Eve of Ashura'

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Eve of ʿĀshūrāʾ (Arabic: لیلة عاشوراء) is the night before the tenth day of Muharram (the day of Ashura). This night is important because Imam al-Husayn (a) and his steadfast companions were martyred the next day. Imam al-Husayn (a) spoke to his companions during this night and called them the most steadfast companions, and they, in turn, gave valiant speeches and announced their fidelity to him. In annually mourning ceremonies for Imam al-Husayn (a) at the night before Ashura, the events that occurred in Imam al-Husayn's (a) camp at this night are recounted.

Events of the night before Ashura

The renewal of allegiance to Imam al-Husayn (a)

Early at night Imam al-Husayn (a) gathered his companions. After praising God, he told them: "I cannot find companions more allegiant and better than my companions, and I cannot find a household kinder and more helpful than my household. May God reward you!" He went on to say: "I think this was the last opportunity that these people gave to us. Be aware that I permit you to leave me. So you can go since you are no longer under my allegiance. Now that it is dark everywhere, you can leave with a horse."

At this time, Imam al-Husayn's (a) household and then his companions gave valiant speeches and announced their fidelity to him. They emphasized that they will risk their lives to stay with him. Some historical sources and maqtals reported some of these speeches.[1]

Security of the camps

The night before Ashura, 'Abbas b. Ali (a) was in charge of protecting the camps of Imam al-Husayn's (a) family. Although there was not supposed to be a battle that night, Abbas (a) took caution to watch the camps during the night. He was accompanied by Zuhayr b. Qayn.[2]

Burayr's talks with 'Umar b. Sa'd

According to some sources, Burayr b. Khudayr al-Hamdani asked Imam al-Husayn's (a) permission to go to Umar b. Sa'd and admonish him. Imam al-Husayn (a) permitted him.

Burayr went to 'Umar b. Sa'd; he entered 'Umar's camp and sat there without saying hello. 'Umar was irritated by Burayr's treatment and told him: "O' the Hamdani brother! What made you not say hello to me? Am I not a Muslim? Do I not know God and his Prophet (s) and do I not testify the truth?"

Burayr replied: "If you knew God and the Prophet (s), as you claim, you would not determine to kill the Prophet's (s) household. What is more, this is the clear water of Euphrates with its waves twisting like snakes, from which animals in Iraq drink, while al-Husayn b. Ali (a), his brothers, women, and household are dying from thirst. You have denied them the water, and yet you think you know God and the Prophet (s)?"

'Umar b. Sa'd replied after a moment of reflection: "Burayr! I swear to God that whoever fights with them and usurps their rightful place will end up in the Hell, but do you want me to leave the rule of Rey to someone else? I swear to God that I cannot accept this."

He then said: "I was asked by 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad to undertake this task. I swear to God that I am stuck in a dilemma: should I abandon the rule of Rey, which has always been my dream, or should I commit the sin of killing al-Husayn? There is a fire in killing al-Husayn that cannot be stopped, but the rule of Rey is so much as a dream."

Burayr went back to Imam al-Husayn (a) and told him: "O' the son of the Prophet (s)! 'Umar b. Sa'd would rather kill you than abandon the rule of Rey."[3]

An inspection of the battlefield

Imam al-Husayn's (a) poems he composed the night before Ashura

O' the world! Damn you, such a friend!

How many people are there upon sunrise and sunset?

How many of your companions or seekers have you killed?

And the world is never content with duplicates.

Everything goes back to God.

And every living being is on its path.

~ al-Irshad , vol. 2, p. 93

During the night before Ashura, Nafi' b. Hilal noticed that Imam al-Husayn (a) went out of his camp, on his own, to inspect the hills around. Nafi' followed Imam (a). When Imam (a) noticed the presence of Nafi', he told him: "Why did you come out of your camp?" Nafi' replied: "O' the son of the Prophet (s)! I am worried about your life, especially when you show up to this cruel army." Imam (a) said: "I have come out to inspect the ups and downs of this field before tomorrow's war breaks", said Imam al-Husayn (a). When the inspection was all done, Imam al-Husayn (a) said Nafi': "Do you not want to disappear in this dark night to save your life?" Nafi' fell on Imam al-Husayn's (a) feet and replied: "I have a sword that is worth one thousand dirhams and I have a horse that is worth about one thousand dirhams. I swear to God who privileged and honored me to be here that I would never leave you alone so long as my sword can cut".[4]

Lady Zaynab's (a) worry about the fidelity of the companions

After this dialogue, Imam al-Husayn (a) went to his sister, Zaynab's (a) tent. Nafi' b. Hilal stayed outside waiting for Imam (a). He overheard Lady Zaynab (a) saying to Imam (a): "Have you put your companions to test? I am worried about them betraying us and surrendering you to the enemy". Imam al-Husayn (a) replied: "I swear to God that I have tested them. They are brave people who look at death with the corner of their eyes and they love to die for me just as an infant loves its mother's breast".

