Aashoorah: Celebration or Mourning
From As-Sunnah Bimonthly Islamic Newsletter
Question: What is the ruling on those actions performed on the day of Aashoorah, such as wearing kohl, taking a bath (ghusl), using henna, shaking hands with one another, cooking grains (huboob), showing happiness and so on—? Has any saheeh hadeeth to that effect been narrated from the Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam)? If there is no saheeh hadeeth to that effect, does doing these things constitute bid'ah (innovation)? What about the things that the other people do, such as mourning, grieving, going without anything to drink, eulogizing, wailing, rending their garments, etc.? Is there any basis for these actions?
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (rahimahullah) was asked these questions and he replied saying:
All Praise is to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. Nothing to that effect has been reported in any Saheeh Hadeeth from the Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) or from his Companions (radhi allahu anhu). None of the Imaams of the Muslims encouraged or recommended such things, neither the four Imaams, nor any others. No reliable scholars have narrated anything like this, neither from the Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam), nor from the Sahabah (radhi allahu anhu), nor from the Taabi'een; neither in any saheeh report nor in a da'eef (weak) report; neither in the books of Saheeh, Sunan, nor in the Musnads.
No hadeeth of this nature was known during the best centuries, but some of the later narrators reported ahaadeeth like the one which says ’Whoever puts kohl in his eyes on the day of Aashoorah will not suffer from eye disease in that year, and whoever takes a bath (does ghusl) on the day of 'Aashoorah' will not get sick in that year, etc.“ They also narrated reports concerning the supposed virtues of praying on the day of Aashoorah and other reports saying that on the day of 'Aashooraa' Adam (alaihi as-salaam) repented, the Ark settled on Mount Joodi, Yoosuf (alaihi as-salaam) returned to Ya'qoob (alaihi as-salaam), Ibraaheem (alaihi as-salaam) was saved from the fire, the ram was provided for sacrifice instead of Ismaa'eel (alaihi as-salaam), and so on. They also reported a fabricated ahadeeth that is falsely attributed to the Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam), which says: ’Whoever is generous to his family on the day of Aashoorah, Allah will be generous to him for the rest of the year.“
(Then Ibn Taymiyah discussed the two misguided groups who were in Koofah, Iraq, both of whom took Aashoorah as a festival because of their bid'ah)
The Raafidhi group made an outward show of allegiance to the Ahl al-Bayt although inwardly they were either heretics and disbelievers or ignorant and bound by whims and desires. The Naasibi group hated 'Ali (radhi allahu anhu) and his companions, because of the troubles and killings that had occurred. It is reported in Saheeh Muslim that the Prophet of Allah (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) said:
’In (the tribe of) Thaqeef there will be a liar and an oppressor.“ [Saheeh Muslim]
The liar was al-Mukhtaar ibn Abi 'Ubayd al-Thaqafi, who made an outward show of allegiance to and support of the Ahl al-Bayt, and killed 'Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyaad, the governor of Iraq, who had equipped the party that killed al-Husayn ibn 'Ali (radhi allahu anhu); then he (al-Mukhtaar) made it clear that he was a liar, by claiming to be a prophet and that Jibreel (alaihi as-salaam) brought revelation to him. People told Ibn Umar (radhi allahu anhu) and Ibn 'Abbas (radhi allahu anhu) about this, and said to one of them: ’al-Mukhtaar ibn Abi 'Ubayd is claiming to receive revelation.“ He said: ’He is telling the truth, for Allah says:
’Shall I inform you (O people) upon whom the shayaateen (devils) descend? They descend upon every lying, sinful person.“ [Soorah ash-Shoorah (26): 221]
They said to the other: ’Al-Mukhtaar is claiming that he receives inspiration.“ He said, ’He is telling the truth: ’And certainly, the Shayaateen (devils) do inspire their friends (from mankind) to dispute with you.“ [Soorah al-An'am (6): 121]
As for the oppressor, this was al-Hajjaaj ibn Yoosuf al-Thaqafi, who was opposed to 'Ali (radhi allahu anhu) and his companions. Al-Hajjaaj was a Naasibi and al-Mukhtaar was a Raafidhi, and this Raafidhi was a greater liar and more guilty of fabrication and heresy, because he claimed to be a prophet—
There was much trouble and fighting between these two groups in Kufa. When al-Husayn ibn …Ali was killed on the day of Aashoorah, he was killed by the sinful, wrongdoing group. Allah honored al-Husayn with martyrdom, as He honored other members of his family, and raised his status, as He honored Hamzah, Ja'far, his father Ali and others.
