Day of Ashura
Introduction: The Day of Ashura is better to be called as the day of martyrdom since it is the tenth day of Muharram scripted in the Islamic calendar marking the culmination of the mourning of Muharram. This day brings special moment of remembrance to Husayn ibn Ali who sacrificed his life in the battle of Karbala on 10 Muharram in the year 61 AH by Shi’a Muslims.
Other Muslim community called Sunni celebrates this eve for some positive reasons of expiation to the Pharoah of Egypt who set the Israelis free from their bondage.
Observed by: Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain and Pakistan.
Etymology: The word Ashura is extracted from Semitic language which stands for the tenth day.
History of the ‘day of Ashura’: The affiliated story to this day has its root in the era of 61 AH (680 AD) when the grandson of Muhammad and his family laid down their lives in the battle of Karbala. Yazid I expected Husayn ibn Ali to be allegiance. But a section of Muslims had an opinion that Yazid I was going against the teachings of Islam and altering the sunnah of Muhammad.
Thus, Husayn set to Kufa in the way of which he encountered the army of Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad (the governor of Kufa). During their journey, they had a combat with more than 10,000 men in which the command was in the hand of Umar ibn Sa’ad (son of the founder of Kufa). Husayn and his companions were kept barred from having sips of water by Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad men. At the end, Husayn along with some other family members was mutilated.
Umayyad’s army looted the camp. The prisoners were imprisoned in the court of Ibn Ziyad. Then, they were shifted to the court of Yazid, Umayyad caliph, in Damascus. A Syrian follower tried to crush the honour and dignity of his daughter Sakayna. The well-wisher of Husayn, namely Zaynab, saved his daughter. After getting freed, she delivered a heart piercing speech in Damascus. All the prisoners were released when his three year old daughter Janabe Sakayna, died in prison after witnessing the mutilated head of her father. Her death led to riot in the city. Fearful Yazid released the prisoners for averting the prospective revolution.
Shi’as visited Husayn’s grave as a shrine only after few years of his death. The traditional practice of pilgrimage to the Imam Husayn Shrine as well as the other Karbala martyrs soon established as Ziarat Ashura. However, Umayyad & Abbasid caliphs tried to stop the construction work of the Shrines; even they ruined the adjoining shrines in 850-851. Later, those Shrines were revamped by the Buwayhid emir Adud al-Daula in Karbala and Najaf in 979-80.
Mu’izz ad-Dawla of Buyid dynasty officially commemorated Ashura in Baghdad. This trend was patted by the Fatimid caliph al-Aziz of Egypt.
Rituals: As the underlying fact triggering the tradition of commemorating ‘Ashura’ evokes mourning moments in the instinct as there is a custom of suffering and injuring the body with chains, knives and swords. However, bloodshed is prohibited by Shi’a marjas yet some Shi’a observe this eve as an occasion to donate blood which is known as Qame Zani and flailing.
Flagellation or Talwar Zani is also an astounding ritual followed by the people with sword or chian (zanjeer) beat themselves.