The Eclipse between the people of faith and the people of negligence

Friday, December 9, 2011

InsyaAllah tomorrow, 10th December 2011, people in Malaysia  and other South East Asia countries will be treated to a total eclipse of the moon which will start soon after the sunset until midnite.

What the people whose concern is only for this world are saying about the eclipse

A scientific researcher has said: “The eclipse is a natural phenomenon which should be regarded without alarm.” With regard to what they are actually doing, we have heard the following news:
  1. Medically-approved glasses will be distributed to people so that they can enjoy these few moments.
  2. One country has imported 50,000 pairs of special glasses to be used for watching the eclipse this coming Wednesday.
  3. People will gather at specialized telescopes so that they will have the opportunity to see the eclipse through advanced scientific means.
  4. British Airways has organized two Concorde flights to observe the eclipse this coming Wednesday. The flights will depart from Heathrow airport and head west for half the distance, then they will come back, so that the two hundred passengers will be able to see the eclipse from an altitude of 58,000 feet, travelling at twice the speed of sound. All the tickets for both flights sold out within a short period of time.
  5. In some countries people have been advised to stay in their houses and not to go out in the streets at all.
This is what the people of negligence say, but what about the people of faith? Al-Bukhaari (may Allah have mercy on him) said in his Saheeh: Baab Al-Salaah fi Kusoof al-Shams (Chapter on prayer when the sun is eclipsed):

From Abu Bakrah who said: “We were with the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the sun was eclipsed. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) stood up, dragging his cloak, and went into the mosque. We went in too and he led us in praying two rak’ahs, until the sun was uncovered again. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘The sun and moon are not eclipsed for the death of anyone [or for the life of anyone], [they are two of the signs of Allah]. So if you see that, [then get up and pray] and make du’aa’ until what happened to you is over.’” (982).

From ‘Aishah who said: “The sun was eclipsed at the time of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), so the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) led the people in prayer. He stood for a long time, then he made rukoo’ for a long time, then he stood again for a long time but shorter than the first time, then he made rukoo’ for a long time but shorter than the first. Then he prostrated for a long time, then in the second rak’ah he did the same as he had done in the first. Then he finished, and the eclipse was over. He addressed the people, first praising Allah, then he said: ‘The sun and the moon are two of the signs of Allah. They do not become eclipsed for the death or life of anyone. If you see that, then pray to Allah, say Takbeer (“Allahu akbar”), pray and give in charity.’ Then he said, ‘O Ummah of Muhammad, by Allâh there is no one more jealous than Allah when His slave, male or female, commits zina (adultery or fornication). O Ummah of Muhammad, if you knew what I know you would laugh little and weep much.’” (Saheeh al-Bukhaari, 986)

Then Al-Bukhaari (may Allah have mercy on him) said: Baab al-Nida’ bi’l-salaah jaami’ah fi’l-kusoof (Calling “al-salaatu jaam’iah(the congregational prayer is about to start)” at the time of an eclipse).

From ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Amr (may Allah be pleased with them both) who said: “When the sun was eclipsed at the time of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), the call was given ‘al-salaatu jaam’iah (the congregational prayer is about to start)’.” (Saheeh al-Bukhaari, 989).

Then Al-Bukhaari (may Allah have mercy on him) said: Baab al-Ta’awwudh min ‘adhaab al-qabr fi’l-kusoof (seeking refuge from the punishment of the grave at the time of an eclipse).

‘Abd-Allaah ibn Muslimah told us from Maalik from Yahya ibn Sa’eed from ‘Amrah bint ‘Abd al-Rahmaan from ‘Aishah the wife of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that a Jewish woman came to ask her (for help) and said to her, “May Allah protect you from the punishment of the grave.” ‘Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) asked the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), “Will people be punished in their graves?” The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) explained the matter to her, seeking refuge with Allah from that. Then one day the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) went out in a funeral procession, and the sun was eclipsed and he came back at Duha. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) passed between the apartments [of his wives], then he stood and prayed, and the people stood behind him. He stood for a long time, then he did rukoo’ for a long time, then he stood upright and stood for a long time, but less than the first time. Then he did rukoo’ for a long time, but less than the first rukoo’. Then he stood upright, then he prostrated, then he stood up and stood for a long time, but less than the previous time. Then he did rukoo’ for a long time, but less than the previous rukoo’. Then he stood for a long time, but less than the previous time, then he did rukoo’ for a long time but less than the previous time. Then he stood up, then he prostrated and finished the prayer. Then he spoke and said as much as Allah willed he should say, then he commanded them to seek refuge with Allah from the punishment of the grave. Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 991.

Then al-Bukhaari (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: Baab al-Jahr bi’l-qiraa’ah fi’l-kusoof (Reciting aloud during the eclipse prayer).

Muhammad ibn Mahraan told us that al-Waleed ibn Muslim told us that Ibn Nimr informed us that Ibn Shihaab heard from ‘Urwah from ‘Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) recited aloud during the eclipse prayer (Salaat al-Kusoof). When he had finished reciting, he said ‘Allahu akbar’ and bowed. When he stood up from rukoo’ he said ‘Sami’a Allahu liman hamidah Rabbanaa wa laka’l-hamd(Allah hears those who praise Him, our Lord to You be praise).’ Then he recited again in Salaat al-Kusoof, four rukoo’s (bowing) in two rak’ahs and four sajdahs (prostrations). (Saheeh al-Bukhaari, 1004.)

We will briefly discuss below the important points made by Al-Haafiz ibn Hajar al-‘Asqallaani (may Allah have mercy on him) in his commentary on the ahaadeeth narrated by al-Bukhaari, with some adaptations and the addition of simple headings:

Solar and lunar eclipses are means used by Allaah to scare His slaves and remind them about the Day of Resurrection on which the moon will be eclipsed and the sun and moon will be rolled up

“Two signs” means two indicators. “The signs of Allah” means things that indicate His Unity and the greatness of His Ability, or that alarm His slaves and remind them of His punishment and power. This is supported by the aayah (interpretation of the meaning):

“And We sent not the signs except to warn, and to make them afraid” [al-Israa’ 17:59).

“Allah frightens His slaves with them”. In the hadeeth about the eclipse narrated by al-Nu’maan ibn Basheer and others, a reason other than that claimed by the astronomers is given. This was narrated by Ahmad, al-Nisaa’i and Ibn Maajah, and classed as saheeh by Ibn Khuzaymah and al-Haakim, with the wording, “The sun and the moon do not get eclipsed for the death or birth of anyone. They are two of the signs of Allah, and when Allah manifests Himself to any of His creation, it fears Him and humbles itself before Him.”

The hadeeth was proven saheeh by a number of scholars, and it is also saheeh according to its meaning, because light has to do with physical beauty (jamaal), but if the attribute of majesty (jalaal) is made manifest, the lights will be extinguished out of fear of Allah. This is supported by the aayah (interpretation of the meaning):

“So when his Lord appeared to the mountain, He made it collapse to dust” [al-A’raaf 7:143]

This hadeeth also supports the account which we narrated from al-Taawoos, who looked at the sun when it was eclipsed and wept until he almost died, and said, “It fears Allah more than we do.”

