The ceremonies observed on Ashura are aimed at exemplifying the suffering that Imam Hussain endured shortly before his death in the Battle of Karbala

Muharram 2021: How Muslims observe Ashura, the 10th day of the sacred month

Muharram 2021: How Muslims observe Ashura, the 10th day of the sacred month

The month of Muharram is considered to be the second holiest month in the Islamic calendar and marks the start of the Islamic New Year. This year, Muharram began on 10 August. The first 10 days of the month are significant to Muslims around the world, who mark it as a solemn period.

Key points:

On the day of Ashura ‘(tenth of Muharram) Allah forgave Prophet Adam,
• Allah saved Prophet Noah enabling his arch to land peacefully and victoriously,
• Allah saved Prophet Ibrahim from the tyrant Nimrood,
• Allah united Prophet Ya ^ qoob with his son Yussuf,
• Allah gave victory to Prophet Musa and split the sea for him and for the children of Israel and defeated Pharaoh (Fir ^ awn)
• Allah forgave Prophet Dawud and granted Prophet Sulayman great dominion
• And on that day Allah brought Prophet Yunus safely out of the whale
• On tenth of Muharram Allah cured Prophet Ayoub
• On that day the Battle of Dhat ar-Riqa ^ occurred

• And on that day of Ashura’, on Friday the year 61 after the hijrah, a great tragedy befell the Muslims, the killing of the grandson of the messenger of Allah peace be upon him, the killing of Imam Abu Abdullah al-Hussain the son of Imam ^ Aliy, who is the son of lady Fatimah (Radiallahu ^ Anha) the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu ^ Alayhi wa Sallam).

Imam al-Hussein was killed by an unjust group. He died as a martyr at the age 56 years old. He is the one whom our Prophet praised him along with his brother saying: “Husayn is from me and I’m from Husayn.” This means that: “My love to him is full and so is his love to me, and my affection towards him is full and so is his affection towards me.”

What is Ashura?

The 10th day of Muharram is called Ashura. It marks the day Imam Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and son of the fourth Caliph Ali, was martyred in the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD.

Why is Imam Hussain important?

In early Islamic history, it is known that a conflict ensued after the death of the Prophet over who would succeed him. Some supported Ali, the fourth Caliph and cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad. They believed the caliphate should stay within the family of the Prophet. These supporters were known as Shias.

But Ali was killed by his opponent Muawiya bin Abi Sufiyan, who later captured his position. Muawiya later handed over the Caliph position to his son Yazid. Ali’s son, Hussain, refused to accept this. Along with a few fighters, he met Yazid’s army at Karbala. Hussain and his followers were killed in the Battle of Karbala.

How is Ashura observed?

The day is marked as a solemn occasion, particularly by Shia muslims. On this day, Shias engage in public mourning and participate in processions. Some Sunni Muslims mark Ashura by fasting. The observances on this day are aimed at exemplifying the suffering that Imam Hussain endured shortly before his death.

Ashura is also marked as the day when Noah left his Ark and the day Prophet Moses was saved by God from the Pharaoh of Egypt.

When will Ashura be observed this year?

This year Ashura is fall on 19 August. The Islamic or hijri calendar is based on the lunar cycle so it is 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar. Therefore, the dates of Ashura and Muharram varies every year.

bn Abbas (ra) said, “I never saw Allah’s Messenger (saw) so keen to fast any day and give it priority over any other than this day, the day of Ashura, and this month, meaning Ramadan” (Bukhari).

The blessings and benefits that come along with fasting are bountiful and our beloved Prophet (saw) wholeheartedly welcomed each of his fasts in Ramadan and Muharram, encouraging others to do the same.

Everyone knows the rewards for fasting during the month of Ramadan, but it seems as though the motivation behind Muharram fasting on the ninth, tenth and eleventh of the month are lesser known.

Unlike Ramadan, fasting on Ashura is not compulsory for any Muslim.

