)

What’s more, the prophetﷺ was very keen to fast this day even after Ramadan was the only obligatory fasting. When Ibn Abas (R.A.) was asked about observing a fast on the day of Ashura, he said:

 “I do not know Allah’s Messenger (S.A.W.) singling out any day’s fast and considering it more excellent than another, except this day (the day of Ashura) and this month, meaning the month of Ramadan.” [Sahih Muslim: 1132 (a)]

So fasting on Ashura day is a confirmed Sunnah of our Prophet.

What’s more, when we fast on Ashura Day, Allah forgives our sins.

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ was asked about observing As-Saum (the fast) on the tenth day of Muharram, and he replied, “It is an expiation for the sins of the preceding year.” (Muslim)

As sin is worse during a sacred month like Muhrram, good deeds are multiplied!

Besides fasting, you can read the Quran and make Dua and Dhikr (Remembrance of Allah). You can also give Sadaqah (charity) to those in need. Any good deed during Ashura Day and Muhrrahm month is highly recommended and will be rewarded.

Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) told us: ‘There are three prayers that are not rejected: the prayer of a father for his child, the prayer of the fasting person, and the prayer of the traveler.’ (Sahih Tirmidhi)

So imagine fasting, praying, and making dua on Ashura; the chances of your dua being accepted are fairly high!

Final Words,

The 10th of Muharram, also known as Ashura, is a very special day for Muslims. It’s the day when Allah saved Musa and his followers. In paying respect to this, Jews fasted this day. Following Islam, Prophet Muhammad (PBU) fasted on Ashura Day and encouraged Muslims to do the same. Ashura Day offers rewards and blessings, such as erasing a sin from the previous year. If you can’t fast on Ashura, you can do as many good deeds as possible to earn the blessings of this day. We hope you now have all you need to know about Ashura’s meaning and its significance in history and Islam. You can head to our blog here to learn more about the significance of Muharram Month. You can also sign up for more lessons in Studio Arabiya about Islamic culture. May Allah bless you!

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