Ashur, also known as Yawm Ashura, is the tenth day of Muharram, the first month in the Islamic calendar. The term is derived from the Arabic word for the number ten. The day of Ashura has a special significance in the history of Islam, and is celebrated differently around the world. Let’s look at what Muslims do on the day of Ashura, what is its history and important duas to recite on this special day.
Meaning of Ashura
Orientalist A. J. Wensinck suggests that Ashura finds its roots in the Hebrew word, āsōr. It means the tenth and hence Ashura day transliterates to the 10th day of the month. However, some Islamic scholars have different takes on the etymology. According to most English dictionaries, it is explained as a holy day for the Muslims.
What is the Day of Ashura?
Traditionally, Muḥarram is one of the four sacred months in which fighting is not allowed. Ashura is a solemn day of mourning the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (PBUH), the grandson of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) in 680 ADS at Karbala in modern-day Iraq. For other sects, it is a voluntary day of fasting which commemorates the day Prophet Nuh (PBUH) left the Ark, and the day that Prophet Musa (PBUH) and the Bani Israil were saved from the Pharoah and his army by Allah.
Ashura History: The Battle of Karbala
The most remembered event on the Day of Ashura is the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, also Hussain and Husyan, and nearly 70 people during the battle. The Battle of Karbala was fought between the army of Yazid I and a small army led by Imam Hussain. It was fought on 10 October 680, which is the 10 Muharram in the year 61 AH according to the Hijri calendar.
Trouble began, when Yazid, the son of Mu’awiya I, succeeded as the caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate. He instructed the governor to compel the Imam and other prominent figures to pledge their allegiance to him. Imam, knowing that is Yazid was not following the path of Islam, refused to pledge and started towards Makkah to take refuge and perform Hajj. But Yazid planned to kill Hussain and his accomplices amidst Hajj. When Husain learned about Yazid’s plan, he started moving towards Kufa, a city in Iraq which was already quite turbulent after the death of Muawiyah. While still on the way, Imam faced the army of Yazid, which forced them to change their route. Imam Hussain turned towards Karbala but the army again stopped them.
Before the historical battle, a siege was held by the enemies of Imam Hussain(PBUH). They took control of all the water sources around the camp of the Imam, depriving them of water until. When he did not surrender, the Imam and his people were deprived of water and food for three days and then the huge army of the enemies attacked them. Though intensely thirsty and hungry, they fought with all their might and many people including Imam Hussain(PBUH), and his 3-month-old child attained martyrdom in the battle. In this battle, many people laid their life for the righteous path of Allah Almighty and his Prophet(PBUH).
What to do on the day of Ashura 2023?
Given the historic importance, different rituals are performed on the day of Ashura in different Muslim sects. On the the Ashura Day, Hussain bin Ali was martyred at Karbala. He was the grandson of Prophet Muhammad(PBUH), Imam Hussain to be the rightful successor. It is a day of mourning and extreme sadness, which is expressed in the following ways.
- Making pilgrimages to the tomb of Imam Hussain in Karbala, Iraq on the day of Ashura.
- After forty days, a pilgrimage – Arba’een is made to the Mashhad al-Hussain – the shrine dedicated to Imam Hussain.
- It is a day for remembrance and self-reflection. Muslims wear mourning attire and there are no celebrations, weddings or parties.
- Muslims grieve by listening to sermons on how Imam Hussain(PBUH) and his family were martyred with the intention of connecting with Imam Hussain’s(PBUH) suffering and sacrifices to keep Islam alive.
- There are public processions, also known as al-mawakib al-husayniyya, wherein Muslims cry and mourn.
- Some Muslims also practice flagellation or whipping themselves with sharp objects like swords and chains with blades to feel the pain that Imam Hussain and his family went through.
- In some parts of the world, there are even re-enactments of the battle of Karbala, called the shabih.
- Congregations are held at mosques for poignant poetic recitations commemorating the martyrdom of Hussain.
- The grieving is often accompanied by beating drums and chants of “Ya Hussain”.
- In some countries, Harees – a dish that was loved by Imam Hussain is prepared on this day.
It is also believed that Ashura is the day when God created a path in the sea in order to save Moses and the Israelites from Pharaoh. It is also celebrated as National Martyrs’ Day of Muslim nation under the direction of Syed Imam Hayat. Fasting on the day of Ashura is recommended but it is not mandatory. It is believed that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) fasted on this day in Makkah and hence a few Makkans follow suit.
Suggested Read: Understanding The Islamic Calendar: Years, Months, Days And More
Ashura Day Prayers
It is recommended to recite Ziarat Ashura and Dua Alqama on the day of Ashura. Also, one should also recite surah Ikhlas as much as possible. For the first ten nights of the month of Muharram, it is Sunnah to recite Kalima Tauheed after Isha Namaz everyday. Besides, there are various Nafil salats that one must perform from the previous night. On the Day of Ashura, before Zuhar Namaz, Muslims must read 4 Rakat Nafil Namaz, 6 Rakat namaz with 3 salams, and 4 Rakat Nafil Namaz.
