All praise is for Allah. We praise Him, we seek His aid and we ask for His forgiveness. We seek Allah’s refuge from the evils of ourselves and from our evil actions. Whosoever Allah guides, there is no one who can misguide him; and whosoever Allah misguides, there is no one who can guide him.
I testify that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah, alone, who has no partner; and I testify that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is His servant and Messenger.
Dear brothers and sisters, Allah’s sacred month of Muharram is a blessed and important month. It is the first month of the Hijrah calendar (Islamic calendar which started with the Prophet Muhammad’s migration from Makkah to Madinah) and is one of the four sacred months concerning which Allah Almighty Says:
“Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve months (in a year) so was it ordained by Allah on the day when he created the Heaven and the Earth; of them four are Sacred – that is the right religion, so wrong not yourselves therein….” [Qur’an, 9:36]
Abu Bakrah, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said:
“The year is twelve months of which four are sacred, the three consecutive months of Zul-Qa’adah, Zul-Hijjah and Muharram, and Rajab which comes between Jumadah and Sha’aban.” [Al-Bukhari]
Muharram is so called because it is a sacred (Muharram) month and to confirm its sanctity.
Allah’s Words: “so wrong not yourselves therein….” mean: do not wrong yourselves in these sacred months, because sin in these months is worse than in other months.
Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said that this phrase “so wrong not yourselves therein….” referred to all the months, then these four were singled out and made sacred, so that sin in these months is more serious and good deeds bring a greater reward.
Imam Qatadah, may Allah be pleased with him, said concerning the same phrase that:
“Wrongdoing during the sacred months is more serious and more sinful than wrongdoing at any other time. Wrongdoing at any time is a serious matter, but Allah gives more weight to whichever of His commands He wills. Allah has chosen certain ones of His creation. He has chosen from among the angels Messengers and from among mankind Messengers. He chose from within speech the remembrance of Him. He chose from upon the earth the Mosques, from among the months Ramadan and the sacred months, from among the days Friday and from among the nights Lailatul-Qadr, so venerate that which Allah has told us to venerate. People of understanding and wisdom venerate the things that Allah has told us to venerate.” [Tafsir of Ibn Kathir]
• The Virtue of Observing More Voluntary Fasts During Muharram
Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, said:
“The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) said: ‘The best of fasting after Ramadan is fasting Allah’s month of Muharram.’” [Muslim]
The phrase “Allah’s month”, connecting the name of the month to the name of Allah in a genitive grammatical structure signifies the importance of the month (Muharram). Al-Qari, may Allah have mercy on him, said:
“The apparent meaning is all of the month of Muharram.”
But it was proven that the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) never fasted any whole month apart from Ramadan, so this Hadith (Prophetic narration) is probably meant to encourage increasing one’s fasting during Muharram, without meaning that one should fast the entire month.
It was reported that the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) used to fast more in Sha’aban. It is likely that the virtue of Muharram was not revealed to him until the end of his life, before he (Peace be upon him) was able to fast during this month.
• Allah Chooses Whatever Times and Places He Wills
Imam Al-Izz Ibn Abdus-Salam, may Allah have mercy on him, said:
“Times and places may be given preferred status in two ways, either temporal or religious/spiritual. With regard to the latter, this is because Allah bestows His generosity on His servants at those times or in those places by giving a greater reward for deeds done, such as giving a greater reward for fasting in Ramadan than for fasting at all other times, and also on the day of Ashurah, the virtue of which is due to Allah’s generosity and kindness towards His servants on that day…”
• Ashurah In History
Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said:
“The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) came to Madinah and found the Jews fasting on the day of Ashurah. He (Peace be upon him) said: ‘What is this?’ They (Jews) said: ‘This is a righteous day, it is the day when Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemies, so Prophet Musa (may Allah exalt his mention) fasted on this day.’ He (Peace be upon him) said: ‘We have more right to Musa than you,’ so he fasted on that day and commanded [the Muslims] to fast on that day.” [Al-Bukhari]
The practice of fasting on Ashurah Day was known even in the days of Jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic period), before the Prophet’s (Peace be upon him) mission. It was reported that Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, said:
“The people of Jahiliyyah used to fast on that day…”
Imam Al-Qurtubi, may Allah have mercy on him, said:
“Perhaps Quraish used to fast on that day on the basis of some past law, such as that of Prophet Ibrahim (may Allah exalt his mention).”
It was also reported that the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) used to fast on Ashurah in Makkah, before he migrated to Madinah. When he (Peace be upon him) migrated to Madinah, he found the Jews celebrating this day, so he asked them why, and they replied, as described in the Hadith quoted above. He (Peace be upon him) commanded the Muslims to be different from the Jews, who took it as a festival.
Apparently the motive for commanding the Muslims to fast on this day was the desire to be different from the Jews, so that the Muslims would fast when the Jews did not, because people do not fast on a day of celebration.
Fasting on Ashurah was a gradual step in the process of introducing fasting as a prescribed obligation in Islam. Fasting appeared in three forms. When the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) came to Madinah, he told the Muslims to fast on three days of every month and on the day of Ashurah, then Allah made fasting obligatory in the Qur’anic verse: “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting …” [Qur’an, 2:183] The obligation was transferred from the fast of Ashurah to the fast of Ramadan, and this is one of the proofs in the field of Usulul-Fiqh (Judicial fundamentals) that it is possible to abrogate a lighter duty in favour of a heavier duty.
• The Virtues of Fasting Ashurah
Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with them, said:
“I never saw the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) so keen to fast any day and give it priority over any other than this day, the day of Ashurah, and this month, meaning Ramadan.” [Al-Bukhari]
The meaning of his being keen was that he (Peace be upon him) intended to fast on that day in the hope of earning the reward for doing so.
The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said:
“For fasting the day of Ashurah, I hope that Allah will accept it as expiation for the year that went before.” [Muslim]
Respected brothers and sisters, I’m reminding the Muslim faithfuls around the world, and especially in Nigeria that the Tasu’ah (9th Muharram) and Ashurah (10th Muharram) falls on Saturday, August 29 and Sunday, August 30, in Nigeria. Meaning there’s fasting on Saturday and Sunday, In Shaa Allah.
All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true and sincere followers.
Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: email@example.com or +2348038289761.
This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Friday, Muharram 8, 1442 AH (August 28, 2020).