Al-Husayn and his brother al-Hasan are the leaders of the youth of Paradise. High status can only be attained through suffering as the Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) said, when he was asked which people suffer the most: ’The Prophets, then righteous people, then the next best and the next best. A man will suffer according to his level of faith. If his faith is solid, he will suffer more, but if his faith is shaky, he will suffer less. The believer will keep on suffering until he walks on the earth with no sin.“ [Tirmidhee and others]
Al-Hasan and al-Husayn achieved the high status by the help and decree of Allah. They did not suffer as much as their forefathers had, for they were born and raised during the glory days of Islam, and the Muslims respected and honored them. The Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) died when they were still young, and Allah blessed them by testing them in such a manner that they would be able to catch up with the rest of their family members, as those who were of a higher status than them were also tested. Ali ibn Abi Taalib (radhi allahu anhu) was better than them, and he was killed as a shaheed (martyr).
The killing of al-Husayn was one of the things that caused fitnah (tribulation) among the people, as was the killing of Uthmaan (radhi allahu anhu), which was one of the greatest causes of fitnah, because of which the ummah is still split today. Thus, the Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) said: ’There are three things, whoever is saved from them is truly saved: my death, the killing of a patient khaleefah, and the Dajjaal ('antichrist').“
Then, Shaykh al-Islam (rahimahullah) mentioned a little about the biography of al-Hasan and his just character and he said: …Then he died, and Allah was pleased with him and honored him. Some groups wrote to al-Husayn and promised to support and help him if he went ahead and declared himself khaleefah, but they were not sincere. When al-Husayn sent his cousin [son of his paternal uncle] to them, they broke their word and gave help to the one they had promised to defend him against, and fought with him against [al-Husayn‘s cousin]. Those who were wise and who loved al-Husayn, such as Ibn 'Abbaas (radhi allahu anhu) and Ibn Umar (radhi allahu anhu) and others, advised him not to go to them, and not to accept any promises from them. They thought that his going to them served no useful interest and that the consequences would not be good.
Things turned out just as they said, and this is how Allah decreed it would happen. When al-Husayn went out and saw that things were not as he had expected, he asked them to let him go back, or to let him join the army that was defending the borders of Islam, or join his cousin Yazeed, but they would not let him do any of these things unless he gave himself up to them as a prisoner. So he fought with them, and they killed him and some of those who were with him, and he was wrongfully slain so he died as a shaheed whose martyrdom brought him honor from Allah, and thus he was reunited with the good and pure members of his family. His murder brought shame on those who had wrongfully killed him, and caused much mischief among the people.
An ignorant, wrongful group who were either heretics and hypocrites, or misguided and misled made a show of allegiance to him and the members of his household, so they took the day of Aashoorah as a day of mourning and wailing, in which they openly displayed the rituals of jaahiliyyah such as slapping their cheeks and rending their garments, grieving in the manner of the jaahiliyyah.
But what Allah has commanded us to do when disaster strikes? One is to bear with patience and fortitude when disaster strikes, seek reward, and remember that all things come from Allah and we must return to Him:
’— but give glad tidings to al-saabiroon (the patient ones), who, when afflicted with calamity, say: 'Truly, to Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return.' They are those on whom are al-salawaat (the blessings) (i.e., who are blessed and will be forgiven) from their Lord, and (they are those who) receive His Mercy, and it is they who are the guided ones.“ [Soorah al-Baqarah 2:155-157]
It is reported in al-Saheeh that the Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) said: ’He is not one of us who strikes his cheeks, rends his garments and prays with the prayer of Jaahiliyyah.“
And he (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) said: ’I have nothing to do with those who strike [their cheeks], shave [their heads] and rend [their garments].“
’If the woman who wails does not repent before she dies, she will be raised up on the Day of Resurrection wearing trousers made of tar and a shirt of scabs.“
In al-Musnad, it is reported from Faatimah bint al-Husayn, from her father al-Husayn, that the Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) said:
’There is no man who suffers a calamity, and when he remembers it, even if it is old, he says 'Innaa Lillaahi wa innaa ilayhi raaji'oon (Truly, to Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return),' Allah will give a reward equal to the reward He gave him on the day he suffered the calamity.“
This is how Allah honors the believers. If the disaster suffered by al-Husayn, and other disasters, are mentioned after all this time, we should say ’Innaa Lillaahi wa innaa ilayhi raaji'oon“ - Truly, to Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return- as Allah and His Messenger (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) commanded, so as to be given the reward like that earned on the day of the disaster itself. If Allah commanded us to be patient and steadfast and to seek reward at the time of the disaster, then how about after the passing of time?
