Ashura is the tenth day of the month of Muharram – the first day of the Islamic calendar. This year, the day falls on August 18-19. Ashura is a prominent event for Sunni Muslims as they commemorate the death of Husayn Ibn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, in the Battle of Karbala.
Here is all you need to know about Ashura and how it is celebrated.
The Battle of Karbala is an important event in the History of Islam. When Yazid I took charge of the throne, he instructed the governor of Medina to compel prominent figures, including Husayn Ibn Ali, to pledge their loyalty and allegiance to him.
However, Husayn believed that Yazid was not abiding by the teachings of Islam, and thus, he refused to pledge and sought asylum in Mecca with his family. Yazid sent troops to assassinate Husayn, and Husayn retaliated, leading to the Battle of Karbala. The battle lasted from morning to sunset, ending Husayn’s death.
Husayn fought the battle with a small troop, including his friends, family members, and followers. Sunni Muslims across the world celebrate Ashura to commemorate his death in battle.
How Is Ashura Celebrated?
Ashura is a national holiday in Middle Eastern and South Asian countries, including Afghanistan, Iran, Lebanon, Iran, Pakistan, and Bahrain. Sunni Muslims fast on Ashura, as it is said that Prophet Muhammat fasted on this day. That said, it isn’t compulsory to fast on Ashura.
Also, Shia and Sunni Muslims may celebrate it in different ways.
Many countries hold mourning rituals, also known as Azadari. Remembrance ceremonies for the martyrdom of Husayn Ibn Ali are organized, which include mourning congregations, matam, and lamentations.
Celebrations in Different Countries
Five popular celebrations around the battle of Karbala are prevalent. These include:
Visiting Husayn’s tomb on the tenth day of Ashura
Public mourning processions
Shia Muslims believe that taking part in Ashura ceremonies washes away their sins. They see Ashura not as a festival but as a sad event. It is a time of intense mourning and grief. People congregate at nearby mosques for sorrowful recitations in the memory of Husayn’s martyrdom.
Significance among Shia and Sunni Muslims
For Shia Muslims, Ashura is of high significance, especially for Alawites and Twelver Shias, who consider Husayn, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad and his rightful successor. They commemorate the day by holding mourning ceremonies. Sunni Muslims, on the other hand, do optional fasting. Earlier, fasting on Ashura was mandatory, but later, it was superseded by fasting during Ramadan.
According to Muslim history, Jews also fasted on Ashura as Allah saved Israel from their enemy. Thus, Moses (Musa) fasted on that day.
Ashura is of significant importance for both Shia and Sunni Muslims. For Shia Muslims, it is a day of extreme grief and mourning, whereas Sunni Muslims do optional fasting to commemorate the day. Ashura is celebrated in almost all countries in the Middle East.
So, how is Ashura celebrated in your country?