Fasting on the Day of Ashura


After our holy Imam Husayn was martyred in the land of Karbala, there was an ushering of new changes and developments for the religion of Muhammad (s). 

Some were positive - as Imam al-Baqir & Sadiq say, “Indeed Allah had compensated Husayn for his killing by placing the Imamate in his progeny” (Amali al-Tusi) 

إن الله تعالى عوض الحسين عليه السلام من قتله أن جعل الإمامة في ذريته

Other changes were unfortunately negative. 

The Umayyads had aimed to destroy the sanctity of this tragic day by innovating new practices in opposition to it. 

Among these practices is found in Sunni ahadith speaking on the virtues of wearing kohl (Arabian eyeliner) on the Day of Ashura - symbolic of festivity and happiness.

(Hashiyat Rad al-Muhtar, vol 6, p 752)

“Al Hakim says: ‘There is no prophetic text on it and it is an innovation created by the killers of Husayn.’”

لم يرو فيه أثر وهو بدعة ابتدعها قتله الحسين

Another practice practiced by the Umayyads on the Day of Ashura, and was more widely accepted by the Mukhalifeen is fasting on the day of Ashura

This latter practice is made problematic for us Shi’a in that Shi’i hadith corpus contains ahadith enjoining fasting on Ashura & speaking of its spiritual benefits. 

In return, we have reports completely negating the fast, forbidding it and dismissing it as an Umayyad fabrication. 

And at the same time, there exists ahadith offering a “middle ground” to the Ashura fast - neither fully negating it nor fully permitting it. 

Three different and contradictory ahadith.

Thus, the purpose of this article will be to understand the contradictory Shi’i reports we have on fasting on the day of Ashura, and the role of the believer in approaching them. 

With that said

Let us begin!


1 ) A Contradictory Corpus?

To resolve the contradiction between the ahadith, one must understand why exactly they exact.

The answer lies in the nature of the Shi’i faith: 

Utmost secrecy, in the true teachings & and their propagation. 

As Jabir ibn Yazid, Bab (spiritual gate) of al-Baqir, narrates from al-Sadiq saying:

(Basa’ir al-Darajat, page 47)

Our matter is a secret within a secret.

And a secret covered by a secret.

And a secret which only benefits a secret.

And a secret upon a secret.

And a secret hiding another secret

حدثنا محمد بن الحسين عن محمد بن سنان عن عمار بن مروان عن جابر عن أبي عبد الله عليه السلام قال إن أمرنا سر في سر وسرمستسر وسر لا يفيد الا سر وسر على سر وسر مقنع بسر

This secrecy is not merely restricted to difficult reports on our Imams’ traits. It also extends to the topic of halal and haram - a category which the fast on Ashura falls under.

(Basa’ir al-Darajat, page 344)

We heard Abu Abdullah (al-Sadiq) say: 

We have from God - a plentitude of commandments related to halal and haram which we conceal as much as we can.

Narrator says: meaning, we (Imams) cease from telling anyone about it.”

أحمد بن محمد، عن محمد بن سنان، عن مرازم وموسى بن بكر قالاسمعنا أبا عبد الله عليه السلام يقولإن عندنا من حلال الله وحرامه مايسعنا كتمانه ما نستطيع - يعني أن نخبر به أحدا

We understand that the Imams conceal the halal and haram as much as they can.

Halal and haram consists of knowledge and obligations - there exist commandments which the Imams do not teach except to their most trustworthy companions. 

Not to regular Shi’a. But only to those of high ma’rifa (recognition of the Imams’ status). 

(Al-Kafi, vol 8, page 334)

On the authority of Umar ibn Handhala, on the authority of Abu Abdullah (al-Sadiq) that he said: 

O Umar, do not burden our Shiites and be gentle with them, for people cannot bear what you are (higher ma’rifa Shi’a) are able to bear.”

522 - عنه، عن أحمد بن محمد، عن علي بن الحكم، عن عمر بن حنظلة، عن أبي عبد الله (عليه السلامقاليا عمر لا تحملوا على شيعتناوارفقوا بهم فإن الناس لا يحتملون ما تحملون

Allama Majlisi says:

(Mir’at al-‘Uqul, vol 26, p 487)

That is, do not burden the Shiites with hard obligations in knowledge and action, but rather teach them and invite them to (good) action gently so that they are motivated to complete them”.

