(The grand Badshahi (Royal) Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan. Many Shi’a Muslims pray here during Ashoura)
The little known festival of Ashoura is the biggest festival of the year for Shi’a Muslims and many people in the west have never heard of this side of Islam.
Every year on the tenth day of the holy month of Muharram, the first on the Islamic lunar calendar, Shi’a Muslims show a distinctive face of Islam, one that sees spirituality in passion and rituals rather than in law and the familiar practices that punctuate Muslims lives. Open spaces and narrow alleys in cities, towns, and villages take over from mosques and seminaries as Shia’s individually and collectively make a show of their piety and identity. No observer of this day, the festival Ashoura, will remain unaffected by the Shia’s display of fealty to their faith. None will fail to see the uniqueness of Shi’a Islam or the values and deep spirituality that define it.
Every year on this day –Whose date on the Western calendar changes from year to year because of differences between the Gregorian solar reckoning the lunar months of the traditional Islamic calendar–the Shi’a mark the anniversary of the death of their most vividly recalled saint, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad known among the Shi’a as the Iman Husayn. The day is called Ashoura, from the Arabic word for “tenth.” It is an occasion for collective atonement through lamentation and self-flagellation. It is a day of mourning for their martyred leader, but it is also a day of giving, charity , forgiving and family. It is a distinctly Shi’a practice and has no parallel in Sunnism.
Below I have shared a link to show you just a little of what just some of the Ashoura rituals look like.