Voluntary fasting in Muharram and its virtues: Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali

One of the many works authored by Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali is Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif, a work detailing the merits, special attributes and prescribed actions which occur throughout each year.Ibn Rajab began the chapter on the month of Muharram with the following hadeeth:

خرّج مسلم من حديث أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه عن النبي ﷺ قال (أفضل الصيام بعد شهر رمضان شهر الله تدعونه المحرم, وأفضل الصلاة بعد الفريضة قيام الليل). الكلام على هذا الحديث في فصلين : في فضل التطوع بالصيام, و فضل التطوع بالقيام.

There is the hadeeth from Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurairah that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “The most virtuous of fasts after the month of Ramadhaan is the month of Allah called al-Muharram, and the most virtuous of prayers after the obligatory prayers is qiyaam al-lail.” The words of this hadeeth clarify two things: the virtue of voluntary fasting, and the virtue of voluntary night prayers.

[Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif, pg 77]

In another part of his discussion on the month of Muharram, he wrote:

والذي ظهر لي ـ والله أعلم ـ أن التطوع بالصيام نوعان :

And that which is clear to me – and Allah knows best – is that the voluntary fasting is of two types:

أحدهما : التطوع المطلق بالصيام , فهذا أفضله المحرم , كما أن أفضل التطوع المطلق بالصلاة قيام الليل

The first of which is: the general voluntary fasting, and the most virtuous of this is al-Muharram, just as the most virtuous of the general voluntary prayers is the qiyaam al-lail.

والثاني : ما صيامه تبع لصيام رمضان قبله و بعده, فهذا ليس من التطوع المطلق, بل صيامه تبع لصيام رمضان, وهو ملتحق بصيام رمضان, ولهذا قيل: إنّ صيام ستة أيام من شهر شوال يلتحق بصيام رمضان, ويكتب بذلك لمن صامها مع رمضان صيام الدهر فرضا. وقد وري أن أسامة بن زيد كان يصوم الأشهر الحرم, فأمره النبي ﷺ بصيام شوال, فترك الأشهر الحرم وصام شوال. وسنذكر ذلك في موضعه إن شاء الله تعالى. فهذا النوع من الصيام يلتحق برمضان, وصيامه أفضل التطوع مطلقا. فأما التطوع المطلق فأفضله صيام الأشهر الحرم. وقد وري عن النبي ﷺ أنه أمر رجلا أن يصوم الأشهر الحرم, وسنذكر ذلك في موضعه إن شاء الله تعالى.

And secondly: what one fasts connected to the fast of Ramadhaan either before or after it. So this is not from among the general voluntary fasts, rather this is the fast connected to the fast of Ramadhaan, and it is attached to the fast of Ramadhaan. And on this subject it is said: verily fasting six days from the month of Shawwaal is attached to the fast of Ramadhaan, and what is written for that for the one who fasts them along with Ramadhaan is a continuous fast [i.e. the reward written for this will be as if he fasted for the entire year]. And it is narrated that Usaama ibn Zaid used to fast the sacred months, then the Prophet (ﷺ) ordered him with the fast of Shawwaal, so he abandon the sacred months and fasted Shawwaal. And we will mention that in its proper place, if Allah the Exalted wills. So this is the type of fasting which is attached to Ramadhaan, and this is unequivocally the most virtuous of the voluntary fasting. And as for the general voluntary fasting, then the most virtuous of it is the fasting of the sacred months. And it has been narrated that the Prophet (ﷺ) order a man to fast the sacred months, and we will mention that in its appropriate place, if Allah the Exalted wills.

وأفضل صيام الأشهر الحرم صيام شهر الله المحرم, ويشهد لهذا أنه ﷺ قال في هذا الحديث (وأفضل الصلاة بعد المكتوبة قيام الليل) و مراده بعد المكتوبة ولواحقها من سننها الرواتب, فإنّ الرواتب قبل الفرائض وبعدها أفضل من قيام الليل عند جمهور العلماء, لالتحاقها بالفرائض. و إنما خالف في ذلك بعض الشافعية. فكذلك الصيام قبل رمضان وبعده ملتحق برمضان, و صيامه أفضل من صيام الأشهر الحرم, وأفضل التطوع المطلق بالصيام صيان المحرم.

And the best fasting of the sacred months is the fasting of the month of Allah, Muharram. And this is attested to by the statement of the Prophet (ﷺ) in this hadeeth, “and the best prayer after the obligatory prayers is qiyaam al-lail“, and the meaning is after the obligatory prayers and their associated prayers from amongst the sunnah al-rawaatib (voluntary prayers connected to the obligatory prayer). For certainly the rawaatib before and after the obligatory prayers are more meritorious than qiyaam al-lail according to the majority of the scholars, by virtue of their attachment to the obligatory prayers. And it is only some of the Shaafi’ scholars who disagree with that. So likewise, the fasting before and after Ramadhaan is connected to Ramadhaan, and its fasting is more meritorious than the fasting in the sacred months. And the most meritorious optional fasting in the general sense [i.e. in its own right, rather than by virtue of its association with the obligatory fasting] is fasting in the month of Muharram.

[Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif, pg 78-79]

For more from translations from Ibn Rajab’s beneficial work on the merits and specific actions for certain times of the year, see also: Ibn Rajab on the first 10 days of Dhul-Hijjah

See also: The Sacred Months

See also: The Month of Rajab

And for those who can read the Arabic language, the entire work in available for download here.

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5 thoughts on “Voluntary fasting in Muharram and its virtues: Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali

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