“The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: ‘The best of fasting after Ramadan is fasting Allah’s month of Muharram.'” (Muslim) The Prophet (saw) encourages us to take up a fast during Muharram, on the 9th and 10th (or 10th and 11th) days of the month.

The Prophet himself fasted on the 10th, the day of Ashura, and had fully intended to take up a fast the following year on the 9th, but he passed away before he could.

Why We Fast on the Day of Ashura


The 10th day of Muharram, the day of Ashura, marks many important events in our Islamic history; it is a day of reflection and remembrance. Many of us observe this day by taking up a fast, but why?

On the day of Ashura, we remember the Prophet Musa (as), who freed the slaves in Egypt and escaped the clutches of the Egyptian tyrant when Allah (swt) defeated the Pharaoh and his soldiers by parting the Red Sea for them to cross into freedom.

Musa (as) fought oppression and spoke out against the false worship of the Egyptian Pharaoh, who claimed that he himself was divine. Allah (swt) rewarded the Prophet Musa’s (as) steadfast belief and dedication by liberating him and the Children of Israel on the day of Ashura.

Each year on this day, Musa (as) would fast as a way of giving thanks to Allah (swt) for this great liberation.

Al-Tirmidhi mentions that Ibn Abbass (ra) used to say that we should fast on two days to recognise our closeness to Musa (as) above others.


The Day of Ashura was also the day that Imam Hussain (ra) was martyred for standing strong in his moral beliefs against Yazid. Imam Hussain (ra) was killed in The Battle of Karbala defending his people against an army of 30,000 soldiers.

The Prophet’s (saw) grandson fought nobly for his innocent friends and relatives, bravely defending their dignity, and fell in battle protecting those he loved and the morality he stood for.

The 10th of Muharram is also the day that Nuh’s (as) ark landed on Mount Judiyy when the Great Flood subsided. The Prophet Nuh (as) warned his people to stop their worship of false idols and the sinful ways they had taken up, but they refused to listen to him, and in doing so refused the word of Allah (swt).

As a result, Allah (swt) told Nuh (as) to build an ark, gather pairs of every animal and bring his family and a group of loyal believers aboard it. Allah (swt) then brought about the Great Flood.

Nuh (as) fasted on the 10th of Muharram in thanksgiving for Allah’s (swt) Mercy and Blessings. On the day of Ashura, we remember his devotion to Allah (swt).

These momentous events all occurred on the 10th day of Muharram and many Muslims fast on the day of Ashura to commemorate the devotion of Musa (as), the death of Imam Hussain (ra), and the obedience of Nuh (as).

The Prophet Muhammad (saw) fasted on the 10th of Muharram to honour Musa’s (as) dedication to Allah (swt) and to show devotion himself.

The Virtues of Muharram Fasting


Fasting on the Day of Ashura offers spiritual redemption and allows you the opportunity to wipe your slate clean of any minor sins that you may have accumulated in the last year. Allah (swt) in all his Omnipotent Glory will clear away any of your minor sins if you are committed to your fast and truly repent on the day of Ashura.

The Prophet (saw) said, “Fasting the day of Ashura, I hope that Allah will accept it as an expiation for (the sins committed in) the previous year.” (Muslim), but be advised that, while fasting on this day will atone for your sins in the past year, it will not make up for needlessly skipping your fasts throughout Ramadan, disregarding your daily prayers or partaking in any major sins.

Don’t miss out on this wonderful opportunity for redemption this Muharram; take up your fast in this month with reverence and remembrance! Allah (swt) in all His mercy will surely absolve your sins and allow you to go into the New Year with a clean slate.

In addition to fasting this Muharram, you can honour the actions of Imam Hussain (ra) as he took a stand against tyranny, by building a well in the name of the Prophet (saw), Fatimah (ra), Ali (ra), Imam Hasan (ra) or Imam Hussain (ra).

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