For they cannot bear the knowledge and secrets, and bearing the hardships in obedience as much as you can bear.”

أي لا تكلفوا أوساط الشيعة بالتكاليف الشاقة في العلم والعمل بل علموهم وادعوهم إلى العمل برفق ليكملوا فإنهم لا يحتملون من العلوموالاسرار وتحمل المشاق في الطاعات ما تحتملون

Therefore, the natural conclusion of the Imams hiding the matters of halal & haram from the average Shi’i - 

Is that the Imam gave untrue answers to the typical Shi’i - in taqiyya, while keeping the true answers with his most trustworthy companions. 

How can we ascertain though that the Imam excercised taqiyya with regards to the fast of Ashura?

2 ) A Theory of Taqiyya

The first clue can be found in the following hadith in which a companion of our Imams asks Imam al-Baqir about the fast on Ashura - and he calls it an innovation.

The companion asks Imam al-Sadiq the same question after Imam al-Baqir’s death, and he receives the same answer - it is an innovation, with no recommendation from Quran and sunnah.

(Al-Kafi, vol 4, page 146)

Narrated Najba ibn Al-Harith Al-Attar: 

I asked Abu Jaafar (al-Baqir) about fasting on the day of Ashura, and he said: 

It is a fast that is abandoned by the revelation of the month of Ramadan and the abandoned is an innovation.

The narrator says: So I asked Abu Abdullah (al-Sadiq) after his father (al-Baqir) had passed away on that same matter.

He (al-Sadiq) answered me with the same answer as his father, then he said: 

As for (the fast of Ashura), it is fasting on the day which has no recommendationNeither from the Book (i.e, Quran) nor Sunnah has taken place except for the Sunnah (way of life) of Al Ziyad in their killing of Al-Husayn ibn Ali.”

4 - الحسن (3) بن علي الهاشمي، عن محمد بن موسى، عن يعقوب بن يزيد، عن الحسن بن علي الوشاء قالحدثني نجبة بن الحارثالعطار (4) قالسألت أبا جعفر (عليه السلامعن صوم يوم عاشورا، فقالصوم متروك بنزول شهر رمضان والمتروك بدعة، قال نجبةفسألت أبا عبد الله (عليه السلاممن بعد أبيه (عليه السلامعن ذلك فأجابني بمثل جواب أبيه، ثم قالأما إنه صوم يوم ما نزل به كتاب ولاجرت به سنة إلا سنة آل زياد بقتل الحسين بن علي صلوات الله عليهما.

Where is the taqiyya?

Some of you might focus on the fact the Imam says the practice has no recommendation in Quran and Sunnah to ascertain contrary reports are said in taqiyya.

But that’s not what we should be looking for. After all, it is within our Imam’s batin (esoteric) authority to issue irreconcilably contradictory fatwas - in terms of content.

Rather - what we should be focusing on is the narrator asking Imam al-Sadiq the same question he asked al-Baqir. 

This is something the Shi’a did to know if the Imam will issue a contradictory fatwa on the matter - abrogating the fatwa of his predecessor, as seen in hadith below:

(Al-Kafi, vol 1, page 67)

“Narrated al-Mu’ala ibn Khunays (Bab of al-Sadiq): 

“I asked Imam Abu Abdullah (al-Sadiq):

‘If we receive a Hadith from a previous Imam and hadith a later Imam - which one should we follow?’

The Imam replied, “Follow it (words of the first Imam) until you receive (a contradicting hadith) from the living Imam. When it comes from a living Imam, follow his words.” 

The Imam then said, “We by Allah, like you to follow what is easy for you.” In another Hadith - he says says, “Follow whichever the newest.”’

