The Month of Allah Al-Muharram & the Day of Ashura’
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
(Friday speech delivered by Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, NC, July 2, 1993)
After the season of Al-Hajj and the month of Thilhijjah, we welcome a great season, that is the month of Allah Al-Muharram, which is the first month of the Hijri, lunar year. Allah (S.W.T.) made fasting in it, the best kind of voluntary fasting after the fasting of the month of Ramadan.
Imam Muslim and others reported that the prophet (S.A.W.) was asked about the Salah that is the best after the obligatory Salah. He said, "The Salah in the last third of the night." Then, he was asked about the best fasting after the fasting of the month of Ramadan. He said, "The month of Allah that you call Al-Muharram". The prophet (S.A.W.) referred this month to Allah (S.W.T.) to honor it.
On the tenth day of this month is the day of Ashura' in which fasting is legislated. Its fasting was mandatory upon the Muslims before the obligatory fasting of the month of Ramadan. Then, when fasting the month of Ramadan was made an obligation, fasting the day of Ashura' became recommended. Imam Buhkari and Muslim reported that Aishah (R.A.) said, "The tribe of Quraish used to fast on the day of Ashura’ in the Pre-Islamic Period of Jahilliah, and Allah’s Messenger (S.A.W.) too, used to fast on that day and ordered others to fast. Later when the fasting of the month of Ramdan was prescribed, he gave up fasting on the day of Ashura’ and it became optional for one to fast on it or to leave its fast."
The Jews and the Christians used to fast the day of Ashura', out of respect and reverence, during the life of the prophet (S.A.W.), because it is the day on which Allah (S.W.T.) saved Mousa, and his followers, from Pharaoh, and his soldiers. To thank Allah (S.W.T.), Mousa fasted that day. Imam Buhkari and Muslim reported that Ibn Abbas (R.A.) said, "The Prophet (S.A.W.) came to Al-Madinah from Mecca and saw the Jews fasting on the day of Ashura’. He asked them about that. They replied, "This is a good day, the day on which Allah rescued the children of Israel from their enemy. So, Musa fasted on this day." The prophet (S.A.W.) fasted on that day and ordered (the Muslim) to fasted on that day." In anther narration reported by Imam Muslim and Ahmad that the Prophet (S.A.W.) said: "If I live to the next year I will fast the ninth day (with the tenth)."
From this hadith, we know the historical importance of fasting the day of Ashura'. It is a good day on which Allah (S.W.T.) saved Mousa and those who believed with him, from their enemy; Pharaoh and his soldiers. So, to thank Allah (S.W.T.), Mousa fasted that day. But, the messenger Muhammad (S.A.W.) and we are more worthy of Mousa than the Jews because we are the followers of the message of the pure Oneness that Mousa and all the other messengers came with. But, to make ourselves different from the Jews in their fasting for that day, we fast the day before the day of Ashura' also, like the prophet (S.A.W.) ordered.
The victory of Mousa and the believers over Pharaoh and his soldiers is a victory of the truth over falsehood. A victory for the truth and for the weak people, the followers of Mousa over falsehood, the aggressors, the arrogant and the oppressors. All this occurs with the will of Allah (S.W.T.) and His help. It is His decree in His creation and there is no change for His decree.
The Qur'an told us, in many verses, about the story of Mousa and his people, and their struggle against Pharaoh and his soldiers so that it will be, for us and for all people till the Day of Judgment, an unforgettable lesson.
The story, briefly as it came in the Qur'an, goes like this: Pharaoh did so much mischief and corruption on earth and became arrogant, oppressive, and divided the society into different classes, humiliating and persecuting one class of people, from them was the children of Israel.
One day, Pharaoh was told by the interpreters of dreams that a boy would come from the children of Israel and would destroy his entire kingdom. Upon hearing this, Pharaoh ordered that every new male born be slaughtered.
When Mousa was born, his mother feared that her son would be killed if Pharaoh and his soldiers knew about him. But, Allah (S.W.T.) inspired her to put her son in a wooden box and put the box in the Nile river. The river took the box to the Palace of Pharaoh. "The household of Pharaoh picked him up, that he should be to them an enemy and a cause of grieve," with the decree of Allah (S.W.T.) that can not be overcome.
And Mousa grew up and was raised in the palace of Pharaoh. Then, the message was sent to Mousa, and Allah (S.W.T.) ordered him to convey it to Pharaoh. Mousa obeyed what Allah (S.W.T.) had ordered him, and called Pharaoh to worship Allah (S.W.T.) alone. But Pharaoh rejected Mousa's message and said: "What is the Lord of Al-A’lamin?" Mousa answered: He is the "Lord of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them." The debate got so tense and when the evidence that Mousa presented became so strong, Pharaoh resorted to torturing, and killing (like all the other oppressors in the history of humanity" Then, Allah (S.W.T.) revealed to Mousa to go out with his people from the land of Egypt. They went toward the East. When Pharaoh heard about them, he got very angry and mobilized his troops to put Mousa and his people down.
Pharaoh found them at the coast. The followers of Mousa got so scared and said to Mousa: we are sure to be overtaken. Mousa replied: "No, verily! With me is my Lord, He will guide me." Allah (S.W.T.) revealed to him, "Strike the sea with your stick." and when Mousa hit the sea with his stick, the sea water got split into two parts, each part became like a huge mountain. Mousa and his people entered the dry pathway. Pharaoh and his soldiers followed them, and when they all got inside the sea, and all the believers were completely out of it on the other side, Allah (S.W.T.) returned the sea water, to the way it was before split. Pharaoh and his soldiers got drowned.
Here in the last moments of his life, when Pharaoh was drowning, he said: "I believe in the Lord of Mousa and Aaron whom the children of Israel believe in, and I am one of the Muslims. Allah (S.W.T.) replied, rejecting his belief: "Now you believe while you refused to believe before and you were one of the mufsidin (evil-doers, corrupts). So today, We shall deliver your dead body out from sea, that you may be a sign to those who come after you!"
Allah (S.W.T.) told us about Pharaoh that he would lead his people to Hell Fire. " He will go ahead of his people on the Day of Resurrection, and will lead them into the Fire."
This was the end of one of the stories of the struggle between the truth and falsehood. It ended with the drowning and total destruction of Pharaoh and his soldiers, and the victory to Mousa and to those who believed with him. This happened on the Day of Ashura’, the tenth day of the month Muharram. So, to thank Allah (S.W.T.) Mousa and his followers fasted it. But we are more worthy of Mousa than the Jews, so we fast this day to thank Allah (S.W.T.) for the victory that he granted, for truth, and its followers, and we fast one day before it, like the prophet (S.A.W.) taught us to make ourselves different from them.
The prophet (S.A.W.) was asked about its fasting, so he said, what was reported by Imam Muslim, At-Tirmithi, and Ahmed, "It wipes off the sins of the last year." This is from the blessings and mercy of Allah (S.W.T.) upon His believing servants. We ask Allah to help us fast this day and accept it.