Significance of Ashura
The entire month of Muharram is sacred and special and fasting on any day of Muharram has special rewards from Allah, but the 10th day of Muharram, called Ashura holds a more significant position than the rest of the days.
We know from a number of authentic traditions that in the beginning, fasting on the day of Ashura was obligatory for the Muslims. It was later when the fasts of Ramadan were made obligatory that the fast on the day of Ashura was made optional. Narrated by Aisha ra
“The people used to fast on ‘Ashura (the tenth day of the month of Muharram) before the fasting of Ramadan was made obligatory. And on that day the Ka’ba used to be covered with a cover. When Allah made the fasting of the month of Ramadan compulsory, Allah’s Apostle said, “Whoever wishes to fast (on the day of ‘Ashura’) may do so; and whoever wishes to leave it can do so. “[Bukhari Vol 002, Book 026, Hadith Number 662]
However, Rasul Allah saw used to fast on the day of Ashura even after fasting in Ramadan was made obligatory.Ibn ‘Abbas ra reported
“When the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) fasted on the day of ‘Ashura and commanded that it should he observed as a fast, they (his Companions) said to him: Messenger of Allah, it is a day which the Jews and Christians hold in high esteem. Thereupon the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: When the next year comes, God willing, we would observe fast on the 9th But the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) died before the advent of the next year.” [ Musim : Book 006, Hadith Number 2528]
Abdullah ibn Abbas ra also reported
“that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) had said: If I live till the next (year), I would definitely observe fast on the 9th, and the narration transmitted by Abu Bakr is: “He meant the day of Ashura.” [ Muslim: Book 006, Hadith Number 2529
Hence, one should combine another day with the Ashura and fast on either the 9th and 10th of Muharram or the 10th and 11th in order to distinguish the Muslim way of fasting from that of the Jews.
Atonement of Sins
Fasting on the day of Ashura expiates the sins of the previous year as told by our Prophet Muhammad saw.
“Abu Qatada al-Ansari (Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) was asked about his fasting… He was asked about fasting on the day of ‘Ashura (10th of Muharram), whereupon be said: It expiates the sins of the preceding year…[Muslim: Book 06: Hadith 2603]
It was during Muharram, specifically the 10th i.e. Ashura that Hazrat Musa (as) and his people the bani Israel were saved from Pharaoh by the miracle of the parting of the sea and the Pharaoh (firaon) along with his army was drowned in the sea:
Ibn e Abbas ra narrated:
“When the Prophet came to Medina, he found (the Jews) fasting on the day of ‘Ashura’ (i.e. 10th of Muharram). They used to say: “This is a great day on which Allah saved Moses and drowned the folk of Pharaoh. Moses observed the fast on this day, as a sign of gratitude to Allah.” The Prophet said, “I am closer to Moses than they.” So, he observed the fast (on that day) and ordered the Muslims to fast on it. [ Bukhari: Vol 4, Book 055, Hadith Number 609]
Ark of Nooh (as)
The day of Ashura was also the day when the ark of Noah (Nooh as) was saved from the flood and landed on Mount Judi. This has been narrated by Ahmed.
Martyrdom of Umar Farooq(ra)
The times of fitnah for the Muslims initiated when the second caliph of Islam, Hazrat Umar Farooq(ra) was attacked by a persian slave Abu Lu Lu Ferouz , based on an Iranian plot hatched by Harmuzan, on the 27th of Zil Hajj, 23 AH, 645 AD. He succumbed to his injuries and attained martyrdom on the 1st of Muharram.
Martyrdom of Hussain (ra)
Further Reading :A true perspective of the Tragedy of Kerbala by Dr. Israr Ahmed