The Four Stages of Fasting ‘Aashooraa’: Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali

In his book detailing the different activities of the year, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali wrote the following discussion concerning the Day of ‘Aashooraa’ (the 10th day of the month of Muharram) and its fasting:

وكان للنبي صلى الله عليه وسلم في صيامه أربع حالات: ـ

The Prophet (ﷺ) went through four different stages regarding the fasting of ‘Aashooraa’:

الحالة الأولى: أنه كان يصومه بمكة ولا يأمر الناس بالصوم ففي الصحيحين عن عائشة رضي الله عنها قالت: كان عاشوراء يوما تصومه قريش في الجاهلية وكان النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يصومه فلما قدم المدينة صامه وأمر بصيامه فلما نزلت فريضة شهر رمضان كان رمضان هو الذي يصومه فترك يوم عاشوراء فمن شاء صامه ومن شاء أفطره وفي رواية للبخاري وقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: “من شاء فليصمه ومن شاء أفطر”. ـ

○The First Stage: That he used to fast it in Mecca but he did not command the people to fast. There is a narration in the Saheehayn on the authority of ‘Aa’ishah who said:

The Day of ‘Aashooraa’ was a day that the Quraish used to fast during the times of al-Jaahiliyyah and the Prophet (ﷺ) also used to fast it. Then when he came to al-Madinah he fasted it and he commanded its fasting. Then when the obligation of fasting the month of Ramadan was revealed, it was Ramadan that he fasted and thus he left off the Day of ‘Aashooraa’, so whoever wished could fast it and whoever wished did not have to fast it.

And in the narration of al-Bukhari, “And the Prophet (ﷺ) said, ‘Whoever wishes then let him fast and whoever wishes then do not fast.'”

الحالة الثانية: أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم لما قدم المدينة ورأى صيام أهل الكتاب له وتعظيمهم له وكان يحب موافقتهم فيما لم يؤمر به صامه وأمر الناس بصيامه وأكد الأمر بصيامه والحث عليه حتى كانوا يصومونه أطفالهم ففي الصحيحين عن ابن عباس قال: قدم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم المدينة فوجد اليهود صياما يوم عاشوراء فقال لهم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: ما هذا اليوم الذي تصومونه؟ قالوا: هذا يوم عظيم أنجى الله فيه موسى وقومه وأغرق فرعون وقومه فصامه موسى شكرا فنحن نصومه فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: “فنحن أحق وأولى بموسى منكم” فصامه رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وأمر بصيامه. ـ

○The Second Stage: That the Prophet (ﷺ) came to al-Madinah and he saw the Ahl al-Kitaab fasting it and holding it in high regard, and he was pleased with his having been in accord with them in in the fast which he had not previously ordered the people to do. So he then commanded the people to fast that day and emphasized the command to fast it. He encouraged the people to do so to the extent that even the children would fast it. So there is a report in the Saheehayn on the authority of ibn ‘Abbaas who said: Continue reading

Advertisements

Khutbah regarding ‘Aashooraa’: Imam al-Sa’di

In a collection of more than 400 sermons of sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di, the following khutbah was one of several related to the month of Muharram:

خطبة ثانية لشهر الله المحرم

The second Khutbah regarding the month of Allah, al-Muharram

الحمد لله القاهر فوق عباده عزا وسلطانا ، القادر على مراده فما اتّخذ في خلق السماوات والارض أعوانا ، الناصر من نصر دينه فحاشاه أن يرهقه خذلانا ، العظيم الشان وناهيك بشأن الربوبية شانا ، خضعت لعزته رقاب الجبابرة إذعانا ، ودلت على وحدانيته شواهد الاعتبار عيانا ، قسم الخلق كما شاء شمائل وأيمانا ، فمنتحل إيمانا ومنتحل كفرانا ، قسمة كتبت فكتمت غير أنّ للسعادة والشقاوة عنوانا ، فطوبى للذين : < إِذَا ذُكِرَ‌ اللَّـهُ وَجِلَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَإِذَا تُلِيَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتُهُ زَادَتْهُمْ إِيمَانًا > [الانفال 2] ، وبعدا للذين إذا ذُكّروا بآيات ربهم خرّوا عليها صمّا وعميانا .  ـ

