How Many Days You Should Fast on the Day of Ashura and Its Importance

The Day of Ashura is an Islamic holiday that takes place on the 10th day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, which this year falls on August 7 and 8.

Story of the Day of Ashura

Imam Marwan Sarwar Gill, Missionary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Argentina, told Newsweek that "Ashura" means "tenth" in Arabic.

Ashura is marked by Sunni Muslims with voluntary days of fasting, including one that commemorates the day Noah left the Ark and another for the day that Moses was saved from the Egyptians by God, stories that are also in the holy Bible and Torah. Unlike Ramadan, fasting on Ashura is not compulsory.

For Shia Muslims, it's a period of mourning, commemorating the martyrdom of Hussein, the Prophet Muhammad's grandson, in 680 AD in Karbala, which is now in Iraq. He was martyred by the forces of Yazid, the political ruler at that time of the Muslim world.

"Nowadays, it is very common amongst Shia communities and some Sufi groups as well that they remember this harrowing incident by expressing their grief and sorrow," Gill said.

"For example, some Muslims will go to the streets as part of an organized procession and commemorate the martyrdom by parading through the streets and slapping their chests and chanting. Others seek to emulate the suffering of Imam Hussein by flagellating themselves with chains or cutting their foreheads until blood streams from their bodies," he added.

Dr. Faid Said, Imam at the London Central Mosque Trust and The Islamic Cultural Centre, told Newsweek: "I believe Ashura is a day of interfaith and coexistence because according to the authentic narrations, Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, when he arrived to Medina, he saw the Jewish community first in the Day of Ashura,"

"So Prophet Muhammad—peace be upon him—he asked the Jewish community: 'Why are you fasting this day?' So they said: 'This is the day that God granted success for Moses after a lot of torture, and enslaving the children of Israel. So Prophet, peace be upon him, said we should be much more happier for the success of Moses and victory of Moses."

"The symbol of fasting that day is [to] give thanksgiving to God for granted success to Moses, and this is a symbol that all the success of one prophet is success of all the prophets," Said added.

He said that that the Koran repeatedly says that Allah (God) says that all prophets are brothers and come with the same message.

"Unfortunately, many Muslims don't even know why they fast on this very date," Said said. "The historic link according to the authentic narrations, however, the day of Ashura was a sacred day even before this event. In some narration it is related to some of the rituals of Abraham, peace be upon him. So it's a very important day. We worship God by thanking him by fasting on this very day."

Imam Arqam of the Hayes Muslim Centre shared with Newsweek a hadith about the importance of Muharram and Ashura.

Day of Ashura
Shiite Muslims attend a mourning ritual in the central Iraqi holy city of Karbala, on September 28, 2021, during the Arbaeen religious festival.The day of Ashura is an Islamic holiday that takes place on the 10th day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, which this year falls on August 8 and 9. Mohammed Sawaf/Getty

"Abu Haraira (Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: The most excellent fast after Ramadan is God's month. al-Muharram, and the most excellent prayer after what is prescribed is prayer during the night," he said.

"Additionally, one should try and fast on the 10th of Muharram, which is called 'Aashooraa'."

"Fasting in the holy month of Muharram is very virtuous and yields great reward," added Arqam.

How Many Days Should You Fast on Ashura?

The fast of Ashura is not obligatory, only voluntary in Islam, Marwan said. Although Ashura is the most important day to fast, it is often encouraged to fast on the ninth and 11th days of Muharram.

Arqam added: "When fasting on the day of 'Aashooraa' one should also fast either on the day before it or after it in order to avoid imitation of the Jews." The Jews fasted on the 10th day of Muharram and so did the Prophet Muhammad to continue the Jewish tradition to fast in remembrance of the exile and migration of Moses from Egypt.

Marwan said: "Hence, the Prophet ordered his followers to fast during that month on the 9th, 10th and 11th prior the commandment of the Islamic fast during Ramadan. But once the obligatory fast during the month of Ramadan was revealed, the Prophet annulled the fast of Ashura and declared it as an optional and voluntary fast."

"Ashura means the 10th of Muharram and the Prophet peace be upon him said if I live until the next year, I will fast one day before which means the ninth, so it is recommended to fast the ninth or the eleventh. However, the most important date by itself is the day of Ashura the 10th," Said said.

He added that Ashura was the day when Allah granted Moses success in his journey of "sacrifice, standing up for the truth and struggling and striving for to Save the Children of Israel and also to teach the message of mercy and compassion of God."

Correction 8/5/22 10:15 a.m. This article was amended to say the Day of Ashura falls on August 7 and 8.