Shia and Alevi Muslims Celebrate Ashura Festival

Lifestyle & TravelCulture ♦ Published: August 8, 2022; 19:34 ♦ (Vindobona)

Ashura is considered the most important festival in Shia Islam and is significant for many Muslims worldwide. Devout Shiites and Alevis have gathered around the world for celebrations of the traditional festival of Ashura.

Mourning of Muharram is held in majority of cities and villages in Iran by Shia Muslims annually. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons, Payam Moein, CC BY-SA 4.0

Ashura is called the tenth day of the month of Muharram, the first month in the Islamic calendar. This day is significant for many Muslims, but especially for Shia Muslims, worldwide.

On this day, Shiites commemorate the death of Ḥusayn, the third Imam for them, at the Battle of Karbala. Imam Ḥusayn died in 680 AD in the Battle of Karbala. At that time, disputes had erupted over the rightful succession to Muhammad. This conflict eventually gave rise to the two major currents of Islam, the Sunnis and the Shiites, and the Battle of Karbala played a decisive role in separating them.

He is considered a martyr whose death is a special event for both Shiites and Alevis and in the history of Islam in general, which they commemorate with various mourning ceremonies. Ḥusayn was the son of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the first Imam of the Shiites and fourth Khalif of the Sunnis and the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.

As a tribute to Ḥusayn's suffering, pilgrims participate in mourning processions and sometimes scourge themselves with swords. However, for most Shiites, the festival also has a purely social character and is an occasion for family gatherings. Sunni extremists have repeatedly attacked the festivals in recent years.

Alevis also see Ḥusayn, the younger grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, as his rightful successor and revere him as a martyr. However, they celebrate Ashura with a twelve-day fast. Finally, on the 13th day, a special sweet dish, ashurah, consisting of chickpeas, white beans, wheat, rice, water, raisins, chopped walnuts, pomegranate seeds and powdered sugar, is prepared and distributed.

Islamic-Shiite Religious Community in Austria

Alevi Religious Community in Austria