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Legacy of Musa (A.S) and the Importance of the Day of Ashura

By Fahad Ansari

September 8, 2019

The virtues of fasting the day of ʿĀshūra, the 10th day of Muarram, are widely known to many. Millions of Muslims all around the world fast this day in the hope that it will atone for their sins in the previous year. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “It will expiate the sins of the past year.” [1]

In light of this, the story of the interaction of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) with the Jews of Madinah comes to mind, as it is similarly well known and quoted alongside other hadith that the Jews would also fast on this day. Hence, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) commanded us to fast an additional day in order to distinguish the practice of Muslims from that of other religions.

Ibn Abbas (raī Allāhu ʿanhu) reported:

The Messenger of Allāh, peace and blessings be upon him, came to Medina and found the Jews fasting on the day of ʿĀshūra. The Prophet said, “What is this day you are fasting?” They said, “This is a great day in which Allāh saved Moses and his people, and he drowned Pharaoh and his people. Moses fasted on it due to gratitude, so we also fast on it.” The Prophet said, “We have more of a right to Moses and are closer to him than you.” The Prophet fasted the day of ʿĀshūra and commanded fasting on it.” [2]

The Jews of Madinah were following the tradition of Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) to fast the day on which Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) saved him and his people from Firʿaun. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) is telling us that we as Muslims have more of a right to Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) than the Jews, and thus commanded us to fast on this day. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) is informing us that the legacy of Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) belongs to this Ummah.

However, is this magnificent legacy that we have inherited limited to following a single tradition of fasting the day of ʿĀshūra? Or does our right to Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) extend beyond such a limited understanding?

If we truly wish to commemorate the vanquishing of Firʿaun and his army, as well as the salvation of Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) and his people, we must remember the background to this glorious day and the events that preceded it. The miraculous intervention of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) did not occur in a vacuum. Instead, it was the pinnacle of a series of interactions between Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) and Firʿaun.

In doing so, we can take away at least three powerful characteristics of Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) that we should strive to implement in our daily lives.

1. Speaking Truth To Power

Firstly, we must recognise the courage of Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) in speaking truth to power. The only reason that Firʿaun and his army were chasing Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) and Banī Isrā’īl on the day of ʿĀshūra was because Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) had challenged Firʿaun’s claim to lordship, his tyranny, and his enslavement of Banī Isrā’īl. Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) did all this despite the incredible natural fear that festered inside him from standing up to such a tyrant. The anxiety of confronting this powerful king who ruled with a god complex could only have been immeasurably magnified by Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām)’s speech impediment, his status as a second-class citizen, and his having an arrest warrant issued against him for murder. Yet Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) was able to overcome all of this to boldly walk into the court of Firʿaun and warn him of his wrongdoing. Remarkably, this was not an isolated incident; Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) persisted in speaking truth to power over a significant period of time regardless of the taunts and threats that Firʿaun threw his way.

The legacy we have inherited mandates that we make it part of our character to have this type of courage, to speak truth to power, and to not shy away from it out of fear for our personal safety or potential difficulties we may face as a result of doing so. As the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) advised us, “The best jihad is a word of truth before a tyrant ruler.” [3]

2. Exert Your Maximum Effort

Secondly, we learn that the miraculous intervention by Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) occurs after Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) exhausted his maximum efforts to fulfil the commands of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā). It came after a period of time during which he advised the Banī Isrā’īl, spoke out against Firʿaun’s tyranny on numerous occasions, competed with Firʿaun’s magicians, and taken his people out of Egypt. It is at the point where they are between death by drowning and death by the sword that Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) fulfils His promise and causes the sea to part to enable their escape. Even here, as if to emphasise the point, Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) commands Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) to strike the sea with his staff so that there is literally nothing more he can do after this except to wait for the help of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā).

When we witness injustice and oppression around us, whether from the state and its machinations or from elements within our societies, it is not from the legacy of Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) to silently condemn it and simply pray for the help of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā).

3. Having Trust and Certainty In Allāh

Finally, and most importantly, the legacy of Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) requires us to have unwavering trust and certainty in the promise of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā). Even when Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) was trapped between the sea and Firʿaun and his army – with thousands of men, women, and children on the verge of being slaughtered, and with the naysayers amidst his people complaining that they were doomed – his faith in Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) remained as strong as ever. His vision was not limited to the tangible things his eyes could see but was instead guided by his heart, which was attached to Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) and His promise.

“No! Indeed, with me is my Lord; He will guide me.” [4]

As believers and inheritors of the legacy of one of the greatest prophets to walk the face of this Earth, we must continue this great tradition of speaking truth to power. This entails devoting ourselves to the cause, maximising our efforts, and always having a firmly resolute faith that Allāh (SubḥāNahu Wa TaʿĀLā) will give us victory. This is the real legacy of Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) that we should be striving to replicate in our lives.



[1] Muslim

[2] Bukhari and Muslim

[3] Abu Dawud

[4] Al-Qur’ān, 26:62


Fahad Ansari is an Immigration and Human Rights Solicitor, Writer, Activist. He has also authored a number of articles and reports on international human rights, social discrimination and anti-terrorism legislation to mainstream papers and policy makers.

Original Headline: ʿĀshūra and Remembering the Real Legacy of Mūsā

Source: Islam 21c