[Friday Sermon] Welcoming The New Islamic Year 1439 Ah And Fasting In The Month Of Muharram, By Imam Murtadha Gusau

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

All thanks and praise is due to Allah, we seek His help and forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah from the evil within ourselves and the consequences of our evil deeds. Whoever Allah guides will never be led astray, and whoever Allah leads astray will never find guidance. I bear witness there is no God but Allah, alone without any partners, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and His Messenger.

“O you who have believed, fear Allah as He should be feared and do not die except as Muslims in submission to Him.” (3:102)

“O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. And fear Allah, through whom you ask one another, and the wombs. Verily, Allah is ever watching over you.” (4:1)

“O you who have believed, fear Allah and speak words of appropriate justice. He will then amend for you your deeds and forgive your sins, and whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly attained a great attainment.” (33:70-71)

Verily, the most truthful speech is the Book of Allah, the best guidance is the guidance of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh), and the worst affairs are newly invented matters (In religion). Every newly invented matter (In religion) is a religious innovation, and every religious innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in the Hellfire.

Brothers and Sisters! This month Muharram marks the beginning of a new Islamic year, which was initiated after the Hijrah, or emigration, of Prophet Muhammad and which marked the formation of the first Muslim nation within an independent Islamic territory under the rule of Muslims.

Servants of Allah! The Muslims had no formal annual calendar until the caliphate of Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him. In the third or fourth year of his caliphate, Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, received a message from Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari, may Allah be pleased with him, who suggested that their future correspondence be confirmed with the appropriate date. Therefore, Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, gathered some of the surviving companions of the Prophet and consulted them on this matter. Some of them suggested adopting the Persian Calendar; others proposed adopting the Roman Calendar; others still proposed that the Muslims should form their own calendar and that it should start from the birth of the Prophet; another group agreed but thought that the new Islamic Calendar should start from the day on which the Prophet embarked upon his mission; another group believed that this new Islamic Calendar should begin from the emigration of the Prophet while a final group believed that it should start from his death.

After a long discussion, they (companions) may Allah be pleased with them all agreed unanimously to adopt that the Islamic Calendar should start from when the Prophet emigrated from Makkah to Madinah and that the first month of this new Calendar be that of Muharram. This is because Muharram is a sacred month and because it follows Zul-Hijjah which is the month in which the Muslims perform Hajj, or the pilgrimage, which is the last of the five pillars of Islam that was enjoined upon the Muslims.

Brothers and Sisters! Muharram also follows the month in which the Ansar (the Madinan followers of the Prophet) pledged allegiance to the Prophet (Pbuh) which was prior to his migration to Madinah. This pledge of allegiance was one of the introductory acts of the emigration itself and therefore Muharram was deemed the most suitable month to start the Islamic Calendar by the companions of the Prophet.

My beloved people! Wallahi it is truly saddening that some Muslims today have chosen to use only the Gregorian Calendar instead of the Hijrah calendar or Hijrah with Gregorian. The Gregorian calendar has no relation with Islam and although it has been in existence for long than that of the Hijrah Calendar, that is no excuse for the Muslims to adopt it. It is well known that the companions of the Prophet would hate that any Muslim would use the Roman or Persian Calendar only.

My people! We have just ushered in the new Hijrah year. Allah Says:

“Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve months (in a year) so was it ordained by Allah on the day when he created the Heaven and the Earth; of them four are Sacred – that is the right religion, so wrong not yourselves therein…” [Quran 9: 36]

And the Prophet (Pbuh) said:

“The year is of twelve months, out of which four months are sacred: Three are in succession Zul-Qa’ada, Zul-Hijjah and Muharram, and (the fourth is) Rajab…” (Bukhari)

These are the months that Allah has appointed for the whole of mankind. He, The Most Exalted, also Says:

“They ask you [O Muhammad], about the new moons. Say ‘They are measurements of time for the people and for Hajj (Pilgrimage].” [Quran: 189]

Therefore, we know that these months, based on the lunar calendar, were appointed for all of mankind and not just for the Arabs. This is due to the fact that the lunar months can very easily be detected and calculated by the sighting of the crescent-moon, which marks the end of the month and the beginning of a new one.

Respected Brothers and Sister! We are in the new Hijrah year. Know that it is not from the Sunnah to celebrate it or to congratulate one another on its advent (like taking it as festive period etc). For the Muslims, the passage of years does not constitute a real cause of happiness; rather, what counts is the amount of time spent in obedience to Allah during these years. The years that have passed will be considered as successful if they were spent in obedience to Allah, and miserable if they were spent in disobedience of Allah. Therefore, the most evil person is he who has lived a long life and has committed evil deeds throughout.

It is a must that we receive our days, months and years while in obedience to Allah. We must bring ourselves to account, redeem ourselves from our bad deeds and duly perform our responsibilities towards our parents, wives, children, relatives, associates, friends and humanity in general.

