Ashura Day: 5 interesting facts

When is Ashura Day 2024?

Like many other significant events in Islam, the Day of Ashura is celebrated according to the lunar calendar. The day falls on the tenth day of the month of Muharram, which is sacred to Muslims. The name "Ashura" translates to "ten". In 2024, Ashura Day falls on the 16th of July.

Ashura Day: History of the commemoration

Muslims believe that on Ashura Day, the heavens were created, as well as the first man on earth, Adam, from clay.

The history of Ashura Day was common to both Sunnis and Shiites until October 680. From the beginning of the Islamic era, believers remembered the events of the Old Testament on this day, which also gave it significance in Judaism. For early Muslims, events such as the birth of Adam, the arrival of Noah's Ark (Nuh in the Arabic tradition) and the salvation of the prophet Musa, also known as Moses, were associated.

However, in October 680, an event occurred that changed the perception of this day among Sunnis and Shiites forever. In the 7th century city of Kerbil, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and the son revered as a saint by Shiites, Ali - Imam Hussein, was killed on the Day of Ashura as a result of infighting.

Since then, for Shiites, Ashura Day has become a day of remembrance and mourning for one of the most important religious figures in Islamic history.

Traditions of Ashura Day

There are two main branches of Islam, Sunni and Shia, each with their own unique traditions and rituals regarding Ashura Day.

Sunni Ashura Day traditions

On the Day of Ashura, Sunnis usually observe a voluntary fast, primarily remembering the salvation of Prophet Musa (Moses). It is interesting to note that keeping fast on this day had its roots as far back as the ancient Jews. According to the tradition of Islam, Prophet Mohammed saw this and urged his followers to join the fast as well. Even the pagans, legend has it that the ancient population of the Arabian peninsula fasted at this time.

Because Adam, the first man on earth, repented of his mortal sin and received forgiveness on this day, Sunni traditions are slightly more festive than Shi'a traditions. On the Day of Ashura, it is customary to do good deeds, prepare food and serve it not only to one's loved ones but also to those in need.

What is the day of Ashura?

Shia traditions of Ashura Day

For Shiites, the Day of Ashura symbolises mourning and remembrance of Imam Hussein, who died at Kerbil in 680. This is why for Shiites fasting on this day is compulsory rather than voluntary. Believers in Iran, Iraq and Azerbaijan hold historical reenactments of the battle to honour the memory of Ali's fallen followers.

Memorial rituals including empty jugs and cookers are organised in courtyards and homes. The former are reminders of the thirst felt by loyal Muslims during the war, while in the oven, according to Shiite beliefs, the head of Imam Hussein was once hidden.

However, the most famous tradition on the Day of Ashura is self-abasement. Every year on this day, the most devoted Shi'ites take to the streets and beat themselves with chains until they bleed to honour the memory of fallen saints.

Sunnis also memorialise Imam Hussein, but their traditions do not include self-beating or self-harm. Memorial rituals are held in a more modest setting.

How Muslims spend the Day of Ashura

As mentioned above, Shiites celebrate rituals in honour of Imam Hussein and the early followers of Caliph Ali, while Sunnis dedicate the day to performing good deeds by remembering events from the Old Testament.

Muslims try to visit sick relatives and friends on this day, believing that moral support is of special importance and their good deeds are appreciated by Allah.

In the Arab world and Central Asia, where water supply problems are not uncommon, it is customary to help the homeless and needy by offering them water in jugs. Muslims believe that such acts of kindness are also blessed by God.

Another common tradition on Ashura Day is to provide material assistance to the needy. Believers attach special importance to giving alms on this day, believing that for doing so they will receive a generous reward from the Almighty, "the size of Mount Uhud," as theologians say.

Despite differences in tradition, the Day of Ashura serves as a reminder of important events in Islamic history and is a time of spiritual purification and unity for Muslims around the world.

What should I not do on Ashura Day?

Questions and Answers

Q: How is the Day of Ashura related to Jewish holidays?
A: In the early days of Islam, Muslims celebrated the Day of Ashura by remembering events from the Old Testament, such as the rescue of Prophet Musa (Moses) and his people from Pharaoh. This coincided with the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

Q: Why did the Day of Ashura become such an important date for the Shiites?
A: In 680 C.E., the Battle of Kerbil took place in which Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, was killed. This tragic date was a turning point for Shia Islam and the Day of Ashura became a day of mourning and grieving for Imam Hussein.

Q: Are there any restrictions or prohibitions on the Day of Ashura?
A: On the Day of Ashura, Shi'ites usually avoid listening to music, dancing and other entertainment.

Q: How is the Day of Ashura perceived in the modern world?
A: The Day of Ashura is an important holiday for millions of Muslims around the world. It serves as a reminder of important events in Islamic history as well as the values of justice, sacrifice and the struggle for truth.

Q: How can Ashura Day be of interest to people who do not practise Islam?
A: The Day of Ashura can be of interest to people who do not practise Islam as an example of the rich history, traditions and culture of Islam. It can also help people better understand the different streams of Islam, such as Sunnism and Shiism.


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