A holiday you could never imagine: Ashura

Olena Petrosyuk

Olena Petrosyuk

Imagine the crowd monotonically chanting. All dressed in black. Imagine thousands of men flagellating themselves on the back with chains or beating their head. Determined faces and tears in the eyes. Repetitious rhythms of religious music – and black flags weaving in the sky. It is a holiday you have not seen before. It is a holiday you did not even imagine exists. It’s Ashura, a major event in Iran.

iranian holidays, Ashura


 

  1. The Day of Ashura is arguably one of the most important days for Iranians.

Iran holidays: Ashura

  1. Marked on the tenth-day of Muharram, the first month in the Islamic calendar, it commemorates the moment when the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, Husayn ibn Ali was slaughtered in a battle in Karbala, Iraq.

Iran holidays: Ashura

  1. The event led to the split between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam. Since Sunni and Shia Muslims have contradictory views on the significance and meaning of the event there are substantial differences in observance of the day by both sects.

Iran holidays: Ashura

  1. In modern Iran Husayn’s struggle is seen as a battle against tyranny and unfairness.

Iran holidays: Ashura

  1. The rituals on Ashura consist mainly of public expressions of mourning and grief.

Iran holidays: Ashura

  1. Many gather for public mourning ceremonies, the most devoted ones – flag themselves on the back with chains or ritually cut themselves.

Iran holidays: Ashura

  1. Some Sunni leaders promote flagellation rituals as a way of remembering the suffering and pain of Husayn.

Iran holidays: Ashura

  1. It is believed that acts of flagellation are meant to show people’s regret of the fact that they were not present at the battle to fight and protect Husayn and his family.

Iran holidays: Ashura

  1. Most flagellation rituals are rather safe, although some – using a sword or a chain with blades to hurt one’s body – can be quite dangerous.

Iran holidays: Ashura

  1. Originally fasting on the day of Ashura was obligatory for the Muslims as it was a first step towards the gradual introduction of fasting as a prescribed obligation in Islam. Later fasting on Ramadan was made compulsory – and Ashura fasting became optional. Some still follow the fasting traditions of Ashura even today: it is believed that abstaining on this day erases the sins of an entire year.

Iran holidays: Ashura

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  • tasleem zehra

    Hi Olena, just bumped into your blog and found it quite interesting. I can see a strong feeling of wanderlust in you. Keep it going girl. For someone who lives in India and has a connection with Iran but sadly never been to Iran so far,this photoblog was just amazing. Makes me wanna take a break and explore Iran. The main objective of leaving a comment here is to also let you know that Ashura is just not an important day for Iranians alone but to millions of Shia muslims across the world. The best place to witness the importance of Ashura is Karbala itself. It’s unbelievable to see how so many remember Imam Hussain a.s even after 1400 years, that’s faith I suppose. Anyways, it was nice reading blog and will be even more nice to read about my own country India. Looking forward to it. Cheers, Tasleem Zehra