وعنه، عن أبيه، عن إسماعيل بن مرار، عن يونس، عن داود بن فرقد عن المعلى بن خنيس قالقلت لأبي عبد الله عليه السلامإذا جاء حديثعن أولكم وحديث عن آخركم بأيهما نأخذ؟ فقالخذوا به حتى يبلغكم عن الحي، فإن بلغكم عن الحي فخذوا قوله، قالثم قال أبو عبد اللهعليه السلامإنا والله لا ندخلكم إلا فيما يسعكم، وفي حديث آخر خذوا بالأحدث

To understand this hadith, let us look at the words of Allama Majlisi:

(Mir’at al-‘Uqul, vol 1, page 221)

The hadith indicates the necessity of acting on the saying of the living imam when there is contradiction to the saying of the previous imam to him.

Rather, one must exclusively take upon the the saying of the later imam, as indicated by his saying - peace be upon him - Take the newest (hadith).

The reasons for this can be surmised (in two reasons):

The first is that the living imam only judges by what he knows is good in his time, so it must be acted upon.

As for the second reason, it is because by the new Imam ruling different - he does so by virtue of what is good in his time had changed from what was good in the previous Imam’s time.

There is no change in the Imam’s interest (warranting a conflict fatwa), unless it that it had changed (from his predecessor) with the disappearance of taqiyya, but it is also possible that the second ruling is taqiyya.”

الحديث التاسع مجهول ويدل على لزوم العمل بقول الإمام الحي مع تعارض قول الإمام السابق له ، بل بقول الإمام المتأخر مطلقا كما يدلعليه قوله عليه‌السلام : خذوا بالأحدث ، ووجه الأول ظاهر ، لأن الإمام الحي إنما يحكم بما يعلمه صلاحا في زمانه ، فيجب العمل به ، وأماالثاني فلأنه بحكم الإمام الثاني علم تغير المصلحة الأولى ولم يعلم بعد تغير المصلحة المتجددة إلا إذا علم تغيرها بزوال التقية مع العلم بكونالحكم الثاني للتقية

Therefore, the assumption of taqiyya was present in the minds of the Imams’ companions when asking for fatwas on the Day of Ashura.

Imam al-Sadiq addressed his companion’s worry of taqiyya, by reiterating Imam al-Baqir’s judgement that Ashura is an abandoned fast - and thus an innovation.

And confirmed it as such, by adding that the  practice has no root in Quran and sunnah. 

Thus - the Imam is telling his companion his order condemning fast of Ashura has no taqiyya. 

Yet, this is not evidence in the hadith prohibiting Ashura fast not being said in taqiyya. If not taqiyya from the Mukhalifeen (Sunnis), perhaps the Imam is doing taqiyya from commoner Shi’a? 

The only way we will know for sure is by following words of the infallible Babs (gates) of our Imams - for whom the Imams prohibited doubting their narrations:

(Wasa’il al-Shi’a, vol 27, page 105)

There is no excuse for our followers to doubt what our thiqat (i.e, Babs) narrate. 

They have known that we share our secrets with them and carry it over to them.

3 ) Ahadith of the Ashura Fast

A) Full permission

The hadith we will discuss stems from the ahadith Shaykh al-Tusi cited as supporting fasting the day of Ashura fully, and it is as following:

(Tahdhib al-Ahkam, vol 4, page 300) 

On the day of Ashura, the Ark stuck on Mount Judi.

This led to Nuh, peace be upon him, command those with him from the jinn and mankind to fast on that day. 

Abu Jaafar, peace be upon him, said: 

Do you know what this day is?

It is the day on which God Almighty accepted the repentance of Adam and Eve.

It is the day on which God split the Sea to the Children of Israel - drowning Pharaoh and those with him.

It is is the day on which Moses, peace be upon him, defeated Pharaoh.

This is the day on which Abraham, peace be upon him, was born.

This is the day on which God repented on the people of Yunus.

This is the day on which Jesus son of Mary, peace be upon him, was born.

And this is the day on which the Qa’im - peace be upon him will rise.

لزقت السفينة يوم عاشوراء على الجودي، فامر نوح عليه السلام من معه من الجن والإنس أن يصوموا ذلك اليوم، قال أبو جعفر عليه السلامأتدرون ما هذا اليوم هذا اليوم الذي تاب الله عز وجل فيه على آدم وحواء، وهذا اليوم الذي فلق الله فيه البحر لبني إسرائيل فأغرق فرعون ومنمعه، وهذا اليوم الذي غلب فيه موسى عليه السلام فرعون، وهذا اليوم الذي ولد فيه إبراهيم عليه السلام وهذا اليوم الذي تاب الله فيه على قوميونس، وهذا اليوم الذي ولد فيه عيسى بن مريم عليه السلام، وهذا اليوم الذي يقوم فيه القائم عليه السلام.

