Ashura 2020: Friday the 28th and Saturday the 29th, with the 30th if you missed the 28th
Ashura' in History
Ibn 'Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: "The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came to Madinah and saw the Jews fasting on the day of 'Ashura'. He said, 'What is this?' They said, 'This is a righteous day, it is the day when Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemies, so Musa fasted on this day.' He said, 'We have more right to Musa than you,' so he fasted on that day and commanded [the Muslims] to fast on that day." [Reported by al-Bukhari, 1865] "This is a righteous day" – in a report narrated by Muslim, [the Jews said:] "This is a great day, on which Allah saved Musa and his people, and drowned Pharaoh and his people." "Musa fasted on this day" – a report narrated by Muslim adds: " … in thanksgiving to Allah, so we fast on this day." According to a report narrated by al-Bukhari: " … so we fast on this day to venerate it." A version narrated by Imam Ahmad adds: "This is the day on which the Ark settled on Mount Judi, so Nuh fasted this day in thanksgiving," and "commanded [the Muslims] to fast on that day" – according to another report also narrated by al-Bukhari: "He said to his Companions: 'You have more right to Musa than they do, so fast on that day.' "
The practice of fasting on 'Ashura' was known even in the days of Jahiliyyah, before the Prophet's mission. It was reported that 'A'ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said: "The people of Jahiliyyah used to fast on that day … "
Al-Qurtubi said: "Perhaps Quraysh used to fast on that day on the basis of some past law, such as that of Ibrahim, upon whom be peace."
It was also reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to fast on 'Ashura' in Makkah, before he migrated to Madinah. When he migrated to Madinah, he found the Jews celebrating this day, so he asked them why, and they replied as described in the hadith quoted above. He commanded the Muslims to be different from the Jews, who took it as a festival, as was reported in the hadith of Abu Musa (may Allah be pleased with him), who said: "The Jews used to take the day of 'Ashura' as a festival [according to a report narrated by Muslim: the day of 'Ashura' was venerated by the Jews, who took it as a festival. According to another report also narrated by Muslim: the people of Khaybar (the Jews) used to take it as a festival and their women would wear their jewellery and symbols on that day]. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: 'So you [Muslims] should fast on that day.' " [Reported by al-Bukhari] Apparently the motive for commanding the Muslims to fast on this day was the desire to be different from the Jews, so that the Muslims would fast when the Jews did not, because people do not fast on a day of celebration. [Summarized from the words of al-Hafidh Ibn Hajar – may Allah have mercy on him – in Fath al-Bari Sharh 'ala Sahih al-Bukhari]
Abu Bakarah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: The year is twelve months of which four are sacred, the three consecutive months of Dhul-Qa'dah, Dhul-Hijjah and Muharram, and Rajab Mudar which comes between Jumadah and Sha'ban. (Reported by Al-Bukhari, 2958)
Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve months (in a year), so it was ordained by Allah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them, four are sacred. That is the right religion, so wrong not yourselves therein … (Al-Qur'an 9:36)
Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: 'The best of fasting after Ramadhan is fasting Allah's month of Muharram.' (Reported by Muslim, 1982)
Al-'Izz ibn 'Abdus-Salam (may Allah have mercy on him) said: Times and places may be given preferred status in two ways, either temporal or religious/spiritual. With regard to the latter, this is because Allah bestows His generosity on His slaves at those times or in those places, by giving a greater reward for deeds done, such as giving a greater reward for fasting in Ramadhan than for fasting at all other times, and also on the day of 'Ashura', the virtue of which is due to Allah's generosity and kindness towards His slaves on that day … (Qawa'id al-Ahkam, 1/38)
The Virtues of Fasting 'Ashura'
An-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: Ashura' and Tasu'a' are two elongated names [the vowels are elongated] as is stated in books on the Arabic language. Our companions said: 'Ashura' is the tenth day of Muharram and Tasu'a' is the ninth day. This is our opinion, and that of the majority of scholars. This is the apparent meaning of the ahadith and is what we understand from the general wording. It is also what is usually understood by scholars of the language. (Al-Majmu)
It is Mustahabb (Encouraged) to Fast Tasu'a' with 'Ashura'
'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them both) said: "When the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) fasted on 'Ashura' and commanded the Muslims to fast as well, they said, 'O Messenger of Allah, it is a day that is venerated by the Jews and Christians.' The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, 'If I live to see the next year, in sha Allah, we will fast on the ninth day too.' But it so happened that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) passed away before the next year came."[Reported by Muslim, 1916]
Ash-Shafi'i and his companions, Ahmad, Ishaq and others said: "It is mustahabb to fast on both the ninth and tenth days, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) fasted on the tenth, and intended to fast on the ninth."
On this basis it may be said that there are varying degrees of fasting 'Ashura', the least of which is to fast only on the tenth and the best of which is to fast the ninth as well. The more one fasts in Muharram, the better it is.
The Reason Why it is Mustahabb to Fast on Tasu'a'
An-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: The scholars – our companions and others – mentioned several reasons why it is mustahabb to fast on Tasu'a':
The intention behind it is to be different from the Jews, who only venerate the tenth day. This opinion was reported from Ibn 'Abbas …
The intention is to add another day's fast to 'Ashura'. This is akin to the prohibition on fasting a Friday by itself, as was mentioned by al-Khattabi and others.
To be on the safe side and make sure that one fasts on the tenth, in case there is some error in sighting the crescent moon at the beginning of Muharram and the ninth is in fact the tenth.
The strongest of these reasons is being different from the People of the Book. Shaykh ul-Islam ibn Taymiyyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: "The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) forbade imitating the People of the Book in many ahadith, for example, his words concerning 'Ashura': 'If I live until the next year, I will certainly fast on the ninth day.' " [Al-Fatawa al-Kubra, part 6, Sadd adh-Dhara'i' al-Mufdiyyah ila'l-Maharim]