Day of Ashura
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|Day of Ashura|
|Official name||Arabic: عاشوراء ʻĀshūrā’ ; Turkish: Aşure Günü|
|Also called||Hosay, Tabuik, Tabot|
|Observed by||Shi'a Muslims and Sunni Muslims|
|Type||Islamic and national (In some countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Iraq, and India)|
|Significance||Marks the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali (Shi'a Islam); The day that Moses fasted as gratitude for the liberation of the Israelites (Sunni Islam)|
|Observances||Mourn and derive messages from Husayn's sacrifice (Shi'a Islam) & fasting (Sunni Islam)|
|2013 date||14 November|
|2014 date||4 November (estimated)|
|Part of a series on|
|A series of articles on|
|Imam of Islam
The Day of Ashura (Arabic: عاشوراء ʻĀshūrā’ , colloquially: /ʕa(ː)ˈʃuːra/; Urdu: عاشورہ; Persian: عاشورا; Turkish: Aşure Günü) is on the tenth day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar and marks a very important day of the Mourning of Muharram.
It is commemorated by Shi'a Muslims as a day of mourning for the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad at the Battle of Karbala on 10 Muharram in the year 61 AH (in AHc: October 9, and in AHt: October 10, 680 CE). In some Shi'a regions of Muslim countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain, and Pakistan, the Commemoration of Husayn ibn Ali has become a national holiday and most ethnic and religious communities participate in it.  Even in predominantly Hindu majority but secular country like India, Ashura (10th day in the month of Muharram) is a public holiday.
It is commemorated by Sunni Muslims (who also refer to it as The Day of Atonement) as the day on which the Israelites were freed from the Pharaoh (called 'Firaun' in Arabic) of Egypt. According to Sunni Muslim tradition, Ibn Abbas narrates that Muhammad came to Madina and saw the Jews fasting on the tenth day of Muharram. He asked, “What is this?” They said, “This is a good day, this is the day when Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemy and Musa (Moses) fasted on this day.” So he fasted on this day and told the people to fast. Many Sunnis also recognize the importance of the events at Karbala and the martyrdom of Imam Husayn in regards to Ashura.
- 1 Etymology of Ashura
- 2 Commemoration of the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali
- 3 Significance of Ashura for Sunni Muslims
- 4 Socio-political aspects
- 5 Violence during Ashura
- 6 Ashura in the Gregorian calendar
- 7 See also
- 8 Footnotes
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Etymology of Ashura
The root for the word Ashura has the meaning of tenth in Semitic languages; hence the name of the remembrance, literally translated, means "the tenth day". According to the orientalist A.J. Wensinck, the name is derived from the Hebrew ʿāsōr, with the Aramaic determinative ending. The day is indeed the tenth day of the month, although some Islamic scholars offer up different etymologies.
In his book Ghuniyatut Talibin, Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani writes that the Islamic scholars have a difference of opinion as to why this day is known as Ashura, with some scholars suggesting that this day is the tenth most important day that God has blessed Muslims with.
Commemoration of the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali
History of the commemoration by Shi'a
This day is well-known because of mourning for the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad the third Shia Imam, along with members of his family and close friends at the Battle of Karbala in the year 61 AH (680 AD). Yazid I was in power then and wanted the Bay'ah (allegiance) of Husayn ibn Ali. A segment of Muslims believed Yazid was openly going against the teachings of Islam in public and changing the sunnah of Muhammad.
Husayn in his path toward Kufa encountered the army of Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad, the governor of Kufa. On October 10, 680 (Muharram 10, 61 AH), he and his small group of companions and family members (in total who were around 72 men and few ladies and children) fought with a large army of perhaps more than 100,000 men under the command of Umar ibn Sa'ad, son of the founder of Kufa. Husayn and all of his men were killed in search of water. The nearby river (Euphrates) was blocked by Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad men and Husayn and his companions were not allowed to get any water from it. Before being killed, Husayn said "If the religion of Muhammad was not going to live on except with me dead, let the swords tear me to pieces."[unreliable source?]. Some of the bodies of the dead, including that of Husayn, were then mutilated.
