Recently, there was a post on the social media platform Instagram that said:
“Here are several points that demonstrate how the hadeeths which speak of the fast of Ashura are fabricated. The Prophet probably never said them, but they were forged after him.
First: There are several hadeeths in Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, and Tirmidhi which tell us when the Prophet arrived at Medina, he saw the Jews fasting. Upon knowing the reason for why they were fasting, he said we the Muslims are closer to Musa, so we should also fast. If you analyze these hadeeths, you will realize that they all go back to these four narrators who supposedly narrated them directly from the Prophet:
(1) Ibn Abbas
(2) Abu Musa al-Ash’ari
(3) Abu Huraira
The Prophet came to Medina in the first year of the Hijra. As for Ibn Abbas, he was born three years before Hijra, which makes him four years old when the Prophet supposedly said this Hadith. In the Science of Hadith, the narration of a four-year-old boy is generally not accepted.
As for Abu Musa, he came from the tribe of Banu Ash’ar in Yemen. He became Muslim before the Hijra, but he was not seen in Medina till the battle of Khaybar in the seventh year after the Hijra. The Prophet had sent him to Yemen to preach to his tribe. Hence, Abu Musa was not in Medina in the first year of Hijra, so how could he possibly narrate this hadith?
As for Abu Huraira, he also was not seen in Medina until after the battle of Khaybar in the seventh year of Hijra. He also came from Yemen
As for Muwiya, the son of Abu Sufyan, he became Muslim in the eighth year of Hijra, so how could he narrate a hadith from the Prophet seven or eight years before he became Muslim?
Some of the hadeeth go back to Ibn Zubayr, who was also a young boy when the Prophet entered Medina.
Therefore, it is quite clear that all the narrators of this hadith were either not in Medina at the time, or they were young boys, so how can we possibly accept such a hadith? It is pretty convincing that the hadith was forged later on by Bani Umayya.
Second: Let’s look at the word “Ashura” which is mentioned in the hadith. According to Ibn al-Atheer, there are two meanings to Ashura: an old meaning and a new meaning. The only meaning, which was during the Arab’s time and the Prophet’s time, meant the tenth day of any month. The new meaning surfaced after Imam Hussain was killed on the tenth of Muharram, but before that it was simply the tenth day of any month. So when the Prophet supposedly said this hadith, he just said Ashura, and he didn’t say the tenth day of which month. This demonstrates that the hadith was forged after the Day of Ashura, and it slipped from the mind of the ones who forged it that before Ashura, the word had a different, more general meaning.
Third: Today, go to any Jew, even their scholars, and ask them: Do you have a fast on the day which God saved Moses, or a day which corresponds to the tenth of Muharram? They don’t, and they will tell you that even in the past they didn’t have such a fast. They fast on Yum Kippur, the day when Moses returned from Mt. Sinai and realized that his people were worshipping the calf. To expiate for their sin, they fasted, but they have no fast the day God save them from the Pharaoh. But the hadith in the books of Saheeh tells us that it was a tradition of the Jews, and they would all fast that day.
If you even look at the day the Jews fast, it never corresponded with the tenth of Muharram when the Prophet came to Medina. It corresponded with Muharram on the 28th year after Hijra.
Fourth: It seems the one who forged the hadith was not aware of how the Islamic Calendar originated. During the time of Umar, since Muslims wanted a set date to refer to, he created the Hijri calendar by seeking the advice of Imam Ali. So, they decided to make the starting point the migration of the Prophet, and they made the first month Muharram. However, the Prophet entered Medina in Rabi-ul-Awal, not in Muharram, and so the one who probably forged the hadith assumed that the Prophet entered Medina in Muharram because that is when the calendar starts. So the hadith tells us the Prophet when he first entered Medina he saw the Jews fasting on Ashura, but the Prophet didn’t enter Medina in Muharram, he did so in Rabi-ul-Awwal, ten months before Muharram! There’s a clear discrepancy here.
Fifth: The Prophet knows more about the Shariah of previous Prophets such as Prophet Musa, and he doesn’t need the Jews to teach him that. The Prophet is also higher than copying what the Jews would do.
Sixth: How come there is so much emphasis on the fast of Ashura around the world? Thousands of speeches are dedicated to it, millions of pamphlets are distributed encouraging people to fast on Ashura, and so on. There are many other days throughout the year which are highly recommended to fast, such as the 27th of Rajab, but how come you don’t see a single pamphlet or speech encouraging it? This shows that this is a political thing, originally designed to focus the attention away from the Martyrdom of Imam Hussain, and to consider it a blessed day. I don’t know how anyone can stand on the Day of Judgement before Prophet Muhammad and consider the very day his grandson was slaughtered a blessed day.