The advent of every new year is marked by many Muslims with sincere resolutions and plans to improve and become closer to their Lord, but the days and hours slip away while the people’s conditions remain the same, the inevitable result of such failures will be loss and disgrace in this world and the next. Therefore, we must invest our time in obedience to Allah and make sure that our spiritual condition is improving from year to year; for the more time runs away from us, the closer we are drawing to our graves.

Servants of Allah! The improvements in our worldly lives do us absolutely no good if our spiritual lives are not improving at the same time. No one can attain honour and dignity without submitting to the Lord of the Worlds, Allah. Safety, peace, tranquility and welfare cannot be attained except by adopting the methodology of the Messengers of Allah, may Allah exalt their mention. Be very clear that if any of you see welfare and pleasure accompanied with sins and deviation, then this is definitely a mere respite that has been given by Allah ahead of a total ruin and destruction. Thus, we must all stand firm in the obedience of Allah in order to protect ourselves from His punishment. Allah, The Almighty Says:

“…And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you, O believers, that you might succeed.” [Quran 24: 31]

Servants of Allah! Allah has also favoured certain months, days and nights more than others. The number of months is twelve, as decreed by Allah when He created the heavens and the earth. Among these twelve are four sacred months, Zul-Qa’adah, Zul-Hijjah, and Muharram, which are successive and the month of Rajab that comes between Jumada Al-Akhirah and Sha’aban. Know that the best day which the sun rises on is Friday and the night of Al-Qadr (Laylatul Qadr) is more virtuous than a thousand months. Therefore, we must all respect and esteem that which Allah has magnified.

Scholars maintain that the rewards for good deeds are multiplied in times and places which are favoured by Allah, and vice versa for bad deeds. The proof of this is from Allah’s Saying:

“They ask you concerning the sacred month – about fighting therein. Say, ‘Fighting therein is great [sin], but averting [people] from the way of Allah and disbelief in Him and [preventing access to] the Sacred Mosque [in Makkah] and the expulsion of its people therefrom are greater [evil] in the sight of Allah. And fitnah [Polytheism and Disbelief] is worse than killing.’ And they will continue to fight you until they turn you back from your religion if they are able. And whoever of you reverts from his religion [to disbelief] and dies while he is a disbeliever – for those, their deeds have become worthless in this world and the Hereafter, and those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide therein eternally.” [Quran 2: 217]

Muslims should not wrong themselves during the Sacred Months. They should stay well within the limits defined by Allah, fulfill all His obligations, shun all His prohibitions and fulfill the rights of the people.

Respected Brothers and Sisters! Many rewards and blessings can be gained throughout the Islamic year, not only in Ramadan. The blessed month of Muharram is the first month of the Hijrah calendar and is one of the four sacred months concerning which Allah Almighty Says:

“Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] months in the register of Allah [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred. That is the correct religion, so do not wrong yourselves during them…” [Quran 9:36]

Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said that this phrase “so do not wrong yourselves during them… ” referred to all the months, then these four were singled out and made sacred, so that sin in these months is more serious and good deeds bring a greater reward.

The Messenger of Allah, (Pbuh), said:

“The best of fasting after Ramadan is fasting Allah’s month of Muharram.” [Muslim]

The phrase “Allah’s month”, connecting the name of the month to the name of Allah in a genitive grammatical structure signifies the importance of the month. Al-Qari said:

“The apparent meaning is all of the month of Muharram.”

But it is known that the Prophet (Pbuh) never fasted any whole month apart from Ramadan, so this Hadith is probably meant to encourage increasing one’s fasting during Muharram, without implying that one should fast for the entire month.

It was reported that the Prophet (Pbuh) used to fast more in Sha’aban. It is likely that the virtue of Muharram was not revealed to him until the end of his life. [An-Nawawi and Muslim]

Al-Izz ibn Abdus-Salam said that:

“Allah makes certain times and placed sacred or blessed in order to encourage his servants for righteous deeds and bestow a greater reward for them.” [Qawa’id Al-Ahkam]

* Ashura in history

Brothers and Sisters! The tenth day of Muharram, known as Ashura, has a special significance. Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said:

“The Prophet, (Pbuh), came to Madinah and saw the Jews fasting on the day of Ashura. He said: ‘What is this? They said: ‘This is a righteous day, it is the day when Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemies, so Prophet Musa fast-ed on this day.’ He (Pbuh) said: ‘We have more right to Musa than you,’ so he fasted on that day and commanded (the Muslims) to fast on that day.” [Al-Bukhari]

Therefore the practice of fasting on Ashura was known even in the days of Jahiliyyah, before the Prophet’s Message. It was reported that Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, said:

“The people of Jahiliyyah used to fast on that day.”

Imam Qurtubi said:

“Perhaps the Quraish used to fast on that day on the basis of some previous law, like that of Ibrahim, may Allah exalt his mention.”

Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said:

“I never saw the Messenger of Allah so keen to fast any day and give it priority over any other time than the day of Ashura and the month of Ramadan.” [Al-Bukhari]

The Prophet also said:

“For fasting the day of Ashura, I hope that Allah will accept it as expiation for the past year.” [Muslim]

* It is recommended to fast the ninth in addition to the tenth of Muharram.