Commemoration for Husayn ibn Ali began after the Battle of Karbala. After the massacre, the Umayyad army looted Husayn's camp and set off with his women and children for the court of Ibn Ziyad. A moving oration delivered by Zaynab in Kufa is recorded in some sources. The prisoners were next sent to the court of Yazid, Umayyad caliph, in Damascus, where one of his Syrian followers asked for Husayn's daughter, Sakayna, and once again it was Zaynab[disambiguation needed] who came to the rescue and protected her honour. The family remained in Yazid's prison for a time. The first assembly (majlis) of Commemoration of Husayn ibn Ali is said to have been held by Zaynab in prison. In Damascus, too, she is reported to have delivered a poignant oration. The prison sentence ended when Husayn's 3 year old daughter, Janabe Sakayna, died in captivity. She often cried in prison to be allowed to see her father. She is believed to have died when she saw her father's mutilated head. Her death caused an uproar in the city, and Yazid, fearful of a potential resulting revolution, freed the captives.
|"Zaynab bint Ali quoted as she passed the prostrate body of her brother, Husayn. " O Muhammad(Sallallahu Alaihi Wa'sallam)! O Muhammad(Sallallahu Alaihi Wa'sallam)! May the angels of heaven bless you. Here is Husayn in the open, stained with blood and with limbs torn off. O Muhammad! Your daughters are prisoners, your progeny are killed, and the east wind blows dust over them." By God! She made every enemy and friend weep."|
|Tabari, History of the Prophets and Kings, Volume XIX The Caliphate of Yazid.|
Husayn's grave became a pilgrimage site among Shi'a only a few years after his death. A tradition of pilgrimage to the Imam Husayn Shrine and the other Karbala martyrs quickly developed, which is known as Ziarat Ashura. The Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs tried to prevent construction of the shrines and discouraged pilgrimage to the sites. The tomb and its annexes were destroyed by the Abbasid caliph Al-Mutawakkil in 850–851 and Shi'a pilgrimage was prohibited, but shrines in Karbala and Najaf were built by the Buwayhid emir 'Adud al-Daula in 979-80.
Public rites of remembrance for Husayn's martyrdom developed from the early pilgrimages. Under the Buyid dynasty, Mu'izz ad-Dawla officiated at public commemoration of Ashura in Baghdad. These commemorations were also encouraged in Egypt by the Fatimid caliph al-'Aziz. From Seljuq times, Ashura rituals began to attract participants from a variety of backgrounds, including Sunnis. With the recognition of Twelvers as the official religion by the Safavids, Mourning of Muharram extended throughout the first ten days of Muharram.
Significance of Ashura for Shi'a Muslims
Shi'as make pilgrimages on Ashura, as they do forty days later on Arba'een, to the Mashhad al-Husayn, the shrine in Karbala, Iraq that is traditionally held to be Husayn's tomb. On this day Shi'a are in remembrance, and mourning attire is worn. They refrain from music, since Arabic culture generally considers music impolite during death rituals. It is a time for sorrow and respect of the person's passing, and it is also a time for self-reflection, when one commits oneself to the mourning of the Husayn completely. Weddings and parties are also not planned on this date by Shi'as. Shi'as also express mourning by crying and listening to recollections about the tragedy and sermons on how Husayn and his family were martyred. This is intended to connect them with Husayn's suffering and martyrdom, and the sacrifices he made to keep Islam alive. Husayn's martyrdom is widely interpreted by Shi'a as a symbol of the struggle against injustice, tyranny, and oppression. Shi'as believe the Battle of Karbala was between the forces of good and evil with Husayn representing good while Yazid represented evil. Shi'as also believe the Battle of Karbala was fought to keep the Muslim religion untainted of any corruptions and they believed the path that Yazid was directing Islam was definitely for his own personal greed.
Shia Imams strongly insist that the day of Ashura should not be taken as a day of joy and festivity. According to a hadith which is reported from Ali claiming it was on that day the God forgave Adam, Noah's Ark rested on dry land, the Israelites were saved from Pharaoh's army, etc.[clarification needed] The day of Ashura, according to Eighth Shia Imam, Ali al-Rida, must be observed as a day of inactivity, sorrow and total disregard of worldly cares.
Cutting with knives or chains
As suffering and cutting the body with knives or chains (matam) have been prohibited by Shi'a marjas like Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran, some Shi'a observe mourning with blood donation which is called "Qame Zani" and flailing. Yet some Shi'ite men and boys, considered heretics by some Muslim scholars, slash themselves with chains (zanjeer) or swords (talwar) and allow their blood to run freely.
Certain rituals like the traditional flagellation ritual called Talwar zani (talwar ka matam or sometimes tatbir) using a sword or zanjeer zani or zanjeer matam, involving the use of a zanjeer (a chain with blades) are also performed. These are religious customs that show solidarity with Husayn and his family. People mourn the fact that they were not present at the battle to fight and save Husayn and his family. In some western cities, Shi'a communities have organized blood donation drives with organizations like the Red Cross on Ashura as a positive replacement for self-flagellation rituals like "Tatbir" and "Qame Zani".
