. The month of Muharram is one of the holy months in which warfare has been traditionally forbidden; this was so even before the advent of Islam. The other months are Dhu al-Qada, Dhu al-Hijja, and Rajab. There are some hadiths concerning the month of Muharram.
The Prophet told us that:
“The most blessed month in which to fast, other than Ramadan, is the holy month of Muharram (which is honored as The Month of God).”
Ashura has been a day of fasting for Muslims since the early Muslim community. According to Abdullah ibn Abbas, when Prophet Muhammad came to Madina , he saw the Jews fasting on the tenth of Muharram in celebration of the prophet Moses’ victory over the Pharaoh. Upon this, the Prophet fasted on Ashura day and ordered others to fast as well.
According to another source, the Prophet recommended that the Companions fast on the day of Ashura before the compulsory Ramadan fast; in fact, according to the above hadith, he actually demanded that they do so. But he also said that after having completed the obligatory fasting of Ramadan:
“It is without a doubt that the Day of Ashura is one of God’s days. From now on, who so wishes should fast on that day; who so wishes does not have to.” In this way, fasting on this day was left up to individual choice.
In another hadith one of the companions was told that he should “fast three days in the months of Rajab, Dhu al-Qada, Dhu al-Hijja, and Muharram.”
Another hadith states that these three days in the final month should be “the day before Ashura, the day of Ashura, and the following day.”
The day of Ashura falls on the tenth day of the month of Muharram. The word ” ashura” actually means the “tenth day.” Moreover, there are opinions that state
“Almighty God granted ten gifts to ten prophets on that day. Or because God granted blessings to the community of Muhammad on this day, it is known as Ashura.”
The month in which Ashura falls is generally known as the month of Ashura. Although there are various reports concerning what actually lies behind the day of Ashura, the fact that the ninth, tenth, and eleventh days of this month (Muharram) have been considered as holy, blessed days is an important point that must be taken into consideration.
Noah and the Flood
One of the most important pieces of popular knowledge surrounding the events of the day of Ashura in the Islamic world is its connection with the flood and Noah. The flood occurred on that day, and it is said that the ark rested on Mount Judi, reaching safety, on that day. Again, according to popular knowledge, Noah fasted on this day to show his thanks and gratitude to God.
Prophet Noah was sent to people by God because they had begun to deviate from the truth after Prophet Adam and Prophet Enoch. Prophet Noah explained to people the belief in one God, and invited them to the way of truth, forbidding them from worshipping idols.
But they were bereft of the lofty soul necessary to understand the announcement and invitation of Noah that would be necessary to discover beauty. Prophet Noah found himself the prophet to these unruly people. According to the Qur’an, he told them
Surely I am a plain warner for you. That you shall not serve any but God, surely I fear for you the punishment of a painful day. (Shuara 26:106-110; Hud 11:25-26)
The Answer of the Unruly
These people, who were unruly and denied the truth, made fun of Prophet Noah’s holy call:
We do not consider you but a mortal like ourselves, and we do not see any have followed you but those who are the meanest of us at first thought and we do not see in you any excellence over us; nay, we deem you liars. (Hud 11:27)
They perceived those poor people who followed Noah and his call, who believed in God as a loving servant, as being contemptible; they said they would not be found under the same roof as them and that they were greater. They could not understand that superiority lay not in money, goods, or property, but in the worship of one God, good morals, and behavior that is beneficial to society.
However, those people who they saw as despicable were people who were worth many times their value in the eyes of God. Therefore, Prophet Noah would not desert the side of these poor, worthy people; he could not turn his back on them merely because the unruly people said he should do so. As a matter of fact, he displayed forbearance and patience on this path.
Unfortunately, none of the leaders of the tribe showed any understanding of Noah, even though he did not expect any material benefit. All he wanted was for them to believe in God. But this just was not possible. When he told them what they should believe, they went so far as to label him mad; and in order to keep him under control, they kept him under surveillance.
