Ashura is a holy day for Muslims all over the world, celebrated on the 10th day of Muharram, according to the Islamic calendar. This year, Ashura falls on September 20. The Shi’a Muslims see it as the climax of the Remembrance of Muharram and the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali (the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad) at the battle of Karbala.
For the Sunnis, Ashura is the day Moses fasted to show his gratitude for the freedom of the Israelites. Today is also a holy day of mourning observed primarily by Shi’a Muslims. Other Muslim sects spend the day fasting and meditating.
Ashura - History
War on peace
In Dhaka, Bangladesh on October 24, three explosions kill one person and injure 80 in an Ashura procession.
Ashura commemoration banned in Iraq
In a purely political move, Saddam Hussein bans the religious observence honoring Ashura commemorations.
- 680 AD
The Battle of Karbala
The battle takes place between Husayn ibn Ali, his supporters, and the Yazid forces. Husayn and his supporters are beheaded. Islam remembers them as martyrs and the battle has great significance for Shi'a Muslims.
- 622 AD
What Muhammad designated
After Hijrah, when the Prophet Muhammad flees persecution by traveling from Mecca to Medina, Muhammad designates Ashura as a day of fasting from sunset to sunset. Later Ashura becomes a voluntary observance.
How to Observe Ashura
On this day, Shi'a Muslims wear mourning attire, while some make pilgrimages to the shrine in Karbala, Iraq. Observances include offering respect and mourning the passing of Husayn. Parties, music, and weddings are banned during this sad time.
For Sunni Muslims, Ashura is a time for fasting to show gratitude for the victory God gave to Moses. It commemorates the day when Allah created a path in the Red Sea and saved Moses and his followers.
In Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Hosay (Ashura) takes on a unique character that demonstrates religious tolerance and mutual respect. Attended by Muslims and people of other faiths, the celebration has absorbed influences from many other religions like Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, and traditional Baptist practices.
5 Things To Learn About Ashura, One Of Islam's Holiest Days
It's where Judaism and Islam intersect
For the Sunnis, Ashura is the Islamic equivalent of Yom Kippur, marking the day God parted the Red Sea to save his people.
It's one of Islam's high holy days
Ashura occurs in September, one of the four sacred months of Islam.
The date changes according to the calendar
The date for Ashura remains the same (the 10th day of Muharram) in the Islamic calendar but changes every year for people who follow the Gregorian calendar.
It's a day of renewal and forgiveness
Some believe that a day’s fast on Ashura purges all the sins of the previous year.
Self-flagellation is still practiced
Self-flagellation is practiced by many Muslims (mainly Shi'a men) in some parts of the world in remembrance of the sacrifice of Husayn.
Why Ashura is Important
It's one of the holiest days of observance for Muslims
A quarter of the world’s population practices Islam. On the holy day of Ashura, Muslims consider all the ways to improve and grow stronger in their faith, thereby earning more blessings.
It focuses on selflessness and love for humanity
The moral teachings of Husayn come alive through the holy practices during Muharram. Through fasting or mourning, people remember the sacrifice of Husayn, and how his blood at the Battle of Karbala revived humanity and restored moral values.
It celebrates the victory of good over evil
Like many other religions, Islamic teachings affirm that good always conquers evil. During Ashura, Muslims remember how Husayn rose against oppression and all that was evil.