Fasting the day of ‘Ashoora’ does expiate for the past year. The Prophet ﷺ said: “Fasting the day of ‘Arafah I hope Allah will expiate thereby for the year before it and the year after it,and fasting the day of ‘Ashoora’ I hope Allah will expiate thereby for the yearthat came before it”, Narrated by Muslim, 1162. This is by the bounty that Allah bestows upon us, whereby fasting one day expiates for the sins of an entire year. And Allah is the Owner of great bounty.
The Prophet ﷺ used tobe very keen to make sure he fasted on the day of ‘Ashoora’ because of itsgreat status. It was narrated that Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with him)said: “I never saw the Prophetﷺ so keen to make sure he fasted anyday and preferring it over another except this day, the day of ‘Ashoora’, andthis month – meaning Ramadaan”, Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1867.
What is meant by being keen to make sure he fasted it is to earn itsreward.
With regard to the reason why the Prophet ﷺ fasted on the day of ‘Ashoora’ and urged the people to do likewise is mentioned in the hadeeth narrated by al-Bukhaari (No. 1865) from Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with him), who said: The Prophet ﷺcame to Madeenah and saw the Jews fasting on the day of ‘Ashoora’. He said,“What is this?” They said, “This is a good day, this is the day when Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemy and Moosa fasted on this day.” He said, “We are closer to Moosa than you.” So, he fasted on this day and told the people to fast.
The words “this is a good day” – according to a version narrated by Muslim, “This is a great day when Allah saved Moosa and his people and drowned Pharaoh and his people.” The words “so Moosa fasted on this day” – Imam Muslim added in his report: “In gratitude to Allah, so that is we fast on this day.”. According to another version narrated by al-Bukhaari, “So we fast it out of respect forit.”
The words “and told the people to fast” – according to another version narrated by al-Bukhaari, “He said to his companions, ‘You are closer to Moosa than them, so fast this day.”
The expiation of sins that is achieved by fasting ‘Ashoora’ refers to minor sins; with regard to major sins, they need separate repentance.
Al-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “Fasting the day of Arafaah expiates for all minor sins, in other words this brings forgiveness for all sins except for major sins”
Then he said:
“Fasting the day of ‘Arafaah is an expiation for two years, and the dayof ‘Ashoora is an expiation for one year, and if a person’s Ameen coincides with the Ameen of the angels, his previous sins will be forgiven… Each of the things mentioned may bring expiation. If he does something that expiates for minor sins he will be expiated, and if there are no minor or major sins, it will be recorded for him as good deeds and he will rise in status thereby… If there is one or more major sins and no minor sins, we hope that it will reduce his major sins”, Al-Majmoo’ Sharh al-Muhadhdhab, part 6.
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “The expiation of purification, prayer, and fasting Ramadaan, ‘Arafah and ‘Ashoora’ applies to minor sins only”, Al-Fataawaal-Kubra, part 5.
Praise be to Allah‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: When the Messenger of Allah ﷺ fasted on the day of ‘Ashoora and told the people to fast, they said, “O Messenger of Allah, this is a day that is venerated by the Jews and Christians.” The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Next year, if Allah wills, we will fast on the ninth day.” But by the time the following year came, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ had passed away.
Narrated by Muslim, 1916.
Al-Shaafa’i and his companions, Ahmad, Ishaaq and others said: It is mustahabb [recommended] to fast both the ninth and the tenth, because the Prophet ﷺ fasted the tenth and intended to fast the ninth.
Based on this, there are different ways of fasting ‘Ashoora’, the least of which is to fast the tenth only, but it is better to fast the ninth as well. The more one fasts in Muharram, the better.
If one were to ask, what is the wisdom behind fasting the ninth as well as the tenth?
The answer is:
Al-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: The scholars among our companions and others said that there are several reasons for recommending fasting on the ninth day (Tasoo’a’):
1. The intention behind it is to be different from the Jews who limit their fasting to the tenth day. This was narrated from Ibn ‘Abbaas.
2. The intention was to join the fast of ‘Ashoora’ to another day, just as it is not allowed to fast on a Friday on its own [but it is allowed if one fasts the day before or the day after as well].
3. The idea is to be on the safe side and make sure one is fasting on the tenth, in case the moon sighting was not accurate and what people think is the ninth is actually the tenth.
The strongest of these reasons is in order to be different from the People of the Book. Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said: The Prophet ﷺ forbade resembling the People of the Book in many ahaadeeth. For example, he said concerning ‘Ashoora’: “If I live until next year I will certainly fast the ninth.” Al-Fataawa al-Kubra, part 6.
Ibn Hajar (may Allah have mercy on him) said, commenting on the hadeeth “If I live until next year I will certainly fast the ninth”:
His concern to fast the ninth may be understood as meaning that he would not limit himself to that, rather that he would add it to the tenth, either to be on the safe side, or to be different from the Jews and Christians, which is more likely to be correct; this is what may be understood from some of the reports narrated by Muslim.”
From Fath al-Baari, 4/245.