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December 21, 2011

Ashura of Muharram – A Shia and Sunni Muslim Observance

10th of Muharram (the day of Ashura) is observed as an important day by both Sunni and Shia Muslims – however, for different reasons.


Most scholars believe that Ahsura is named as such because of “tenth” of Muharram (ten is translated as “Ashara” in the Arabic language)

Sunni Muslims look at Ashura as “good” while Shia Muslims believe that day to be a day of mourning and sorrow.

Sunni Muslims
Based on the Hadith of Prophet Muhammad (saws), Sunni Muslims celebrate Ashura as the day when Prophet Moses (Moosa) fasted on that day because Allah saved the Israelites from their enemy in Egypt. One of the many Ahadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad) that attests to that is in Bukhari that states

So he (the Prophet Muhammad) fasted on this day and told the people to fast.

There are many other versions of this Hadith in the books of “Muslim” and “Bukhari”.

According to a version narrated by Muslim,


Shia Muslims
Shia Muslims observe Ashura as the day of martyrdom of Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad at the Battle of Karbala. Shia Muslims therefore consider this a day of sorrow and observe it as such by refraining from music, listening to sorrowful poetic recitations, wearing mourning attire, and refraining from all joyous events (e.g. weddings) that in anyway distract them from the sorrowful remembrance of that day.

Some Shia sects carry the observance to further extremes by beating themselves in public. Sunni Muslims believe such Shia practices (beating, etc.) of the day of Muharram (Ashura) as innovations. Their basis is that during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) a number of senior Sahabah (Prophet’s companions) were martyred and he mourned their loss, such as Hamzah ibn Abd al-Muttalib, Zayd ibn Haarithah, Jafar ibn Abi Taalib and Abd-Allah ibn Rawaahah, but he never practiced any such acts.

As 9th of Muharram for the year 1433 Hijri will fall on December 4th, 2011, that day and the day after will be the two days Muslims should be looking to fast.

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