Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research

Episode 8: 3 Years of Fasting

Imagine that fasting two specific days out of the Islamic calendar can redeem the sins of 3 years. In episode 8 of the Virtues of Dhul Hijjah, Dr. Omar Suleiman explains how fasting the Day of ‘Arafah and the Day of ‘Ashura can expiate the sins of 3 years, according to Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

Episode Transcript

(Note: the transcript has been edited for clarity)

0:00 – 0:25 Fasting 3 years in two days

Assalmu Alaykum wa Rahmah Allah wa Barakatu everyone, welcome back to the Virtues of Dhul-Hijjah.

What if I told you, you could fast three years in two days? This is the blessing of Allah SWT and the mercy of Allah upon us in giving us these two days to fast in which we get three years. Now what two days am I talking about?

0:26 – 2:08 Understanding the Islamic calendar

This is the benefit of knowing the Islamic calendar. The Prophet SAW said that when a person fasts Arafah, the day of Arafah, that Allah expiates the sins of the year before and the year after. Then the Prophet SAW said that whoever fast the Day of Ashura, Allah expiates the year before of sin. So I’m gonna say that again – the blessing of fasting Arafah is that Allah SWT expiates the sins of the year before and the year after. The benefit of fasting the day of Ashura is that Allah removes the sins or expiates the sins of the year before. What does that mean and how is that three years?

Dhul-Hijjah is the last month of the Islamic year. So if Allah expiates the year before and the year after, then that is within the last month. Muharram is the first month of the Islamic year, and Ashura is the tenth day of the first month of the Islamic year. So that means if Allah expiates the year before in the first month of the Islamic year, that that includes the current year that you are in right now in Dhul-Hijjah.

So let me explain it in inshallah in this way- if it’s the year 1440, then when you fast the day of Arafah, Allah expiates 1439 and 1441. Once you move into Muharram, the first month of 1441, and you have the day of Ashura, Allah expiates 1440 because it’s the year before. So it’s the blessing of Allah (swt) that these two months come right next to each other, and Arafah and Ashura are only one month apart, and that Allah SWT expiates three years as a result of that.

2:09 – 3:30 Fasting Arafah and Ashura used to be obligatory

Now when did the fasting of Arafah and Ashura come? The Prophet SAW recieved this very early on in Medina. This is what Allah refers to when He says, “Kutiba alaykum alsiyam kama kutiba ala alatheena min qablikum la’alakum tataqun ayaman ma’dudat.”

“That Allah has prescribed fasting upon you as he prescribed it on those who came before you- Ayaman ma’dudat– a few days”, there were a few days. The idea here of a few days (selected dates) was referring to these two days.

This was the first legislation before Ramadan, and when these days were legislated people were given a choice in the Quran whether to fast these days or to give Fidya to feed a poor person instead. So you actually had the option if you wanted to fast Ashura or fast Arafah, you could fast them, but you were obligated to either fast or give a fidya to feed a poor person for the day that you would not fast.

Then came Ramadan. Of course with the legislation of Ramadan, you are not allowed to purposefully miss a day of Ramadan and to give fidya instead unless you cannot fast permanently, then you give Fidya to make up for that day that you cannot fast permanently. So the rules changed a little bit with Ramadan, as well as Arafah and Ashura now being voluntary days to fast instead of obligatory days to fast.

3:31 – 4:47 The days of Arafah and Ashura are specific and limited

So once the month of Ramadan came, Arafah and Ashura are voluntary days to fast, they’re no longer obligatory days to fast. Ibn Abbas (ra) had an incident that happened with him where someone from the tabi’in- from the second generation of Muslims said to Ibn Abbas, “ajaban lakum ashaba Rasul Allah.”

“How strange a thing that we witnessed from you, O companions of The Messenger of Allah SAW. We noticed that when you travel or you are sick in the days Ramadan, that you skip those days, that you break your fast, but we noticed that you fast these days of Arafah and Ashura even as you are traveling.” So you don’t miss the days of Arafah and Ashura even as you’re traveling.

So Ibn Abbas (ra) responded and he said, “Allah says about the days of Ramadan that whoever is traveling or unable to, “fa’idatun min ayamin ukhar,” they can simply make them up on other days and they would not be deprived of the reward, but there is no like expiation or making up for the days of Arafah and Ashura. They are days that are limited and they are timings that are specific, and so if a person – even if a person is fasting – if they can fast those days inshallah ta’ala as they’re traveling, they can fast those days of Arafah and Ashura then the should.

4:48 – 5:57 If you have to miss the fast because of a restriction

What then about, you know sisters particularly for example who cannot fast those days or someone who is permanently ill and cannot fast those days? The Prophet SAW said, ‘Whoever misses a good deed that they would have done but they missed it (due to sickness or travel or something out of their hands), that Allah SWT would give them the reward for its fully without taking anything away from it.’

So if a person would have fasted those days, had they not been restrained due to a circumstance, Allah knows that and Allah will give you the full reward so you do the other good deeds that you’re not restricted from, and count on Allah SWT to give you the good deed of fasting because Allah knows that you would have fasted had you been able to and Allah SWT is Merciful and Allah is Just, and Allah SWT will not remove any of the blessings of that. So don’t worry too much about that inshaAllah. Put that in Allah’s scale.

Don’t be sad and don’t think that you’re being punished because you’re unable to fast this day. No- Allah SWT has given you a gift. It’s okay, the reward is assured. Do the other things inshaAllah ta’ala that can be done for those days.

5:58 – 6:24 Du’a

We ask Allah SWT to allow us to witness these days of fasting and we ask Allah SWT to forgive us for any shortcomings and we ask Allah SWT to grant us expiation not just for three years, but for our entire lifetimes.

Allahuma Ameen. JazakumAllahu Khayran, Wassalamu Alaykum wa Rahmah Allah Wabarakatuh.

Dr. Omar Suleiman

Dr. Omar Suleiman

President | Imam Dr. Omar Suleiman is the Founder and President of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, and an Adjunct Professor of Islamic Studies in the Graduate Liberal Studies Program at Southern Methodist University.