Fasting during the month of Muharram is of great merits in Islam, especially on the 10th day. Prophet Muhammad stated though fasting on the day of Ashura (10th day of Muharram) is of great merits, one should pray to Allah to accept the fast as an expiation for the sins committed in the previous year. Fasting on the 9th day of Muharram is also highly recommended to be Sunnah. Moreover, it is better to fast on two days, that is, the 9th and 10th of Muharram so as to distinguish Muslims from the Jewish community.
When Prophet Muhammad came to Medina, he noticed the Jews in Medina to be fasting on Ashura to remember Prophet Musa. Prophet Musa and the tribes of Israel were saved from their enemies on this day and hence, Musa started fasting on this day. Prophet Muhammad admired this tradition and started fasting on this day. He even recommended his companions and other people to observe the fast on this day of Ashura. However, people informed Prophet Muhammad that the day is a day that is honored by Jews and Christians.
Hence, Prophet Muhammad recommended fasting of both the 9th and 10th days of Muharram from the next year. This was done to distinguish Muslims from the Jews and Christians. However, He died before the following year. The Prophet also commented that fasting during the month of Muharram is the best fast after Ramadan. Since then, the tradition of observing the fast is being followed by the Muslims across the globe.
Muslims scholars state that fasting of Ashura during the month of Muharram is of three levels, as given below:
- Fasting for three days, i.e., on the 9th, 10th and 11th days
- Fasting on the 9th and 10th day, and
- Fasting only on the 10th of Muharram