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Experiencing the Ashura in Iran

Ashura Ceremony in Ashkezar, near Yazd

The Ashura falls on the 10th day of the month of Muharram, the 1st month of the Islamic calendar. It is marked by Sunni Muslims with a voluntary day of fasting which commemorates the day Noah left the Ark, and the day when God opened the Red Sea for the Jews fleeing from Pharaoh.

For Shia Muslims, Ashura is a solemn day of mourning the martyrdom of Hussein ibn Ali, grandson of Muhammad and 8th Prophet of Shia Islam, in 680 AD at Karbala in modern-day Iraq. It is marked with mourning rituals and passion plays re-enacting the martyrdom. People dress in black and parade through the streets slapping their chests and chanting. Some Shia men seek to emulate the suffering of Hussein by flagellating themselves with chains. A fatwa now forbids this in Iran, though. Continue Reading →