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‘Ashuraa - A Jewish Tradition?


‘Ashuraa in History

Ibn 'Abbaas (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 ‘Ashuraa. 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)

There exist slight variations in the matn (text) in another report narrated by al-Bukhaari and one from Muslim.

A version narrated by Imaam Ahmad adds:
"This is the day on which the Ark settled on Mount Judi, so Nuh fasted this day in thanksgiving."

Which day is ‘Ashuraa?

Ibn 'Abbaas said:
'The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) commanded us to fast ‘Ashuraa, the tenth day of Muharram.' (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, who said, a saheeh hasan hadeeth)

Ibn 'Abbaas said:
'The ninth,' and reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to fast the ninth. (Reported by Muslim)

Ibn 'Abbaas said:
"When the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) fasted on ‘Ashuraa 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, insha 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-Shaafi'i and his companions, Ahmad, Ishaaq 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 ‘Ashuraa, the least of which is to fast only on the tenth and the best of which is to fast the ninth as well.


Religious Harmony in Following the Jewish Fast?



Is it true, as claimed by some quarters, that the fasting of ‘Ashuraa is evidence of the Prophet's adoption of a Jewish practice of the Jews of Madeenah? Hence, Muslims should be encouraged to take part in the traditions and festivals of other religions to promote inter-religious harmony?

The following reports negate such notions and emphasize that contradicting the disbelievers is part of the Prophet's Sunnah.

It was also reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to fast on ‘Ashuraa in Makkah, before he migrated to Madeenah. When he migrated to Madeenah, he found the Jews celebrating this day, so he asked them why, and they replied as described in the hadeeth quoted above. He commanded the Muslims to be different from the Jews, who took it as a festival.

'Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) said:
 كان يوم عاشوراء تصومه قريش في الجاهلية، وكان رسول الله يصومه في الجاهلية، فلما قدم المدينة صامه وأمر بصيامه ، فلما فُرض رمضان ترك يوم عاشوراء، فمن شاء صامه ومن شاء تركه

"(The tribe of) Quraish used to fast on the day of Ashura' in the Pre-lslamic period, and the prophet used to fast on that same day in the pre-Islamic period. When he arrived to Medina, he fasted on that day and ordered others to do the same. When the fasting of Ramadan became mandatory, the fasting of Ashura was abandoned. He who wanted to fast on that day fasted, and he who did not want did not fast." (Reported by Bukhaari & Muslim - this text is from Bukhaari)
Abu Musa (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
"The Jews used to take the day of ‘Ashuraa as a festival . The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: 'So you [Muslims] should fast on that day.'" (Reported by al-Bukhaari)

According to reports narrated by Muslim: the day of ‘Ashuraa was venerated by the Jews, who took it as a festival and their women would wear their jewellery and symbols on that day.

Hence we may conclude from studying many other narrations that:

1) The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) did not initiate the fasting of `Ashuraa in Madeenah. Rather, he used to fast it even before migration

2) The Jews also took that day as a day of celebration and festival, but the Muslims were just commanded to observe fasting as thanksgiving.

3) The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also commanded the companions to differentiate from the Jewish tradition by fasting an additional day.

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 Taasu’aa: the intention behind it is to be different from the Jews, who only venerate the tenth day."

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 ‘Ashuraa: '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 :
"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)

Wallahu a'lam


Prepared by Ustadz Abu Mazaaya
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