Ashura is a day of remembrance in Islam. It takes place annually on the 10th of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar. Among Shia Muslims, Ashura is celebrated with massive demonstrations of large-scale mourning as it commemorates the death of Husayn ibn Ali (the grandson of Muhammad), who was beheaded during the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD.
Among Sunni Muslims, Ashura is observed through a festive fast as it commemorates the day of salvation for Moses and the Israelites, who successfully escaped biblical Egypt (where they were enslaved and persecuted) after Moses invoked God's power to divide the Red Sea. Although the death of Hussein is also regarded by the Sunnis as a great tragedy, open displays of mourning are either discouraged or expressly prohibited, depending on the specific act. In Shiite communities, Ashura rites are usually held in group processions and are accompanied by various rituals, ranging from lamentation and pilgrimages to shrines to more controversial acts of self-flagellation and beating on the chest.
In Sunni communities, there are three stages of fasting based on the hadith of Muhammad: the day before Ashura, on the day of Ashura, and the day after Ashura; although fasting Ashura is not obligatory, it is highly recommended.
In folk traditions in countries such as Morocco and Algeria, the day of Ashura is variously celebrated with special food, bonfires, or carnivals, although these practices are not supported by religious authorities. Due to the sharply different observance practices between Sunnis and Shias, the day of Ashura has taken on a political dimension in some Islamic countries, especially in Iran, where Shia Islam is the official state religion. In addition, it has also been the subject of controversy as well as violent incidents between the two communities in countries such as Iraq and Pakistan.
Iran National and Public Holidays