Why Sunni Muslims Should Learn About and Observe Ashura

Ashura is the tenth day of the month of Muharram in the Islamic calendar.

It marks three historical events: the day Nuh (Noah) left the Ark, the day that Prophet Musa and his people were liberated from Firawn, and the day Imam Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet, was martyred.

In a Hadith narrated by Imam Muslim, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) made dua to Allah to forgive the sins, committed in the previous year, for all the people who fast on the day of Ashura. As a result, Sunni Muslims observe Ashura by fasting.

Ibn Abbas (RA) reported that Rasulullah (SAW) prioritized the fast on the day of Ashura over other days, besides the days in Ramadan. He said, “I have never Rasulullah s.a.w so eager to fast like he is for Ashura and prioritizing it, besides Ramadan.” (Hadith by Imam Al-Bukhari)

In Shiite tradition, it is known to be a day of mourning and sorrow in which Shias commemorate and lament over the massacre of Karbala when Imam Hussain, grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), was murdered. This was because Imam Hussain refused to pledge allegiance to Yazid, the caliph of the time who was an unjust ruler.

On the day of Ashura, I will not only fast but also remember the tragedy of Karbala and the killing of Hussain.

He holds a very special place in my heart. As someone who follows Sunni traditions, loving Hussain is just as important to me.

I may not participate in the mourning rituals over the killing of Hussain (AS) practiced by Shia Muslims, but my love for him is steadfast.

Imam Hussain plays such an important role in Islamic history. He embodied the qualities of the Prophet Muhammad, and he remained deeply committed to the Quranic values of justice and equality. 

Hussain’s sacrifice at Karbala was a lesson for all of humanity. Through his sacrifice, he taught us how to stand up against tyranny, oppression, and injustice. He would not bow down to Yazid, even if it meant being butchered ruthlessly, and seeing his family — including his young son, and an infant son being killed by the Yazid’s army.

Imam Hussain was said to have said, “It is better to die fighting for truth than to live under an oppressive ruler.”

“It is better to die fighting for truth than to live under an oppressive

Imam Hussain

I learned empathy from Prophet Muhammad and the meaning of true justice from Hussain.

“Hussain is from me and I am from Hussain. Allah loves whoever loves Hussain. Hussain is a disciple of the disciples.” — Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.)

As Sunni Muslims when we remember the tragedy of Karbala, we are reflecting on our own history too.

The blood of Hussain, the cries of Zainab and Ruqayah, and the thirst of Abbas ibn Ali are integral to both Sunni tradition and Shia history.