Ibn Daqeeq al-‘Eed said: perhaps some of them think that what the mathematicians say contradicts the Prophet’s words “Allah frightens His slaves with them”. But this is not the case at all… because Allah does some things according to the ordinary laws of the universe, and He does other things that go beyond these ordinary laws, for He is above all causes and He can override whatever natural laws He wishes. Once this is understood, those who know Allah believe that He is able to do all manner of extraordinary things, and that He does what He wills. So when something out of the ordinary happens, they fear Allah because of the strength of their belief. This is not to say that there may be regular instances of cause and effect, which Allah can override if He wills. So to sum up, what the mathematicians say is correct, but this does not mean that this event is not the means of Allah alarming His slaves.

Ruling on Salaat al-Kusoof

Al-Bukhaari’s chapter heading, “Baab al-Salaah fi Kusoof al-Shams(Chapter on Prayer at the time of a solar eclipse)” implies that it is prescribed in Islam. This is a matter on which there is scholarly consensus, but there were some differences as to the ruling and description of the prayer. The majority stated that it is Sunnah mu’akkadah (confirmed Sunnah).

The Prophet’s nervous haste at the time of the eclipse

“The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) got up dragging his cloak.” A report narrated from Yoonus adds the word “rushing”. Muslim narrated from Asma’: “The sun was eclipsed at the time of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and he rushed nervously and put on his coat of mail, thinking that it was his cloak.” In other words, he wanted to put on his cloak, but he put on his coat of mail instead, because he was preoccupied with the eclipse.

Lengthening the prayer until the eclipse is over

“Until [the eclipse] was over.” This indicates that the prayer should be made lengthy until the eclipse is over. Al-Tahhaawi replied that the phrase “offer salaah and make du’aa’” indicates that if the salaam at the end of the salaah is said before the eclipse is over, one should keep busy making du’aa’ until it is over. This was also stated by Ibn Daqeeq al-‘Eed, who said that the aim of both (salaah and du’aa’) is the same, and that the prayer does not need to be made long or repeated.

“The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said ‘The sun…’” According to a report narrated by Ibn Khuzaymah, “When the eclipse was over, he addressed us and said…” This indicates that the end of the eclipse does not mean that there should be no khutbah or speech by the imaam.

Refutation of jaahili beliefs concerning eclipses

“For the death of anyone”. According to another report: “That was because a son of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) who was called Ibraaheem had died, so the people said it was because of that.” According to another report, “The people said, the sun is eclipsed because of the death of Ibraaheem.” According to another report: “The sun was eclipsed at the time of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and he rushed out to the mosque, dragging his garment. He kept praying until the eclipse was over, and when it was over he said, ‘The people are claiming that the sun and moon only become eclipsed for the death of some great person. This is not the case…’” This hadeeth refutes the belief of the people of the jaahiliyyah, who thought that the heavenly bodies had some influence over the earth. This is like what was said in the hadeeth about asking for rain, “They say that our rain was foretold by such and such.” Al-Khattaabi said, during the Jaahiliyyah, they used to believe that an eclipse meant that something would happen on earth, such as a death or some harmful event, so the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) taught them that this was a false belief, and that the sun and moon were two created entities that were subjugated to the control of Allah, they had no power over anything else and were unable to protect themselves.”

“(nor) the life of anyone”. The reason why life or birth is mentioned is in order to refute the false notion of those who say that just because an eclipse is not the cause of loss is not to say that it is not the cause of something positive.

Eclipses demonstrate the repugnant nature of the idea of worshipping the sun or moon. Some scholars interpreted the command in the aayah (interpretation of the meaning):

“but prostrate to Allaah Who created them [the sun and moon]” [Fussilat 41:37] 

as referring to Salaat al-Kusoof, because this is the time when it is most appropriate to turn away from worshipping them, because of the changes and shortcomings that are manifest in them at such times, and Allah is far above such things, may He be glorified and exalted.

Timing of Salaat al-Kusoof

“So stand up and pray” indicates that there is no specific timing for Salaat al-Kusoof, because this prayer is connected to seeing the eclipse, and an eclipse could happen at any time of day. This was the view of al-Shaafa’i and those who followed him… What is meant is that this act of worship should be done before the eclipse is over, and the scholars agreed that the prayer should not be done once the event has passed.

History of eclipses during the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)

“The day when Ibraaheem died” refers to the son of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). The majority of biographers and scholars of Seerah stated that he died in 10 AH, and it was said that he died in Rabee’ al-Awwal or in Ramadaan.

Most of the scholars stated that this happened on the tenth of the month, or on the fourteenth.

What people should do

“So hasten” means, “seek refuge” or “turn to”, and implies that people should rush to do what is commanded here. Turning to Allah at times of fear by making du’aa’ and seeking His forgiveness will wipe out the sins that have happened, which hopefully will remove the cause of the event which has brought fear. Sins are the cause of trials and punishment in this world and the next. We ask Allah for His mercy and forgiveness.

“The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) got up in haste, thinking that the Hour had come” means he feared that the Hour was at hand.

Perhaps he feared that the eclipse was a precursor to some of the Signs of the Hour, such as the sun rising from the west. It is not impossible that between the eclipse and the sun’s rising from the west many of the things that were mentioned could happen one after another. We should remember the words of Allah (interpretation of the meaning):

“And the matter of the Hour is not but as the twinkling of the eye, or even nearer.” [al-Nahl 16:77].

In order to explain how serious the issue of eclipses is, he explained to those of his ummah who witness such a thing how they should fear Allah and hasten to pray, especially if that happens after the Signs of the Hour or most of them have come to pass.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “These are signs which are sent by Allah”, then he said: “But Allah makes His slaves afraid by means of them.” This is in accordance with the aayah (interpretation of the meaning):

“And We sent not the signs except to warn, and to make them afraid (of destruction)” [al-Israa’ 17:59]

It is understood from this that the command to hasten to remember Allah, make du’aa’, seek forgiveness, etc. is not confined only to solar and lunar eclipses, because the signs of Allah are more general than that.

Giving charity at the time of an eclipse

In the ahaadeeth that were narrated concerning eclipses, there is the command to pray, to give charity, to remember Allah, to make du’aa’, etc. They are listed in order of priority.

Chapter on seeking refuge with Allah from the punishment of the grave during an eclipse

Al-Bukhaari said, “Baab al-Ta’awwudh Billaah min ‘adhaab al-qabr fi’l-kusoof (Chapter on seeking refuge with Allah from the punishment of the grave during an eclipse)”. Ibn al-Muneer said in his comment:

“The reason why one should seek refuge at the time of an eclipse is that the daytime darkness that occurs during an eclipse is like the darkness in the grave even during the day. So one is reminded of a thing by something that is similar to it. So we should fear the one as we fear the other, and from this we learn that we should adhere to that which can save us from the calamities of the Hereafter.

