Wa `alaykum as-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
1- Fasting on the day of Ashura – the 10th of Muharram– is of great merits in Islam. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) 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.”(Muslim)
2- Fasting the 9th of Muharram is highly recommended by the Prophet. Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them both) used to say: We should fast on two days: the 9th and 10th of Muharram to distinguish ourselves from the Jewish community. (At-Tirmidhi)
Explaining the virtues of fasting on the 9th and the 10th of Muharram, Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, former President of the Islamic Society of North America, states:
It is the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to fast on the 9th and 10th of Muharram. The Prophet used to fast on the day of Ashura. When he came to Madinah, he found out that the Jews of Madinah were also fasting on this day remembering Prophet Musa (peace and blessings be upon him). The Prophet admired this tradition and said to the Jews, “I am closer to Musa than you are.” He fasted and he also told his Companions to fast on this day.
Later, before the end of his life, the Prophet told Muslims to add the 9th day also. Thus, it is recommended to fast on both the 9th and 10th of Muharram.
Moreover, in his well-known book, Fiqh As-Sunnah, the late Sheikh Sayyed Sabiq states:
Abu Hurairah reported: “I asked the Prophet: ‘Which Prayer is the best after the obligatory Prayers?’ He said: ‘Prayer during the mid of the night.’ I asked: ‘Which fasting is the best after that of Ramadan?’ He said, ‘The month of Allah that you call Muharram’.” (Ahmad, Muslim, and Abu Dawud)
Humayd ibn Abd al-Rahman ibn Awf heard Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan say from the pulpit on the day of `Ashura’ in the year in which he made the hajj, “People of Madinah, where are your learned men? I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) say about this day, ‘This is the day of `Ashura’, and fasting it has not been prescribed for you. I am fasting it, and whoever of you wants to fast it can do so, and whoever does not want to, does not have to.’ (Al-Muwatta)
It is noteworthy that Muslim scholars have stated that fasting of `Ashura’ is of three levels as follows:
1- Fasting for three days, i.e., on the 9th, 10th, and 11th of Muharram.
Allah Almighty knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.