Ashura is derived from the Arabic “Ashrah,” meaning the 10th day. Yom-e-Ashur or Ashura is the 10th day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar. It holds immense significance in Islamic history. While the importance of the 10th Muharramgoes all the way back to the creation of heaven and earth by Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى), the day is known for the deliverance of Musa (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and the woeful event of Kerbala that led to the Martyrdom of Hussain Ibn-e-Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), and his companions.

This article will discuss why the 10th of Muharram is important in Islam and how Muslims should commemorate this holiest of days.

Abu Hurairah (رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ) said:

“A man came to the Prophet (ﷺ) and said: ‘Which fasting is better after the month of Ramadan?’ He said: ‘The month of Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) which is called Muharram.'” (Sunan Ibn Majah: 1742)

The Historical Background of Muharram

Ashura’s significance starts right from the creation of heaven and earth. It is reported that Umar Bin Khattab, the second caliph of Islam, was asked about the importance of Ashura, and he stated that Allah created the skies, created Adam and Hawwa, created the heaven, and created Jibrail on the 10th of Muharram.

The symbolic importance of this day is reflected by the following important events that took place on the 10th of Muharram:

  • The day of atonement for Prophet Adam ( عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ)
  • Saving of the Ark of Prophet Nuh ( عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ)
  • Rescure of Prophet Musa ( عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) from the Israelites
  • The Battle at Karbala and the Martyrdom of Imam Hussain ( عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ)

After Prophet Adam (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was banished from the heavens, He constantly asked for forgiveness from Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى). It is believed that it was on the day of the 10thMuharram that Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) accepted his prayers which mark the Day of Atonement.

Another event that occurred on 10th Muharram was when Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) saved Prophet Nuh’s (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) Ark from the great flood. The Ark miraculously came to a halt on Mount Judi, which is a symbol of mercy and salvation. Mankind essentially was reborn after that event as the old world was destroyed by the Floods, and a chosen few from each species repopulated the earth.

The 10th of Muharram also marks the day when Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) saved Prophet Musa ( عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and other Israelites from the subjugation of Pharaoh. It was also on this very day that Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) split the Red Sea into two, allowing Prophet Musa (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and his followers to pass through. The Pharaoh’s army followed Prophet Musa (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), but they drowned in the process.

The importance of the 10th Muharram in Islam is much more significant due to the battle of Karbala. It was during this battle that the Grandson of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), Imam Hussain (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), was martyred along with his followers.

The Story of Kerbala and 10th Muharram

In April 680, Muawiyah ibn Sufiyan, the first caliph of the Umayyad dynasty, died, leaving Yazid ibn Mu’awiya, his son, the successor to the caliphate. While succession by heritage was new to Islam, Mu’awiya had secured allegiance for his son before he died from almost all Muslim leaders in Arabia and Hejaz, except four.

Husayn Ibn-e-Ali, the Prophet Muhammad’s(ﷺ)grandson,and Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, Abd Allah ibn Umar, and Abd al-Rahman ibn Abi Bakr opposed the succession of Yazid as the second caliph of the Umayyad Dynasty. His lineage ad his questionable political practices were the main reasons for opposition.

Once his father died, Yazid ibn Mu’awiya sought to secure the allegiance of these four by any means necessary, even force. Hussain refused and traveled to Mecca with his family and companions to be safe from the clutches of the governor in Medina, who had allied with Yazid.

From Mecca, Hussain (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and his family traveled to Kufa on the behest of the Pro Ali ibn Abi Talib Kufi residents. They beseeched Hussain Ibn-e-Ali to come and free them from the evil rule of Yazid ibn Mu’awiya. They assured him of their support and urged him to come to them as they needed an Imam, a leader. Hussain Ibn-e-Ali traveled towards Kufa with his household, women, and children included.

Yazid’s army waylaid him on the way to Kufa and urged Hussain Ibn-e-Ali to perform baiyat or bay’ah at the hands of Yazid. However, Yazid had strayed from the path of Allah and Muhammad (ﷺ),and his succession was not acceptable to Hussain Ibn-e-Ali, the beloved grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) and the beacon of true Islam.

He did not give in to Yazid’s demands, regardless of the fact that Yazid’s army outnumbered Hussain and his companions by many thousands. On the 2nd of Muharram, Hussain’s family was besieged in the desert plain of Kerbala, some 60 – 70 kilometers from Kufa. Here, Hussain and his household camped, fought, and embraced martyrdom without water or food till the 10th of Muharram. On the 10th, the last standing male member of Muhammad’s family, Hussain Ibn-e-Ali, was martyred by Yazid’s army.

The tragedy of Kerbala is immense; the mere thought of this brutal injustice is enough to make any heart cry. Muslims, regardless of their sect, celebrate the bravery of Hussain Ibn-e-Ali in the face of oppression. The Kerbala story serves as a symbol of the resilience they showed against injustice and oppression.

