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  • Muslims commemorate Ashura in Karbala, Iraq.

    Muslims commemorate Ashura in Karbala, Iraq. | Photo: Reuters

Published 1 October 2017

Refusing to pledge allegiance to Yazid, Imam Hussein led a revolutionary campaign at the Battle of Karbala in the 7th century.

Tens of millions of Muslims have expressed mourning as they recall the martyrdom of Imam Hussein and 72 of his family members and companions in 680 AD. The annual commemoration, known as Ashura, marks the end of a 10-day period of bereavement which occurs during the lunar month of Muharram.

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Muslims traveling as far away as Afghanistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Lebanon, Pakistan, India and many other countries made the pilgrimage to the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf to mourn the religious figure. Hussein's holy shrine is located in Karbala.

Devotees express their grief by listening to elegies that depict the tragic events at the Battle of Karbala and slapping their chest.

Yemenis expressing the mourning ritual in the capital Sana'a likened their resistance to the Saudi-led war of aggression against their country as a direct extension of the revolution initiated by  Hussein, according to PressTV.

Though the commemorations are part of the Shia Muslim tradition, Sunni Muslims in several Iranian provinces, as well as devotees of other faiths and countries, showed solidarity with mourners by distributing free food to those who made the pilgrimage.

In Iran, Ashura is an occasion for all ethnic backgrounds, regardless of their language or religious persuasion, to commemorate Hussein's martyrdom and struggle for social justice.

Hussein was the third Imam of Shia Muslims. He was the third grandson of the Prophet Muhammed. Refusing to pledge allegiance to the despot leader Yazid, he led a revolutionary campaign at the Battle of Karbala (in present-day Iraq) in the 7th century. Unable to unseat the tyrant, he and his followers were put to death.

The battle represented one between good and evil as Hussein and a small group of relatives and supporters went head on with a massive military detachment composed of fighters from the Umayyad caliph.

“Those who are silent when others are oppressed are guilty of oppression themselves,” is a famous quote spoken by Imam Hussein.

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