Youm e Ashura : A Sunni perspective

By Mohamed Ajmal for

The month of Muharram, is an evidently an historical month for Muslims, and also which highlights the differences between Sunni and Shia Islam. Keeping in view the obvious one sided narrative seen in the media, it is important to know the Sunni Islam’s perspective on Muharram and Ashura.

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Youm-e-Ashura, or the day of Ashura, is the 10th Muharram. Its meaning is derived from the word ‘asha nura’ which is translated as ‘enlightened day’.

It is a significant date in the Islamic calendar due to many events which have occurred on this particular day, including the martyrdom of Sayyidina Imam Hussain in the battle of Karbala.

Events which Occurred on the 10th Muharram:

In Hazrat Abdul Qadir Jilani Rah in his famous book, Ghunya li-Talibi Tariq al-Haqq, writes of the following events which occurred on Youm e Ashura:

– Allah accepted the repentance of Prophet Aadam (A.S) after his exile from Paradise;
– Allah saved Prophet Nuh (A.S) and his companions in the ark;
– Allah extinguished the fire in which Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) was thrown into by Nimrod [Pharaoh];
– Allah spoke directly to Prophet Musa (A.S) and gave him the Commandments.

– On this same 10th of Muharram, Prophet Ayyub (A.S) was restored to health (from leprosy);
– Prophet Yusuf (A.S) was reunited with his father Prophet Yaqub (A.S);
– Prophet Yunus (A.S) was released from the belly of the fish;
– The sea was divided as the nation of Israel was delivered from captivity, and Pharoah’s army was destroyed.

– Ashura is also the day when Prophet Dawud (A.S) was forgiven;
– the kingdom of Prophet Sulaiman (A.S) was restored;
– Prophet Isa (A.S) (Jesus) was raised to Jannah,
– And Imam Hussain RA, grandson of the Rasul Allah Sallallaahu Alaihiwa Sallam , achieved the honour of Martyrdom at Karbala.


Voluntary [Nafl] Worship on Youm-e-Ashura:

Nafl Namaaz:

Rasul Allah Sallallaahu Alaihiwa Sallam said, “That person who performs four Rakaats of Namaz on the day of Ashura by reciting Surah Ikhlaas 11 times after Surah Fatiha in every Rakaat, Almighty Allah will forgive fifty years of his sins, and he will blessed with a Mimbar (pulpit) of Noor (Light).” – Nuzhat Al-Majalis Wa Muntakhab Al-Nafa’is – Vol.1, Pg. 181


Abi Qatadah RA reports that Rasul Allah Sallallaahu Alaihiwa Sallam said, “On the day of Ashura, I hope that Almighty Allah will make this day a means of Kafaara [expiation] for past sins.” – Mishkat Shareef, Pg. 179

“The best fasting after Ramadan is the month of Allah – Muharram, and the best prayer after the obligatory prayer is prayer at night.” – Sahih Muslim Hadith # 1163

In the year 10 A.H.,Rasul Allah Sallallaahu Alaihiwa Sallam kept the fast of Ashura with the Noble Companions, who enquired, “Surely, this is also the day which is honoured by the Jews and Christians.” The Holy Prophet replied, “If I am alive next year, then I shall also fast on the 9th of Muharram [as well as the 10th].” But, Rasul Allah Sallallaahu Alaihiwa Sallam passed away before that. – Mishkat Shareef, Pg. 179.

Thus, the Muslims worship is kept distinguished and separate from the ways of the non-Muslims. It is for this reason that we should not only fast on the 10th, but also on the 9th of Muharram-ul-Haraam.

Other Virtuous Acts:

One who stays awake on the night of Ashura [10th Muharram] gains the Sawaab [spiritual Reward] of the Angels. -Tafseer Ruhul Bayaan.

The following various deeds for Ashura are mentioned in Ghunya li-Talibi Tariq al-Haqq, by Hazrath Abdul Qadir Jilani Rah :

– Whoever fasts on this day is like one who fasts all his life.
– Whoever clothes a naked person Allah will release him from a painful punishment.
– He who visits a sick person, Allah will grant him a reward that will not be decreased.
– Whoever places his hand on an orphan’s head, or feeds a hungry person or gives water to a thirsty man, Allah will feed him a feast from Paradise and will quench his thirst with Salsabil (a wine that does not intoxicate).
– And whoever takes a bath on this day will enjoy excellent health and freedom from sickness and indolence.
– Whoever provides generously for his family on this day, Allah will be generous to him throughout this year.
– And whoever applies Kuhl to his eyes will never suffer from eye-sore again.

Expressing Grief on Ashura

With regards to the question which is regularly posed, “is it a act of jahiliyyah to cry over Hussain ra death” or the rhetoric “you need not be a shia to cry over Hussain” – it has to be clarified how Sunni Islam sees this.

It is permissible to express sorrow and grief on Ashura in a silent or controlled manner, upon remembrance of the events of Karbala and the sacrifice made by our beloved Imam Hussain RA.

However, it is not permissible to express grief in the manner used by Shias, which is to beat themselves in such a disturbing manner that blood flows from their bodies while they wail and cry loudly, also known as ‘Matam’. These “matam” practices have no historical precedence, in early Islam, when did the Sahabah or the Salaf go around beating themselves on their backs, bleeding?

Imam Malik ra, was right when he said, “And whatsoever was not part of the religion then, is not part of the religion today” al-I’tisaam

When the “son” of Prophet Muhamamd sal, Ibrahim died, but the Sahabah or even the Prophet sal didnt do maatam over it.

During the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), a solar eclipse happened. People hurried to link this to a worldly event, namely, the death of the Prophet’s son, Ibrahim. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) explained the truth of this matter to them.

He praised Allah and lauded Him and said, “The sun and the moon are two signs of Allah; they are not eclipsed on account of anyone’s death or on account of anyone’s birth. So when you see them, glorify and supplicate Allah, observe the Prayer, give alms. O Ummah of Muhammad, none is more indignant than Allah when His servant or maid commits fornication. O people of Muhammad, by Allah, if you knew what I know, you would weep much and laugh little. O Allah, witness, I informed them.” (Al-Bukhari)

Morever, Rasul Allah Sallallaahu Alaihiwa Sallam said, “He is not from our group who slaps his cheeks, tears his clothes and cries in the manner of the people of Jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic ignorance).”- Sahih Bukhari

How unfortunate that we are seeing people doing exactly, what Prophet Muhammad sal prohibited. With Youm e Ashura at our doorsteps, this is a gentle reminder for us to fast the two days of Youm e Ashura on the 9th and 10th of Muharram 1436 AH. One can also fast on the 10th and 11th of Muharram.

Please let all Muslim brothers and sisters in your contacts know about this, so they too, can fast on the two days of Muharram (9th and 10th or 10th and 11th) as instructed to us by Rasul Allah Sallallaahu Alaihiwa Sallam and Earn Abundant Sawaab from Allah Subhaanuwa Tha’aala.

Edited and compiled from various sources including

(Passionate about Islam, politics and issues connected to the welfare of Muslims, Dr Ajmal is a Medical Practitioner and after obtaining Diploma in Islamic Banking and Finance, he started the firm WealthCity (, which advices on Islamic Investments for Indian Muslims. He expresses his views through his fb page )