When Prophet Noah refused to be turned from his way, despite all the problems he had been caused, they decided to threaten him with death. Prophet Noah met this threat with patience and forbearance, declaring the unity of God and belief in His way. But the eyes that saw the way to truth, the ears that heard the truth, the hearts that spoke His name, and those with the courage to defend righteousness, were few. Finally, Prophet Noah begged God:
“O my Lord! Truly my people have rejected me. Judge Thou, then, between me and them openly, and deliver me and those of the Believers who are with me.” (Shuara 26:117-118)
Almighty God accepted Noah’s prayer and taught him first of all how to make the Ark. In this way, the believers started to build the Ark under the supervision of Prophet Noah. As the building progressed, those who had lost their way made fun of Prophet Noah and the believers who were with him. Prophet Noah reminded them that there would come a day when those who were making fun of them would no longer exist. But there was no sign that those who denied the truth had yet awoken. They said:
“Alright, then. Let the torment about which you speak so much come and we will see.” And they continued to make fun of the believers.
The Flood Starts
Almighty God ordered that the believers board the Ark with a pair of every animal. The heavenly doors opened and water poured down. Water poured out of the Earth as well. The two sources of water combined. The wife of Prophet Noah and one of his sons were among the unbelievers. He had warned them many times of what was to come. But they thought that if such a disaster were to come, that they would be able to save themselves by climbing to the peaks of the mountains, and so they refused to contemplate that what Noah was saying could be true. While the believers were safe in the Ark, the unbelievers drowned, one by one; the torment that had inflicted on him when they had made fun of him came and took them by the back of the necks, dragging them down in whirlpools.
Prophet Noah prayed that the Ark would land in a bountiful, calm place, and his prayers were answered; he was of those whose prayers are answered. Almighty God ordered:
“O Earth! Swallow up your water, and O sky! Withold (your rain)!” (Hud 11:44)
Upon this order the thunder was stopped, the water streaming from the Earth ceased, and the Ark landed on Mount Judi. In this way were God’s Prophet and the believers saved.
According to reports, upon being saved from the flood, the believers opened their provisions and mixed together wheat kernels, garbanzo beans, and other dried goods, cooked them all together, with the resulting pudding being so bountiful that everyone was able to eat their fill.
Even though many thousands of years have passed since that day, believers make a pudding known as ashura on this day in memory of this event. It is traditional to make this pudding and offer it to one’s family and friends, and to offer it to neighbors; this is something that has become extremely common nowadays. Every year in the month of Muharram people, be they in villages or cities, come together and celebrate the salvation of those who believed in Noah.
There are many traditions that bring the young and old together, uniting all the members of the community; this leads to solidarity and cooperation. The tradition of ashura, which seems to be merely the consumption of something sweet, is an important component that symbolizes spiritual values and which creates an atmosphere of kinship.
We have reported the historical events that lie behind the month of Muharram and the ashura pudding. But, in fact, there are many other historical events that occurred in the month of Muharram. To give some examples, Prophet Abraham was saved from the fire into which he was thrown, Prophet Job found relief from his debilitating illness, and Prophet Moses and his tribe passed through the Red Sea.
Among all these events, there is an event that occurred on 10 Muharram 61 (10 October 680) that is so clear that it throws believing hearts into grief, and causes tears to gush from the eyes. On this date, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, Husayn, was martyred by merciless bloodthirsty people in Karbala.
Muslims take a lesson from the salvation of the believers who followed Noah, but at the same time they pay tribute to the blessed souls of Husayn and other members of the Prophet’s family who were murdered in this tragic event.
The Islamic Calendar is lunar-based and a lunar year shorter than a solar year. Due to this difference, the month of Ramadan comes 10 12 days earlier every year. Thus, people around the world afforded an equal level of challenge and reward through their lifetimes (e.g. they fast sometimes through short winter days and sometimes in long summer days).
Riyadh al-Salihin, II, 507
Judi: The mountain where the ark of Prophet Noah was landed according to the Qur’an (Hud 11:44):
Then the word went forth: “O Earth! Swallow up your water, and O sky! Withold (your rain)!” and the water abated, and the matter was ended. The Ark rested on (Mount) Judi, and the word went forth: “Away with those who do wrong!” Mount Judi is located in south-east Turkey very close to Turkish-Iraqi border. With many caves, easy slopes, and certainly its hand-palm shaped top, its landscape looks suitable to accommodate after the flood. It is also reported that Judi might be the name of a mountain range across Mosul, Jizra and Damascus. Genesis 8:4 mentions Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey as the location where the ark landed.