All praise belongs to Allah, the One who is irresistibly powerful over His slaves with might and authority; the One who is fully capable of enacting His will for He did not take any assistance in the creation of the heavens and the earth; the One who aids those who aid His deen so He saves these ones from being overcome by failure. How magnificent is His greatness, not to mention the greatness of His Lordship! The necks of the tyrants humble themselves to His might in submissiveness, and the testimony of witnessed examples proves His right to be singled out. He divided the creation as He willed into those of the right and those of the left; some of them ascribed to eemaan and some ascribed to disbelief. This division was ordained and then concealed except for the fact that ultimate happiness and sorrow have signs and indications, so glad tidings to those who:

إِذَا ذُكِرَ‌ اللَّـهُ وَجِلَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَإِذَا تُلِيَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتُهُ زَادَتْهُمْ إِيمَانًا

 when Allah is mentioned, their hearts become fearful, and when His verses are recited to them, it increases them in faith [8:2]

and ill tidings for those who, when the ayaat of their Lord are mentioned to them, they suddenly become deaf and blind.

أحمده سبحانه سرا وإعلانا . وأشهد أن لا إله إلا الله وحده لا شريك له شهادة أرجو بها يوم القيامة أمانا . وأشهد أن محمدا عبده ورسوله أكمل الخلق عقلا وأرجحهم ميزانا . ـ

I praise Him – exalted is He – privately and openly. And I testify that there is no deity worthy of worship in truth except Allah alone with no partners – a testimony through which I hope for safety on the Day of Judgement. And I testify that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger – the most complete of the creation in terms of intellect and the most just in judgement.

اللهم صلّ على عبدك ورسولك محمد وعلى آله وأصحابه الذين أيّد الله بهم دينه فكانوا على ذلك أنصارا وأعوانا ، وسلّم تسليما . ـ

O Allah, bestow peace and blessings upon Your slave and Messenger Muhammad and upon his family and his companions – those through whom Allah aided His religion and as such they were helpers and aids.

أما بعد : ـ فيا أيها الناس ؛ اتّقوا الله تعالى تقية من خاف وحذر واستقام ، والتزموا ما وجب عليكم من حقوق الإيمان والإسلام ، وأحبوه تعالى لما غذاكم به من جزيل الفضل والإنعام . ـ

To proceed: O People! Exercise taqwa of Allah – the taqwa of one who fears Him, keeps his guard up and is upright -, and adhere to what is obligatory upon you of the duties of al-eemaan and al-islaam, and love Him due to that with which He has nurtured you of abundant favors and blessings.

واعلموا رحمكم الله أنكم استقبلتم عاما جديدا ، وشهرا محرّما أكيدا ، خصّ باليوم العاشر ، بالأجر الجزيل الوافر . ـ

And know – may Allah have mercy on you all – that you are facing a new year and an emphasized sacred month – especially its tenth day – of abundant and plentiful rewards.

فعن ابن عباس قال : ( قدم النبي ﷺ المدينة فوجد اليهود صياما يوم عاشوراء ، فقال ‏”‏ ما هذا اليوم الذي تصومونه ؟ ‏”‏‏.‏ قالوا ” هذا يوم نجى الله فيه موسى وقومه ، وأهلك فيه فرعون وقومه ، فصامه موسى‏ شكرا لله ، ونحن نصومه ” .‏ قال ﷺ ‏”‏ نحن أَحقُّ وأولى بموسى منكم ‏”‏‏.‏ فصامه وأمر بصيامه.‏ )  [أخرجه البخاري (3315) ومسلم (2714)] ـ

For Ibn ‘Abbas reported:

Continue reading

Khutbah at the Close of the Year: Imam al-Sa’di

In a collection of more than 400 of his sermons, Imam ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di wrote the following khutbah related to the end of the (Hijri calendar) year, the passing of time and the believer’s response to these phenomena.

