Muharram is the first month of the Muslim calendar. According to Muslims’ belief, it is the month when God showers His blessings upon the world. The prayers offered during Muharram turn out as a reason for getting rewarded by God. One should avail the opportunity in this month of achieving what he deserves as a Muslim.
Although fasting is the most rewardable prayer, and Muslims observe fast in every month, but fasting during Muharram is of great value ans they have their own history, the observer is honored more by God. These aren’t obligatory at all but Muslims believe that the one who fasts on the two days of Muharram (as mentioned in the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed) will be treated as a pious man and these fasts will help him to remove the minor sins from his life. Fasting doesn’t only involve the elimination of food from dawn to dust, its observer must stay away from all the sinful and bad activities and this is the actual purpose of fasting.
History of Fasting in Islam:
Fasting in Muharram was obligatory and these were the first fasts observed by the Muslims as a part of their religious activities .The Prophet Mohammed (P.B.U.H) has narrated several times about the importance of fasting in Muharram. He said that these are the best fasts after those of Ramadan (the 9th Islamic month).
The Muslims used to fast in Muharram as a compulsory prayer, till the fasts of Ramadan became obligatory. The Prophet Mohammed used to fast before he migrated from Makkah (city of Hejaz and the capital of Makkah Province in Saudi Arabia) to Madinah (city in the Hejaz region of the western Saudi Arabia). After the migration he saw the Jews of Madinah fasting on the 10th Muharram and celebrating on this day.
When the Prophet asked them the reason, they told him that it was the day when the Prophet Moses of the Bani Israel finally crossed the Red sea and God gave him and his people victory on the army of Pharoah. The fast were made obligatory on the Jews as an act of thanksgiving to God. Upon hearing them, the Prophet Mohammed told them that we Muslims are closer to the Prophet Moses, so we have more right to fast than them.
The Prophet Mohammed told the Muslims to fast on the 10th Muharram and he himself fasted too, even when they weren’t obligatory anymore. Later on, it was decided by the Prophet to fast for two days, either 9th and 10th or 10th and 11th Muharram, to distinguish the Muslims from Christians and Jews. The Muslims don’t celebrate this day as a festival like Jews and Christians do. The Prophet Nooh (Noah) safely settled his Ark on the Mont Judi on the 10th Muharram, this is also a reason behind the fasts of Jews.
People of Jahiliyyah
The wife of the Prophet Mohammed, Hazrat Aisha says that the people of Jahiliyyah (ignorance) also used to fast on every 10th of Muharram as a past law included in the Deen-Ibrahim (Prophet Ibrahim’s religion). These were the people before the origin of Islam. Even the people of Quraish (a tribe in Makkah) used to fast before they accepted the true religion (Islam).
The Prophet Mohammed asked the Muslims to fast on two days of Muharram, having one as the day of Ashura (10th Muharram) to distinguish from the Jews, although, he couldn’t fast himself as he met his last in the next year. The voluntary fasts of Muharram are still observed by the pious Muslims of he world, earning great rewards in this worlds and the hereafter.