Thus, based on these reasons we Shia have our reservations on the fast of Ashura. Banu Umayya were behind it and considering it a blessed day is not an offence to us the Shia, but an offence to Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and his family.”
The following are select comments regarding the post:
In our tradition there is a methodical system laid down to determine authenticity. What the Jews said was not accepted by the Prophet (upon him be peace) nor was it used to prescribe fasting on ʿĀshūrāʾ.
The claim made in these posts that the Jews only fast Yom Kippur is mistaken. Yom Kippur is observed in Judaism, but the Jews observe other fasts too. One such fast is the observance of Tisha B’Av. And it could be what the Jews were fasting when the Prophet (upon him be peace) observed them in Medinah. It is mentioned in some of the narrations that the fast was performed because it was the day that Moses crossed the Sea of Reeds and the Pharaoh was drowned; and both Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av have significances associated to events that occurred after the Exodus.
Tisha B’Av is observed on the 9th or 10th of the month of Av. Historically, it occurred after the Israelites’ liberation from Egypt. It is the day on which the Twelve Spies returned from Canaan and the Israelites baulked and did not enter the Promised Land. This is an occasion that the Holy Qurʾān makes mention of at 5:21 and in the verses after.
Other events are also associated with this date. In Judaism, their tradition records that the destruction of the First and Second Temple in Jerusalem happened on this day as well. Additionally, the Romans crushed the Bar Kokhba Revolt and subsequently devastated the site of the Temple on it too; the persecution that ensued was devastating.
Bein ha-Metzarim proceeds Tisha B’Av, beginning on the 17th of Tammuz (which is understood to be the day on which they turned to worshiping the golden calf) and ending on the 9th of Az – with fasting on Tisha B’Av.
In some places, Yom Kippur is mentioned to correspond to the day in which Moses returned from Mount Sinai. On the Hebrew calendar, this observance takes place on the 10th day of Tishrei.
In Judaism, these two days are distinct. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, a day in which forgiveness is asked from God. And Tisha B’Av is a day of sadness and mourning. It originates from God’s punishment for their lack of faith: they refused to enter the Promised Land and then wandered the desert for many years. After that, Moses is said to have passed away on Mount Nebo in view of Canaan, never having entered the Promised Land.
When the Prophet (upon him be peace) observed the Jews in Medinah fasting ʿĀshūrāʾ he inquired regarding it. And they replied:
هَذَا يَوْمٌ صَالِحٌ هَذَا يَوْمٌ نَجَّى اللَّهُ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ مِنْ عَدُوِّهِمْ، فَصَامَهُ مُوسَى
“This is a holy day. On this day, God saved the Israelites from their enemy; so, Moses fasted [on this day].”
The Prophet (upon him be peace) responded to them by saying:
أنَا أحَقُّ بموسى مِنْكُمْ
“I am truer to Moses than you.”
Then, he fasted and commanded that fasting be observed. Muslims observe fasting on ʿĀshūrāʾ because the Prophet (upon him be peace) prescribed it. Ibn ʿĀshūr mentioned that the Prophet (upon him be peace) inquired regarding why they were fasting, but he was not trying to determine the basis for the fast. It is possible that their response to him did not include full disclosure of the fast’s basis in their tradition. And Allāh knows best. The basis on which the Prophet (upon him be peace) established ʿĀshūrāʾ here is not explicitly expressed. Possibilities are suggested by the scholars, who seem to agree that it was not prescribed relying on what the Jews said.
Fasting is more varied in Judaism than Yom Kippur only. And Tisha B’Av may have been what they were observing on that day in Medinah, based on both textual and historical data. Modern calendar converters place the 10th of Muḥarram in the first year after the Prophet’s migration right around the 10th of the month of Av.
Regarding the fast on the day of ʿĀshūrāʾ in Islām, there are many narrations that specify fasting it. In fact, the scholars included it in their compilations of mass-communicated (ar. mutawātir) reports. Imām Suyūṭī did so and traced his report back to seven companions:
(1) Abū Qatādah.
(2) Qatādah b. al-Nuʿmān.
(3) Ibn ʿUmar.
(4) Abū Saʿīd.
(6) Zayd b. Arqam.
(7) Sahl b. Saʿd.