Nafi' thought that Imam al-Husayn's (a) household may have concerns about the faithfulness and perseverance of Imam's (a) companions. So he went to Habib b. Muzahir and talked to him about the concerns of Imam's (a) households. They decided to go to Imam al-Husayn (a) and his households to ensure them that they will defend them until the last breath of their lives.[5]

Habib b. Muzahir called Imam's (a) companions and told Banu Hashim to return to their camps. He then told the remaining people what he had heard from Nafi'. They all said: "We swear to God—who privileged and honored us to be here—that we would attack the enemy had we not been waiting for Imam al-Husayn's (a) command".

Habib b. Muzahir and other companions of Imam al-Husayn (a) approached the camps of Imam's (a) households with their drawn swords and said: "O' the household of the Prophet (s)! These are the swords of your men that will not go back to the sheath unless they kill your enemies. These are your men's spears, and they swear to push them into your enemy's breasts".[6]

The night of praying

On the evening of Tasu'a, Umar b. Sa'd ordered his army to break the war against Imam al-Husayn (a) and his companions. When Imam al-Husayn (a) found out about the order, he told his brother, 'Abbas b. Ali (a): "if possible, convince them to postpone the war until tomorrow so that we can have the opportunity to pray to God. Only God knows how much I love to pray and recite the Qur'an."[7]

According to some sources, Imam al-Husayn (a) and his companions spent the night performing prayers and orisons.[8]

Practices for the eve of Ashura

According to Mafatih al-jinan, special practices are recommended for this night, including:

  • Vigilance during the night: according to a hadith from the Prophet (s), vigilance during the night before Ashura amounts to the worships performed by all the angels.
  • Performing one hundred rak'as of prayer: in each rak'a Sura al-Hamd should be recited first and then Sura al-Ikhlas should be recited three times, and when all the rak'as of the prayer are performed, the following recitation should be made: "Exaltations to Allah and praise to Allah and there is no god except Allah, and Allah is great and there is no might nor power except in Allah the high, the great."
  • Four rak'as should be said at the end of the night, in each Sura al-Hamd should be recited first, and then the following should be recited respectively: al-Kursi Verse ten times, Sura al-Ikhlas ten times, Sura al-Falaq ten times and then Sura al-Nas ten times. When the prayer is finished, Sura al-Ikhlas should be recited one hundred times.[9]

See Also


  1. Mufīḍ, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 91-94; Ṭabrisī, Iʿlām al-warā, vol. 1, p. 239.
  2. Baḥr al-ʿUlūm, Maqtal al-Ḥusayn, p. 314.
  3. Ibn Ṣabbāgh al-Mālikī, al-Fuṣūl al-muhimma, vol. 2, p. 821-822.
  4. Muqarram, Maqtal al-Ḥusayn, p. 219.
  5. Bihbahānī, al-Damʿa al-sākiba, vol. 4, p. 273-274.
  6. Muqarram, Maqtal al-Ḥusayn, p. 219.
  7. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 5, p. 417; Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 91.
  8. Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 91.
  9. See: Qummī, Mafātīh al-jinān, the practices of the night before Ashura.


  • Bihbahānī, Muḥammad Bāqir. Al-Damʿa al-sākiba fī aḥwāl al-nabīyy wa l-ʿitra al-ṭāhira. Edited by Ḥusayn Aʿlamī. Beirut: Muʾassisat al-Aʿlamī li-l-Maṭbūʿāt, 1409 AH.
  • Ibn Ṣabbāgh Mālikī. Al-Fuṣūl al-muhimma. Qom: Dār al-Ḥadīth, 1422 AH.
  • Irbilī, ʿAlī b. ʿĪsā al-. Kashf al-ghumma fī maʿrifat al-aʾimma. Qom: Raḍī, 1421 AH.
  • Mufīḍ, Muḥammad b. Muḥammad al-. Al-Irshād. Qom: Kungira-yi Shaykh al-Mufīd, 1413 AH.
  • Muqarram, ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-. Maqtal al-Ḥusayn. Translated to Farsi by Makhdūmī. Qom: Nashr-i Naṣāyiḥ, 1387 Sh.
  • Ṭabarī, Muḥammad b. Jarīr al-.Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk. Edited by Muḥammad Abu l-faḍl Ibrāhīm. Second edition. Beirut: Dar al-Turāth, 1387 AH.
  • Ṭabrisī, Faḍl b. al-Ḥasan al-. Iʿlām al-warā. Tehran: Islāmīyya, 1390 AH.