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ʿĀSHŪRĀ ʾ, the name of the fast of the tenth day of Muḥarram (the first month of the Muslim year), which according to ancient Islamic tradition was introduced by Muhammad when he came to Yathrib-Medina in 622. It is a fast from evening to evening, i.e., a full day. Both the name and the date of the fast are evidence that Muhammad based himself on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29). Nearly a year and a half after he settled in Yathrib, however, as a result of a dispute with the Jewish community there, Muhammad abolished the ʿĀshūrāʾ and substituted for it the month-long fast of Ramadan (Koran, Sura 2:179–81). Nevertheless the instructions for this fast, both in the Koran and in Islamic tradition, show evidence of Jewish influence. Although ʿĀshūrāʾ thus ceased as a compulsory fast, the tenth of Muharram is still regarded as a most suitable day for voluntary fasting. In Shiʿite Islam this day enjoyed special historical importance as the day when Ḥusayn, the son of Ali, fell in the battle of Karbalaʾ in 650. Many processions are conducted since the previous day is a fast day for Shiʿite ascetics.


eis; eis2; S.D. Goitein, Studies in Islamic History and Institutions (1966), 90–110.

[Haïm Z'ew Hirschberg]

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