What he recited during the prayer

“He stood for a long time.” According to the report of Ibn Shihaab, “He recited a lengthy recitation.” At the end of the prayer, according to other reports, “he recited a long soorah.” According to the hadeeth of Ibn ‘Abbaas which appears four chapters later, “he recited something as long as Soorat al-Baqarah in the first Rak’ah.” Something similar was narrated by Abu Dawood via Sulaymaan ibn Yassaar from ‘Urwah, in which it is added that “in the first standing of the second rak’ah, he recited something as long as Aal ‘Imraan.”

How the prayer is done

“Then he stood up and stood for a long time.” According to the report of Ibn Shihaab, “Then he said ‘Sami’a Allaahu liman hamidah (Allah listens to the one who praises Him)’. Another report at the end of the chapter on eclipses adds the phrase, ‘Rabbanaa wa laka’l-hamd (our Lord to You be praise).” From this it is understood that it is mustahabb to recite the prescribed phrases (dhikr) when standing up at the beginning of the second standing in the first rak’ah. Some of the later Shaafa’is found this problematic because they thought that it referred to the standing for recitation (the first standing), not the standing after rukoo’. Their evidence for this was the scholarly consensus among those who said that the rukoo’ in each rak’ah should last longer than the recitation of al-Faatihah, although Muhammad ibn Muslimah al-Maaliki differed from them in that regard. The response to this is that Salaat al-Kusoof is unique and there is no room for qiyaas (analogy) in this case. Everything that it is proven that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did in this prayer is prescribed for it, because it is in a class of its own. So the majority refuted those who compared it to naafil prayers and thus said that the second rukoo’ should not be added. When there is a text, qiyaas diminishes in significance.Salaat al-Kusoof is more akin to Salaat al-‘Eed and the like, prayers which are in a class of their own among the Naafil prayers. Salaat al-Janaazah (funeral prayer) is distinguished by the absence of rukoo’ and sujood, Salaat al-Eedayn (Eid prayer) by its extraTakbeeraat, and Salaat al-Khawf (fear prayer) by extra actions and not necessarily facing the Qiblah. By the same token, Salaat al-Kusoof is distinguished by having an extra rukoo’.

“He made the rukoo’ long.” The scholars agreed that no Qur’aan is to be recited in this rukoo’, only Dhikr such as Tasbeeh (“Subhaan Allaah”), Takbeer (“Allaahu akbar”) and so on.

“Then he finished” i.e., finished the prayer. “And the eclipse was over.” According to the report of Ibn Shihaab, “The eclipse ended before he had finished.” Al-Nisaa’i said, “Then he recited the Tashahhud and said the Salaam [i.e., ended the prayer].”

“Chapter on lengthy sujood in (salaat) al-Kusoof.” The saheeh ahaadeeth prove that the sujood should be long.

“I never did any sujood that was longer than in that prayer.” This is what is said in the hadeeth. According to another report: “I never did any sujood that was longer than that sujood.” Muslim added: “And I never did any rak’ah that was longer than that.” We have already quoted the report of ‘Urwah from ‘Aa’ishah, “Then he prostrated and made the prostration long.”

The two shaykhs (al-Bukhaari and Muslim) narrated from Abu Moosa that “[these were] the longest qiyaam (standing), rukoo’ (bowing) and sujood (prostration) that I have ever seen.” Abu Dawood and al-Nisaa’i reported from Samurah, “As if it were the longest sujood in any prayer in which he ever led us.” From all of these ahaadeeth it is clear that the sujood in Salaat al-Kusoof should be made long, as is the case with the standing and rukoo’.

Muslim reported from Jaabir that “His sujood was like his rukoo’.” This is the madhhab of Ahmad and Ishaaq, and is one of the two opinions of al-Shaafa’i. It was confirmed by the scholars from the hadeeth of his Companions, and this was the view of al-Nawawi.


 In the hadeeth of Jaabir narrated by Muslim, which I referred to above, it says that the qiyaam (standing) which was followed by the sujood was made long. The wording is, “Then he did rukoo’ and made it long, then he prostrated.”

Al-Nisaa’i, Ibn Khuzaymah and others narrated from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Amr, “Then he did rukoo’ and bowed for so long that it was said, he will never stand up. Then he stood up and stood for so long that it was said, he will never prostrate. Then he prostrated for so long that it was said, he will never sit up. Then he sat up and sat for so long that it was said, he will never prostrate, then he prostrated…” The hadeeth is saheeh, and I have not found anything in any report that indicates that the sitting between the two prostrations should be long, apart from this report.
“Chapter: the first rak’ah in (salaat) al-kusoof should be longer.”

In this chapter it says: “Then he stood up for a long time, but it was shorter than the previous standing.” This was reported by al-Ismaa’eeli with the wording, “The first was longer than what came after.” This contains evidence for those who say that the first standing of the second rak’ah should be shorter than the last standing of the first rak’ah… So each standing should be shorter than the one which came before. What also makes this view more likely to be correct is the fact that if what was meant by the phrase “the previous standing” was the first standing in the first rak’ah only, then the second and third standing would be omitted and no reference would be made to how long they should be. The other interpretation makes more sense. And Allaah knows best.

The reports narrated on how Salaat al-Kusoof should be done

From these reports it is understand that Salaat al-Kusoof takes a particular form: it is longer than usual in the standing etc., and there is an extra rukoo’ in each rak’ah.
In some manuscripts of al-Bukhaari there is a chapter heading, “Baab subb al-mar’ah ‘ala ra’sihaa al-ma’ idha ataala al-imaam al-qiyaam fi’l-rak’ah al-oola) A woman pouring water over her head if the imaam makes the first standing of the first rak’ah very long)” – i.e., if a person is about to faint whilst praying. This also indicates that this action does not invalidate the prayer.

The khutbah

“He addressed the people.” This indicates that it is prescribed for there to be a khutbah on the occasion of an eclipse.

It also indicates that if the eclipse ends, this does not mean the khutbah does not have to be given; in contrast, if the eclipse ends before the prayer is started, then neither the prayer nor the khutbah should be done.

“He praised Allah.” Al-Nisaa’i added, in the hadeeth of Samurah: “And he bore witness that he was the slave and Messenger of Allaah.”

“Remember Allah.” According to the report of al-Kashmeehni, “Call on Allah [make du’aa’].”

“By Allah, there is no one” – the oath serves to re-affirm what is said, even though those who were listening had no doubts about it.

“There is no one who is more jealous” this refers to the protectiveness and pride, which one originally has towards one's wife and family.

Since they were commanded to ward off calamity by remembering Allah, making du’aa’, praying and giving in charity, it is appropriate to deter them from committing the sins which are the cause of the calamity befalling them. Zina (adultery or fornication) is singled out because it is the most serious of sins in that regard. Or it was said that this was because this is the most repugnant of sins and has the worst effect on people and stirs up anger, hence it is appropriate to scare them in this situation by reminding them of the punishment of the jealous Lord, may He be glorified and exalted.