For Shi'as, commemoration of Ashura is not a festival, but rather a sad event, while Sunni Muslims view it as a victory God has given to his prophet, Moses. This victory is the very reason, as Sunni Muslims believe, Muhammad mentioned when recommending fasting on this day. For Shi'as, it is a period of intense grief and mourning. Mourners, congregate at a Mosque for sorrowful, poetic recitations such as marsiya, noha, latmiya and soaz performed in memory of the martyrdom of Husayn, lamenting and grieving to the tune of beating drums and chants of "Ya Hussain." Also Ulamas give sermons with themes of Husayn's personality and position in Islam, and the history of his uprising. The Sheikh of the mosque retells the Battle of Karbala to allow the listeners to relive the pain and sorrow endured by Husayn and his family. In Arab countries like Iraq and Lebanon they read Maqtal Al-Husayn. In some places, such as Iran, Iraq and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, Ta'zieh, passion plays, are also performed reenacting the Battle of Karbala and the suffering and martyrdom of Husayn at the hands of Yazid.
For the duration of the remembrance, it is customary for mosques and some people to provide free meals (NAZRI) on certain nights of the month to all people. People donate food and Middle Eastern sweets to the mosque. These meals are viewed as being special and holy, as they have been consecrated in the name of Husayn, and thus partaking of them is considered an act of communion with God, Hussain, and humanity.
Participants congregate in public processions for ceremonial chest beating (matham/latmiya) as a display of their devotion to Husayn, in remembrance of his suffering and to preach that oppression will not last in the face of truth and justice. Others pay tribute to the time period by holding a Majilis, Surahs from the Quran and Maqtal Al-Husayn are read.
Today in Indonesia, the event is known as Tabuik (Minangkabau language) or Tabut (Indonesian). Tabuik is the local manifestation of the Shi'a Muslim Mourning of Muharram among the Minangkabau people in the coastal regions of West Sumatra, particularly in the city of Pariaman. The festival includes reenactments of the Battle of Karbala, and the playing of tassa and dhol drums.
Commemoration of Husayn ibn Ali by non-Muslims
In some countries other religious communities commemorate this event.
Significance of Ashura for Sunni Muslims
Not related to Ashura and Karbala, some Sunni Muslims fast on this day of Ashura based on narrations attributed to Muhammad. Some other Sunnis accept Ashura as a significant day due to the martyrdom of Imam Husayn and the significance of the events at Karbala. The fasting is to commemorate the day when Moses and his followers were saved from Pharaoh by Allah by creating a path in the Red Sea. According to Muslim tradition, the Jews used to fast on the tenth day. So Muhammad recommended to be different from the Jews and recommended fasting two days instead of one. 9th and 10th or the 10th and 11th day of Muharram.
According to Hadith record in Sahih Bukhari, Ashura was already known as a commemorative day during which some Makkah residents used to observe customary fasting. Muhammad used to fast on the day of Ashura, 10th Muharram, in Makkah. When fasting the month of Ramadan became obligatory, the fast of Ashura was made non compulsory. This has been narrated by Ayesha RA, Sahih Muslim,Hadith-2499. In hijrah event when Muhammad led his followers to Madina, he found the Jews of that area likewise observing fasts on the day of Ashura. At this, Muhammad affirmed the Islamic claim to the fast, and from then the Muslims have fasted on combinations of two or three consecutive days including the 10th of Muharram (e.g. 9th and 10th or 10th and 11th).
A companion of Muhammad, Ibn Abbas reports Muhammad went to Madina and found the Jews fasting on the tenth of Muharram. Muhammad inquired of them, "What is the significance of this day on which you fast?" They replied, "This is a good day, the day on which God rescued the children of Israel from their enemy. So, Moses fasted this day." Muhammad said, "We have more claim over Moses than you." Muhammad then fasted on that day and ordered Muslims too.
The narrations of Muhammad mentioning the Children of Israel being saved from Pharaoh are indeed confirmed by authentic hadith in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim.
Muhammad's tribe, the Quraish, fasted on the 10th of Muharram. Though optional, Muhammad retained this pre-Islamic practice too. Below is details from the Hadith:
Narrated Ayesha RA:
'Ashura' (i.e. the tenth day of Muharram) was a day on which the tribe of Quraish used to fast in the pre-lslamic period of ignorance. The Prophet also used to fast on this day. So when he migrated to Madina, he fasted on it and ordered (the Muslims) to fast on it. When the fasting of Ramadan was enjoined, it became optional for the people to fast or not to fast on the day of Ashura.
Commemoration of Ashura has great socio-political value for the Shi'a, who have been a minority throughout their history. "Al-Amd" asserts that the Shi'a transference of Al-Husayn and Karbala ' from the framework of history to the domain of ideology and everlasting legend reflects their marginal and dissenting status in Arab-Islamic society.[original research?] According to the prevailing conditions at the time of the commemoration, such reminiscences may become a framework for implicit dissent or explicit protest. It was, for instance, used during the Islamic Revolution of Iran, the Lebanese Civil War, the Lebanese resistance against the Israeli military presence and in the 1990s Uprising in Bahrain. Sometimes the `Ashura' celebrations associate the memory of Al-Husayn's martyrdom with the conditions of Islam and Muslims in reference to Husayn's famous quote on the day of Ashura: "Every day is Ashura, every land is Karbala".
