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Ashura fasting in Muharram 2022: Date, history, significance of Shia and Sunni Muslims' fast in Muharram

Updated on Aug 08, 2022 07:57 AM IST

Ashura fasting in Muharram 2022: Wondering whether to fast on the 8th, 9th or 10th of Muharram? Here's all you need to know about the date, history and significance of why Shia and Sunni Muslims fast on Ashura and when is the fasting day of Muharram 1444

A Kashmiri Shiite Muslim holds a religious flag during preparations ahead of the start of Muharram to commemorate the religious mourning period of Ashura, in Srinagar  (Photo by TAUSEEF MUSTAFA / AFP)
ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi

The lack of any particular calendar or dating system, led Umar ibn Khattab (RA), the second Caliph and a close companion of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), to establish the Islamic Calendar 1443 years ago and Muharram is the first month of Islamic calendar which is ten or twelve days shorter than the Gregorian calendar followed by the West. In the lunar calendar which Islam follows, the first day of Muharram is known as Al Hijri or Arabic New Year while the tenth day is celebrated as Ashura by the Muslim community across the world.

Muharram is the first month in Islamic calendar followed by the lunar months of Safar, Rabi-al-Thani, Jumada al-Awwal, Jumada ath-Thaniyah, Rajab, Shaban, Ramadan, Shawwal, Zu al-Qadah and Zu al-Hijjah. The word Muharram means ‘not permitted’ or ‘forbidden’ hence, Muslims are prohibited from taking part in activities like warfare and use it as a period of prayer and reflection as is the most sacred month in Islam after Ramadan.

Date of Ashura:

Unlike the Gregorian calendar that consists of 365 days, Islamic calendar has about 354 days divided into 12 months and depends on the sighting of the crescent moon which varies from country to country. This year, the Islamic New Year is referred to as Hijri 1444 AH (Anno Hegirae in Latin or the year of the Hijra).

This means that it has been 1444 years since Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) migration from Mecca to Medina. This year, Muslims across the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Iraq, Qatar, Bahrain and other Arab states have marked the onset of the New Islamic Year 1444 H on Saturday July 30, 2023, which was the first day of the Holy Month of Muharram al Haram.

Hence, Ashura in these countries will be marked on August 8, 2022. In India, the Imarat-e-Shariyah Hind in New Delhi had confirmed the start of the Islamic New Year 1444 AH on Sunday July 31, 2022 and Youm-e-Ashura on Tuesday August 09, 2022.

Similar announcements are made by religious authorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh after the Muharram moon sighting. Ashura date in Australia, Singapore, United Kingdom, Canada, USA, Morocco, Iran and falls on August 08, 2022.

History and significance of Ashura fasting:

The Islamic New Year, also known as Al Hijri or Arabic New Year, is marked on the first day of Muharram as it was in this holy month that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) migrated from Mecca to Medina. However, Ashura has been celebrated even in pre-Islamic times as it was on the 10th of Muharram that Allah saved Moses (Prophet Musa) and the Children of Bani Israel from Pharaoh (Firaun) and his army.

As a sign of gratitude to Allah, Prophet Musa AS fasted on Ashura day that is the 10th of Muharram. Later in 622 CE, when Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) migrated from Mecca to Medina in the month of Muharram, he learnt from the Jews that they fasted on Ashura day following the ways of Prophet Musa AS.

Wanting his followers to show the same gratitude to Allah, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) decided to observe a two-day fast, one on the day of Ashura and the day prior that is the 9th and 10th days of Muharram. These are the traditional customs of Sunni Muslims.

Observing a fast on this day is considered a ‘sunnah’ since Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) too observed a fast or kept a roza on this day. However, Ashura - the 10th day of the month - is also mourned by Muslims in the remembrance of the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Hussain Ibn Ali, in Karbala.

The Muslim community remembers the massacre on Ashura when Imam Hussain was said to be beheaded in the battle of Karbala. To mark public mourning and remembering the pain given to their great leader and his family, members of Shia community don black clothes, observe abstinence, fast and take out processions on the 10th day of the month of Muharram.

They also refrain from attending and celebrating all joyous events in this period.

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