“O Ummah of Muhammad.” This is because here he is in a position of warning and alarming them. Another example is the phrase, “O Faatimah daughter of Muhammad, I cannot protect you from Allah in the slightest…” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) started his khutbah with an oath to reaffirm what he was going to say, even though there is no doubt about its truth.

We may also understand from the phrase “O ummah of Muhammad” that the preacher should not use his preaching to exalt himself, rather he should be extremely humble because this is more effective in helping his audience to benefit from what he is saying.

“If you knew what I know” means, the great power of Allah and His vengeance upon the sinners.
“You would laugh little” means, you would give up laughing and would laugh very rarely, because of the overwhelming fear and grief.

The hadeeth indicates that the khutbah should be more frightening than lenient, because mentioning leniency is more in tune with people’s hearts which are naturally inclined towards their own desires, but the wise doctor treats an ailment with its opposite, not with something that will only make it worse.

“Chapter: the imaam’s khutbah on the occasion of an eclipse.” The scholars differed with regard to the khutbah. Al-Shaafa’i, Ishaaq and most of the scholars of hadeeth regarded it as mustahabb. Ibn Qudaamah said: “We did not hear anything to that effect from Ahmad.” The author of al-Hidaayah, one of the Hanafis, said: “There is no khutbah on the occasion of an eclipse because nothing to that effect was transmitted.” … Some of them responded that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) did not intend to give a khutbah exclusively because of the eclipse, but because he wanted to explain to them what was wrong with the belief that eclipses happen because of a person’s death. The saheeh ahaadeeth describe the khutbah and its features such as praising Allah and preaching, etc. The ahaadeeth did not refer only to the reason for the eclipse. The basic principle of Islam is to follow the example of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and the details are only to be proven with the proper evidence (daleel). Ibn Daqeeq al-‘Eed considered this interpretation to be weak and said: “The khutbah cannot be confined to a certain idea after you have done what is required, i.e., praising Allah and preaching. Everything that has been mentioned concerning explaining the causes of the eclipse and other things is among the purpose of the khutbah. So we should follow the example of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the imaam should mention that in his khutbah on the occasion of the eclipse.” Yes, Ibn Qudaamah thought that Khutbat al-Kusoof is like Khutbat al-Jumu’ah (Friday sermon) and Khutbat al-‘Eedayn (Eid sermon), but there is nothing to indicate that in the ahaadeeth that have been mentioned.
(al-Bukhaari 988)

Is it obligatory to pray Salaat al-Kusoof in congregation?

“To the prayer” means to a specific, known prayer. From this it is understood that praying in congregation is not essential for it to be valid, because the hadeeth refers to him rushing and hastening. (But praying in congregation is indicated by the Prophet’s actions, so it is Sunnah, but it is OK for a Muslim to pray Salaat al-Kusoofindividually, male or female, settled or travelling).

Chapter: Salaat al-Kusoof in the mosque

This is understood from the phrase “he passed between the apartments”, because the apartments were the homes of the wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), which were attached to the mosque, as has been stated… According to Muslim the wording is: “I came out among some women between the apartments and into the mosque, and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) came from his funeral escort to the place where he usually prayed…” The funeral escort was because his son Ibraaheem had died… When the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came back (from the funeral), he went to the mosque.. If it were not the Sunnah to pray Salaat al-Kusoof in the mosque, praying it in the desert it may make it easier to see when the eclipse ends. And Allah knows best.

Women may pray Salaat al-Kusoof with men

This is a refutation of those who say that this is not allowed and that women should pray individually… in al-Mudawwanah it says: women should pray at home and only old women should come out (to the mosque). According to al-Shaafa’i everyone should come out apart from women who are stunningly beautiful (because they may tempt men).

Remembering Allaah at the time of the eclipse with all kinds of Islamically prescribed phrases

“and remember Allah”. According to the report of al-Kashmeehni, “and remember Him” – with the pronoun referring to Allaah. “Allah frightens His slaves with it.” This is encouraging us to seek forgiveness at the time of the eclipse and at other times, because this is one of the things that can ward off calamity.

What the Muslim historians said

In al-Bidayyah wa’l-Nihaayah it says:
“In Jumaada al-Aakhirah (453 AH), two days before the end of the month, the sun was eclipsed totally, with its entire disk being obscured. The people stayed like that for four hours, until the stars appeared and the birds fled to their nests and stopped flying because it was so dark.”

Elsewhere in the book, the author (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
“On the morning of Sunday, the twenty-eighth of the month mentioned (Jumaada al-Aakhirah), the sun was eclipsed before noon.”


What is our attitude on the medical aspects?

It is wise not to stare at the sun during the eclipse, because it has been proven medically that this is harmful. There is nothing wrong with eye doctors being present in their clinics and hospitals to deal with emergency cases, as this is a reasonable precaution. But people should not ignore this great act of worship – Salaat al-Kusoof, with which Allah frightens His slaves – for the sake of enjoying looking at the eclipse with special glasses or using other instruments or cameras. This is the height of negligence on this occasion.

People are afraid of the dangers of ultra-violet rays because of the complications that may cause and the possibility that they may burn the eye and destroy its cells and damage the lens. They fear that infra-red rays may burn the eye without a person even feeling it.
We should fear the Day when eyes will burnt when a person can feel it!

O Allah, make us fear You and make us content to put our trust in You. Give us the strength to obey You and do not humiliate us by letting us disobey You. Help us to remember You and to thank You and to worship You properly. May Allah bless our Prophet Muhammad.


Saturday, November 26, 2011
"O Allah! It is Thee in whom I trust amid all grief. You are my hope amid all violence. Thou are my refuge and provision in everything that happens to me. How many grievances weaken the heart, leaving me with no means to handle them, during which friend deserts me, and enemy rejoices in it. I lay it before Thee and complain of it to Thee, because of my desire in Thee, Thee alone. You relieve me of it and remove it from me. Thou are the Master of all Grace, the Essence of Goodness, and the Ultimate Resort of all Desire."

This was the moving dua' made by Imam Hussein (ra) just before the massacre in Karbala. Just before his martyrdom at the hands of the forces of Yazid bin Muawiya.

There are certain events in history that shape the emotions of a nation; moments that stir passions and produce personalities that mould the destiny of peoples. The massacre of Karbala is one such event. As Muslims all over the world in the month of Muharram remember the bravery of Imam Hussein (ra), we should understand the lessons to be learnt from Karbala.

Succession to the Throne (Wilayatul A'hd)
Near the end of Muawiya (ra) period as Khalifah, he (ra) became influenced by certain prevailing notions from the recently conquered Persians. This was the notion of hereditary rule. Hence he (ra) began a campaign to introduce hereditary rule into the structure of Islam. He did this because he used to understand the state leadership as monarchy and not Khilafah. To have monarchy, by force or otherwise, is something which Islam does not accept, and cannot be added into the Islamic ruling system.

