Emotional Ashoura commemorations took place across Lebanon Thursday, with thousands gathering in the southern city of Nabatieh to take part in a bloody procession to mourn the 7th century killing of Imam Hussein.
In the city’s main square, some people beat their heads with their hands or cut them with sharp objects. One father was seen pushing his children to the front of the crowd where volunteers waited with barber scissors to cut their foreheads.
Every year, blood-letting, processions and chants mark the Shiite commemoration of the Battle of Karbala, where Imam Hussein – the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson – was killed in 680.
But in recent years, some Shiites have taken the opportunity to donate blood instead of spilling it.
On one side of the procession, a tent was erected by the Lebanese Red Cross for those choosing to donate blood.
"I think donating blood is better for humanity, and better than letting it spill. It also reflects the Islamic thinking [to help others]," 22-year-old Suhaila Nassreddine told The Daily Star as she was waiting for her turn.
A man who identified himself as Uncle Mohammad said that he donates blood every year on Ashoura, believing it to be more beneficial than the usual self-flagellation ritual. He called on others to do the same.
Even Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Nasrallah has called on Shiites to forgo self-flagellation and donate blood instead.
However, many residents of Nabatieh preferred to stick to the tradition and continue with the rituals of beating their heads, bleeding, shouting slogans, and in some cases, cutting themselves with razors or scissors.
People had been gathered at Nabatieh’s main square to commemorate Ashoura since dawn.
"We are doing this for the sake of Imam Hussein, it [proves] our obedience to him and it is the least we can offer him," Mohammad Jaber told The Daily Star while carrying his 10-year-old daughter on his bleeding head.
Some hit back at the criticism sent their way for the blood letting. Hassan Ibrahim defended the ritual, saying, "Some say we are hurting our children. We are not. It is part of our ideology and we will not change it."
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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