خطبة في ختام العام

Khutbah at the Close of the Year

الحمد لله منشئ الأيام والشهور ، ومفني الأعوام والدهور ، وميسر الميسور ومقدر المقدور ، يعلم خائنة الأعين وما تخفي الصدور . ـ

All praise belongs to Allah, the Creator of the days and months and the One who causes the years and time to pass away, the One who facilitates what is made easy and who apportions out what is decreed to happen. He knows the betrayals of the eyes and what the hearts conceal.

وأشهد أن لا إله إلا الله الغفور الشكور . وأشهد أن محمدا عبده ورسوله أفضل آمر وأجل مأمور . ـ

I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah; the Forgiving, the Appreciative. And I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger; the best of those who command and the loftiest of those who were commanded.

اللهم صل وسلم وبارك على نبينا محمد وعلى آله وأصحابه وضاعف اللهم لهم الأجور . ـ

O Allah, grant Your praise, blessings and salutations to our prophet, Muhammad, and to his family and his companions, and O Allah multiply the rewards for them!

أما بعد : أيها الناس ؛ اتقوا الله تعالى حق تقواه ، وتوبوا إليه وأطيعوه تدركوا رضاه . ـ

To proceed: O people, have taqwa of Allah as He deserves to be feared, repent to Him and obey Him that you might attain His pleasure!

عباد الله : تصرمت الأعوام عاما بعد عام ، وأنتم في غفلتكم ساهون نيام ، أما تشاهدون مواقع المنايا ؟ وحلول الآفات والرزايا ! وكيف فاز وأفلح المتقون ؟ وكيف خاب وخسر المبطلون والمفرطون ؟ ـ

Slaves of Allah! The years are being cut off one after the other while you in your heedlessness are neglectful as if sleeping! Haven’t you witnessed the decreed events, or the oncoming of vices and harms? How the muttaqoon have succeeded and prospered? Or how the wasteful ones and those upon falsehood regretted and lost? Continue reading

An incitement towards steadfastness: Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali

In his book, Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali gives a succinct and powerful reminder on the importance of steadfastness. He writes:

علامة قبول الطاعة أن تُوصل بطاعة بعدها, وعلامة ردِّها أن تُوصل بمعصية. ما أحسن الحسنة بعد الحسنة, وأقبح السيئة بعد الحسنة!! ذنب بعد التوبة أقبح من سيعين قبلها. النكسة أصعب من المرض الأوّل. ما أوحش ذلَ المعصية بعد عزّ الطاعة! ارحموا عزيز قومٍ بالمعصية ذلَ, وغني قومٍ بالذنب افنقر. سلوا الله ثبات إلى الممات, وتعوّذوا من  الحَوْرِ بعد الكَوْرِ. كان إمام أحماد يدعو يقول : اللهم أعِزَّنِي بطاعتك ولا تذلَّني بمعصيتك.

A sign of the acceptance of obedience is following it with obedience after that, and a sign of its rejection is following it with disobedience. What is better than a good deed after a good deed, and what is more disgraceful than a sin after a good deed?! One sin after repentance is more shameful than 70 sins before it. A relapse is more difficult than the initial illness. What is more distressing than the humiliation of disobedience after the honor of obedience? … We ask Allah for steadfastness until death, and we seek refuge from loss after plenty*. This was the supplication of Imam Ahmad when he said, “O Allah! Honor me with obedience [to you] and do not disgrace me with disobedience [to you]!”

      و كان من عامة دعاء إبراهيم بن أدهم رحمه الله :  ” اللهم انقلني من ذل المعصية إلى عز الطاعة “. وفي بعض الآثار إلهية : يقول الله تبارك وتعالى : أنا العزيز, فمن أراد العزّ فليُطِع العزيز.

And from the common supplications of Ibrahim ibn Adhham (rahimahullaah) was “O Allah! Take me from the disgrace of disobedience to the honor of obedience!” And in part of the divine narration: Allah tabaarak wa ta’aala said, “I am al-‘Azeez, so whoever desires honor (al-‘izz) then let him obey al-‘Azeez.”

