Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Muharram is the first month of the Islamic Hijri calendar

The Day of Ashura (عاشوراء translit: ‘Āshūrā’, also Aashoora and other spellings) is on the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar and marks the climax of the Remembrance of Muharram but not the Islamic month. For Shi'a Muslims, it commemorates the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad at the Battle of Karbala in the year 61 AH (AD 680), and is a day for mourning.

This day is of particular significance to Shi'a Muslims, who consider Husayn the third Imam and a rightful successor of Muhammad. Many Shi'a make pilgrimages on Ashura to the Mashhad al-Husayn, the shrine in Karbala, Iraq that is traditionally held to be Husayn's tomb. Shi'as also express mourning by thumping their chests and crying after listening to Speeches on How Hussain and his family were Martyred. This is intended to connect them with Husayn's suffering and death. Husayn's martyrdom is widely interpreted by Shi'a as a symbol of the struggle against injustice, tyranny, and oppression.

It isn't ordinary time in Iraq for the Shiites, it is ritual time, sacred time. It is a time of deep mourning, of grief and the beating of chests and even flagellation with chains. It is the season for commemorating the martyrdom, the cosmically wrongful killing of al-Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, who led the people of Kufa in what is now Iraq against the tyrannical empire of the Umayyad Caliph Yazid. His generals cut the plucky scion of the House of the Prophet down without mercy, along with his relatives and followers. They are said to have carried Husayn's head aloft on a stave and to have deposited it before the caliph in his palace in Damascus. The death of Husayn is the "passion" of Shiite Islam, their Good Friday. His shrine is in the Iraqi city of Karbala, where guerrillas dressed as American troops killed 5 American soldiers on Sunday. Emotions run high already. A sense of the meaning of the commemoration for Shiites can be gained from this British Shiite web site.

1 comment:

John Brown said...

Great post, JDS. I wrote about something similar, but you did a better job of explaining Ashura.

My guess, knowing how Uncle Sam is gunning for Sadr (600 arrests today) and Karbala is a Sadrist stronghold, this was a pre-emptive strike against Uncle Sam's plan to "secure" the city over the holy day. No doubt they were plotting mass slaughter... just like the Askariyah Shrine in Samarra.