Muharram 2021: When is Ashura fasting and what does it mean?

Ashura is a hugely significant day for the Islamic faith, but non-Muslims may be surprised to hear of its origins

Many Muslims fast on the day of Ashura, following the tradition of the Prophet Mohammed, in hopes to expiate their sins from the past year.

What is its significance?

Muslims around the world can choose to fast on the day of Ashura, as the Prophet Mohammed did, hoping their sins of the past year will be forgiven.

Fasting on the day of Ashura is not obligatory for every Muslim, unlike the requirement to fast throughout Ramadan.

According to hadith, or sayings attributed to the Prophet Mohammed (specifically those cited by Islamic scholar Sahih Bukhari), when the Prophet Mohammed arrived in Madinah, he found the Jews fasting on the day of Ashura.

When he inquired about it, they said: "This is a righteous day, it is the day when Allah saved the children of Israel from their enemies, so Prophet Musa fasted on this day.”

When the Prophet Mohammed found out it was the day Prophet Musa fasted to thank Allah, he also fasted on the day of Ashura and asked fellow Muslims to join him in honour of Prophet Musa.

The Ashura also commemorates the day Allah saved Prophet Nuh, referred to as Noah in Christian teachings, and his believing companions in the Ark, and the day Allah accepted the repentance of Adam after his exile from Paradise.

It also coincides with the day on which Hussain bin Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed was killed in the battle of Karbala in 680 AD, so many Muslims consider it a day of mourning.

When is it?

Ashura (meaning the 10th) falls on the 10th day of the month of Muharram in the Hijri calendar, which coincides with Thursday, August 19, this year. Muharram is the first month of the Hijri calendar and is one of the holiest months in the Islamic calendar. Muharram is one of the four months that are considered sacred – Dhu Al Qadah, Dhu Al Hijjah, Muharram and Rajab.

What do Muslims do on Ashura?

Muslims typically fast on the day of Ashura. Some fast two days consecutively, meaning Wednesday and Thursday, or Thursday and Friday.

What is different about it this year?

The Prophet's Mosque in Madinah will serve only dates, water, bread and yoghurt for iftar – breaking of the fast – for all those fasting during Ashura.

Authorities announced 120,000 (fasting) meals will be provided to visitors at the Prophet’s Mosque, in line with precautionary measures for Ashura.

No outside food will be allowed and social distancing will be maintained as part of precautionary measures to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. Mosques in the kingdom will follow the same rules of social distancing and not gathering while breaking the fast on Ashura, in line with health protocols.

Updated: August 18th 2021, 5:31 PM