  • Evaluation:

The aforementioned hadith will be discussed from the words of a Bab (gate) of Imam Ali - Maytham al-Tammar

As mentioned in above hadith, the Bab is entrusted with secrets that the common Shi’i does not possess: 

They have known that we share our secrets with them (the Babs) and carry it over to them.

Accordingly, Maytham al-Tammar can be described in the following way:

(Kitab al-Gharat of Ibrahim ibn Muhammad al-Thaqafi, vol 2, page 797)

“He (Maytham) was informed by Ali, peace be upon him, of many knowledge and hidden secrets from among the secrets of the wasiya (divine will).

Maytham used to narrate some of that, making some of the people of Kufa doubt him. As such, they alleged Ali, peace be upon him - was culpable of witchcraft, deception, and forgery.”

وقد كان أطلعه علي عليه السلام على علم كثير وأسرار خفية من أسرار الوصية، فكان ميثم يحدث ببعض ذلك فيشك فيه قوم من أهل الكوفة،وينسبون عليا عليه السلام إلى المخرقة والإيهام والتدليس، حتى قال له يوما بمحضر من خلق كثير من أصحابه وفيهم الشاك والمخلصياميثم إنك تؤخذ بعدي وتصلب،

However, such doubt in Maytham is not justified. As he is the Bab of the Imam and possessor of his secrets (including being trusted with ghayb knowledge) and our Imams say:

“There is no excuse for our followers to doubt what our thiqat (i.e, Babs) narrate.”

Therefore, let us look at his words on the matter of Ashura fast.

Maytham (may God have mercy on him) cried.

Then he said, “they (Mukhalifeen) will claim with a hadith that they fabricate that it (Ashura) is the day on which God accepted the repentance of Adam - peace be upon him - but God accepted the repentance of Adam in Dhul-Hijjah. 

And they will claim that it (Ashura) is the day on which God accepted the repentance of David, peace be upon him, but God accepted his repentance in Dhu al-Hijjah. 

And they claim that it was the day on which Noah’s ark, peace be upon him, landed on Al-Judi, but Nuh’s ark landed on Al-Judi on the 18th of Dhul-Hijjah.

And they claim that it was the day on which God split the sea for the Children of Israel, but that was in Rabi’ Al-Awwal.”

فبكى ميثم (رحمه اللهثم قال سيزعمون بحديث يضعونه أنه اليوم الذي تاب الله فيه على آدم عليه السلام وإنما تاب الله على آدم في ذيالحجة، ويزعمون أنه اليوم الذي قبل الله فيه توبة داود عليه السلام وإنما قبل الله توبته في ذي الحجة، ويزعمون أنه اليوم الذي أخرج الله فيهيونس عليه السلام من بطن الحوت وإنما أخرجه الله من بطن الحوت في ذي القعدة ويزعمون أنه اليوم الذي استوت فيه سفينة نوح عليهالسلام على الجودي وإنما استوت على الجودي يوم الثامن عشر من ذي الحجة، ويزعمون أنه اليوم الذي فلق الله فيه البحر لبني إسرائيلوإنما كان ذلك في ربيع الأول

  • Comparison of the ahadith

What becomes clear is that Maytham is giving ghayb knowledge on the future. Such knowledge be secrets entrusted to him by the Imam, as he is the Imam’s bab.

Thus Maytham’s words are the Imam’s words and they indicate that:

The Mukhalifeen will claim the aforementioned fada’il virtues on the fast of Ashura, but they are false and fabricated.

In the Tahdhib al-Ahkam hadith of Imam al-Baqir, it is said that Ashura “is the day on which God Almighty accepted the repentance of Adam and Eve.”

