The Ashura HolidayToday many Arabs in Jerusalem observe Ashura, a holiday with roots in the origins of Islam. The day is commemorated by Shi
Today many Arabs in Jerusalem observe Ashura, a holiday with roots in the origins of Islam. The day is commemorated by Shi’ite Muslims as a day of mourning for the death in battle of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the Muslim prophet Muhammed. For hundreds of years this day is characterized with fasting, prayer and contemplation. Husayn, who is considered a martyr, is revered as one of the earliest such martyrs in the history of Islam.
For Sunni Muslims, however, Ashura is not necessarily a day of sorrow but may actually be celebrated as a day of joy in commemoration of various events that they believe occurred on that day. Therefore Ashura is a holiday for which the customs vary widely in different parts of the world.
For disciples of Shi’a Islam, Ashura is a day of intense mourning in commemoration of the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, grandson of Mohammed. Husayn was one of the first Muslim Imams (a temporal leader of the Muslim community) who fought the Umayyad caliph Yazid to uphold his vision of Islam. Husayn was beheaded at the Battle of Kerbala against Yazid, an event which spurred his followers to revenge themselves against Yazid.
This rallying call against Yazid is believed to have formed one of the fundamental building blocks of what is known today as Shi’a Islam. Therefore the incident has been enshrined for Shi’ite Muslims as a defining moment in their history.
It is in accordance with Shi’a customs on Ashura to refrain from eating and drinking, although it is not considered an official fast day. Mourning attire is also customary, as well as refraining from music, dancing and weddings. Instead custom includes a contemplation of the sufferings of Husayn and his family, in order to connect with the key essence of their martyrdom.
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