[I found this somewhat unfinished research on my computer. Seeing as today is the 10th of Muḥarram, or ʿĀshūrā, I thought it would be useful to students of knowledge to post whatever research I had gathered to date on the authenticity of the attribution of certain prophetic events to this day. Interestingly enough, the 10th of Muḥarram (or possibly the 11th) was the day I was reported to have been born.]
This last Friday, I heard many things about ʿĀshūrā that I’d never heard before. The khatib said that in addition to Mūsā and his people being saved on ʿĀshūrā that it was also the day that Yūnus was saved from the whale, Yūsuf was saved from the well, Nūḥ was saved from the flood, that Ibrāhīm was born on this day, and that Rasūl Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was granted special forgiveness, and some other things I don’t remember. I had never heard these things before, so I was wondering if they were true. Please respond at your convenience. (edited)
Many of the historical events that are attached to the 10th of Muḥarram are not substantiated by the prophetic tradition. Some have been transmitted in commentaries of hadith works but without a chain of narrators that can establish their reliability. Others are quoted through chains that end with Successors and are likely taken from Judeo-Christian traditions, sources that at best are potentially true but still not substantiated by historical sources that can establish the Sunnah. Below, I have attempted to shed some light on specific claims about the day of ʿĀshūrā in light of the research of expert traditionists.
Under the discussion of the origins of the word ʿĀshūrā, Imam Badr al-Dīn al-ʿAynī mentions that some people claim that the day of ʿĀshūrā is special because on it Allah honored ten (ʿasharah) prophets. However, here no reference is provided for this claim. (al-ʿAynī, ʿUmdat al-Qārī, 8:233)
Similarly, in his commentary on Imam Mālik’s al-Muwaṭṭā, Shaykh al-Ḥadīth Muḥammad Zakariyyā al-Kāndhalwī mentions that Ibn Raslān relates the same opinion from Imam al-Mundhirī, again without a source chain. (al-Kāndhalwī, Awjaz al-Masālik, 5:185) Al-ʿAynī provides additional details for this claim:
“It is said that [the reason the tenth day of Muḥarram is called ʿĀshūrāʾ] is because Allah the Exalted dignified ten prophets, upon them be peace, with ten karāmahs [on it]. The first is Mūsā, upon him be peace, who was given (divine) aid on this day. The sea was split for him and Firʿawn and his army were caused to drown. The second is Nūḥ, upon him be peace, whose ark settled upon the mount of Jūdī on this day. The third is Yūnus, upon him be peace, who was saved from the belly of the whale. The fourth is that Allah accepted the repentance of Ādam, upon him be peace, as ʿIkrimah states. The fifth is Yūsuf, upon him be peace, who was removed from the well on this day. The sixth is ʿĪsā, upon him be peace, who was born on this day and raised (to the Heavens) on it. The seventh is Dāwūd, upon him be peace, who Allah forgave on this day. The eight is Ibrāhīm, upon him be peace, who was born on it. The ninth is Yaʿqūb, upon him be peace, whose sight was returned to him on this day. The tenth is our prophet Muḥammad, upon him blessings and peace, who was forgiven everything that preceded and everything to follow on it.
As such they have mentioned ten of the prophets. I [‘Ayni] say, ‘Some have also mentioned amongst the ten Idrīs, upon him be peace, for he was raised to some place in the sky, and Ayyūb, upon him be peace, whose difficulty was lifted on this day, and Sulaymān, upon him be peace, who was given kingdom on it.’” (al-ʿAynī, ʿUmdat al-Qārī, 8:233)
Mawlānā Faḍl al-Raḥmān al-Aʿẓamī, a leading authority in hadith today, includes amongst “the famous virtues of the day of ʿĀshūrā that are all fabrications” the claims that the repentance of Ādam was accepted, or that the ark of Nūḥ settled on Mount Jūdī, or that Ibrāhīm was saved from the fire, or that Allāh sent the ram to be sacrificed in place of Ismāʿīl, or that Yūsuf was returned to his father Yaʿqūb (upon all of them be peace) all on this day.
Al-Aʿẓamī, whose thorough research on this issue has been published in the form of a booklet entitled Muharram and Ashura: Virtues and Laws, states:
“Shāh ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq al-Muḥaddith al-Dihlawī (may Allah have mercy on him) has quoted another narration [on the topic of ʿĀshūrā] which ʿAlī ibn Muḥammad al-ʿArrāq (may Allah have mercy on him) has classified as fabricated.
The fabricated narration states that the person who fasts on the day of ʿĀshūrā will receive the reward of fasting for sixty years and for standing in prayer for sixty years. In addition, he will receive the reward of ten thousand angels and the reward of a thousand people performing ḥajj and ʿumrah. He will also receive the reward of ten thousand martyrs together with all the rewards of the seven heavens.
This fabricated narration also states that the person who feeds a hungry person on the day of ʿĀshūrā will receive the reward of feeding every poor person from the ummah of Muḥammad (upon him blessings and peace) to his fill.
Furthermore, it states that the person who on this day places his hand on the head of an orphan will have his status in Jannah raised by a degree for every strand of the orphan’s hair that falls beneath his hand.
The other false impressions that the fabrication creates is that Allah brought creation into existence on the day of ʿĀshūrā, including the heavens, the earth, the Pen, the Protected Tablet, Jibrāʾīl, Mīkāʾīl, and Ādam (upon them be peace).
