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Islam / Cult and Festivals /
Arabic: muharram

Article about the Muslim calendar.

Karbala, Iraq.
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Shrine of Husayn.

Ta'ziyeh cover

Ashura celebration

Celebration in Shi'i Islam during the first 10 days in the Muharram month, the first in the Muslim Calendar.
The celebration is a commemoration of the battle at Karbala in 680 CE (61 AH), and the eventual martyrdom of Husayn, son of Ali.
The importance of this incident is clear: when Husayn was killed, the hope that Ali's descendants would lead the Muslim world was crushed. For his followers this represents the day that the main branch of Islam (i.e. Sunni) was corrupted.
As part of the celebrations, Shi'is perform different passion plays, express grief in public and walk in parades through city streets where they carry a sarcophagus and whip their backs or foreheads with sticks, chains and swords. Many travel to Karbala in Iraq for pilgrimage.
On the 10th Muharram, the Ashura, the festival reaches its maximum. This day is often called Ta'ziyeh, as Ashura is really the name of the fast adhered by Sunni Muslims.
Shi'is believe that the 10th Muharram is the actual death date of Husayn. Rituals become more elaborate and take longer time to perform. Sentiments reach a point of deep sorrow, frustration and often anger over the injustice that Husayn and his family was exposed to. Ta'ziyeh is also the name used for the passion plays, or just for the stories about the sufferings at Karbala in 680.
One of the central rituals for commemorating the suffering of Husayn and his followers are in meetings known as rawda-khānï. In Lebanon, the rawda is often also called Ta'ziyeh. These rawdas are organized so that a host sends out invitations to friends and colleagues. They (mainly men) meet in a private home, enjoy tea and sweet-meats, while narrating the story about the battle at Karbala and the death of Husayn. During the rawda, emotions rise, some men will start beating themselves on the chest, while others call out to Husayn and weep. The rawda can be performed all through the year, but is mainly popular as part of the Muharram celebrations.

By Tore Kjeilen