Ashura literally means the ‘Tenth’ in Arabic refers to the 10th day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, when Hussain (AS) the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), was martyred at Karbala. Hussain (AS) was on his way from Medina to Kufa, where local supporters had invited him. Ibni Ziyad, the Umayyad governor of Kufa, feared a rebellion and sent troops to stop Hussain’s caravan at Karbala before it reached Kufa. He ordered his commanders to make clear to Hussain that he had no choice other than to pledge allegiance to Yazid, the second Umayyad caliph. Though his party was prevented from reaching water in the Karbala desert and his followers were so few in comparison with the Umayyad troops, Hussain did not want any violence and did not want anyone to die, however he knew he could not sit and obey Yazid, he chose instead to stick to his principles. Having refused to obey him, Yazid ordered his men to kill Hussain (AS) on the 10th day of the first month of the Islamic calendar (Muharram). This day is known as The Day of Ashura. On this day Asura, 72 males, including Hussain’s six-month-old baby were killed by Umayyad troops. The women and children were taken prisoner at Yazid’s palace in Damascus, the capital of the Umayyad caliphate, where Zainab (AS), Hussain’s sister, confronted and shamed Yazid in a memorable speech. She is therefore known as the messenger of Ashura. Shiite devotees throughout the world mourn on Ashura to commemorate and lament the martyrdom of Hussain and his companions at Karbala.
Ashura has not been just a historical event, but a school for teaching faith and belief, courage and martyrdom, justice and will of freedom, aspiration and religious zeal, jihad and uprising against evil, patience and steadfastness, and sacrifices and courage.
The ceremonies, which often begin on the first day of Muharram, culminate on the 10th day, and continue until the 12th day whereas Sunnis retain traditions of fasting, reading the Qur’an, or visiting cemeteries on Ashura. Hussain’s martyrdom has retained a strong symbolic significance in Islamic history, especially for Shiites, who have used it as a marker for their distinct identity within the Islamic world and as ideological grounds for their religio political movements. Ashura has not been just a historical event, but a school for teaching faith and belief, courage and martyrdom, justice and will of freedom, aspiration and religious zeal, jihad and uprising against evil, patience and steadfastness, and sacrifices and courage. In other words, it gives a lesson of being a human in its real sense to all of us. There is also historical importance of this day as on this day Almighty Allah has created heavens and worlds, Allah accepted the repentance of Adam(AS) after his exile from Paradise, Allah saved Noah (AS) and his companions, Allah spoke directly to Mosa (AS) and gave him the Commandments, Younis (AS) was rescued from the fish, The sea was divided as the Israelites was delivered from captivity and Pharaoh’s army was destroyed, Ayoob (AS) was restored to health, Fire did not burn Abrahim (AS), Suliman (AS) was granted his kingdom, Yousuf (AS) was rescued from the well, Yaqoob (AS) and Yousuf (AS) rejoined and Yaqoob (AS) regained his eyesight.