How is Ashura Observed?

While the 10th Muharram is considered important by all Muslims, each sect observes the day of Ashura in a different manner. They also approach different rituals and practices depending on their perspective.

A common practice among all the sects of Islam includes an emphasis on giving charity. Acts of kindness and generosity are encouraged. These acts can be in the form of giving water, food, or money to less fortunate people.

Sunni Muslims

Ashura fasting is a common practice among Muslims. As Narrated by Salama bin Al-Akwa` (رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ): Once the Prophet (ﷺ) ordered a person on ‘Ashura’ (the tenth of Muharram) to announce, “Whoever has eaten, should not eat anymore, but fast, and who has not eaten should not eat, but complete his fast (till the end of the day) [Sahih al-Bukhari: 1924]

The Sunni Muslims fast on this day to follow the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, who fasted on the 9th and 10th of Muharram as an expression of gratitude for the salvation of Prophet Musa (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and his followers.

Similarly, praying nawafil is also an act that both sects practice. Both Sunni and Shia perform these nawafils either individually or in congregations. The purpose of performing these nawafils varies from sect to sect. Therefore, one must consult their religious authorities to understand these practices.

Many Sunni Muslims remember Husaain Ibn-e-Ali and his brave companions from the 1st to the 10th Muharram. They condemn Yazid in the strongest words and recall the brave deeds of the Prophet’s family. They give charity in the form of cooked food, offer Sabeel, cold water, and refreshing drinks so no one goes thirsty, and everyone who drinks the beverage remembers the unwavering faith and absolute resoluteness of Hussain and his family in Allah’s path despite their thirst.

Sunnis differ from Shias in that they do not mourn or involve themselves in azadari.

Shia Muslims

The Shia Muslims observe the entire Muharram as a month of mourning. They remember the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and His followers in the battle of Karbala. Most commonly, the remembrance rituals include a procession, reciting, and mourning poetry. Some Shia Muslims also re-enact the tragic events that took place that day.

As an expression of grief, Shia Muslims also perform self-flagellation and beating of the chest. All of these rituals are an expression of sorrow and solidarity with Imam Hussain (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ). After all, it was on this day that the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) was martyred mercilessly.

Ashura Lessons for Muslims

Muharram holds great importance in Islam. The most important lesson of this month that every sect highlights include sacrifice, bravery, and standing in the face of injustice.

The sacrifice made by Imam Hussain (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and his followers shows the commitment to stand by justice no matter the consequences. It is a reflection of how faithful Muslims must even sacrifice their interests for the greater good.

Ashura also signifies the bravery that Imam Hussain (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and his small group of followers faced against much larger opponents. To this day, the Karbala story is a reminder to remain strong and confront any challenge head-on.

Ashura also teaches us to stand against injustice. Whether it be Hazrat Musa or Imam Hussain (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ). Both stood against tyranny and resisted oppression. These acts foster a sense of responsibility to fight against anyone involved in wrongful acts.

The 10th Muharram also reinforces the importance of preserving the foundation of Islam. Compassion, mercy, and fairness are the three qualities that help portray the message of peace. Ashura reminds all Muslims to uphold these values and traditions and contribute towards maintaining a just society.

Ibadah on the 10th of Muharram

The day of Ashura is observed in different ways across the world. However, the main theme of devotion, remembrance, and reflection remains the same. Ashura fasting is common on the 9th and 10thof Muharram. Muslims abstain from eating and drinking all day, from sunrise until sunset.

Reciting supplications is also very important for Muslims from different sects. Muslims recite Dua e Ashura before Asr prayers on the 10thof Muharram. Muslims also offer nawafil; Ashura namaz time is flexible, making it easier for Muslims to perform at any time. Muslims engage in extra prayer individually and in groups as they seek connection with Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى).

Participating in processions is still very common among Shia Muslims. There was an increase in the sectarian division in Muharram between Shia and Sunni Muslims. However, now efforts are being made to reduce these differences. Dialogues between leaders from both sects and other initiatives help prompt understanding between both sects.

Conclusion for Ashura – The Importance of the 10th Muharram in Islam

Ashura is an important day of Islamic history that is a day of remembrance. It commemorates several important events that have occurred in the past. The martyrdom of Imam Hussain (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) commemorates sacrifice and bravery. The atonement of Prophet Adam (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) commemorates forgiveness.When Muslims reflect on these past events, it serves as a reminder of how they should uphold the values of Islam.

This holy month also allows Muslims from different sects to join hands and stand against oppression and injustice. Muslims worldwide remember this day by Fasting, offering nawafils, and giving charity. All Muslims need to read about these events in detail. By doing so, they will learn the importance of Islamic society and the foundation on which it is based.