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The Significance of the Day of Ashura

by Musa Bukhari


There are months, days, and nights that Allah has singled out as special and blessed. He made the reward for doing good deeds during these times even more rewardable and blessed than in other times. And sometimes, sins are considered far worse during these times than in other times. Allah told us in the Qur’an that there are four months which are singled out for a special sacredness. We have to treat these months with great reverence:

Allah says in the Qur’an:

“Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] months in the register of Allah [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred. That is the correct religion, so do not wrong yourselves during them…” (9:36)

The Prophet (SAW) said in a hadith: “Time has come back to its original state which it had when Allah created the Heavens and the Earth; the year is twelve months, four of which are sacred. Three of them are in succession: *Dhul-Qa‘dah, Dhul-Hijjah, Al-Muharram and Rajab…which stands between Jumada (ath-Thani) and Sha‘ban.”* (Bukhari)

Qatadah said concerning the ayah “so wrong not yourselves therein” (9:36): “Wrongdoing during the sacred months is more serious and more sinful than wrongdoing at any other time. Wrongdoing at any time is a serious matter, but Allah gives more weight to whichever of His commands He wants….” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir)

We should be careful about committing sins during these months because they are so sacred. Just like we would control our anger and our desires while fasting or while in Makkah, so should we have greater control over our nafs and our body during these months. We should ask Allah for protection from violating His Boundaries during these sacred months.

Ibn ‘Abbas (RadiAllahu anhuma) said in the tafseer for the same ayah as above that good deeds done during these four sacred months bring a greater reward. (Ibn Kathir)

Allah (SWT) is the most Generous and He does as He wills. He gives countless opportunities to multiply our deeds. He knows that we cannot get to Jannah through our deeds alone, He knows that we can never have enough of them, and so He increases their worth. He gives us months and days in which we can come closer to Him. One of these days is the blessed day of Ashura.

Thousands of years ago, an incident took place near the Red Sea that changed the course of history forever.

Musa (A) was escaping with the Bani Isra’il and the mighty army of Pharaoh was behind them. They reached the Red Sea and the army was advancing rapidly behind them. Allah relates this incident to us in the Qur’an:

“And when the two companies saw one another, the companions of Moses said, ‘Indeed, we are to be overtaken!’” (26:61)

The Bani Isra’il were afraid. They saw the obstacle in front of them.

But Musa (A) replied: “Kalla! inna ma’iya rabbi sa’yahdeen…” "No! Indeed, My Lord is with me; He will guide me through." (26:62)

Allah (SWT) also says in the Qur’an, “And We certainly sent Musa with Our signs, [saying], ‘Bring out your people from layers of darkness into the light and remind them of the days of Allah.’ Indeed in that are surely signs for everyone who is patient and grateful.” (14:5)

Allah refers to it as a ‘sign’ in the Qur’an, and this sign is supposed to lead us back to Him.

So how does the story of Musa (A), Bani Isra’il, and Ashura relate to us?

It’s quite simple. Allah tells us countless stories of the Bani Isra’il in Surah Al-Baqarah and in other places in the Qur’an in order to teach us not to make the same mistakes that they did. Allah says in the ayah above (14:5) that in the days of Allah are signs for everyone who is patient and grateful.

So how can we see the signs?

You see, the heart is a mirror. Whatever you put inside it, will show. Allah will show you signs within yourself. If you take care of your heart, it will take care of you. If you wreck it, it will wreck you. When we want something from Allah, we always ask for the signs. But the sign is within yourself. Look at your life right now. It is a reflection of what you put into your heart. What things are you inclined to? What types of people do you gravitate towards? And what does that say about you?

When we don’t get the things we want, we always get upset. And when we get the things we didn’t want, we complain. The Bani Isra’il became chronic complainers–AFTER Allah had saved them! But the things we don’t like are the exact things that help us grow. For example, strengthening your immune system doesn’t happen by living in a hyper-sterile environment. It’s spending time outdoors barefoot in the soil and around different plants and animals. In other words, it’s the gradual exposure to germs that builds our immune system. The body learns to recognize foreign invaders and build up its defenses.

As we get exposed to painful situations, we think our heart is breaking—but it’s maybe just your expectations that are breaking. Or the delusions that are breaking. Ask yourself: Who am I without my labels?

“Labbayk Allahumma Labbayk.” What a powerful statement that signifies the month that we just passed. Labels don’t matter. It’s all about Allah. That’s why when we go for Hajj and Umrah, we all look the same.

“Labbayk Allahumma Labbayk.” We live in a world where people are struggling with humility. It’s not even a thing that is coveted anymore. We live in a world where people always have to flaunt everything. This is not good for the heart.

The story of Musa (A) continues…

“Remember when Moses said to his people, ‘Remember Allah’s favour upon you when He rescued you from the people of Pharaoh, who afflicted you with dreadful torment—slaughtering your sons and keeping your women. That was a severe test from your Lord.’” (14:6)

The life of the Bani Isra’il under Pharaoh was a test for them. The Day of Ashura was also a test–a test of conviction. Musa (A) passed that test of conviction, and Allah saved the Bani Isra’il as a result. Therefore, we now look back on this day as a day of ease and relief. May we not fail to look upon this day as a day of reflection as well.

May Allah show us the signs that we need to see so that we may become increasingly grateful. May Allah open our eyes to the truth of the world we live in so we may live with the conviction of Musa (A). May Allah protect us from following the footsteps of those who earned his anger, and May Allah allow us to reap the blessings of this beautiful month and May He accept from us. Ameen.

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