He (ra) tried to place his son, Yazid, as the crown prince even though there is no prince-hood in Islam. The historians like Ibn Kathir and Ibn al-Athir narrated that after his Walis had failed to take the Bay'ah (oath of allegiance) to Yazid in Hijaz, Muawiya went there himself accompanied by the army and loaded with money. He summoned the prominent figures and said to them: "You have known my conduct towards you and my family ties with you, Yazid is your brother & your cousin. I want you to propose Yazid for the Khilafah, so that you would be the ones who remove and appoint; who put people in authority and collect and distribute the funds."

Abdullah b. Al-Zubayr (ra) replied to him that he should either choose what the Messenger of Allah (saw) did, when he (saw) did not designate anyone, or what Abu Bakr (ra) did, or what Umar (ra) did. Muawiya became angry and he asked the rest of the people, and their reply was the same as Ibnul-Zubayr (ra). Upon this Muawiya said: "You have been warned! I am going to speak a word, and I swear by Allah that if any of you replied to me by uttering a word on that occasion, he would not utter another word before the sword had reached his neck. So every man has only to spare himself." Then he ordered the chief of his guards to place two men behind every prominent person of Hijaz and every opponent, with the instructions that if any of them answered back, to strike his neck with their swords. He then climbed up to the Minbar (podium) and said: "This group of people are the leaders and the best among the Muslims and no decision is taken without them, and no matter is settled without their consultation. They have consented and given the Bay'ah. So, do give your Bay'ah in the name of Allah."

This is the basis on which Muawiya (ra) established the system of appointing a crown prince. However this was not what the Sahabah as a whole agreed too. Umar (ra) described appointing a crown prince, by saying: "If a man gave authority to someone because of a relationship or a friendship between them while there were among the Muslims men better qualified than him, he would betray Allah, His Messenger and the believers."

Muawiya (ra) was getting older day by day. At the age of 75, he became seriously ill and died in the middle of the month of Rajab 60 AH.

The road to Karbala
As Imam Hasan (ra) had already died before Muawiya (ra), a political vacuum had developed. Yazid took advantage of this situation and wrote a letter to Waleed bin Utba bin Abu Sufyan, who was appointed the Governor of Madinah by Muawiya (ra), to demand the bay'ah from Imam Hussein (ra) or else upon refusal, his head. Waleed invited Hussein (ra) to a meeting for this purpose. Hussein (ra) did not give his word at the meeting and decided to leave Medina along with his family to proceed to Mecca. When Hussein (ra) reached Mecca he received letters from Kufa urging him to go to Kufa to become the Khalifah. Hussein (ra) sent an emissary, his cousin Muslim Ibn Aqeel, to Kufa to ascertain first-hand information about the situation in Iraq. Imam Hussein (ra) also knew that giving the bay'ah to a usurper like Yazid would certainly place Islam at great jeopardy. Therefore he decided to leave Mecca for Kufa. Many friends and relatives urged Imam Hussein (ra) not to go to Kufa, but he insisted on going. Imam Hussein (ra), along with his family, friends, and companions began the journey towards Kufa (1,100 miles away) in a long caravan in the blistering heat of summer.

During the early phase of the journey the caravan met Al-Farazdaq (a famous poet) at a place called al-Sifah. Al-Farazdaq advised the Imam not to go to Kufa because though people's hearts were with him, their swords would be against him. But the Imam continued with the journey, and he received the first letter from his emissary Muslim Ibn Aqeel with good news. The letter indicated that the people were more than ready to welcome the Imam in Kufa and were looking forward to his leadership. Hussein (ra) decided to send another emissary to Kufa with a message. The caravan kept proceeding toward Kufa. Many days passed but the Imam did not receive any more responses from Muslim Ibn Aqeel.

In Kufa, Muslim Bin Aqeel with the help of Mukhtar Al-Thaqafi and Hani Ibn Urwah continued to hold meetings with the supporters of the Imam. Within a short period of time the gatherings started to gain momentum. Yazid learned about Muslim's successes in Kufa and appointed Ubaidullah Ibn Ziyad to replace al-Nu'man Ibn al-Basheer as Wali of Kufa.

Meanwhile, as Hussein's (ra) caravan got closer to its destination (Kufa), coming to a place called Zubalah, Hussein (ra) unexpectedly received shocking news. The shocking news was about Muslim Ibn Aqeel and the person who provided him shelter, Hani Ibn Urwah, both of whom were arrested and beheaded by the Governor Ibn Ziyad. Mukhtar was also arrested, imprisoned and tortured by Ibn Ziyad. Hussein (ra) gathered his companions and disclosed to them the bad news. Becoming scared, some companions left the caravan. Imam Hussein (ra) continued with the journey along with close companions and family members until he was face to face with 1,000 horsemen led by Hur al-Riyahi, representing Yazid's forces. The enemy army blocked the camps of Hussein (ra) from advancing and tension started to rise between the two sides. Hussein (ra) addressed the enemy explaining to them his motive for going to Kufa was in response to the invitation of the people. He even showed them a bag full of letters he had received from Kufa. Hur said that he and his men were not the writers of those letters. The Imam told them that if they did not like him to advance with the journey, he was prepared to return to Hijaz. Hur replied: "We are commissioned to follow you until we take you to Governor Ibn Ziyad", and suggested to the Imam to go towards a station which is neither Kufa nor Medina.

Hussein (ra) found the proposal fair and turned the caravan away from Kufa. Hur and his army marched parallel to the Imam. The two sides reached a village called Nainawa where Ibn Ziyad's messenger delivered a message to Hur. The message read: "...force Hussein to a halt. But let him stop in an open space, without vegetation or water." Hur conveyed the contents of the letter to Imam Hussein (ra). The Imam defiantly resumed his journey and reached a place where another enemy force blocked his move and forced him to stop. When Imam Hussein (ra) learned that the place was called Karbala, he ordered his camp to be setup. That day was 2nd of Muharram, Hijri 61.

Upon learning that his army had succeeded to lay a siege around the Imam's camp, Governor Ibn Ziyad sent additional military units to Karbala and appointed Umar Ibn Sa'ad in charge. Imam Hussein (ra) opened a dialogue with Umar Ibn Sa'ad and convinced him to lift the siege so that the Imam with his family and companions could leave Iraq. Umar Ibn Sa'ad liked the Imam's proposal and sent a message to Governor Ibn Ziyad notifying him about the results of the talks with Imam Hussein (ra). Ibn Ziyad also found the Imam's proposal acceptable. However before agreeing to it officially, Shimr Bin Dhil-Jawshan, opposed it strongly. As a result Ziyad wrote a letter to Umar Ibn Sa'ad commanding him to either go to war with Imam Hussein (ra) or be relieved of his duties as commander of the army and Shimr would not only replace him but despatch Ibn Sa'ad's head to Kufa as well.

