Some contemporary Shi‘ah jurisprudents have issued religious edicts [fatwas] that fasting on the day of ‘Ashura is undesirable [makruh] but not absolutely prohibited [haram]. Other Shi‘ah jurisprudents, such as Bahrani and Majlisi, have gone so far as to say that it is haram to fast on the day of ‘Ashura.
We will now examine the proofs put forward as reasons for the abhorrence [kirahat] of fasting on the day of ‘Ashura:
1. Fasting on the day of ‘Ashura was a way of life for the enemies of Islam and the Ahl al-Bayt (as) which Muslims should not revive and imitate.
2. Hadiths which denote the permissibility or even the incumbency of fasting on the day of ‘Ashura can be interpreted as staying hungry as a result of deep sorrow on the day of ‘Ashura, not for the sake of ritual fasting, and/or can be interpreted as instances of dissimulation [taqiyyah].
3. Fasting on the day of ‘Ashura was not customary among the Ahl al-Bayt (as) and their companions. It was not their way of life.
4. We interpret the hadiths that appear to prohibit fasting on the day of ‘Ashura to denote abhorrence, not absolute prohibition, because there is unity of conjecture and analogy between them and those hadiths which prohibit fasting on the day of ‘Ashura, especially that some of those prohibitive hadiths appear to denote abhorrence.
Many Shi‘ah jurisprudents have issued religious edicts that it is recommended [mustahabb] to abstain from food from morning up to mid-afternoon on ‘Ashura, but not with the intention of fasting. Among those who have issued this fatwa are Shahid Thani28, Muhaqqiq Kurki29, ‘Allamah Hilli30, Muhaqqiq Ardabili31, Shahid Awwal32, Shaykh Baha’i33, Sabzevari34, Fayd Kashani35, Hurr ‘Amili36, Majlisi37, Kashif al-Ghita’38, Naraqi39, Muhaqqiq Qummi40, and others.
28. Masalik al-Afham, vol. 2, p. 78.
29. Jami‘ al-Maqasid, vol. 3, p. 86.
30. Tadhkirah al-Fuqaha’, vol. 6, p. 192; Taharir al-Ahkam, vol. 1, p. 84.
31. Majma‘ al-Fa’idah wa al-Burhan, vol. 5, p. 188.
32. Al-Durus al-Shar‘iyyah, vol. 1, p. 382; Ghayah al-Murad, vol. 1, p. 329.
33. Jami‘ ‘Abbasi, p. 106.
34. Kifayah al-Ahkam, p. 520.
35. Al-Wafi, vol. 11, p. 76; Mafatih al-Shara’i‘, vol. 1, p. 284.
36. Bidayah al-Hidayah, vol. 1, p. 238.
37. Mir’at al-‘Uqul, vol. 16, p. 361.
38. Kashf al-Ghita’, p. 323.
39. Mustanad al-Shi‘ah, vol. 10, p. 487.
40. Ghana’im al-Ayyam, vol. 6, pp. 78-79.
Adapted from: "The Uprising of Ashura and Responses to Doubts" by: "‘Ali Asghar Ridwani"