The Month of Muharram
With the sighting of the new moon the Islamic New Year is ushered in. The first month Muharram, is a month of great reward and virtue. Muharram itself means `sacred' and is from those months which have been mentioned as sacred in the Holy Qur'an.
Almighty Allah states in the Holy Qur'an: "Four of them (Zul-Qa'dah, Zul-Hijjah, Muharram and Rajab) are sacred." (Surah At-Tawbah: 36)
From out of the four sacred months, Muharram has been blessed with certain specific virtues:
The Holy Prophet Muhammad Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam said: "The best of fasts besides the month of Ramadhan is the fasting of Allah's month of Muharram." (Muslim)
Although the fasts of the month of Muharram are not obligatory, the one who fasts in these days out of his own will and choice is entitled to a great reward by Almighty Allah. The Hadith citied above signifies that the fasts of the month of Muharram are the most rewarding among the Nafl fasts i.e. the fasts one observes out of his own choice without being obligatory on him.
The Hadith does not mean that the reward promised for fasts of Muharram can only be attained by fasting for the whole month. On the contrary, each fast during this month has merit. Therefore, one should take advantage of this opportunity.
The Day of Ashura (10th Muharram)
Although the month of Muharram is a sacred month as a whole, the 10th of Muharram is the most sacred among all its days. The day is named 'Ashura'. It is one of the most important and blessed days of Allah in the Islamic calendar.
According to the Holy companion, Ibn Abbas Radhiyallaahu Anhuma, when the Holy Prophet Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam migrated to Madinah, he found that the Jews of Madinah used to fast on the 10th day of Muharram. They said that it was the day on which the Holy Prophet Moosa Alayhis Salaam and his followers crossed the Red Sea miraculously, and the Pharaoh was drowned in its water.
On hearing this from the Jews, the Holy Prophet Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam said, "We are more closely related to Moosa than you." So the Prophet Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam instructed the Muslims to fast on the day of Ashura. (Abu Dawood)
According to another Hadith, it is more advisable that the fast of Ashura should be either preceded or succeeded by an additional fast. It means that one should fast two days: the 9th and 10th of Muharram or the 10th and 11th. The reason of this additional fast as mentioned by the Holy Prophet Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam is that the Jews used to fast on the day of Ashura alone, and the Holy Prophet Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam wanted to distinguish the Islamic-way of fasting from that of the Jews. Therefore, he advised the Muslims to add another fast to the day of Ashura.
Some Ulama (scholars) are of the opinion that before the fasts of Ramadhaan were made compulsory, the fast of the day of Ashura was compulsory upon the Ummah. This is stated in a Hadith reported by Hazrat Aisha Radhiyallaahu Anha: "that the Holy Prophet Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam ordered the observance of the fast of Ashura. However, when the fast of Ramadhaan became compulsory, then whosoever wished, kept this fast and whosoever desired did not observe this fast." (Bukhari) But, nevertheless the Prophet Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam continued to fast this day and encouraged his Companions to do the same.
Recommended deeds on the day of Aashora
The Prophet Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam has exhorted and encouraged his Ummah to fast on this day.
He said: "This fast (of Ashura) is a compensation for the (minor) sins of the past year." (Muslim)
One should also observe the fast of the 9th Muharram to safeguard his deed from resemblance with the Non-Muslims who fast only on the 10th Muharram.
Hazrat Ibn Abbas Radhiyallaahu Anhu said:
"When Rasoolullah Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam observed the fast of the day of Ashura and ordered (his Companions) to fast, they said: `O Rasoolullah! It is a day revered (glorified) by the Jews and Christians.' Thereupon Rasoolullah said: "The coming year, if Allah wills (I remain alive), I will for surely fast on the ninth (also)." (Muslim)
These Ahadith indicate clearly that one should fast on the ninth and tenth of Muharram. However, if one does not manage to fast on the ninth, then he/she should fast on the eleventh of Muharram instead.
The Holy Prophet Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam said: "Observe the fast of Ashura and oppose the Jews. Fast a day before it or a day after." (Baihaqi)
Hence, it is important to either fast on the ninth and the tenth or the tenth and the eleventh of Muharram. To fast only on the day of Ashura is Makrooh as stated by Allamah Ibn Aabideen Shaami.
One should be generous on one's family and dependants and spend more on them than what is normally spent.
Rasoolullah Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam said: "One who generously spends on his family on the day of Aashora, Allah will increase (his provision) for the whole year." (Baihaqi)
These are the actions supported by Ahadith. Let us observe this great day according to the ways of Rasoolullah Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam and the Sahabah Radhiyallaahu Anhum, and refrain from all innovations which deprive us of the blessings from Almighty Allah.
May Allah guide us all upon the Straight Path and save us from every act which brings His displeasure, Aameen.