Maytham however states that idea is based on “hadith that they (Mukhalifeen) fabricate in which it (Ashura) is the day on which God accepted the repentance of Adam - peace be upon him - but God accepted the repentance of Adam in Dhul-Hijjah.”

God accepted Adam’s repentance in Dhul-Hijjah, not Muharram and Ashura - according to the indisputable words of Imam Ali’s Bab. This is an indication of taqiyya in Imam al-Baqir’s hadith.

The hadith of al-Baqir says that, “on the day of Ashura, the Ark stuck on Mount Judi.

This led to Nuh, peace be upon him, command those with him from the jinn and mankind to fast on that day.”

Maytham however states that is a false claim and that “Nuh’s ark landed on Al-Judi on the 18th of Dhul-Hijjah.”

Imam al-Baqir’s hadith says that “It is the day on which God split the Sea to the Children of Israel - drowning Pharaoh and those with him.”

Maytham’s words again show the opposite, saying that the Mukhalifeen “it (Ashura) was the day on which God split the sea for the Children of Israel, but that was in Rabi’ Al-Awwal.”

With all that said, the hadith of Imam al-Baqir can be fully dismissed as taqiyya from the Mukhalifeen - yes? 

Well, not exactly. In the ending of Imam al-Baqir’s hadith, the Imam says about Ashura that “this is the day on which the Qa’im - peace be upon him will rise”.

This is a true statement backed in our corpus - that the Qa’im will rise on Ashura on the day of Saturday. 

وقال عليه السلامكأني بالقائم عليه السلام يوم عاشوراء يوم السبت، قائما بين الركن والمقام يد جبرئيل على يده، ينادي بالبيعة لله، فيملأها(1) عدلا

Why would Imam al-Baqir add a true Shi’i-centric conception of Imam al-Mahdi, in between fabricated Mukhalif claims?

The answer is simple

As in Allama Majlisi’s explanation of the hadith of Umar ibn Handhala mentioned above, the Imam instructed his companion:

“do not burden the Shiites with hard obligations in knowledge and action, but rather teach them and invite them to (good) action gently so that they are motivated to complete them”.

At the times where the Imam would order a general state of taqiyya and accordingly issue fatwas in taqiyya -

Some Shi’a were truly struggling with keeping up with this, causing great damage to the Imam’s movement. 

It is to an extent that the Imams said, “Whomever discloses our ahadith (when in a state of taqiyya) - he did not kill us accidentally. Rather, he killed us intentionally.” (Al-Kafi, vol 2, page 370)

ما قتلنا من أذاع حديثنا خطأ ولكن قتلنا قتل عمد

Because taqiyya is a hard obligation for many Shi’a and the knowledge the Imam binds to them in taqiyya is even harder. Especially this knowledge consists of Mukhalif fabrications. 

Thus, the Imam includes a Shi’i theme to a hadith full of Mukhalif fabrications to ease to them the acceptance of the hadith of Ashura fast - important to the Mukhalifeen - even if the Shi’a know it is fabricated.

It is to teach the Shi’a that the Imam’s fatwa permitting the fast of Ashura is “is better for (them) and greater in reward” as the fatwa of it was given in taqiyya.

(Al-Kafi, vol 1, page 65)

Abu Jaafar (al-Baqir) said to me: O Ziyad! What do you say if we give a fatwa based on taqiyya to a man who is one of our followers? 

I [Ziyad] said to him: You know best, may I be your ransom. 

He [the Imam] said: If he takes it, it is better for him and greater in reward.

عن علي بن محمد ، عن سهل بن زياد ، عن ابن محبوب ، عن علي بن رئاب ، عن أبي عبيدة ، عن أبي جعفر ( عليه السلام ) ، قال : قال لي : يا زياد ! ما تقول لو أفتينا رجلا ممن يتولانا بشيء من التقية ؟ قال : قلت له : أنت أعلم ، جعلت فداك ، قال : إن أخذ به فهو خير له وأعظمأجرا 

The fast itself is not what gives one spiritual benefits. There is no validity in the fast itself, but the spiritual benefits lie in following the Imam’s unconditional words - no matter what it is, even if an order in taqiyya

This is the same reason why praying with the Mukhalifeen is encouraged:

(Wasa’il al-Shi’a, vol 8, page 302)