ألا إنَّمـا التَّقـوَى هي العـزُّ و الكَـرَمْ          وحبُّــكَ الدُّنيـــا هـــو الــذُّلُّ والسَّـقَمْ
ولــيسَ على عَـبْــدٍ تـقـيٍّ نَـقِـيـصَــةٌ          إذا حقَّقَ التَّقْــوَى وإنْ حاكَ أو حَجَمْ

Verily taqwa is only an honor and nobility
and one’s love of the dunya is a humiliation and illness

And there is no defect for the pious slave
when he has attained taqwa, even if he has a lowly profession.**

[Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif pg. 128-129]

*The editor makes a note here saying:

في الحديث : (نعوذ بالله من الحَوْرِ بعد الكَوْرِ) , أي الرجوع بعد الاستقامة

In the hadeeth: (We seek refuge in Allah from loss after plenty) – meaning turning back after uprightness

**literally: even if he weaves or performs hijaamah

Fasting ‘Aashooraa’: Sharh al-Nawawi

Imam Muslim, in his Saheeh in the chapter entitled “Fasting on the Day of ‘Aashooraa'” reports the following from Ibn ‘Abbaas:

أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَدِمَ الْمَدِينَةَ فَوَجَدَ الْيَهُودَ صِيَامًا يَوْمَ عَاشُورَاءَ فَقَالَ لَهُمْ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ مَا هَذَا الْيَوْمُ الَّذِي تَصُومُونَهُ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ فَقَالُوا هَذَا يَوْمٌ عَظِيمٌ أَنْجَى اللَّهُ فِيهِ مُوسَى وَقَوْمَهُ وَغَرَّقَ فِرْعَوْنَ وَقَوْمَهُ فَصَامَهُ مُوسَى شُكْرًا فَنَحْنُ نَصُومُهُ ‏.‏ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ فَنَحْنُ أَحَقُّ وَأَوْلَى بِمُوسَى مِنْكُمْ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ فَصَامَهُ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَأَمَرَ بِصِيَامِهِ ‏.‏

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) arrived in al-Madinah and found the Jews observing fast on the day of ‘Aashooraa’. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said to them, “What is this day that you observe fast on it?” They said, “It is a great day when Allah delivered Moosaa and his people, and drowned the Firawn and his people, and Moosaa observed fast out of gratitude so we fast it.” Upon this the Messenger of Allah said, “We have more right, and we have a closer connection with Moosaa than you have; so Allah’s Messenger observed fast, and gave orders that it should be observed.

[Saheeh Muslim #1130]

Imam al-Nawawi, in his commentary on Saheeh Muslim, brought the following explanation:

قوله : ( أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قدم المدينة فوجد اليهود يصومون عاشوراء ، وقالوا : إن موسى صامه وإنه اليوم الذي نجوا فيه من فرعون وغرق فرعون ، فصامه النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم ، وأمر بصيامه ، وقال : نحن أحق بموسى منهم )  .

His statement [in another narration], “The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) arrived in al-Madinah and found the Jews observing fast on the day of ‘Aashooraa’. And they said to him, ‘Verily Moosaa fasted it, and verily it is the day on which they were saved from Firawn and Firawn was drowned.’ So the Prophet fasted it, and commanded it’s fasting. And he said, ‘We have more right to Moosaa than them.'”

قال المازري : خبر اليهود غير مقبول ، فيحتمل أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أوحي إليه بصدقهم فيما قالوه ، أو تواتر عنده النقل بذلك حتى حصل له العلم به . ـ

Al-Maaziri said: The information of the Jews is not accepted, so it is likely that the Prophet (ﷺ) received revelation of the veracity of what they said, or it was reported with such a high degree of mutually affirming transmission such that he knew of it.

