The Day of Ashura falls on the 10th of Muharram. It is one of the most important days in the Islamic calendar. Many of us may know the importance of fasting on Ashura; however, this day holds far more significance that we are aware of. A number of great incidents in our history took place on this prestigious day, related to four of our noble Prophets, amongst them those who are the best examples for mankind.
1. Prophet Adam (as)
We all have a longing for home, for the place where our hearts enjoy warmth, security and safety. However, the true meaning of home is often a reality far different from the four walls we inhabit. It is our true abode, our place of origin and our destination (if God wills): Paradise.
On the Day of Ashura, like Musa (as) would be driven out of his homeland in future generations, so did our father Adam (as). He (as) was exiled from Paradise, and placed on Earth.
Qatadah said, “We were speaking about the day in which Adam was turned to (in repentance) and it was `Ashura’, Adam came down to Earth on the same day.” It is said that Adam (as) wept for a duration of 300 years, as he was forced to leave the place in which he felt no hunger, no cold, and no pain.
When he saw the Angel Jibril (as) he remembered what had occurred and he cried even harder, to the extent that Jibril (as) asked him, “Adam, what is this weeping that you are doing?”
He said, “How would I not weep, when I have been expelled from the abode of favour to the abode of hardship? I only weep for having been in the presence of my Lord in which the abode’s soil was so noble and wholesome. I would hear therein the voices of the angels.” And in another narration, it is said that Adam (as) said, “I cry for the abode, in which, if you saw it, you would have exhausted yourself in longing in order to reach it.”
Lessons from Adam (as) and his longing for his home reminds us on this Day of our true purpose. We revel and become distracted by the treasures of this world, as though it is our final abode. We may lose sight of where our souls long to return to, a place far more worthy of our efforts and dedication. Adam (as) wept furiously for a duration of 300 years for forgiveness, longing to be in Paradise once again. On Ashura, we should embody his longing to be forgiven and to be closer to His Lord. One of the ways in which we can implement this is by following the encouragement to fast on this day, to have our sins expiated for the previous year. The Prophet (saw) said:
“For fasting the day of ‘Ashura, I hope that Allah will accept it as expiation for the year that went before.” (Muslim).
2. Prophet Nuh (as)
The Day of Ashura is also the day that Nuh (as) and his companions (as) came to rest on Mount Judi, after the great flood. The flood lasted for 6 months, but Allah kept Nuh (as), his family and his companions safe from harm.
Nuh (as) had been calling his people to the truth for an indefatigable 950 years, remaining patient when he was mocked and tormented. Despite his formidable efforts, they did not listen, and turned away from the truth, ignoring the oneness of Allah and continued to worship their false gods.
“Indeed We sent Noah to his people and he stayed among them a thousand years less fifty years (inviting them to believe in the Oneness of Allah (Monotheism) and discard the false gods and other deities).” (Quran 29:14)
Nuh (as) knew that the numbers of his believers were not increasing, and the disbelievers were, however he still persevered. There came a day, when Allah (swt) revealed to Nuh (as) that no others would believe, and Nuh (as) prayed that they would be destroyed.
Allah accepted Nuh’s (as) prayer and it was answered in the form of a flood, eradicating all the disbelievers upon the earth. Allah ordered Nuh (as) to build an ark with His instructions and the help of the angels. The people mocked Nuh (as) as he built the ark, but Nuh (as) continued to build the boat waiting for Allah’s command. The terrible day arrived where Nuh (as)’s house overflowed, and Nuh (as) rushed to summon the believers. Nuh’s own wife was not a believer, and did not join him on the ark, nor did one of his sons.
Rain poured from the skies in quantities never seen before on Earth, and it was submerged. Only Nuh (as), and those on board his ark, were saved. The rest of the people on Earth did not survive. With Allah’s command, calm returned to Earth and the water retreated.
The story of Nuh (as) teaches us the lesson of patience, and perseverance. He continued to spread the true message for 950 years, even when he was mocked and taunted. During the flood, he lost his wife, and his son, but remained steadfast whilst heartbroken. In our daily lives, we will inevitably face heartbreak, loss and hardships. Our spirit and resilience will undoubtedly be tested by those around us – often those closest to us. Yet we have been gifted the comfort of knowing that this world is only temporary, and we will be rewarded in the hereafter for our sacrifices.
3. Prophet Musa (as)
Picture this for a moment: Musa (as) and his people, including women and children, are forced to leave their homeland. They run for their lives, away from the biggest tyrant of their time; Firawn. They reach the sea and it’s a dead end. To make matters worse, they see the massive army of Firawn filling the horizon and charging towards them. In that moment, imagine you are Musa (as). Thousands of people crying at your feet, women and children wailing, certain that death is upon them.