Whenever any of you (Shi’a) prayer an obligatory prayer in its time. Then prays a prayer in taqiyya with them (Mukhalifeen) while he is in a state of wudu’, Allah will raise his spiritual status twentyfive-fold. So seek that

ما منكم أحد يصلي صلاة فريضة في وقتها ثم يصلي معهم صلاة تقية وهو متوضئ إلا كتب الله له بها خمسا وعشرين درجة، فارغبوا فيذلك

With that said and given the words of Maytham al-Tammar, the likely position on ahadith giving full permission to fast on Ashura is that they were said in taqiyya and its applicability specific to taqiyya-tied era.

B) Middle ground

(Misbah al-Mutahajjid, page 782)

I entered upon Abi Abdullah (al-Sadiq) on the day of Ashura while tears fell on his eyes like falling pearls.

So I (narrator) said: Why are you crying? 

He (Imam) said: Are you heedless?! Did you not know that Al-Hussein, peace be upon him, was killed on this day? 

I (narrator) aid: What do you say about his fast? 

He said to me: Fast it without tabyeet (i.e, intending it as a fast), and break it without insult (to the Imam), and do not make it a complete fasting day.

Let your iftar (breaking fast) be an hour after the Asr prayer over a drink of water.

For, it was at that time of that day that the war was over for the family of the Messenger of God, may God’s prayers and peace be upon him and his family.”

دخلت على أبي عبد الله عليه السلام يوم عاشوراء (1) ودموعه تنحدر على عينيه كاللؤلؤ المتساقط، فقلتمم بكائك؟ فقالأفي غفلة أنت؟أما علمت أن الحسين عليه السلام أصيب في مثل هذا اليوم؟ فقلتما قولك في صومه؟ فقال ليصمه من غير تبيت، وأفطره من غيرتشميت، ولا تجعله يوم صوم كملا، وليكن إفطارك بعد صلاة العصر بساعة على شربة من ماء، فإنه في مثل ذلك الوقت من ذلك اليوم تجلتالهيجاء عن آل رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم

  • Evaluation:

What is interested about this hadith is that it the Imam commands the Shi’a to perform fasting without (tabyeet).

This word (tabyeet) had been defined by Allama Majlisi as niyah (intention to perform a certain religious task).

Imam al-Sadiq’s command reflects on the following Sunni hadith

(Sunan al-Nisa’i)

Hafsa narrates from the Prophet:

Whomever does not have tabyeet (i.e, niyah) for fasting before Fajr, there is no fasting for him”.

مَنْ لَمْ يُبَيِّتِ الصِّيَامَ قَبْلَ الفَجْرِ فَلَا صِيَامَ لَهُ

It is interesting that Imam al-Sadiq would use the terminology of a Sunni hadith with regards to a fast. 

Perhaps, the above ahadith was used by the Sunnis in Imam al-Sadiq’s time to claim that niyah is needed before fasting on Ashura.

As such, the Imam wanted to offer guidance to his companions living under a state of taqiyya that - do the opposite of that hadith, and that is:

Do not have niyah for the fast of Ashura, because it is such a condemnable fast. 

You do not intend to fast, but simply abstain for food for a certain period of time necessary to give the Mukhalifeen an illusion that you are fasting this day. 

As Imam al-Ridha said: “There is no acceptable action without a niyah (intention).

روى عن الرضا عليه السلام أنه قال لا قول الا بعمل ولا عمل الا بنية ولا نية الا بإصابة السنة

Without niyah, the act of abstaining from food cannot be seen nor termed as a ‘fast’ in God’s eyes.

So why does Imam al-Sadiq tell his companion to “fast without niyah”?

The answer lies in a strategy used by our Imams in taqiyya, as Allama Majlisi describes:

(Bihar al-Anwar, vol 14, page 87)

What is apparent is that our Imams know that the report is fabricated. But they interpret it (with a true interpretation) without dismissing the report which is popular among the Mukhalifeen, out of taqiyya.”

