Question # 35: Is fasting on the day of ‘Ashura’ fard (compulsory)?

bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: It is mustahabb (recommended) to fast on both the ninth and tenth days, because the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) fasted on the tenth, and intended to fast on the ninth.

Long Answer: It has been narrated by Al-Bukhari on the authority of Abu Qatadah that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said concerning the excellence of fasting on the day of ‘Ashura’, “I seek from Allah that fasting on the day of ‘Ashura’ may atone for the sins of the preceding year.”

Mu’awiyyah ibn Abu Sufyan reported that he heard the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) say: “Concerning the day of ‘Ashura’, it is not obligatory upon you to fast on it as I do. Whoever wishes may fast and whoever does not wish to, is not obliged to do so.” This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

‘Aishah (رضي الله عنها) stated: “The tribe of Quraish used to fast on the day of ‘Ashura’ in the days before Islam, as did the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم). When he came to Madinah, he still fasted on it and ordered the people to do likewise. Then, when fasting during the month of Ramadan became obligatory, he said: ‘Whoever wishes may fast [‘Ashura’] and whoever wishes may leave it.” This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

Ibn ‘Abbas reported: “The Prophet came to Madinah and found the Jews fasting on the day of ‘Ashura’. He said to them: ‘What is this fast?’ They said: ‘A great day. Allah saved Moses and the tribes of Israel from their enemies on this day and therefore, Moses fasted on this day.’ The Prophet said: ‘We have more of a right to Moses than you,’ so he fasted on that day also and ordered the people to fast on that day.” This is recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

Ibn ‘Abbas reported that when the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) fasted on the day of ‘Ashura’ and commanded that it should he observed as a fast, they (his Companions) said to him: Messenger of Allah, it is a day which the Jews and Christians hold in high esteem. Thereupon the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: When the next year comes, God willing, we would observe fast on the 9th; but the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) died before the advent of the next year (Reported by Muslim)

According to the Hanafis, fasting these two [(9th and 10th)] days is not merely recommended, but an emulation of the Sunnah… The Shafiis and the Hanbalis agree with this ruling based on the fact that they make no distinction between that which is recommended and that which is an emulation of the Sunnah. The Malikis, however, do not agree with it based on the distinction which they draw, together with the Hanafis, between that which is recommended and that which is ‘Sunnah.’ (‘Islamic Jurisprudence According to the Four Sunni Schools’ by ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Jaziri)

Ash-Shafi’i and his companions, Ahmad, Ishaq and others said: “It is mustahabb to fast on both the ninth and tenth days, because the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) fasted on the tenth, and intended to fast on the ninth.” (Muharram and ‘‘Aashooraa´by Muhammad Salih al-Munajjid)

The scholars have mentioned that the fast of’Ashurah is of three levels:

  • fasting three days–that is, on the 9th, 10th, and 11th of Muharram;
  • fasting on the 9th and 10th; and
  • fasting only on the 10th. (‘Fiqh Us-Sunnah’ by As-Sayyid Sabiq)

Adding the ninth day to it is better than the eleventh (‘Fatawa Arkan-ul-Islam’ by Shaykh Muhammad bin Salih Al-‘Uthaimeen)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam.