Ashura – A Unique face of Shi’ism

This is a very well put together visual documentary of Ashura celebrations around the world in 2011.

The Ashura is celebrated on the 10th of Muharram by Shi’i Muslims every year to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussain in Karbala. These Ashura celebrations are grounded in symbolism or ritual which is expressed in the  public sphere, and in many ways have become a distinct manifestation of the Shi’i identity. In this sense it is interesting to note the great extent to which the Ashura has come to represent the ‘face’ of the Shi’i faith. The theme of martyrdom and suffering is  predominant in the Shia narrative because it is seen as being embodied in the lives of the Shi’i Imams themselves and sums up what has been described unwittingly as the ‘Shia attitude’.  How this ‘attitude’ plays out in various different cultural and social setting can be assuaged from the diverse interpretations of the Ashura commemoration around the world, as the visuals presented in this photo-feature show.

It is also worth noting  the physical commemorations of the Ashura at times seems to overshadow the spiritual aspects of the message of the sacrifice of Karbala. Another thought provoking article written by Professor Hassan Abbas recently, juxtaposes the historical narrative of Imam Hussain’s martyrdom and the larger message of the Ashura in Shia Islam with the present context of the widespread persecution of Shia Muslims in the Muslim world such as the attack on Shi’a Muslims observing Ashura in Kabul on December 6, which killed 55 people.


One response

  1. I really liked the slideshow because in my opinion, Ashura and the Tragedy of Kerbala is not well explained or expressed to non-Muslims and other Muslims in general. The images associated with Shias is usually that of people covered in blood or self-flagellating mourners which I believe provides a narrow minded view of the religion and the ritual itself. I liked the fact that each picture had a little blurb explaining the context as it makes it easier for Muslims and non-Muslims to understand. For example, one of the blurbs indicated that most Shia authorities ban the practice of self-flagellation and that even within Shia Islam it is controversial. Finally, it is quite sad that during the first 10 days of Ashura and other days throughout the mourning period, other Muslims target Shia communities on a day when they are commemorating the death of the grandson of the Prophet.

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