Umar Ibn bin Sa'ad got the letter. After pondering over the consequences he decided to fight Imam Hussein (ra). On the 7th day of Muharram he moved his troops closer to the camp and began to surround the Hussein camp. Ibn Sa'ad laid a blockade around the camp to cut it off from access to the river Euphrates, to deprive it of water in a move to force them to surrender.

Two days later, (on the 9th of Muharram), the enemy forces closed in on the camp of Imam Hussein (ra). Hussein (ra) asked his brother, Abbas, to talk to Ibn Sa'ad and request a delay of the aggression by one night. Umar Ibn Sa'ad agreed to the request. He ordered his troops to delay the aggression until the following morning. Imam Hussein (ra) and his companions spent that night in prayer.

The Dawn of Ashuraa
Finally, the day of Ashuraa (10th Muharram) dawned upon the soil of Karbala. It was the day in which Muslim blood would be shed and 72 innocent lives would be sacrificed.

In the morning Hussein (ra) went out of the camp and saw Umar Ibn Sa'ad mobilizing his troops to start the hostility. He stared at the intimidating army, and as large as it was Hussein (ra) showed no signs of compromise. Hussein (ra) raised his hands to Allah:

"O Allah! It is Thee in whom I trust amid all grief. You are my hope amid all violence. Thou are my refuge and provision in everything that happens to me. How many grievances weaken the heart, leaving me with no means to handle them, during which friends desert me, and my enemy rejoices in it. I lay it before Thee and complain of it to Thee, because of my desire in Thee, Thee alone. You relieve me of it and remove it from me. Thou are the Master of all Grace, the Essence of Goodness, and the Ultimate Resort of all Desire."

Umar Ibn Sa'ad threw an arrow in the air to indicate the start of the battle.

The tragedy at Karbala
Imam Hussein's (ra) supporters insisted on being the first to fight. Therefore, they took the brunt of the enemy attack. The battle was ferocious. Within a short time the Imam's supporters slew a large number of the enemy fighters, they were on the offensive and the enemy on the defensive. This caused apprehension and confusion in the enemy. The 72 people of Hussein's (ra) force against the 5,000 of the enemy force. So worried and nervous did the enemy become that their commander-in-chief ordered his army to set fire to the Imam's tents (which were occupied mostly by frightened females and children), and he reinforced his fighters with more troops.
By noontime, the Imam stopped the fight to perform the Salah. By this time those left were mainly his family and a few supporters. They performed the Salah together. Two supporters were guarding the performers of the Salah. When the Salah was finished one of the guards fell dead; there were 17 arrows in his back.

Ali Akbar, Hussein's son obtained permission to fight and dashed toward the enemy. He engaged them in fierce fighting and he continued to move forward, deep inside the enemy. The enemy was overpowering in number, it overwhelmed him cutting him with swords and spears, and his body became nothing but wounds gushing blood, until he died. Imam Hussein (ra) rushed to the area and picked up the wounded limp body and brought it to his camp. His sister and others in the camp were horrified and shocked at the scene.

Abbas and five other brothers of Imam Hussein (ra) went to fight next. They also engaged the enemy in fierce fighting. Abbas went towards the river to bring some water for the thirsty children. While he was returning on his horse with the water, he was attacked by a large horde of the enemy, overwhelming and severely wounding him. As much as he tried Abbas could not save the water, he fell from his horse to breathe his last.
Next to the battlefield went the sons of Hasan (ra) and Zainab (ra) and their cousins (about 17 of them). They were all in their teens but each stood bravely.

By the afternoon 70 people had sacrificed their lives in Karbala. All had fought under nerve-racking conditions: severe thirst, dehydration, exhaustion, and agonizing feelings of what would happen to the family of the Prophet (saw) afterwards. Hussein (ra) endured all that and more, for he saw all his beloved ones brutally cut to pieces, including children. Remaining the only one, Hussein (ra) was to face the enemy head on. Precisely at that moment Hussein (ra) heard his baby crying incessantly, agonizing because of the thirst. Hussein's (ra) love for his family was unbound, especially for a suffering baby. He held the six months old baby, his youngest son (Ali Asghar) in his arms, and appealed to the enemy fighters for some water for the baby. The Imam wanted to awaken their Islamic feelings but the stonehearted enemy, instead of giving water, zoomed an arrow toward the agonizing baby and killed him instantly. Imam Hussein (ra) was shocked. He felt an unbearable wave of pain. The sight of the limp baby in his arms was agonizingly painful. He filled his palm with the blood of the baby, and threw it upwards toward the sky, complaining to Allah (swt):

O Allah, O my Lord! My consolation is the fact that Thou in Thine Majesty are witnessing what I am going through.

Imam Hussein (ra) was alone, one man against thousands. He took them on, fighting them bravely, and kept fighting, receiving many wounds in the process. Thousands of enemy fighters were surrounding him but none dared to move towards him. The silence was broken when Shimr screamed for an attack, and then screamed again, threatening. In response they attacked collectively, and one sword fell on Imam Hussein's (ra) left wrist and deeply cut his left hand. The blood gushed like a fountain. Another sword was soon to follow and it hit his upper back. Imam Hussein (ra) felt numb as he fell to the ground, bleeding profusely. He was at the point of shock, even though staggering he tried to stand by leaning on his sword. Then he received the fatal blow.

It was at this point, that Shimr came forward and severed Imam Hussein's (ra) noble head from his body, the noble head kissed often by the Prophet (saw)! Shimr and others had the audacity to carry it on the tip of a spear to Yazid, 600 miles away! At this, an old man in the assembly cried: "Gently! It is the Prophet's grandson. By Allah, I have seen these very lips kissed by the blessed mouth of RasoolAllah (saw)."

Yazid the usurper (Mutasallit)
It is clear that these events were organised and executed by Yazid. Yazid never received the bay'ah by consent and selection, and thus never held the seat of Khalifah. He was a usurper (Mutasallit).

If a usurper were to seize power by force he would not become Khalifah, even if he declared himself to be the Khalifah of the Muslims. This is because the Khilafah in this case would not have been contracted to him by the Muslims. If he were to take the Bay'ah from the people by force and coercion he would not become Khalifah even if the Bay'ah was given to him (taken by him). This is because a Bay'ah that is taken by force and coercion is not considered valid and the Khilafah cannot be concluded by it. For it is a contract based on mutual consent and choice, and cannot be concluded forcefully, or by coercion. The Khilafah cannot therefore be concluded except by a Bay'ah of consent and choice.

However, if the usurper managed to convince the people that it would be in the interest of the Muslims to give him their Bay'ah and that the implementation of Shar'a rules obliges them to give the Bay'ah, and they were convinced of that and accepted it and then gave him the Bay'ah by consent and free choice, he would become Khalifah from the moment that the Bay'ah was given to him by consent and choice. This never happened in the case of Yazid, and the Muslims were correct in trying to secure the Bay'ah for the man whom they wished to pledge allegiance to.