قال القاضي عياض ردا على المازري : قد روى مسلم أن قريشا كانت تصومه ، فلما قدم النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم المدينة صامه ، فلم يحدث له بقول اليهود حكم يحتاج إلى الكلام عليه ، وإنما هي صفة حال ، وجواب سؤال ، فقوله : ( صامه ) ليس فيه أنه ابتدأ صومه حينئذ بقولهم ، ولو كان هذا لحملناه على أنه أخبر به من أسلم من علمائهم كابن سلام وغيره ،

Al-Qaadhi ‘Iyaadh said a refutation of al-Maaziri: Muslim has narrated that the Quraish used to fast it [i.e. the day of ‘Aashooraa’], so when the Prophet (ﷺ) arrived in al-Madinah he fasted it. So it was not introduced to him by the speech of the Jews as a legislative ruling requiring a comment about it; it was only a description of the situation, and a response to the question. So his statement, “He fasted it” – this is not an initiation of  his fasting at that time due to their statement, and even if it did carry that meaning [i.e. that the Prophet instituted the fasting based on a single report], then it is likely that he was informed of it by one of those who became a Muslim from among their scholars, such as Ibn al-Salaam of other than him.

قال القاضي : وقد قال بعضهم : يحتمل أنه صلى الله عليه وسلم كان يصومه بمكة ، ثم ترك صيامه حتى علم ما عند أهل الكتاب فيه فصامه ، قال القاضي : وما ذكرناه أولى بلفظ الحديث

Al-Qaadhi said: And some of them have said, “It is likely that he (ﷺ) used to fast [the day of ‘Aashooraa’] in Mecca, then he abandoned his fasting [on that day] until he learned that the Ahl al-Kitaab would fast it. And al-Qaadhi said: And what we have mentioned of it is according to the wording of the hadeeth.

قلت : المختار قول المازري ، ومختصر ذلك أنه صلى الله عليه وسلم كان يصومه كما تصومه قريش في مكة ، ثم قدم المدينة فوجد اليهود يصومونه فصامه أيضا بوحي أو تواتر أو اجتهاد ، لا بمجرد أخبار آحادهم . والله أعلم

I [Imam al-Nawawi] say: The statement of al-Maaziri is selected, and the summary of that is that he (ﷺ) used to fast it [‘Aashooraa’] just as the Quraish fasted it in Mecca, then when he arrived in al-Madinah he found the Jews fasting it, so he fasted it also according to revelation or mutawaatir reports or out of independent judgement, but not merely according to a single report. And Allah knows best.

[Sharh al-Nawawi ‘alaa Muslim pg 204]

See also: The Four Stages of Fasting ‘Aashooraa’: Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali

See also: Khutbah regarding ‘Aashooraa’: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: A brief clarification on ‘Aashooraa’: Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali

A brief clarification on ‘Aashooraa’: Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali

While discussing the virtue and prescribed acts of worship legislated for the day of ‘aashooraa’ (the 10th of Muharram), Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali briefly yet eloquently addresses a common misconception. He writes:

وأما اتخاذه  مأتماً كما تفعله الرافضة لأجل قتل الحسين بن علي رضي الله عنهما فيه, فهو من عمل مَن ضلّ سعيه في الحياة الدنيا وهو يحسب أنّه يُحسن صُنعاً, ولم يأمر الله ولا رسولُه باتخاذ أيّام مصائب الأنبياء وموتهم مأتماً, فكيف بمن دُونَهم؟

And as for taking it [i.e.yawm al-‘aashooraa’] as a time of mourning as the raafidhah (Shi’a) have made it on account of the murder of al-Hussain ibn ‘Ali (radiAllaahu ‘anhuma) on this day, then this is from the actions of those whose efforts have gone astray in the life of this dunya and who consider it as a beautified invention. And neither Allah nor His messenger ordered the taking of the calamitous days of the anbiyaa’ or their deaths as times of mourning, so then what about someone less than them?

[Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif pg. 113]

For a explanation of the true origin of fasting ‘Aashooraa’ and its merits, see: Khutbah regarding ‘Aashooraa’: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: A Comprehensive Statement regarding Bid’ah: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: The Mahdi will be from the offspring of al-Hasan: Ibn al-Qayyim

See also: Fasting ‘Aashooraa’: Sharh al-Nawawi

See also: The Four Stages of Fasting ‘Aashooraa’: Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali

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.