Tehran, 9 February 2006 (CHN) -- As the anniversary of Imam Hussein's martyrdom arrived, people all over the world commemorate the day by holding special festivals.
Despite what many people might imagine, Ashura does not solely belong to the Muslim countries. Rather, it is recognized in almost every country in the world; and various communities from different nationalities hold special ceremonies to keep alive the memory of Imam Hussein and his 72 faithful companions. The extension of the Ashura festival has even reached the borders of the U.S.
Ashura, the biggest mass event in the Shiite calendar, is observed in countries with sizeable Shiite communities including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Syria as well as different European countries and also the United States.
This year, the Ashura festival is being held differently in Iran compared to the previous years. Every street in the capital city of Tehran and other Iranian cities narrates the tragedy of Ashura through images, flags, and drama plays called Ta'ziehs. Foods are distributed in the streets and people have joined together to express their sympathy with Imam Hussein and the holly household of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
According to many historians and scholars, Iraq is the country in which the mourning festival of Ashura was being held for the first time. This festival has been held for hundreds of years in Iraq, in which religious scholars and leaders gloriously attend. Of course, under Saddam Hussein's secular rule, such displays were banned; but following the fall of Saddam in 2003, the festival of Ashura was revived again. Not only were the years under the rule of Saddam able to erase the philosophy of the Ashura festival from the people's minds, but the plus-20-year restriction and ban to hold such festival has provoked the flames of Ashura this year more than ever.
Just like other Muslim communities, the mourning festival of Imam Hussein is held with passion in India and Pakistan. The special food of the month of Muharram (the first month of the lunar year and the month in which the event of Ashura took place) among the Pakistani people is Halim which is served among the mourners and people. This kind of special food entered Pakistan and India through southern regions of Iran.
The festival of Ashura is also very interesting in Bangladesh. The day of Ashura is among the formal holidays of the Bangladeshi people. The president and the prime minister send out commemoration statements on this day. Radio and TV broadcast special mourning programs during the day of Ashura and the people usually fast during the month of Muharram, in particular the day of Ashura.
Ashura is commemorated in the United States as well. On the 10th day of Muharram, Muslim communities of America gather together in each state on this mournful day which they call "Hussein Day". They march together in the streets and give out pamphlets in English in which the event of Karbala and the philosophy behind these annual festivals are explained.
Ashura is the 10th day of the lunar month of Muharram when Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), was martyred in a battle in 680 AD.
On the first day of Muharram, the army of Caliph Yazid from the Umayyad dynasty, laid siege to Imam Hussein and his followers in the desert of Karbala. Imam Hussein was martyred in a battle that ensued 10 days after he had refused to pledge allegiance to Yazid. Imam Hussein was decapitated and his head was taken to Damascus, the seat of the Umayyad dynasty.
From then on, the event of Karbala is commemorated each year all over the world for the people to remember the great price that Imam Hussein and his brave followers paid for freedom.
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