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Islam, Shiite: This is Ashura

The Day of Ashura (the word means “tenth”) is on the 10th day of Muharram, the first month in the Islamic calendar.  This day falls, in 2009, on December 27th on the Gregorian calendar.

The significance of Ashura for the Shiite, or Shi’a, denomination of the Muslim religion is that it is commemorated as a day of mourning for the martyrdom of Hussein at the Battle of Karbala.  Therefore, this day is of particular significance to Shi’a Muslims, who consider Hussein, the 3rd Imam, and the rightful successor of Muhammad.  To explain: Ali was Muhammad’s grandson, and was the closest living male relative, and therefore, his rightful successor and the leader as the 1st Iman.  Hussein was Ali’s son.

According to the 8th Imam, Ali al-Rida, the day of Ashura must be observed as a day of inactivity, sorrow, and total disregard of worldly cares.  It is a period of intense grief and mourning. Mourners congregate at their local Mosque; however, some mourners make pilgrimages to the Mashhad al-Husayn, the shrine in the city of Karbala (Iraq) that is traditionally held to be Hussein’s tomb.

On this day they are in remembrance, and mourning attire is worn.  This time is spent listening to sermons about the tragedy, and poems about the tragedy, as to how Hussein and his family were martyred.  This is accompanied by an outward expression of grief and sorrow to the tune of beating drums and chants of “Ya Hussein.”  This is intended to connect them with Hussein’s suffering and martyrdom, and the sacrifices he made to keep Islam alive.

So, Hussein’s martyrdom is widely interpreted as a symbol of the struggle against injustice, tyranny, and oppression. They believe the Battle of Karbala was fought to keep the Muslim religion untainted of any corruptions, and it was a battle between the forces of good and evil.  Imam Hussein represented good while Yazid, the other political force, represented evil — it is believed that the path that Yazid was directing Islam was definitely for his own personal greed.

Certain rituals like the traditional flagellation ritual, as a religious discipline, called “zanjeer zani” or “zanjeer matam,” involving the use of a zanjeer (a chain) are also performed.  It needs to be noted that these are not religious customs, but are popularly done to show solidarity with Imam Hussein and his family.  People mourn the fact that they were not present at the battle to fight and save Hussein, and his family.

It is believed that taking part in Ashura is to be absolved of sin.  A popular Shiite saying has it that, “a single tear shed for Hussein washes away a hundred sins.”

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Blog Contents
      What is Lent?
      Holy Week
      This is Christmas
Other Religions:
      Religion in Southeast Asia
      The Concept of God in the Hindu World
      Why Jews Don't Believe in Jesus
      Religious Allegiance vs Belief & Faith
      This is Yom Kippur
      This is Rosh Hashanah
Islam, Shiite:
     This is Ashura
     This is Ramadan
      Religions are Forms of Superstition
      How America Sees God
      Hearing with Different Ears
Text of Religions:
      This is the Bible, on One Page
      The Da Vinci Code versus the Bible
Houses of Worship:
      Brick and Mortar

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