Muharram 2021: How Muslims observe Ashura, the 10th day of the sacred month

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The month of Muharram is considered to be the second holiest month in the Islamic calendar and marks the start of the Islamic New Year. This year, Muharram began on 10 August. The first 10 days of the month are significant to Muslims around the world, who mark it as a solemn period.

What is Ashura?

The 10th day of Muharram is called Ashura. It marks the day Imam Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and son of the fourth Caliph Ali, was martyred in the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD.

Why is Imam Hussain important?

In early Islamic history, it is known that a conflict ensued after the death of the Prophet over who would succeed him. Some supported Ali, the fourth Caliph and cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad. They believed the caliphate should stay within the family of the Prophet. These supporters were known as Shias.

But Ali was killed by his opponent Muawiya bin Abi Sufiyan, who later captured his position. Muawiya later handed over the Caliph position to his son Yazid. Ali’s son, Hussain, refused to accept this. Along with a few fighters, he met Yazid’s army at Karbala. Hussain and his followers were killed in the Battle of Karbala.

How is Ashura observed?

The day is marked as a solemn occasion, particularly by Shia muslims. On this day, Shias engage in public mourning and participate in processions. Some Sunni Muslims mark Ashura by fasting. The observances on this day are aimed at exemplifying the suffering that Imam Hussain endured shortly before his death.

Ashura is also marked as the day when Noah left his Ark and the day Prophet Moses was saved by God from the Pharaoh of Egypt.

When will Ashura be observed this year?

This year Ashura will fall on 19 August. The Islamic or hijri calendar is based on the lunar cycle so it is 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar. Therefore, the dates of Ashura and Muharram varies every year.

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