From the period of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution (1905–1911) onward, mourning gatherings increasingly assumed a political aspect. Following an old established tradition, preachers compared the oppressors of the time with Imam Hosayn's enemies, the umayyads.
The political function of commemoration was very marked in the years leading up to the Islamic Revolution of 1978–79, as well as during the revolution itself. In addition, the implicit self-identification of the Muslim revolutionaries with Imam Hosayn led to a blossoming of the cult of the martyr, expressed most vividly, perhaps, in the vast cemetery of Behesht-e Zahra, to the south of Tehran, where the martyrs of the revolution and the war against Iraq are buried.
On the other hand some governments have banned this commemoration. In 1930s Reza Shah forbade it in Iran. The regime of Saddam Hussein saw this as a potential threat and banned Ashura commemorations for many years. In the 1884 Hosay massacre, 22 people were killed in Trinidad and Tobago when civilians attempted to carry out the Ashura rites, locally known as Hosay, in defiance of the British colonial authorities.
Violence during Ashura
The Sunni and Shi'a schism is highlighted by the difference in observance by Sunni and Shi'a Muslims. In countries that have significant populations of both sects, there is often violence during the holiday.
On June 20, 1994 the explosion of a bomb in a prayer hall of Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad killed at least 25 people. The Iranian government officially blamed Mujahedin-e-Khalq for the incident to avoid sectarian conflict between Shias and Sunnis. However, the Pakistani daily The News International reported on March 27, 1995, "Pakistani investigators have identified a 24-year-old religious fanatic Abdul Shakoor residing in Lyari in Karachi, as an important Pakistani associate of Ramzi Yousef. Abdul Shakoor had intimate contacts with Ramzi Ahmed Yousef and was responsible for the June 20, 1994, massive bomb explosion at the shrine Imam Ali Reza in Mashhad."
On January 19, 2008, 7 million Iraqi Shia pilgrims marched through Karbala city, Iraq to commemorate Ashura. 20,000 Iraqi troops and police guarded the event amid tensions due to clashes between Iraqi troops and members of a Shia cult, the Soldiers of Heaven, which left around 263 people dead (in Basra and Nasiriya).
On December 27, 2009, tens of thousands of opposition protesters in Iran demonstrated in conjunction with the day of Ashura. Clashes between anti-riot forces and demonstrators occurred in several Iranian cities. Among others, the nephew of the opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi was killed.
On December 28, 2009, dozens of people were killed and hundreds injured (including both Shia and Sunni commemorators) during the Ashura procession when a massive bomb exploded at the procession in Karachi, Pakistan (See: 2009 Karachi bombing). Reuters
On December 15, 2010, 200 Shia followers were detained by the Selangor Islamic Department (JAIS) in a raid at a shop house in Sri Gombak known as Hauzah Imam Ali ar-Ridha (Hauzah ArRidha). This was because of a fatwa by a Salafi Selangor mufti, who had declared the Shias to be heritics. Khusrin said all the Shias mourners who were detained were to be charged under Section 12 of the Selangor Syariah Criminal Enactment 1995 which are insulting, rejecting, or dispute the violation of the instructions set out and given a fatwa by the Salafi religious authorities. ABNA
On December 5, 2011, thirty Shia pilgrims participating in Ashura processions were killed by a series of bomb attacks in Hilla and Baghdad, Iraq.
On December 6, 2011, a suicide attack killed 63 people and critically wounded 160 at a shrine in Kabul, Afghanistan where a crowd of hundreds had gathered for the day of Ashura observation.
Ashura in the Gregorian calendar
While Ashura is always on the same day of the Islamic calendar, the date on the Gregorian calendar varies from year to year due to differences between the two calendars, since the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar and the Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar. Furthermore, the crescent appearance to determine when each Islamic month begins varies from country to country due to obvious geographical reasons.
- 1430 AH
- 2009 January 6, in Middle East and Iran and Afghanistan
- 2009 January 7, in South Asia (i.e. Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, etc.)
- 1431 AH
- 2009 December 28, in India, Pakistan, Iran, N.America, Europe and Middle East and December
- 2009 December 29, in Far-East
- 1432 AH
- 2010 December 16, in part of Middle East and Iran
- 2010 December 17, in Iraq and South Asia (i.e. Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, etc.)
- 1433 AH
- 2011 December 5, in part of Middle East and Asia
- 2011 December 6, in Lebanon, Iraq, and North America
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