Saturday is the day of ‘Ashurā. Some are saying that we shouldn’t fast that day because it is a Saturday and it is not allowed for us to do so. Is this correct?
Fasting on the day of ‘Ashurā is a recommended fast. The reported aḥādith which are often alluded to are in reference to singling out Saturday as a day for fasting. Several scholars have disagreed though over the authenticity of the tradition(s) itself, such as Mālik’s assertion that it was wrong; Abu Dāwud stating it was abrogated, and Nasā’i arguing it was disrupted. Others have asserted that it is Ṣaḥīḥ, such as al-Ḥākim who said it was Ṣaḥīḥ upon the conditions of Bukhāri, though he didn’t record it. Putting aside a detailed discussion concerning the authenticity of the aḥādith, the intention to fast would be for that of ‘Ashurā, which as it happens coincides with a Saturday, not merely singling out Saturday as a day of fasting. Similarly, fasting the ‘white days’ (13th/15th of the lunar month) would at times fall on a Friday and Saturday. Again, the intention being not to single out Saturday for fasting, or Friday, which is the Eid of the week but rather, because it is to observe the white days.
Given that there doesn’t appear to be any additional connotations or indications to the ḥādith regarding not to fast on Saturday, it would appear to indicate undesirability (if judged authentic) rather than an outright prohibition.
Some, though by no means all of what has been mentioned upon this topic is set out below.
Fasting on the day of ‘Ashurā
Writing in Bidāyat Al-Mujtahid (Vol. 1, p. 361) Ibn Rushd says:
The fasts that are considered desirable and are agreed upon are the fasts of the ‘Ashurā…The fast of the day of ‘Ashurā is established, because, ‘the Messenger of Allah (God’s peace and blessings be upon him) kept a fast on this day and ordered that it be observed as a fast’, and he said about it ‘that one who wakes up without fasting should complete the rest of the day fasting.’
Imām Muslim recorded a long tradition in his Ṣaḥīḥ, abridged with the channel as presented here:
And Yaḥya ibn Yaḥya at-Tamimi and Qutayba ibn Sa’eed together narrated to us from Ḥammād – Yaḥya said Ḥammād ibn Zayd reported to us from Ghaylān from Abdallah ibn Ma’bad az-Zimmāni from Abu Qatādah…then the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him said: … and I seek from Allah that fasting on the day of ‘Ashurā may atone for the sins of the preceding year.
Tirmidhi records similarly in his Sunan from Abu Qatādah but with the following reported wording: ‘Fast the Day of ‘Ashurā, for indeed I anticipate that Allah will forgive (the sins of) the year before it.’ After citing this Abu Esa at-Tirmidhi comments with the following:
There are narrations on this topic from Ali, Muḥammad ibn Sayfi, Salamah ibn al-Akwa, Hind ibn ‘Asma, Ibn ‘Abbās, ar-Rubayya’ bint Mu’awwidth bin ‘Afra, Abdar-Raḥman ibn Salama al-Khuza’i from his uncle and Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr. They mentioned that the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him encouraged fasting the Day of ‘Ashurā. Abu Esa said: We do not know of any narration in which he said that fasting the Day of ‘Ashurā expiates (the sins of) a year, except for the narration of Abu Qatādah, and the ḥadith of Abu Qatādah is followed by Aḥmad and Isḥāq.
Fasting on Saturday
Again, Ibn Rushd furnishes us with a useful summary on this point in Bidāyat Al-Mujtahid (Vol. 1, p. 364):
The reason for their disagreement about fasting on Saturday arises from their dispute about the authenticity of the report from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that he said: Do not fast on a Saturday, except (the occasion) when it is obligatory for you. It is recorded by Abu Dāwud. They said that this tradition has been abrogated by the tradition of Juwayriya bint al-Ḥārith: that the Prophet (God’s peace and blessings be upon him) came up to her on a Friday, when she was fasting, and said: Did you fast yesterday? She said: No. He said: Do you wish to fast tomorrow? She said: No. He said: Then break your fast.
The ḥadith that Abu Dāwud recorded in his Sunan is as follows:
Ḥumayd ibn Mas’ada narrated to us Sufyān ibn Ḥabeeb narrated to us, ḥawala, and Yazeed ibn Qubays narrated to us – from the people of Jabala – al-Waleed narrated to us, all of them from Thawr ibn Yazeed from Khalid ibn Ma’dan from Abdullah ibn Busr as-Sulaymi from his sister, and Yazeed as-Samma’ said that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Do not fast on Saturday except what has been made obligatory on you; and if one of you can get nothing but a grape skin or a piece of wood from a tree, he should chew it. Abu Dāwud said: this ḥadith is mansukh.
The narration is also to be found in several of the Sunan collections such as those of Ibn Mājah, Tirmidhi, Bayhaqy, ad-Dārimi, as well as being recorded in the Musnad of Aḥmad and others. The next narration that Abu Dāwud cites after this is the tradition of Juwayriyah bint al-Ḥārith. Presumably in his view, the wording of that narration, where the Prophet (peace be upon him) enquired as she was fasting on a Friday: ‘do you intend to fast tomorrow? being the licence to fast on Saturday. Bukhāri records the tradition of Juwayriyah bint al-Ḥārith as well in his Ṣaḥīḥ. The wording and comment that Tirmidhi has, is the following:
حَدَّثَنَا حُمَيْدُ بْنُ مَسْعَدَةَ حَدَّثَنَا سُفْيَانُ بْنُ حَبِيبٍ عَنْ ثَوْرِ بْنِ يَزِيدَ عَنْ خَالِدِ بْنِ مَعْدَانَ عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ بُسْرٍ عَنْ أُخْتِهِ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ لاَ تَصُومُوا يَوْمَ السَّبْتِ إِلاَّ فِيمَا افْتَرَضَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكُمْ فَإِنْ لَمْ يَجِدْ أَحَدُكُمْ إِلاَّ لِحَاءَ عِنَبَةٍ أَوْ عُودَ شَجَرَةٍ فَلْيَمْضُغْهُ
قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَى هَذَا حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ. وَمَعْنَى كَرَاهَتِهِ فِي هَذَا أَنْ يَخُصَّ الرَّجُلُ يَوْمَ السَّبْتِ بِصِيَامٍ لأَنَّ الْيَهُودَ تُعَظِّمُ يَوْمَ السَّبْتِ
Humayd ibn Mas’ada narrated to us Sufyan ibn Habeeb narrated to us from Thawr ibn Yazeed from Khālid ibn Ma’dan from Abdullah ibn Busr from his sister, that the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him said: Do not fast on Saturday except for what has been made obligatory upon you (by Allah). If one of you does not find but a grape peal or a tree’s twig, then let him chew it.
Abu Esa said: This ḥadith is ḥasan. The dislike here applies to when a man distinguishes Saturday by fasting it, because the Jews revere Saturday.
All success with Allah, and ultimately Allah knows best.