والظاهر أنه عليه السلام كان يعلم أن الخبر موضوع، وإنما أوله تحرزا عن طرح الخبر المشهور بينهم تقية

The Imams permit abstaining from food on Ashura, but the fact they call it a “fast” - even though it cannot be a fast, an explicit order to avoid a niyah of fasting.

This suggests the Imam used the terminology in taqiyya, that they did not dismiss the ‘fabricated report’ (i.e, fast), like Allama Majlisi elaborated - but gave it a true interpretation (i.e, excercise taqiyya to in obedience to the Imam, by simply abstaining from food).

It is similar to praying behind the Mukhalifeen - one does it without niyah. As the prayer is invalid. 

Yet, “whomever prays with them (Mukhalifeen) in the fast row of worshippers - it is as if he prayed behind Rasul Allah in the first row of worshippers”. (Wasa’il al-Shi’a).

من صلى معهم في الصف الأول كان كمن صلى خلف رسول الله (صلى الله عليه وآلهفي الصف الأول

The spiritual benefits of the prayer lies not in the fact that it is invalid.

But rather, you are rewarded for praying an invalid prayer - for the sake of obeying the Imam’s order of taqiyya.

This is clarified in Imam al-Baqir’s exchange with Zurara below:

Imam al-Baqir said to a man:

‘Do not leave the prayer with them (Mukhalifeen) and behind every imam (of them).’

When he (Imam al-Baqir) came out, I (Zurara) said to him: 

May I be your ransom, I am burdened by your saying to this man when he asked you about the obligation of praying behind Mukhalifeen. 

Is it still binding if they were not believers? 

He (peace be upon him) laughed and then said: I don't see you anymore except with the Mukhalifeen, Zurara. 

What reason do you want greater than their Imam (prayer) is an invalid Imam - whom it is forbidden to pray behind? (i.e, in cases other than taqiyya)

Then he (Imam) said: O Zurara, do you not see me: Pray in your mosques (of Mukhalifeen) and pray with your imams (among them)”

لا تدع الصلاة معهم وخلف كل إمام فلما خرج قلت لهجعلت فداك كبر علي قولك لهذا الرجل حين استفتاك فإن لم يكونوا مؤمنين؟ قالفضحك (عليه السلامثم قالما أراك بعد إلا ههنا يا زرارة فأية علة تريد أعظم من أنه لا يأتم به ثم قاليا زرارة أما تراني قلتصلوا فيمساجدكم وصلوا مع أئمتكم.

Thus, just like the Imams encourage praying on time - then going to the mosque to “pray behind the Mukhalifeen” (as pretend prayer in taqiyya).

“Whenever any of you (Shi’a) prays an obligatory prayer in its time. Then prays a prayer in taqiyya with them (Mukhalifeen)”

So just like the Imam uses “prayer in taqiyya” to describe a ‘pretend prayer’ without niyah in taqiyya - 

Then the wording of Imam al-Sadiq’s commandment to “fast without niyah” must necessarily also be out of taqiyya.

This is backed in that of fasting without niyah - in the next page (Misbah al-Mutahajjid, page 783) - the Imam is telling the narrator Abdullah ibn Sinan to perform prayers of Imam al-Husayn where no one can see him or in an empty house.

This suggests that the Shi’a were in a general state of taqiyya, per the Imam’s orders - where they hid their true beliefs and practices.

مكان لا يراك به أحد أو تعمد إلى منزل لك خال

Thus, the “middle ground” which permits “fasting until Asr” is also likely said in the context of taqiyya.

C) Full prohibition

The final set of ahadith spells a clear and full prohibition on fasting on the day of Ashura, for any reason.

Imam al-Sadiq clarifies that a person does not fast because a calamity happens. The only purpose of fasting is to thank God for him giving you safety.

Thus, if you fast on Ashura - you are fasting to thank God for giving safety to Bani Umayyah, which means you are happy with Imam Husayn’s death.

If you are not happy with Imam Husayn being killed, then do not fast this day.

(Tusi’s Al-Amali, page 667)

“I asked him (Imam al-Sadiq) about fasting on the day of Arafah.

He (Imam) said: It is one of the Muslim holidays, a day of supplication and contemplation.

I (Imam) said: What about fasting on Ashura? 

He (Imam) said: That is the day on which al-Husayn (peace be upon him) was killed.