The Shaytaan made this attractive to those who are misled, so they took the day of Aashoorah as an occasion of mourning, when they grieve and wail, recite poems of grief and tell stories filled with lies. Whatever truth there may be in these stories, serves no purpose other than the renewal of their grief and sectarian feeling, and the stirring up of hatred and hostility among the Muslims, which they do by cursing those who came before them, and telling many lies, and causing much trouble in the world.
The various sects of Islam have never known any group tell more lies or cause more trouble or help the kuffaar against the Muslims more than this misguided and evil group. They are even worse than the Khawaarij who went beyond the pale of Islam. They are the ones of whom the Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) said:
’They will kill the people of Islam and will leave alone the people who worship idols.“
This group cooperated with the Jews, Christians and mushrikeen against the members of the Prophet's household and his believing ummah. The evil and harm that they do to the Muslims cannot be enumerated by any man, no matter how eloquent he is.
Some others either Naasibis who oppose and have enmity towards al-Husayn and his family or ignorant people who try to fight evil with evil, corruption with corruption, lies with lies and bid'ah with bid'ah opposed them by fabricating reports in favor of making the day of Aashoorah a day of celebration, by wearing kohl and henna, spending money on one's children, cooking special dishes and other things that are done on Eids and special occasions. These people took the day of Aashoorah as a festival like Eid, whereas the others took it as a day of mourning. Both are wrong, and both go against the Sunnah, even though the other group (the Rafidis) are worse in intention and more ignorant and more plainly wrong—
But Allah commands us to be just and to treat others well. Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) said: ’Those of you who live after my death will see many disputes. I urge you to adhere to my Sunnah and the sunnah of my rightly-guided successors (al-khulafa' al-raashidoon) who come after me. Hold onto it as if biting it with your teeth. Beware of newly-innovated matters, for every innovation is a going astray.“
Neither the Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam), nor his rightly guided successors did any of these things on the day of Aashoorah, they neither made it a day of mourning nor a day of celebration.
But ’when the Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) came to Madeenah, he saw the Jews fasting on the day of Aashoorah. He said, ’What is this?“ They said, 'This is the day when Allah saved Moosa from drowning, so we fast on this day.' He said: ’We have more right to Moosa (alaihi as-salaam) than you.“ [Saheeh Bukharee]
So he fasted on that day and commanded [the Muslims] to fast on that day. He (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) did not tell ordinary Muslims to fast on Aashoorah, but he used to say: ’This is the day of Aashoorah; I am fasting on this day and whoever wishes to fast on this day may fast.“
And he (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) said: ’Fasting on Aashoorah expiates for the sins of one year and fasting on the day of 'Arafaah expiates for the sins of two years.“
When, towards the end of his life, the Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) heard that the Jews took the day of Aashoorah as a festival, he said:
’If I live until next year, I will certainly fast on the ninth“ to be different from the Jews, and not to resemble them in taking the day as a festival.
As for the other things, such as cooking special dishes with or without grains, or wearing new clothes, or spending money on one's family, or buying the year's supplies on that day, or doing special acts of worship such as special prayers or deliberately slaughtering an animal on that day, or saving some of the meat of the sacrifice to cook with grains, or wearing kohl and henna, or taking a bath (ghusl), or shaking hands with one another, or visiting one another, or visiting the mosques and mashhads (shrines) and so on— all of this is reprehensible bid'ah and is wrong. None of it has anything to do with the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) or the way of the Khulafa' al-Raashidoon.
It was not approved of by any of the imaams of the Muslims, not Maalik, not al-Thawri, not al-Layth ibn Sa'd, not Abu Haneefah, not al-Awzaa'i, not al-Shaafa'i, not Ahmad ibn Hanbal, not Ishaaq ibn Raahwayh, not any of the Imaams and scholars of the Muslims.
The religion of Islam is based on two principles: that we should worship nothing besides Allah Alone, and that we should worship Him in the manner that He has prescribed, (i.e: the Qur‘aan and the Sunnah of the Messenger ) not by means of bid'ah or reprehensible innovations. Allah says: ’— So whoever hopes for the Meeting with his Lord, let him work righteousness and associate none as a partner in the worship of his Lord.“ [Soorah al-Kahf (18): 110]
Righteous deeds are those, which are loved by Allah and His Messenger (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam), those which are prescribed in Islam and in the Sunnah. Thus, Umar ibn al-Khattaab (radhi allahu anhu) used to say in his du'aa': ’O Allah, make all of my deeds righteous and make them purely for Your sake, and do not let there be any share for anyone or anything else in them.“
[The above is summarized words of Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullah) from his Book …Al-Fataawa al-Kubra‘ Part 5 | Courtesy: Islam Q & A : Authoritative answers by Sheikh Muhammad al-Munajjid on a range of topics. English, Arabic or French]