Millions of Shia Muslims gathered at the sacred shrines of Imam Hussain and Hazrat Abbas and mosques at the shrines in Karbala and other parts of Iraq on Thursday (Sept 20) to mark the climax of the annual ritual of Ashura with expressions of suffering. Reuters reported that huge crowds came from all over the world to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).
Most Sunni Muslims also mourn Imam Hussein’s martyrdom, but less fervently, according to Reuters but majority of Sunni Muslims adore Imam Hussain (AS) like their Shia brothers.
In the past, suicide bombers staged attacks on the mass gathering hoping to trigger sectarian tensions. Those days are gone. Iraqi worshippers are able to immerse themselves in their faith, setting aside other problems that impact daily lives, including poor government services, unemployment and corruption.
Ashura is the 10th day of the lunar month of Muharram when according to Islamic tradition Imam Hussein was martyred in battle in 680.
It is observed in Iraq and in other countries with sizeable Shia Muslim communities, including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Syria and across the world wherever Shia Muslims are settled.
On the second day of Muharram, the army of Caliph Yazid laid siege to Imam Hussein and followers in the desert near Kerbala. Imam Hussein and his companions were martyred in battle on 10th of Muharram after he had refused to pledge allegiance to Yazid.
Hussein was decapitated and his head was taken to Damascus, the seat of the despotic Umayyad dynasty to which Yazid belonged.