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Shias begin Ashura ceremonies

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Millions of Shia Muslims around the world annually commemorate the great tragedy of Karbala with various forms of traditional ceremonies. The mourners take part in processions held in mosques and streets with different traditions to mark the martyrdom anniversary of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s grandson Imam Hussein (PBUH) and his companions in Karbala.

Around 680 AD, Imam Hussein (PBUH) along with his 72 followers was massacred in the battle of Karbala in Iraq by the forces of the tyrant ruler of the time, Yazid, the second Umayyad caliph. The mourning ceremonies reach their peak on the 9th day of Muharram, or Tasua, and the 10th day, or Ashura, when Imam Hussein (PBUH) and his companions were martyred.

Muharram ceremonies symbolize the eternal and unwavering stance of truth against falsehood and humanity’s struggle against tyranny, the cause for which Imam Hussein (PBUH) was martyred. Shia rituals and observances on Ashura consist primarily of public expressions of mourning and grief such as beating one’s chest as well as beating one’s back with light chains to remind the mourners of the pain and suffering of Imam Hussein (PBUH) and his followers on that day.

Iranian people across the country traditionally cook and distribute charity food among their neighbors, family and the poor. Ta’zieh is also among the rituals held in Iran during the Muharram mourning ceremonies. Ta’zieh, as an Iranian national and religious dramatic performance, recounts religious and historical events through poetry, recitation, music, songs and motion.

The traditional play narrates the story of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (PBUH) and his companions in Karbala with its own specific style and rituals. This Persian Passion Play was registered on the UNESCO list during the fifth session of the UN body’s Intergovernmental Committee in Nairobi, Kenya, in November 2011.  PRESS TV


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  1. Ashura requires something from both Sunnis and Shias.

    For Shias there is a question about the emotions and the tears for Husayn and for the Sunnis the denial of the tragedy of the death of Husayn. In South Africa, we do not need to cry our hearts out or live in denial. We need a preparedness to discover the facts, think about it and find a common way forward. Our killing of one another on a grand and global scale today, our supporting of our mutual enemies to our mutual disadvantage is a result of our unwillingness to face the facts that 50 years after the Prophet had passed away his grandson was massacred. 1400 years later we are still killing one another. How do we live with ourselves? What are we doing to make ourselves feel good?

  2. The title of this piece is a bit misleading. Ashura and the memory of the martyrdom of Imam al-Hussein and his 72 noble helpers is not only for followers of the Ahlul Bhait. It is for all of us and every single human soul who yearns for a sense of justice. Humanity needs to remember Ashura because Ashura is relevant to humanity as a whole especially now in light of global injustice in every corner of the world. It s a shame that some of this ummah continue to overlook and even forget what happened. Muslims, he was your own Prophet’s (PBUH) blood and yet you are shy about speaking about Ashura. If the Sultan of Karbala had not given his blood on that day, the Islam of Muhammad (SAW) would not have remained intact. It would have been the end of the story. At least Nabi Ismail (AS) was saved at the last moment from the blade of sacrifice, but their was no such respite for the son of Muhammad (SAW).

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