If you are want to insult us, then fast on it.

Then he said: 

The Umayyad clan (may God’s curse be upon them) and those who helped them to kill al-Husayn from the people of al-Sham? made a vow that al-Husayn (peace be upon him) would be killed.

And the caliphate became in the family of Abu Sufyan.

To take that day (Ashura) as a festival for them, and fast in it out of gratefulness (for the killing of Husayn), and make their children happy (in grateful).

So it has become a tradition in the family of Abu Sufyan to this day in people, and all the people (Mukhalifeen) followed their example, so they fast it and bring joy to their children and families that day.

Then he said: The act of fasting is not done due to calamity, rather - one only fasts to thank God for safety. 

Meanwhile, Al-Husayn (peace be upon him) was killed, so if you are one of those who have been hurt by his killing, do not fast.

But if you wish to insult him and are happy for for safety of Banu Umayyah, then fast as gratefulness to God (for their safety).”

سألته عن صوم يوم عرفة؟ فقالعيد من أعياد المسلمين، ويوم دعاء ومسألة.

قلتفصوم عاشوراء؟ قالذاك يوم قتل فيه الحسين (عليه السلام)، فإن كنت شامتا فصم.

ثم قالإن آل أمية (عليهم لعنة اللهومن أعانهم على قتل الحسين من أهل الشام، نذروا نذرا إن قتل الحسين (عليه السلاموسلم من خرجإلى الحسين (عليه السلام)، وصارت الخلافة في آل أبي سفيان، أن يتخذوا ذلك اليوم عيدا لهم، وأن يصوموا فيه شكرا، ويفرحون أولادهم،فصارت في آل أبي سفيان سنة إلى اليوم في الناس، واقتدى بهم الناس جميعا، فلذلك يصومونه ويدخلون على عيالاتهم وأهاليهم الفرح ذلكاليوم.

ثم قالإن الصوم لا يكون للمصيبة، ولا يكون إلا شكرا للسلامة، وإن الحسين (عليه السلامأصيب، فإن كنت ممن أصبت به فلا تصم، وإنكنت شامتا ممن سرك سلامة بني أمية فصم شكرا لله (تعالى

  • Evaluation:

The above hadith is backed by a report in which a Bab of Imam al-Jawad, Muhammad ibn Sinan, is one of the narrators.

It makes it likelier that even though the Bab did not narrate this hadith directly from the Imam, him narrating it still gives it higher credibility it is true. 

And the sentiment is backed by the hadith of Maytham al-Tammar, Bab of Imam Ali;

It is narrated from him (narrator of previous Hadith) from Muhammad ibn al-Husayn from Muhammad ibn Sinan from Aban from ‘Abd al-Malik who has said the following: “I once asked abu ‘Abd Allah, ‘Alayhi al-Salam, about the fast on the day of ‘Ashura’ of the month of Muharram. 

He (the Imam) then said, ‘The day of ‘Ashura’ is the day on which al-Husayn, ‘Alayhi al-Salam, was murdered and his friends around him were all murdered and looted. 

How can there be fast on that day! No, by the Lord of the sacred house there is no fasting on such a day. It is only a day of mourning and lamentation that came upon the inhabitants of the sky and earth and all believing people. It is a day of happiness and joy for ibn Marjanah and family of Ziyad and people of al-Sham, may Allah subject them to His anger as well as their offspring. This was a day when all locations of earth wept except al-Sham. Those who fast on this day or take it for blessing will be raised, by Allah, with the family of Ziyad with their hearts metamorphosed and subjected to anger. Whoever seeks any saving for their homes on this day will be made by Allah as a seed of hypocrisy in his heart up to the Day of Judgment, blessing is removed thereof, from his family, and children. Satan will share him in all of such savings.’”


Taking into account all three types of ahadith, the likelier position and one close to the Imam’s heart - is that the fast on Ashura is categorically forbidden. 

Meanwhile, qara’in (corroborating evidence) suggest that contrary reports were said in taqiyya.

Thus, it is incumbent upon the believer to avoid such a fast in the day of Ashura in order to please the holy Imams (peace be upon them). 


John Andaluso