Hazrat Imam Zainul Abidain (Radi Allah Anhu) reports that, “whoever recites this dua (Dua-e- Ashurah) on the tenth of Muharram, any time after sunrise and before sunset, or listens to its recitation from someone else, Allah Ta’ala will certainly make it an insurance for a years’ life for him, by keeping death away from him. However, if one is to become the victim of death in that year, they will by some strange coincidence not remember to recite it.”
Another Hadith narrates that, “anyone who prays four units of nafal, in which he recites Ayatul Kursi once and Surah Ikhlas three times after Surah Fatiha, in each unit, and after this, he supplicates, then whatever he asks of Allah, it shall be granted to him.”
Ashura Day Dua: Transliteration
Then, read the following dua 7 times.
Fasting on the day of Ashura: Hadiths
Fasting on the day of Ashura is a tradition. It is evident that the practice was prevalent even in the days of Jahiliyyah as it was reported that Ayesha (PBUH) said: “The people of Jahiliyyah used to fast on that day.” Also, fasting was made obligatory when Allah said, “ … observing the fasting is prescribed for you …” , (Al-Qur’an, 2:183)
According to Islamic scholars, one may or may not observe fasting on the day of Ashura. You can fast on:
- three days, that is the ninth, tenth, and eleventh of Muharram; or
- two days, that is th ninth and tenth day of Muharram; or
- one day, the tenth
Abu Hurayrah (PBUH) said: “The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: ‘The best of fasting after Ramadan is fasting Allah’s month of Muharram.”
The Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said, “Fasting the day of ‘Ashura’ (is of great merits), I hope that Allah will accept it as an expiation for (the sins committed in) the previous year.”
Ibn Abbas said: “The Prophet (PBUH) 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.”
Another interesting view of Ashura fasting comes from the great scholar Ibn Al-Qayyim Al-Jawziyya (b. 691 AH/1292 CE), who wrote: “This misguided person does not know that fasting in Ramadan and praying five times a day are much more important than fasting on the Day of Arafah and the Day of ‘Ashura’, and that they expiate for the sins between one Ramadan and the next, or between one Friday and the next, so long as one avoids major sins. But they cannot expiate for minor sins unless one also avoids major sins; when the two things are put together, they have the strength to expiate for minor sins. Among those deceived people may be one who thinks that his good deeds are more than his sins, because he does not pay attention to his bad deeds or check on his sins, but if he does a good deed he remembers it and relies on it.”
Ashura fasting is not obligatory but a choice. As scholar Ibn Taymiyah (b. 661 AH/1263 CE) states, “one must take advantage of this opportunity to bring yourself closer to Allah on ‘Ashura’ by fasting and praying for forgiveness.”
What are the virtues of Ashura Day?
Below are some of the major virtues of Ashura day:
- It occurs during one of the sacred months of Muharram
- Allah saved the people of Israel and Prophet Musa from Pharoah on this auspicious day
- It was the day when the Ark of Nuh came to rest on Mount Judi
- It is mentioned that prophets used to fast on this day even before their prophethood
- It is known that Qurayshis used to fast on this day due to some law obligations.
- Prophet specifically asked his followers to fast on this day to honor Musa.
On the 10th of Muharram Muslims worldwide observe the day of Ashura. It is the day when Muslims all around the world keep fasts and remember the sacrifice of Hazrat Ali in the battle of Karbala. In addition, people should also offer prayers in the remembrance of Hazrat Ali and his sacrifice for the faith and future of Islam. They visit the grave of Imam Ali present in Iraq to offer their respect to great warrior and keeper of Islam. Ashura also marks the day when Allah saved Musa from the wrath of the Pharaoh’s army.
Day Of Ashura FAQs
What is the significance of Ashura day?
Ashura day is considered a black day by Muslims as on this day, Imam Hussain attained martyrdom in Karbala fighting the army of Yazid I, the second caliph.
Why should Muslims fast on Ashura?
One of the greatest merits of fasting on the day of Ashura is that Allah s.w.t will expiate the sins from the previous year. In a Hadith narrated by Imam Muslim, our beloved Prophet(PBUH) made Dua to Allah to forgive the sins, committed in the previous year, for all the people who fast on the Day of Ashura.
How many days should you fast in Muharram?
It is recommended to fast as much as you can in the month of Muharram, particularly the 9th, the 10th and the 11th days of it. Added to these are the established recommendation of fasting the 13th, 14th and the 15th of each lunar month.
What is Ziyarat-e-Ashura?
Ziyarat Ashura is an Islamic salutatory prayer to Allah. The prayer is part of the liturgy used in pilgrimages to the shrine of Imam Hussain in Karbala.
What is Arbaeen?
Arbaeen is the pilgrimage walk from Najaf to Karbala that is performed on the 40th day from Ashura. Muslims visit the holy shrine of Imam Hussain ibn Ali in remembrance of martyrdom.
What happened to Musa on the Day of Ashura?
Musa was saved from pharaoh by the almighty Allah on the day of Ashura.
Is Ashura Day a public holiday?
Ashura Day is not a public holiday in most countries. However, it holds significant religious and cultural importance for Muslims.
Are there any specific rituals or practices associated with Ashura Day?
The rituals involve memorial services, visiting Husayn’s tomb in Karbala, mourning processions, and re-enactment of the battle as a play.
Is fasting on Ashura Day obligatory for all Muslims?
The day of Ashura will be observed on 27 July to 28 July.