Upon reviewing the two most authentic of the six canonical ḥadīth compilations — the books of Imām Bukhārī and Imām Muslim — we may add the following channels of transmission to his list:
(8) Salamah b. al-Akwaʿ.
(9) al-Rubayyiʿ bint Muʿawwidh.
(10) Muʿāwiyah b. Abī Sufyān.
(11) Ibn ʿAbbās.
(12) Abū Mūsā al-Ashʿarī.
(13) Ibn Masʿūd.
(14) Jābir b. Samurah.
This brings the minimum number of those who are found in the ḥadīth books relating it from the Prophet (upon him be peace) to fourteen. Furthermore, there may be more who are present but located outside of Suyūṭī’s work or the Ṣaḥīḥayn. Thus, the basis for the fast of ʿĀshūrāʾ is unquestionable; it is transmitted by the community en masse such that it would not be possible that they would communicate the reports mentioning it erroneously.
The fast has also been related and discussed by both Sunni and Shiite scholars. In fact, Imām Bukhārī narrated it from both. Most of the narrations in his compilation that establish ʿĀshūrāʾ come from Sunni authorities, while he also narrated it from his teacher ʿUbayd Allāh b. Mūsā who is noted to have been a Shiite.
From the Shiite reference works, Majlisī indicated to there being a differing opinion as to if ʿĀshūrāʾ was obligatory prior to the legislation of Ramaḍān. There are narrations in Kulaynī’s compilation that indicate to this. According to the Shiite authorities, there are conflicting reports on ʿĀshūrāʾ; and one of the approaches to reconciling them that they adopt is abrogation. Fasting in Ramaḍān was legislated in the second year after the Prophet (upon him be peace) migrated. Thus, according to opinions related from both Sunni and Shiite scholars, fasting ʿĀshūrāʾ would have been an established observance during the early part of the Prophet’s time in Medinah.
Fasting ʿĀshūrāʾ is not a practice based on fabricated narrations. Certainly, it is a day that the Prophet (upon him be peace) commanded us to fast on, and so we adhere to what he advised. It is a day of fasting that is found before the coming of the Messenger, being attributed back to Moses and before him Noah.
As noted, there are many significant historical events that took place on this date. One of them is the tragedy of Ḥusayn’s death (raḍy Allāhu ʿanhu). Subsequent to this event, heresies were introduced on ʿĀshūrāʾ. Two of the innovations that were introduced are:
– The exaggerated expression of extreme grief and sorrow. This even includes practices like intense wailing and self-flagellation.
– And the displays of joy and happiness. Some people would go to the extent of advising that rituals associated with religious celebrations be adopted, like taking a ritual bath, spending generously on one’s family, and eating holiday food.
Historically, the first innovation was centered in Kufah. The groups of Shiite (ar. rawāfiḍ) there started it; the main perpetrator was al-Mukhtār b. Abī ʿUbayd. And then, the second were the anti-Ahl al-Bayt constituency (ar. nawāṣib) who loathed ʿAlī (raḍy Allāhu ʿanhu) and his children. From them was al-Ḥajjāj b. Yūsuf al-Thaqafī.
According to us, Ahl al-Sunnah, both are wrong. And we identify and acknowledge that both are heresies. The only practice established on this day is the fast and considering it to be some sort of an Eid, holiday, etc., is wrong. As well, acting as the Shiite act on the day is wrong. It is certainly not how the Prophet (upon him be peace) taught us to deal with tribulations. Patience, prayer, and remembering Q 2:156 are prescribed. Beating one’s self, out-of-control wailing, tearing one’s clothing, and blaming and cursing are prohibited. In fact, in various narrations, the Prophet (upon him be peace) repudiated people who commit actions such as these.
Allāh knows best.
 Sharḥ al-Nawawī ʿala Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, 3:13.
 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī #2004.
 al-Taḥrīr wa al-Tanwīr, 2:155.
 Fatḥ al-Mulhim, 3:254.
 Qaṭf al-Azhār al-Mutanāthirah, 135.
 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, #1924.
 Ibid, #1960.
 Ibid, #2003.
 Ibid, #2004.
 Ibid, #2006.
 Ibid, #4503.
 Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, 2:794.
 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, #2006. Dhahabī listed him in Mizān al-Iʿtidāl, 3:16.
 Mirʾāt al-ʿUqūl, 16:360.
 Uṣūl al-Kāfī, 4:88.
 Minhāj al-Sunnah, 4:554.