Ashura

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What should be done if there is confusion about the beginning of the month?

Ahmad (ra) said: “If there

is confusion about the beginning of the month, one should fast for three days, to be sure of fasting on the ninth and tenth days.” (al-Mughni by Ibn Qudaamah, part 3 – al-Siyaam – Siyaam ‘Aashooraa’).

If a person does not know when Muharram began, and he wants to be sure of fasting on the tenth, he should assume that Dhoo’l-Hijjah was thirty days – as is the usual rule – and should fast on the ninth and tenth. Whoever wants to be sure of fasting the ninth as well should fast the eight, ninth and tenth (then if Dhoo’l-Hijjah was twenty-nine days, he can be sure of having fasted Taasoo’aa’ and ‘Aashooraa’).

But given that fasting on ‘Aashooraa’ is mustahabb rather than waajib, people are not commanded to look for the crescent of the new moon of Muharram as they are to do in the case of Ramadaan and Shawwaal.

Fasting ‘Aashooraa’ – for what does it offer expiation?

Imaam al-Nawawi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “It expiates for all minor sins, i.e., it brings forgiveness of all sins except major sins.”

Then he said (may Allaah have mercy on him):

“Fasting the day of ‘Arafaah expiates for two years, and the day of ‘Aashooraa’ expiates for one year. If when a person says ‘Aameen’ it coincides with the ‘Aameen’ of the angels, he will be forgiven all his previous sins… Each one of the things that we have mentioned will bring expiation. If there are minor sins for which expiation is needed, expiation for them will be accepted; if there are no minor sins or major sins, good deeds will be added to his account and he will be raised in status… If he had committed major sins but no minor sins, we hope that his major sins will be reduced.” (al-Majmoo’ Sharh al-Muhadhdhab, part 6, Sawm Yawm ‘Arafaah).

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “Tahaarah, salaah, and fasting in Ramadaan, on the day of ‘Arafaah and on ‘Aashooraa’ expiate for minor sins only.” (al-Fataawa al-Kubra, part 5).

Not relying too much on the reward for fasting

Some people who are deceived rely too much on things like fasting on ‘Aashooraa’ or the day of ‘Arafaah, to the extent that some of them say, “Fasting on ‘Aashooraa’ will expiate for the sins of the whole year, and fasting on the day of ‘Arafaah will bring extra rewards.” Ibn al-Qayyim said: ‘This misguided person does not know that fasting in Ramadaan and praying five times a day are much more important than fasting on the day of ‘Arafaah and ‘Aashooraa’, and that they expiate for the sins between one Ramadaan and the next, or between one Friday and the next, so long as one avoids major sins. But they cannot expiate for minor sins unless one also avoids major sins; when the two things are put together, they have the strength to expiate for minor sins. Among those deceived people may be one who thinks that his good deeds are more than his sins, because he does not pay attention to his bad deeds or check on his sins, but if he does a good deed he remembers it and relies on it. This is like the one who seeks Allaah’s forgiveness with his tongue (i.e., by words only), and glorifies Allaah by saying “Subhaan Allaah” one hundred times a day, then he backbites about the Muslims and slanders their honour, and speaks all day long about things that are not pleasing to Allaah. This person is always thinking about the virtues of his tasbeehaat (saying “Subhaan Allaah”) and tahleelaat (saying “Laa ilaaha ill-Allaah”) but he pays no attention to what has been reported concerning those who backbite, tell lies and slander others, or commit other sins of the tongue. They are completely deceived.” (al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah, part 31, Ghuroor).

Seifeddine-M