Imam Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali (d. 795 AH), may Allah be pleased with him, declared about the first month, Muharram:
This was authentically narrated from Ibn `Abbas from his statement coming from the narration of Ibn Juraij, who said: It was narrated to us by `Ata’ that he heard Ibn `Abbas saying regarding the day of `Ashura’:
“Be different to the Jews. Fast the ninth and the tenth day.” The Imam, Ahmad ibn Hanbal said, “I uphold that position.” It was narrated from Ibn `Abbas on another occasion that he fasts the ninth and the tenth and this is connected to the fear of missing `Ashura’.
Ibn Abi Dhi’b narrated from Shu`bah, the freed slave of Ibn `Abbas from Ibn `Abbas that he would fast `Ashura’ even on the journey and the days would be consecutive out of fear of missing the day of `Ashura’.
It was also narrated from Abu Ishaq that he would fast the day of `Ashura’ and a day before or after and he said, “I only did that out of fear that I would miss the tenth.” It is also narrated from Muhammad ibn Sirin that he would fast three days when there was difference of opinion about the hilal bringing in the new month out of concern for missing a day.
It was narrated from Ibn `Abbas and Ad-Dahhak that the day of `Ashura’ is actually on the 9th day of Muharram. Muhammad ibn Sirin said of this, “They did not differ in that it was the 10th day of Muharram, the only exception being Ibn `Abbas. He said that it was the ninth.”
The Imam, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, through the narrative of Al-Maimuni, said, “I don’t whether the `Ashura’ is of the ninth or the tenth day but we fast both of them.” And if there would be some dispute about the hilal beginning the month, then he would fast three days to ensure that he had fasted the right day.
This was the position of Muhammad ibn Sirin along with those who also held it to be the ninth and tenth, that being Ash-Shafi`ii, may Allah be pleased with him, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Ishaq ibn Rahuwaih. The Imam, Abu Hanifah, disliked fasting the tenth alone without any day before or after.
Imam At-Tabarani collected a hadith from the narration of Ibn Abiz-Zinad from his father from Kharijah ibn Zaid from his father (Zaid ibn Thabit) who said, “The day of `Ashura’ is not the day in which the people say.
“It is a day in which the Ka`bah is shrouded and the Abyssinians would prepare the stitching in the time of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. This used to happen in the year and the people would come to a Jewish man and ask him. So when the Jewish man died, they came to Zaid ibn Thabit and asked him about it.”
Within this statement is an indication that `Ashura’ is not in the month of Al-Muharram but it is according to the measurement of the solar years like the People of the Book; but this is completely contrary to what the actions of the Muslims are upon, both ancient and today.
There is a collected report in the Sahih of Imam Muslim from the statement of Ibn `Abbas that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, used to count the days from the appearance of the hilal of Al-Muharram and he would start the ninth day fasting.
Ibn Abiz-Zinad is not to be depended upon regarding what he narrated by himself according to the report that preceded the one from Imam Muslim. In addition to that, he made the entire hadith to be from Zaid ibn Thabit and the last part of it cannot suitably be attributed to the statement of Zaid ibn Thabit. In that case, it may be from the statement of someone next to him or with him. And Allah knows best.
A group of the first three generations used to fast `Ashura’ while on travel, including such worthies as Ibn `Abbas, Abu Ishaq As-Sabi`ii, Ibn Shihab Az-Zuhri and he said, “Ramadan has a number of other days that can be delayed when the excuse arises while `Ashura’ not being fasted is a loss.”
Imam Ahmad explicitly stated that he would fast `Ashura’ even when he is on a journey. `Abdur-Razzaq narrated in his book from Isra’il from Sammak ibn Harb from Ma`bad Al-Qurshi who said, “The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was at Qadid when a man came to him.
“The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said, ‘Did you feed someone for this day of `Ashura’ or eat anything yourself? The man said, ‘I had nothing but a swallow of water.’ The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said, ‘So don’t eat anything else until the sun has set. And whoever is behind you, you should tell him that they should fast today.’ ”
It may be that the command given was something for the people of Qadid. There was a narration with his transmission from Tawus that he would fast `Ashura’ while resident but not while on a journey.
One of the most astonishing things narrated about `Ashura’ is that it is a day that the wild animals and beasts of pray would fast. There is an attributable hadith narrated in which the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said, “Indeed the impala is the first bird to fast `Ashura’.” Al-Khatib Al-Baghdadi collected this hadith in his Tarikh with his transmission but the narration was solitary while this was also narrated from Abu Hurairah as well.
It was narrated from Fath ibn Shakhruf that he said, “I was dropping bread every day for ants. When the day of `Ashura’ came, they did not eat.” It was narrated from Al-Qadirbillah, the `Abbasid khalifah that he had a similar situation to this and he was surprised by this thing. So he went and asked Abul Hasan Al-Qazwini the Zahid about it and the response of the Zahid was that today is `Ashura’ and the ants are fasting.
Abu Musa Al-Madini narrated with his chain of transmission from Qais ibn `Ibad who said, “It has reached me news that the wild animals fast on `Ashura’.” There is also a chain of transmission from a man that came to the desert on `Ashura’ and he saw the people slaughtering their hunt.
He asked the people about this and they informed him that the wild animals were fasting. They said, “Come out with us and you will see.” So they took him out to the meadow and they stopped there.
He said, “When the time after `Asr came, the wild animals came from every side and surrounded the meadow with their heads raised to the sky. They did not eat anything from the trees or around until the sun had set. Once that happened, they hastened forward and ate.”
There is also another chain of transmission from `Abdullah ibn `Amr who said, “Between China and India is a land that has within it a duck fashioned from copper sat on copper pillars. When the day of `Ashura’ came it would spread its beak and open it and out would come water that would inundate the fields and farmland until the following year.”
One of the scholars from the early generations was seen in a dream. When they asked him about his state, he said, “He forgave me on account of the fast of `Ashura’ for sixty years.”
Source: Lata’if ul-Ma`arif Fima Li-Mawasim il-`Ami Min Al-Waza’if, pp. 57-58