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More on Ashura

My post on Ashura has generated a bit of controversy, with yours truly even being accused of Islamophobia. The latest comment I have received concerns this part of my post:

2. The Sunnis have it relatively easy – they fast, but even then, the fast is optional. And why do they fast? It is because of the Joooooooos!

When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) arrived in Madinah in 622 CE, he found that the Jews there fasted on Muharram 10 and asked them the reason for their fasting on this day. They said, “This is a blessed day. On this day Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemy (in Egypt) and so Prophet Musa [Moses] fasted on this day giving thanks to Allah.” The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “We are closer to Musa than you are.” He fasted on that day and commanded Muslims to fast on this day. (Al-Bukhari)

The interesting thing – besides the fact that the Muslims wanted to copy us- is that Muharram 10 corresponds to Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. That is the reason for the Jews fasting on this day, and has nothing to do with the Jewish people being saved from Egypt. In fact, the Israelites were saved in the Jewish month of Nissan, which is 6 months after the month in which Yom Kippur falls!

 

Someone’s telling porky pies..

“Anonymous” writes:

How does 10 Muharram correspond to Yom Kippur? It can’t if you say it’s in Nissan. I doubt it. Pick yes or no, and stay with it.

I think Anonymous misunderstands. I stated that 10 Muharram corresponds to Yom Kippur, but that the supposed reason for fasting belongs to Nissan. That’s the point!

 

In any event, this issue deserves more attention.

 

The Yom Kippur interpretation is something brought up by Islamic scholars.

But the celebrated mathematician Abu Rehan Beruni challenged the veracity of these reports on the basis of a comparative study of the Jewish and Arabian Calendars. He writes: “It is said that ‘Ashur is a Hebrew word which has become ‘Ashura in Arabic. It stands for the tenth day of the Jewish month of Tisri. The fast observed on this day is called Yom Kippur. It came to be incorporated in the Arab Calendar and the name was given to the tenth day of the first month of their year in the same way in which it denoted the tenth day of the first month of the Jewish Calendar. It was instituted as a day of fasting among the Muslims in the first year of Migration. Later, when fasting was enjoined in the month of Ramadan it was dropped. A Tradition has it that when the Prophet came to Madinah and saw that the Jews observed the fast of ‘Ashura he enquired about it and was told that it was the day on which God had drowned Pharaoh and his people and delivered Moses and his followers from them, and Moses used to fast on it in thanksgiving. The Prophet, then, remarked that Moses had a greater claim upon him than upon them and he fasted on that day and instructed his followers to do the same. When the fasts of Ramadan were prescribed, the Prophet neither enjoined the fast of ‘Ashura nor forbade it.

When I posted about Ashura, I was unaware that the apparent contradiction I raised is a well known issue amongst Islamic scholars. Head Heeb Jonathan deals in great detail with this issue, and the different views. In hindsight, I would not have mentioned this contradiction had I known it had been dealt with at length, and resolved by some. Especially considering the proclivity of those who disagree with me to label me as Islamophobic. Nevertheless, it is important as a blogger to be as informed as possible, and honest enough to revise or clarify your positions as you become aware of new facts.

 

Having said that, the Shia version of Ashura is brutal and deserves to be criticized. Even an article on Islam Online seems to be implying this.

Others consider this a day of mourning and wailing in honor of the Prophet’s grandson Al-Husayn, who was killed in battle on that day. The scholar Ibn Taymiyah (b. 661 AH/1263 CE) stated that all of these are bid`ahs (reprehensible innovations) that should be avoided.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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