It also states that Ibrāhīm (upon him be peace) was born on this day, and that he was rescued from the fire on this day, that the ram was sent in place of Ismāʿīl on this day, that Firʿawn was drowned on this day, that Idrīs was raised to the heavens on this day, and that Ādam’s repentance was accepted on this day [Note that Ibn Rajab quotes statements of two Successors and Ibn ʿAbbās to support this point, which will be discussed later].
Moreover, it states that Dāwūd (upon him be peace) was forgiven on this day, that Allah focuses His attention to His Throne on this day, and that Qiyāmah shall take place on this day. ʿAllāmah Ibn al-Jawzī (may Allah have mercy on him) states that this hadith was forged by a person called Ḥabīb ibn Abī Ḥabīb and was attributed to ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAbbās (may Allah be pleased with them).” (al-Dihlawī, Mā Thabata bi-l-Sunnah, from al-Aʿzamī, Muharram and Ashura: Virtues and Laws, p. 20)
Al-Aʿzamī further adds:
“After mentioning all of the above, Shāh ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq (may Allah have mercy on him) observes another fabrication. This fabrication states that on this day Yūsuf (upon him be peace) was freed from prison, Yaʿqūb’s (upon him be peace) eyesight was restored, Ayyūb (upon him be peace) was cured, and Yūnus (upon him be peace) was removed from the belly of the fish.
It also states that on this day the past and future mistakes of the Messenger of Allah (upon him be blessings and peace) were forgiven, the repentance of Yūnus’s (upon him be peace) nation was accepted and the first rains fell.
Moreover, the (fabricated) narration states that the person who fasts on this day will be rewarded like the one who fasts all the time, and the person who stands in worship during the night preceding the day of ʿĀshūrā will receive the reward of the worship of everything within the seven heavens.
Furthermore, it states that all the prophets fasted on this day and that fifty years of a person’s future sins and fifty years of his past sins will be forgiven if on this day he performs four rakaʿah of ṣalāt and recites Sūrat al-Fātiḥah once, followed by Sūrat al-Ikhlās fifty times in every rakaʿah. In addition, the narration states that such a person will have a thousand pulpits of celestial light (nūr) erected for him in the highest echelons of the heavens.
It also asserts that the person who gives a single sip to another to drink on this day, his status will be like one who has not disobeyed Allah for even a moment as brief as the blink of an eye. It states also that one who feeds a poor person to his fill on this day will cross the bridge of Ṣirāt at the speed of lightning.
Another concocted detail of this “hadith” includes that a person who gives charity on this day is like one who never refuses any beggar, and that someone who passes his hand over the head of an orphan will be rewarded like one who has behaved kindly to every orphan amongst mankind. In a similar fashion, the narration states that whoever visits a sick person on this day will be equal to one who has visited every sick person from amongst mankind.
ʿAllāmah Ibn al-Jawzī (may Allah have mercy on him) mentions that this narration has been fabricated without doubt, although its chain includes all reliable narrators. It is therefore obvious that whoever concocted this “hadith” attached a reliable chain of narrators to it.” (al-Dihlawī, Mā Thabata bi-l-Sunnah, 21, from al-Aʿzamī, Muharram, 21]
The Musnad of Imam Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal does contain a hadith of the Companion Abū Hurayrah that states, “It is the day that the ark settled on Jūdī, so Nūḥ fasted on it to show gratitude,” (Fatḥ al-Mulhim, al-ʿUthmānī 5:253) potentially indicative of the validity of the attribution of this particular event to the day of ʿĀshūrā. Similarly, it is mentioned in Ibn Rajab’s Laṭāʾif al-Maʿārif p. 103: “In the Musnad al-Imam Ahmad it is mentioned on the authority of Abu Jaʿfar that ʿAbd al-Ṣamad informed him from his father from Shubayl from Abū Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that he said, “The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, once passed by a group of Jews who had fasted the day of ʿĀshūrā. He remarked, ‘What fast is this?’ They said, ‘This is the day that Allah saved Musa, upon him be peace, and Banū Isrāʾīl from drowning, and on it He drowned Firʿawn. This is also the day on which the ark settled on Jūdī. Therefore, Nūḥ and Mūsā, upon them be peace, fasted out of gratitude to Allah the Exalted and Honored. The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, then stated, ‘I have more right to Mūsā and more right to the fast of this day.’ He thus commanded his Companions to fast.” (Aḥmad 14:334-335) Shu‘ayb al-Arnāʾūt, however, notes, that the chain of the narration is weak due to the weakness of ʿAbd al-Samad ibn Ḥabīb and the fact that his father is unknown. Further, the portion of the hadith that speaks of Nūḥ, upon him be peace, he claims, is nowhere corroborated. The portion of the hadith, therefore, that mentions that the day of ʿĀshūrā is the day that the ark of Nuh settled on Judi and that Nuh (upon him be peace) therefore fasted on the day out of gratitude is da‘if.
Lastly, a narration in Muṣannaf ʿAbd al-Razzāq (4:290-291, Al-Majlis al-ʿIlmī: Karachi) reads: “ʿAbd al-Razzāq informed us that Maʿmar reported from Qatādah that he said: ‘Nūḥ boarded the ark with ten days left in Rajab and descended from the ark on the day of ʿĀshūrā.’” The editor of the Musannaf, ʿAllāmah Ḥabīb al-Raḥmān al-Aʿzamī, notes: “In a hadith of al-Ṭabarānī it is mentioned, ‘In Rajab, Allah carried Nūḥ in the ark…and so the ark sailed for seven months, the end of which was the day of ʿĀshūrā.’ Haythami remarks (on this hadith), ‘It contains ʿAbd al-Ghafūr, and he is matrūk (abandoned).’ (3:188)”