Lessons from the tragedy of Karbala:
Karbala is amongst one of the worst tragedies humanity has ever seen. It is imperative that we learn vital lessons from this disaster. The following lessons can be learnt from this entire episode:

Khilafah is a vital issue

The institution of Khilafah is matter of life and death. A matter which Imam Hussein (ra) gave his life, his family's lives and the life of his son for. This was done in order to ensure that the seat of Khilafah not be abused or usurped.

1. Bay'ah is the only method to appoint the Khalif - It must be given by consent and choice

The Bay'ah is the only Islamic method to appoint the Khalifah. We can see clearly that Yazid never received the Bay'ah by consent and choice. Indeed his father took the Bay'ah by force for him, and he subdued any opposition to his power by killing. A vital lesson to learn is that, just like any contract, the Bay'ah cannot be taken by coercion, but must be based on consent and choice.

2. The process of Bay'ah must be codified and put in the constitution of the Islamic Khilafah

We saw how Muawiya (ra) was able to manipulate the Bay'ah contract for his son. This would have been far more difficult had the process of Bay'ah been codified and put in the constitution of the Islamic Khilafah. This would ensure that due process would be followed which the Ummah had agreed too.

3. Rotating the Walis quickly

It can be seen that one of the reasons that allowed Muawiya (ra) to gain such popularity and build a strong support base in Syria (which later allowed him to appoint Yazid) was that he was allowed to remain in the position of Wali for over 20 years. It would be considered wise political manoeuvring for the Khalifah to change his Walis regularly.

The Messenger of Allah (saw) used to appoint Walis for a period of time and then relieve them, and no Wali remained at his Wilaya during the whole era of the Messenger of Allah (saw). This indicates that the Wali should never be appointed permanently, but only for a short spell after which he is removed. However, evidence about the length of this period (i.e. whether it should be long or short) has not been determined by the actions of the Messenger of Allah (saw). All that is related to this matter is that the Messenger of Allah (saw) did not keep a Wali at his post during the whole of his life. What has been established as a fact is that he (saw) used to appoint the Walis and then relieve them. However, the civil strife (fitna) that shook the Ummah was caused by the lengthy period of Mu'awiya's Wilaya over Ash-Sham during the times of Umar (ra) and Uthman (ra). This leads us to the conclusion that a lengthy period of Wilaya could harm the Muslims and the State. This is why the period of Wilaya should not be long.

Umar (ra) was known to be strict when accounting the Walis and the Amils. He would even remove some of them on just a suspicion without conclusive evidence. He even used to remove a Wali on the slightest doubt that did not even reach the level of suspicion. He was asked about this one day and he said: "It is easy to swap an Amir for another so as to amend the people's affairs."

4. Constantly checking up on them

Another lesson we can learn is that the Khalifah must constantly enquire about the works of his Walis and he should monitor them closely.

The Khalifah should appoint someone who would check their state of affairs and carry out inspections. The Khalifah should also meet with all of them or some of them from time to time and listen to the complaints of the subjects against them.

It has been confirmed that the Messenger of Allah (saw) used to examine the Walis when appointing them, as he did with Mu'az (ra) and Abu Moussa (ra). He used to explain to them how they should conduct their duties, as he did with 'Amr b. Hazm (ra). He also drew their attention to some important matters as he did with Aban b. Sa'id (ra) when he appointed him Wali over Bahrain and said to him: "Look after Abd Qays and honour their leaders". Likewise it has also been confirmed that he (saw) used to hold the Walis to account, inspect their situation and listen to news brought to him about them. He (saw) used to ask the Walis to account for the revenues and expenses spent.

Umar (ra) used to closely monitor the Walis, and he appointed Muhammad Ibnu Maslama (ra) to examine their state of affairs and inspect them. Umar (ra) used to gather the Walis during the Hajj season to review their performance and to listen to the complaints from the people about them, and he also used to discuss with them the affairs of the Wilayahs and ask about their own conditions. It has been reported that Umar (ra) once said to people around him: "Would you say that my duty would be fulfilled if I appointed over you the best from amongst you, and ordered him to be just?" They said: "Yes." He said: "No. Not until I had checked his performance, and seen whether or not he did what I had ordered him to do."

5. Walis should have restricted powers

Muawiya (ra) was appointed Wali over Syria and Iraq with general powers, i.e. a general Wilaya. He had full control over the armed forces, the finances, the judiciary, the police force, the economy, the administration and all other aspects of ruling. It can be seen that had the powers of Muawiya (ra) been limited, he might not have been able to muster the support needed to fight Ali (ra) or award his son leadership.
In the wake of Uthman's (ra) death, Ali (ra) had problems getting Muawiya to come under his authority. This was because, Muawiya (ra) had built a strong power base when he was a Wali over Ash-Sham. Therefore, giving a general Wilaya causes a known harm to the Islamic State. Thus, the Wali should be given a restricted Wilaya in a way that would prevent him from becoming autonomous of the Khalifah and strengthening the Khalifah himself.

This can be further seen in the latter Khulafah of the Abbasid period where the Wilaya became autonomous from the centre, further weakening the Khilafah state itself.

The main factors contributing to a breakaway would be the armed forces, funds and the judiciary, because the armed forces represent the power, the funds represent the "life blood" and the judiciary demonstrates the safeguarding of the rights and the execution of the penal codes. Therefore the Walis should be given a specific (Khassa) Wilaya that excludes the judiciary, the armed forces and the funds. Delegating these to the Wali would encourage a potential breakaway and this would undermine the State's authority.

6. Conditions of the Wali

The Messenger of Allah (saw) used to select his Walis from among the good people, and those who had knowledge and were known for their piety. He used to select them from among those who were experts in their field, and who would fill people's hearts with Iman and respect for the State. Sulayman Ibnu Barida reported on the authority of his father that he said:

"Whenever the Messenger of Allah (saw) appointed an Ameer over an army or an expedition, he used to advise him regarding himself to fear Allah, and to be good to the Muslims who accompany him," [Muslim]

Since the Wali is, in fact, an Ameer over his Wilaya, the Hadith would then apply to him as well. Appointing Walis and rulers devoid of these qualities could lead to the problems mentioned earlier.

The massacre of Karbala has highlighted the importance to Muslims to always stand steadfast in dealing with oppressive rulers. The rulers of the Muslim world today have not been appointed by the will of the Muslims, but imposed upon the Ummah by the Western colonialists. They are usurpers (Mutasallit) and have taken the authority away from the Ummah. In order for the Ummah to realise her full potential, and restore the honour that Islam has given her, these false Yazids need to be replaced with a just Khalifah.

