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 concerning which Allah says: “Verily, the number of months with Allah is 12 months (in a year), so it was ordained by Allah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them, f
our are sacred. That is the right religion, so wrong not yourselves therein.” (Qur’an, 9:36)
Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The year is 12 months of which four are sacred, the three consecutive months of Dul Qadah, Dul Hijjah and Muharram, and Rajab, which comes between Jumada and Shaban.” (Bukhari)Muharram is so called because it is a sacred (muharram) month and to confirm its sanctity. Allah Almighty says: “… so wrong not yourselves therein …” (Tafsir of Ibn Kathir)
Nafl fasts during Muharram
Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: ‘The best of fasting after Ramadan is fasting Allah’s month of Muharram.” (Muslim)
Ashura in history
Ibn Abbas said: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) came to Madinah and saw Jews fasting on 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.” (Bukhari)
The practice of fasting on Ashura was known even in the days of Jahiliyyah, before the Prophet’s mission. It was reported that Ayesha (may Allah be pleased with her) said: “The people of Jahiliyyah used to fast on that day.” 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. (Bukhari)
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 be upon him) came to Madinah, 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: “ … observing the fasting is prescribed for you … “ (Al-Qur’an, 2:183) The obligation was transferred from the fast of Ashura to the fast of Ramadan, and this is one of the proofs in the field of Usul Al-Fiqh that it is possible to abrogate a lighter duty in favor 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 (mustahab).
Virtues of fasting on Ashura
Ibn Abbas said: “I never saw the Messenger of Allah (peace 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 (Ramadan). (Bukhari)
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.” (Muslim)
This is from the bounty of Allah toward us: For fasting one day He gives us expiation for the sins of a whole year. And Allah is the Owner of Great Bounty.
Which day is Ashura?
An-Nawawi said: “Ashura and Tasua are two elongated names (the vowels are elongated) as is stated in books on the Arabic language. Our companions said: Ashura is the 10th day of Muharram and Tasua is the 9th day. This is the opinion of the majority of scholars.” (Al-Majmua)
This article is curtesy of SunnahOnline.com and can be found at http://sunnahonline.com/library/hajj-umrah-and-the-islamic-calendar/324-virtues-of-muharram-and-fasting-on-ashura-the