Ashura is a holy day for people of the Islamic faith and is 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 Prophet Muhammad) at the battle of Karbala. For the Sunnis, it is the day Moses fasted to show his gratitude for the freedom of the Israelites. This is a holy day of mourning for some (mainly Shia Muslim) and fasting for others.
Ashurah - 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 political move, Saddam Hussein bans Ashura commemorations.
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 Shia Muslims.
What Muhammad Designated
After Hijrah, Muhammad designates Ashura as a day of fasting from sunset to sunset. Later it becomes a voluntary observance.
How to Observe Ashurah
1. Reflect with a day of mourning
On this day Shi'a Muslims wear mourning attire, while some make pilgrimages to the shrine in Karbala, Iraq. They offer their respects and mourn the passing of Husayn. Parties, music, and weddings are banned during this sad time.
2. Take part in a day of fasting
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.
3. Realize it's a day that signifies religious tolerance
In both Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, Hosay (Ashura) takes on a unique character that shows religious tolerance and mutual respect. Attended by Muslims and people of other faiths, the celebration has absorbed influences from many other religions like Roman Catholic, Hinduism, and Baptist.
5 Interesting Facts About Ashura
1. Here Judaism and Islam meet
For the Sunnis, Ashura is the Islamic equivalent of Yom Kipper, marking the day God parted the Red Sea to save his people.
2. Holy day in a holy month
Ashura falls in one of the four sacred months of Islam.
3. Mark your 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.
4. It washes away a year’s sins
Some believe that a day’s fast on Ashura expiates all the sins of the previous year.
5. Self-flagellation is still a practice
Self-flagellation is practiced by many Muslims (mainly Shia men) in some parts of the world in remembrance of the sacrifice of Husayn.
Why Ashurah is Important
A. It is one of the holiest days for Muslims
A quarter of the world’s population is Muslim and all of them believe that by observing Ashura one can be a better Muslim and earn more blessings.
B. It teaches us about selflessness and 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 moral values.
C. 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.