Ashura: 10 eye-opening images that will make you weep

Published November 4th, 2014 - 10:23 GMT

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Warning: some of the images are graphic and may be distressing for viewers.

It’s an emotional time for Shia Muslims across the globe. Every year the day of Ashura, which means the “tenth day” in Arabic, commemorates the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammed's (PBUH) grandson, Imam Hussain, who was killed during the battle of Karbala on the 10th day of Muharram in the year 61 AH (after Hijra). Continue reading below »

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To commemorate Hazrat Ali-Asghar, the newborn son of Imam Hussein, Iranian women gather with their newborns at the Imam Khomeini Mosalla and the Mahdieh Mosque in Tehran. The tiny boys are dressed in their finest; these beautiful babies belie the gruesome backstory to the day.
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Image 1 of 10:  1 / 10To commemorate Hazrat Ali-Asghar, the newborn son of Imam Hussein, Iranian women gather with their newborns at the Imam Khomeini Mosalla and the Mahdieh Mosque in Tehran. The tiny boys are dressed in their finest; these beautiful babies belie the gruesome backstory to the day.

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This sleeping Iraqi Shia boy is costumed as slain Imam Hussain, who was killed as a child by an arrow that pierced his throat.
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Image 2 of 10:  2 / 10This sleeping Iraqi Shia boy is costumed as slain Imam Hussain, who was killed as a child by an arrow that pierced his throat.

Enlarge
Shia Muslims re-enact the battle of Karbala with a mourning march in the village of Saksakieh in southern Lebanon. The man in the middle represents Imam Hussein, accompanied by his family members, who are distinguishable by their white face covers.
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Image 3 of 10:  3 / 10Shia Muslims re-enact the battle of Karbala with a mourning march in the village of Saksakieh in southern Lebanon. The man in the middle represents Imam Hussein, accompanied by his family members, who are distinguishable by their white face covers.

Enlarge
In that same Lebanese village, Shia women chain themselves to each other for a march that re-enacts the battle of Karbala. When Imam Hussain was killed during that battle his followers, including women, were murdered. As a result the marching women perform the communal mourning march.
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Image 4 of 10:  4 / 10In that same Lebanese village, Shia women chain themselves to each other for a march that re-enacts the battle of Karbala. When Imam Hussain was killed during that battle his followers, including women, were murdered. As a result the marching women perform the communal mourning march.

Enlarge
Shia Muslims across Lebanon, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Islamic nations have been following the Ashura ritual of self-harm for the past 1,300 years. Afghan followers include men and women who re-enact the battle of Karbala as part of their painful mourning process.
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Image 5 of 10:  5 / 10Shia Muslims across Lebanon, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Islamic nations have been following the Ashura ritual of self-harm for the past 1,300 years. Afghan followers include men and women who re-enact the battle of Karbala as part of their painful mourning process.

Enlarge
Beyond the Middle East, Shia Muslims as far as Burma (Myanmar) celebrate Ashura. There, some Shia Muslims walk on fire at special ceremonies at a mosque in central Yangon during the Ashura festival. Yangon is the largest city in Burma (Myanmar) and has a sizeable Shia population.
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Image 6 of 10:  6 / 10Beyond the Middle East, Shia Muslims as far as Burma (Myanmar) celebrate Ashura. There, some Shia Muslims walk on fire at special ceremonies at a mosque in central Yangon during the Ashura festival. Yangon is the largest city in Burma (Myanmar) and has a sizeable Shia population.

Enlarge
During Ashura mourners can visit al-Hussanieh, a special place dedicated to prayer and mourning for Imam Hussain during the month of Muharram. Here, people weep openly and is a practice especially popular in Iraq.
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Image 7 of 10:  7 / 10During Ashura mourners can visit al-Hussanieh, a special place dedicated to prayer and mourning for Imam Hussain during the month of Muharram. Here, people weep openly and is a practice especially popular in Iraq.

Enlarge
On Ashura, doctors, health employees and volunteers are on duty around the clock. They remain on high alert until the ceremony is over to take care of worshippers as they continue to harm themselves.  In groups of three, the organizers of the procession prevent injuries from becoming dramatic.
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Image 8 of 10:  8 / 10On Ashura, doctors, health employees and volunteers are on duty around the clock. They remain on high alert until the ceremony is over to take care of worshippers as they continue to harm themselves. In groups of three, the organizers of the procession prevent injuries from becoming dramatic.

Enlarge
It’s not all blood; some people mourn their Imam without inflicting any real injuries. Ruhollah Mahmoudi, a talented young Iranian photographer, captured the day as celebrated in Bijar, Kurdistan. Ashura in Bijar involves adorning oneself with a great amount of mud to mourn for Imam Hossain.
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Image 9 of 10:  9 / 10It’s not all blood; some people mourn their Imam without inflicting any real injuries. Ruhollah Mahmoudi, a talented young Iranian photographer, captured the day as celebrated in Bijar, Kurdistan. Ashura in Bijar involves adorning oneself with a great amount of mud to mourn for Imam Hossain.

Enlarge
An Iranian Shia in the role of the Prophet Moses heads to the battle of Karbala. People perform these roles as a part of the annual religious performance of “Taazieh” in the Iranian town of Noosh Abad near the central city of Kashan.
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Image 10 of 10:  10 / 10An Iranian Shia in the role of the Prophet Moses heads to the battle of Karbala. People perform these roles as a part of the annual religious performance of “Taazieh” in the Iranian town of Noosh Abad near the central city of Kashan.

