Ashura and the Fake Hadith About Fasting

Ashura and the Fake Hadith About Fasting September 7, 2020

Did you fast this past Ashura- on the 10th of Muharram, or in the past years? Were you thinking about fasting on Ashura? If so, this article will be of great interest to you. I must admit that this may be my most “controversial” blogpost, but one that needs your full attention for the reasons mentioned below.

As you probably know, my style is not one to confront or cause controversy. My focus during interfaith and intra-faith dialogue has been to build bridges and promote the dialogue in a non-polemical manner. But I am also taking the cue from the tragedy at Karbala to uphold the truth.

Please read with an open mind. The aim is to not hurt anyone’s feelings but to set the record straight with objectivity and sincerity.

This article is mostly adapted from a speech by Ammar Nakshawani. The YouTube link is posted at the end.

The Hadith, that has gained a lot of attention in the last 15-20 years, goes as follows, according to Sahih Bukhari.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came to Madina 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.

Another version from Sahih Muslim states more specifically the reason for the Jews fasting.

…This is a great day, on which Allah saved Musa and his people, and drowned Pharaoh and his people…

Here is why Ammar Nakshawani feels the hadith is fabricated. And I fully concur.

  1. Look at the chain of narration: The Hadith is typically narrated by four people.These four were either not present in Medina at the time of Hijra or were very young (Ibn Abbas was 4 years old, Abu Musa Al Ashri was in Yemen at the orders of Prophet Muhammad, Abu Herrera didn’t enter Medina until Hijra 7-8 at the time of the battle of Khyber, and Ma’awiyah bin Abu Safyan(the father of Yazid) who did not convert until 8th of Hijra or after the conquer of Mecca some 8 years after Hijra). If they were not present at the time of the Hijra, how were they able to quote what they heard Prophet Muhammad say at the time? It is also of note that the 2nd Caliph, Umar Ibn Khattab, stripped Abu Herrera of his governorship for making money of narrating Hadith and accused him of fabrication.
  2. The hadith says, people told Prophet Muhammad that Jews are fasting because that day Moses and Israelites were saved from drowning. But the Jews actually fast on Yom Kippur- the 10th of Tisheri in Hebrew calendar. Yom Kippur is Day of Atonement and commemorates God atoning for the sin of Golden Calf and the 2nd revelation of 10th Commandment at Mount Sinai, not the drowning of Pharaoh.
  3. The math also does not work- even if the Jews of Medina were fasting on 10th of Tisheri, the 10th of Tisheri and 10th of Muharram corresponded, and fell on the same day was only in the year 28 AH- 28 year after Hijra. Prophet Muhammad passed away in  the year 11 AH!
  4. Prophet Muhammad did not migrate to Medina in Muharram…it was the month of Rabi Al Awwal.
  5. According to Ibn Al Athir, the great Islamic historian and author of Al Kamil Fil al Tarikh (The Complete History), Ashura has an old usage and the new usage. Ashura means the tenth. At the time of the Prophet, it was used for the 10th of any month. After Karbala, Ashura was used exclusively for 10th of Muharram. Therefore the hadith could not have meant 10th of Muharram.

Here are some of my additional thoughts :

Prophet Muhammad was the one asking his companions why the Jews of Medina were fasting? And the companions would tell the Prophet about the Israelites? Really? Muslims believe Prophet Muhammad is the most learned and was taught by archangel Gabriel of all things.

And Prophet Muhammad would enjoin fasting because the Jews were fasting? What other Sunnah is followed because he saw another community observing it?

And Prophet Muhammad would enjoin fasting on his own? Muslims believe Prophet Muhammad conveyed the message from Allah to the people and didn’t command anything on his own.

The narrator of this forged hadith forgot about all of these facts.

So why did he/they forged the hadith?

Distraction. Distract from the truth.

To distract from the real events of Karbala on the 10th of Muharram in the year AH 680, when the family of Prophet Muhammad, led by his grandson Imam Hussain, were butchered by Yazid Ibn Ma’awiyah’s army.

Yazid and his gang did all they could to distract from the atrocities they committed against the family of Prophet Muhammad.

And people are getting paid to propagate and distract even to this date. Some are doing it unknowingly, some intentionally. Those who think superficially, or are easily gullible without digging deep do fall for it and sincerely think they are doing the right thing.

You have to wonder, what other Sunnah gets this much attention?

There is a hadith to fast on 27th of Rajab. Do we get so much press on that date? So why the Sunnah about following the Israelites’ tradition is getting so much attention?

To distract from the tragedy of Karbala and to divert attention from the atrocities committed by Yazid’s gang against the family and followers of Prophet Muhammad. The killers have no interest in mourning, remembering or honoring the ones they kill.

One again, my intention is not to hurt any one’s feelings or insult any one’s tradition. But staying silent in the case of oppression is like taking the side of the oppressor. We need to decide what side we are on.

Anyone with even cursory knowledge about Prophet Muhammad’s immense love for his grandsons knows, that to hurt Imam Hussain is to hurt the Prophet.  There are numerous hadith showing how much Prophet Muhammad cared for Imam Hussain. To honor and remember Imam Hussain on Ashura is to please the Prophet.

If you still think the hadith on fasting is indeed authentic, think about this: On Ashura, what would be more dear to Prophet Muhammad? Fasting to remember the “rescue of the Israelites” or the great sacrifice of his beloved grandson?

The least we can do is to remember and honor the great sacrifice of the grandson of Prophet Muhammad to save Islam from corruption, and stand up against tyranny. Let us remember and honor the memory of the great sacrifice of Imam Hussain together as one Ummah.  The Qur’an says that anyone who hurts Allah and His Prophet is cursed.

Those who hurt Allah and His Messenger – Allah has cursed them in this World and in the Hereafter, and has prepared for them a humiliating Punishment. 33:57


Here is the link to Ammar Nakshawani’s video.


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