“And when the two hosts saw each other, the companions of Musa (Moses) said: “We are sure to be overtaken.” (Quran 26:61)
In that moment, undoubtedly we would be overwhelmed with fear, for our own lives and for the lives of those around us. But Musa (as)’s unwavering faith did not falter; he had reached his limit both physically and mentally, yet he was steadfast, with the absolut confidence and certainty that Allah would save them.
“Musa said “Nay, verily with me is my Lord. He will guide me.” (Quran 26:62)
After Musa (as) declared his proclamation of certainty:
“Then We revealed to Musa saying: “Strike the sea with your stick.” And it parted, and each separate part (of that sea water) became like huge mountain.
Then We brought near the others [Fir’aun’s (Pharaoh) party] to that place, and We saved Musa and all those with him. Then We drowned the others.” (Quran, 26, 63-66)
The story of Musa (as) and his people is a lesson of leadership for us all; both as individuals, but also as an Ummah. If you are a leader within your own home, or organisation, if you believe in something, and have certainty over that decision, then you should follow through, even if you are faced with doubters.
To be a leader takes courage and faith, it takes someone who is willing to take that leap, and make difficult decisions. It is these qualities that make a great leader. Although it is important to be considerate of those around you, and to listen to their thoughts and opinions on such matters, if you do your due diligence, pray Istikhara and do your research, then you should be firm in your judgement and decision.
As an Ummah, we should take on Musa (as)’s firm belief and unwavering certainty in the victory and aid of Allah (swt). He remained steadfast, even when all odds were against him and when his people were depending on him. In our daily lives, we are challenged by those who are opposed to our way of life, of how we dress, eat, pray and live. You may grow weary; of having to explain yourself, to defend your right to live and worship God as you please. However, in those moments of difficulty find strength in Musa (as) and his story; how Allah (swt) saved him and his people in such a dire moment. Such a miracle is a true reminder of His Might, and should be a reassurance to us in our daily lives.
4. Prophet Yunus (as)
The Prophet Yunus was sent to the people of Ninevah. Initially, they rejected the message of Tawheed. When Yunus (as) found that his people disbelieved, he was frustrated that they rejected his call, and so left.
“Then be patient for the decision of your Lord, [O Muḥammad], and be not like the companion of the fish [i.e., Jonah] when he called out while he was distressed.”
Yunus (as) knew that Allah’s punishment was approaching and boarded a ship with a few of his companions. The ship began to toss and turn due to the heavy tides. They realised at that point that there were too many people on board and decided to draw lots; the one who drew three times would be the one to be thrown overboard. Allah (swt) willed that it would be Yunus (as) to be the one who would throw himself overboard.
”And indeed, Jonah was among the messengers. [Mention] when he ran away to the laden ship. And he drew lots and was among the losers. Then the fish swallowed him, while he was blameworthy.” (Quran 37:139-142)
Allah willed that Yunus (as) would be swallowed by a whale, to not be devoured but to be imprisoned. In this time of hardship and difficulty, Yunus (as) called out to Allah (swt) from the belly of the whale.
‘La ilaha illa Anta, You are glorified! Truly, I have been of the wrongdoers.’
The Prophet (saw) said: “Whoever offers supplication in the words of the supplication of Yunus, will be answered.” (Tirmidhi)
Prophet Yunus (as) called out to Allah, turning to Him in repentance, admitting his sins and weakness. It was only Allah (swt) that could save him and forgive him. He was desperate for His help, and Allah answered His call. On the day of Ashura, his relief after hardship came, and he was released from the belly of the large fish.
“And had he not been of those who exalt Allah, He would have remained inside its belly until the Day they are resurrected. But We threw him onto the open shore while he was ill.” Qurann 37:143-145
The story of the whale, and Prophet Yunus (as) is one of trial, hardship and forgiveness. Yunus (as) felt the wrath of Allah’s punishment, however when he was stuck in the belly of whale, he did not feel despondent. In our daily lives, we face difficulty, however we should always remember that Allah’s help is within our reach. We should remember never to despair of His Mercy. Like Yunus (as), we should call out to Him, even if we have fallen short, as He is always waiting for us to turn back to Him.
On the Day of Ashura, as we fast, we should ponder over the might of our Creator and be left in awe; of how he protected Musa (as), Nuh (as) and their followers, and forgave Yunus (as) and Adam (as). We can use the lessons from these Prophets to remind us of their hardships, and ours in comparison, of how to remain steadfast and witness the miracles of our Creator.