Enlarge

1

To commemorate Hazrat Ali-Asghar, the newborn son of Imam Hussein, Iranian women gather with their newborns at the Imam Khomeini Mosalla and the Mahdieh Mosque in Tehran. The tiny boys are dressed in their finest; these beautiful babies belie the gruesome backstory to the day.

Image 1 of 10To commemorate Hazrat Ali-Asghar, the newborn son of Imam Hussein, Iranian women gather with their newborns at the Imam Khomeini Mosalla and the Mahdieh Mosque in Tehran. The tiny boys are dressed in their finest; these beautiful babies belie the gruesome backstory to the day.

2

This sleeping Iraqi Shia boy is costumed as slain Imam Hussain, who was killed as a child by an arrow that pierced his throat.

Image 2 of 10This sleeping Iraqi Shia boy is costumed as slain Imam Hussain, who was killed as a child by an arrow that pierced his throat.

3

Shia Muslims re-enact the battle of Karbala with a mourning march in the village of Saksakieh in southern Lebanon. The man in the middle represents Imam Hussein, accompanied by his family members, who are distinguishable by their white face covers.

Image 3 of 10Shia Muslims re-enact the battle of Karbala with a mourning march in the village of Saksakieh in southern Lebanon. The man in the middle represents Imam Hussein, accompanied by his family members, who are distinguishable by their white face covers.

4

In that same Lebanese village, Shia women chain themselves to each other for a march that re-enacts the battle of Karbala. When Imam Hussain was killed during that battle his followers, including women, were murdered. As a result the marching women perform the communal mourning march.

Image 4 of 10In that same Lebanese village, Shia women chain themselves to each other for a march that re-enacts the battle of Karbala. When Imam Hussain was killed during that battle his followers, including women, were murdered. As a result the marching women perform the communal mourning march.

5

Shia Muslims across Lebanon, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Islamic nations have been following the Ashura ritual of self-harm for the past 1,300 years. Afghan followers include men and women who re-enact the battle of Karbala as part of their painful mourning process.

Image 5 of 10Shia Muslims across Lebanon, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Islamic nations have been following the Ashura ritual of self-harm for the past 1,300 years. Afghan followers include men and women who re-enact the battle of Karbala as part of their painful mourning process.

6

Beyond the Middle East, Shia Muslims as far as Burma (Myanmar) celebrate Ashura. There, some Shia Muslims walk on fire at special ceremonies at a mosque in central Yangon during the Ashura festival. Yangon is the largest city in Burma (Myanmar) and has a sizeable Shia population.

Image 6 of 10Beyond the Middle East, Shia Muslims as far as Burma (Myanmar) celebrate Ashura. There, some Shia Muslims walk on fire at special ceremonies at a mosque in central Yangon during the Ashura festival. Yangon is the largest city in Burma (Myanmar) and has a sizeable Shia population.

7

During Ashura mourners can visit al-Hussanieh, a special place dedicated to prayer and mourning for Imam Hussain during the month of Muharram. Here, people weep openly and is a practice especially popular in Iraq.

Image 7 of 10During Ashura mourners can visit al-Hussanieh, a special place dedicated to prayer and mourning for Imam Hussain during the month of Muharram. Here, people weep openly and is a practice especially popular in Iraq.

8

On Ashura, doctors, health employees and volunteers are on duty around the clock. They remain on high alert until the ceremony is over to take care of worshippers as they continue to harm themselves.  In groups of three, the organizers of the procession prevent injuries from becoming dramatic.

Image 8 of 10On Ashura, doctors, health employees and volunteers are on duty around the clock. They remain on high alert until the ceremony is over to take care of worshippers as they continue to harm themselves. In groups of three, the organizers of the procession prevent injuries from becoming dramatic.

9

It’s not all blood; some people mourn their Imam without inflicting any real injuries. Ruhollah Mahmoudi, a talented young Iranian photographer, captured the day as celebrated in Bijar, Kurdistan. Ashura in Bijar involves adorning oneself with a great amount of mud to mourn for Imam Hossain.

Image 9 of 10It’s not all blood; some people mourn their Imam without inflicting any real injuries. Ruhollah Mahmoudi, a talented young Iranian photographer, captured the day as celebrated in Bijar, Kurdistan. Ashura in Bijar involves adorning oneself with a great amount of mud to mourn for Imam Hossain.

10

An Iranian Shia in the role of the Prophet Moses heads to the battle of Karbala. People perform these roles as a part of the annual religious performance of “Taazieh” in the Iranian town of Noosh Abad near the central city of Kashan.

Image 10 of 10An Iranian Shia in the role of the Prophet Moses heads to the battle of Karbala. People perform these roles as a part of the annual religious performance of “Taazieh” in the Iranian town of Noosh Abad near the central city of Kashan.

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Also referred to as the “Muslim Passover”, Ashura is a day of painful commemoration of the assassination of Hussain. On this day, Shia Muslims express their grief and reenact the pain and sorrow endured by Hussain while on his quest to protect his people from the Umayyads. The Umayyad caliph won a lot of supporters but Imam Hussain, refused to give his pledge of allegiance to the caliph and chose to die an honorable and dignified death rather than live on in humiliation. As a result, Imam Hussain, his 72 family and followers (including women and children) were brutally killed.

Shia Muslims around the world mark Ashura with the gory ritual of self-flagellation- that’s right, by flaying and cutting themselves with whips and knives until they are soaked in their own blood. Shia believe that the practice of inflicting pain washes away their sins and preserves the suffering of Hussain and his people.

Like other sacred days, Ashura is observed for different reasons and in different ways. Take a look at some incredible images of Ashura practices throughout the world.

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