Abdullah ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said:

“When the Messenger of Allah fasted on Ashura and commanded the Muslims to fast as well, they said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, it is a day that is venerated and respected by the Jews and Christians.’ The Messenger of Allah said: ‘If I live to see the next year, ‘Inshaa Allah’, we will fast on the ninth day too.’ But it so happened that the Messenger of Allah passed away before the next year came.” [Muslim]

If a person does not know when Muharram began, and he wants to be sure of fasting on the tenth, he should assume that Zul-Hijjah was thirty days—as is the usual rule—and should fast on the ninth and tenth.

Imam an-Nawawi said that it expiates all minor sins and that is:

“Fasting the day of Arafah expiates sins for two years, and the day of Ashura expiates for one year… If there are minor sins for which expiation is desired, expiation for them will be accepted; if there are no minor sins or major sins, good deeds will be added to the servant’s account and he will be raised in status… If he had committed major sins but no minor sins, we hope that his major sins will be reduced.” [See Al-Majmu’ sharh al-Muhaththab]

* Fasting Ashura when one still has days to make up from Ramadan

The jurists (Fuqaha) differed concerning the ruling on observing voluntary fasts before making up the missed days from Ramadan or other obligatory fasts like for the fulfillment of a vow. The Hanafi jurists said that it is permissible to observe voluntary fasts before making up for the obligatory fasts, while the Maliki and Shafi’i scholars say that it is permissible but Makruh (disliked). The Hanbali scholars say that it is Haram (forbidden) and a person must give priority to the obligatory fasts until he has made them up. [See Al-Mawsu’ah al-Fiqhiyyah]

Servants of Allah! Muslims must hasten to make up any missed fasts after Ramadan, so that they will be able to fast Arafah and Ashura without any problem. If a person fasts Arafah and Ashura with the intention from the night before making up for a missed fast, this will be good enough to make up what he has missed, for the bounty of Allah is great.

* Avoiding innovations on Ashura

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (Rahimahullah) was asked about the authenticity of some things that people do on Ashura to seek reward, such as wearing kohl/kwalli, taking a bath, wearing henna/lalle shaking hands with one another, cooking grains (hubub) or food or something called cika-ciki and so on. Some other people mark this day by grieving and mourning, not drinking, wailing and rending their garments. His reply was:

“Nothing to that effect has been reported in any sound Hadith from the Prophet or his Companions. None of the Imams encouraged such things, neither the four Imams, nor any others. No reliable scholars have narrated anything like this, neither from the Prophet nor from his Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, nor from the Tabi’in; neither in any authentic report or in a weak report; neither in the books of Sahih, nor in as-Sunan, nor in the Musnads. No Hadith of this nature was known during the best centuries, but some of the later narrators reported Hadiths like:

“Whoever puts kohl/kwalli in his eyes on the day of Ashura will not suffer from eye disease in that year, and whoever takes a bath on the day of Ashura will not get sick in that year” and so on. They also reported a fabricated Hadith that is falsely attributed to the Prophet which says:

“Whoever is generous to his family on the day of Ashura, Allah will be generous to him for the rest of the year.”

Reporting all of this from the Prophet is tantamount to forging lies against him.

Servants of Allah! Let us remember Allah’s Messenger’s Hijrah from Makkah to Madinah, and the transformation of Yathrib into Madinah.

Let us reminisce about Hijrah, the great milestone in the Islamic cause.

Let us remember Umar’s adoption of Hijrah as the beginning of the Islamic calendar.

And let us remember that the real Hijrah today is to emigrate from evil that is forbidden from Allah and His Messenger.

On that note, I pray to the Almighty Lord that our new hijrah year which starts today may bring good things to all of us.

Wishing you and your family New Year full of peace, happiness and abundance of all. May Allah bless you through out the new year. Ameen.

I ask Allah to assist us in living by the Quran and Sunnah. I pray He lets us recognise the truth for what it is and helps us to follow it, and that He lets us see falsehood for what it is and helps us to avoid it.

O Allah! Guide us and protect us from the causes of ignorance and destruction! Save us from the defects of ourselves! Cause the last of our deeds to be the best and most righteous! And forgive all of us. Ameen Yaa Rabb!

My respected people! Anything good I have said in my today’s Khutbah (Sermon) is from Allah the Almighty, and any mistakes are my own and we seek refuge in Allah from giving wrong advice and from all forms of calamities and fitnah. And I ask Allah’s forgiveness if I stepped beyond bounds in anything I said or I do.

May Allah be praised; and may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon His Messenger Muhammad and upon his family and Companions.

With this I conclude my Khutbah (Sermon) and ask Allah, the Almighty and the sublime, to forgive all of our sins. So seek his forgiveness, He is all forgiving and Most Merciful.

This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday Sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Friday, Muharram 1st, 1439 AH (September 22, 2017), by Imam Murtadha Muhammad Gusau, the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and late Alhaji Abdurrahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: +2348038289761.

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