"Allah has promised those among you who believe, and do righteous good deeds, that He will certainly grant them succession to (the present rulers) in the earth, as He granted it to those before them, and that He will grant them the authority to practise their religion, that which He has chosen for them (i.e. Islam)."
[TMQ al-Nur: 55]

Fahim Qureishi
April 10, 2004

source :


The month of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, holds many virtues. Fasting, charity and prayer hold additional values. Surely, the months provides a great opportunity to seek the inner strength that comes from the nearness to Allah سبحانه وتعالى for Muslims in general and dedicated dawa carriers in particular.

The Virtues of Fasting in the Month of Muharram

Muslim reported from Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him), that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "The best of fasts after the month of Ramadan are in the Month of Allah, which you call Muharram. And the best of prayer after the obligatory prayer is the night prayer." [Muslim, 1163]

This refers to general voluntary fasts according to Imam Ibn Rajab (Allah have mercy on him): These are best in the month of Muharram, just as the best general voluntary prayer is night prayer.

Fasting is a secret between the servant and his Lord. This is why Allah Mighty and Exalted says, [in the divine hadith (hadith qudsi)], "Every action of the son of Adam is his, except for fasting. It is Mine, and it is I who reward it." [Bukhari and Muslim, from Abu Hurayra]
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) also said, "The fasting person has two joys: one when he breaks his fast, and the other when he meets his Lord." [Muslim]

Similarly, it has been related that fasting is a means for good health. The Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) is reported to have said, "Fast, and you shall have good health." [Ahmad, from Abu Hurayra]

The Day of `Ashura': The Tenth of Muharram

It is mentioned in Bukhari and Muslim from Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him and his father) that he was asked about fasting the Day of `Ashura' [10th of Muharram]. He said, "I did not see the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) fast a day while more avid to seek its virtue than this day," meaning the Day of `Ashura'." [Bukhari (2006), and Muslim (1132)].

The Day of `Ashura' has great virtue, and tremendous sanctity (hurma). The virtue of fasting it was known among the Prophets (peace be upon them all). Both Prophet Nuh and Prophet Musa (peace be upon them both) fasted it.

The Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) used to fast this day even in Mecca, though he had not yet ordered others to do so, as mentioned in both Bukhari and Muslim. [Bukhari (2002), Muslim (1125)]

When he migrated to Medina, and found the People of the Book fasting this day and venerating it, he ordered the Muslims to fast it, and encouraged it so much that even the children would fast it.

It has been reported in both Bukhari and Muslim from Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him), that, "When the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) reached Medina, he found the Jews fasting the Day of `Ashura', so he asked them, ‘What is this day you are fasting?' They said, ‘This is a tremendous day. Allah saved Musa and his people on this day and drowned Pharaoh and his people. Musa fasted it out of thanks, so we fast it too.' The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) said, ‘And we are more deserving of Musa than you are.' So he fasted this day, and ordered that it be fasted." [Bukhari (2004) and Muslim (1130)]

At the end of his life, the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) made the determination not to fast this day alone, but with another day [either before or after it], in order to be different from the People of the Book.

It has been reported in the Sahih of Imam Muslim (Allah have mercy on him), also from Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) that, "When the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) fasted the Day of `Ashura' and ordered his companions to fast it, they said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! This is a day that the Jews and Christians venerate.' So the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) said, ‘When next year comes - if Allah wills - we will fast the Ninth [of Muharram with it].' But the next year did not come before the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) passed away." [Muslim (1134), Abu Dawud (2445)]

And it is reported in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad (Allah have mercy on him), from Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "Fast the Day of `Ashura' and be different from the Jews by fasting a day before it or a day after it." [Ahmad]

Giving in Charity on the Day of `Ashura'

It has been reported from Abd Allah ibn `Amr ibn al-`As (Allah be pleased with him), that "Whoever fasts `Ashura' it is as if he has fasted the entire year. And whoever gives charity this day it is like the charity of an entire year."

Some of the Virtues of the Day of `Ashura'

It is a day in which Allah forgave an entire people. Tirmidhi relates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to a man, "If you want to fast a month after Ramadan, then fast Muharram, for it has a day in which Allah forgave an entire people, and He turns to others in repentance in." [Tirmidhi (841)]

Night Prayer

As for voluntary night prayer (qiyam al-layl), it is superior to voluntary prayer during the day because it is closer to secrecy, and nearer to sincerity (ikhlas).

Allah Most High said,

إِنَّ نَاشِئَةَ اللَّيْلِ هِيَ أَشَدُّ وَطْئًا وَأَقْوَمُ قِيلًا 
"Lo! the vigil of the night is (a time) when impression is more keen and speech more certain." [Qur'an, 73:6]

This is because the time of the night vigil (tahajjud) is the best of times for voluntary prayer, and the closest a servant gets to his Lord. It is a time when the doors of the skies are opened, supplications answered, and needs fulfilled.

Allah Most High has praised those who wake up at night in His remembrance, supplication, seeking forgiveness, and intimate entreating (munajat), saying,

تَتَجَافَىٰ جُنُوبُهُمْ عَنِ الْمَضَاجِعِ يَدْعُونَ رَبَّهُمْ خَوْفًا وَطَمَعًا وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنْفِقُونَ 

فَلَا تَعْلَمُ نَفْسٌ مَا أُخْفِيَ لَهُمْ مِنْ قُرَّةِ أَعْيُنٍ جَزَاءً بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ 
"Who forsake their beds to cry unto their Lord in fear and hope, and spend of that We have bestowed on them. No soul knows what is kept hid for them of joy, as a reward for what they used to do." [Qur'an, 32:16-17]

أَمَّنْ هُوَ قَانِتٌ آنَاءَ اللَّيْلِ سَاجِدًا وَقَائِمًا يَحْذَرُ الْآخِرَةَ وَيَرْجُو رَحْمَةَ رَبِّهِ ۗ قُلْ هَلْ يَسْتَوِي الَّذِينَ يَعْلَمُونَ وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ ۗ إِنَّمَا يَتَذَكَّرُ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ
"Or he who pays adoration in the watches of the night, prostrate and standing, bewaring of the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord? Say: Are those who know equal with those who know not? But only those of understanding will pay heed." [Qur'an, 39:9]

And He swt said to His Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace),

وَمِنَ اللَّيْلِ فَتَهَجَّدْ بِهِ نَافِلَةً لَكَ عَسَىٰ أَنْ يَبْعَثَكَ رَبُّكَ مَقَامًا مَحْمُودًا 
"And some part of the night awake for it, as voluntary worship for you. It may be that thy Lord will raise thee to a praised estate." [Qur'an, 17:79]

It has been said that those who worship at night will enter Paradise without reckoning, and that standing in night prayer shortens the length of one's Standing on the Day of Judgment.

This is why the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, "Stick to night prayer, for it was the way of the righteous before you. Night prayer is a means of closeness to Allah Most High, of expiating for bad deeds, avoiding sins, and keeping away illness from one's body." [Tirmidhi (3543], Bayhaqi, and others; it is a sound (hasan) hadith]

This is why Abu Sulayman al-Darani would say, "The people of the night find more joy than the people of distraction (lahw) in their distractions. Were it not for the night, I would not like to remain living."