Today – November 24, 2012 – marks the Day of Ashura in the Muslim faith.
It falls on the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar and marks the climax of the Remembrance of Muharram. While the holiday is generally celebrated by all Muslims, the observance of the day is markedly different for Shi’ites than it is for Sunnis.
Ashura is commemorated by Shia Muslims as a day of mourning for the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad, at the Battle of Karbala on 10 Muharram in the year 61 AH (October 10, 680 AD). Husayn is considered by Shi’ite’s to be Ahl al-Bayt, the third Imam and the rightful successor of Muhammad.
On this day Shi’a are in remembrance, and mourning attire is worn. They refrain from music, since Arabic culture generally considers music impolite during death rituals. It is a time for sorrow and respect of the person’s passing, and it is also a time for self-reflection, when one commits oneself to the mourning of the Husayn completely. Weddings and parties are never planned on this date by Shi’as. Many Shi’ites commonly believe
that taking part in Ashura is to be absolved of sin. A popular Shia saying has it that, “a single tear shed for Husayn washes away a hundred sins.”
Sunni Muslims remember this day differently and for vastly different reasons, claiming that Muhammad fasted on this day, remembering Moses’ similar expression of gratitude to God for liberating the Israelites from Egypt. Sunni Muslims view this day as a remembrance of a victory God gave to his prophet, Moses.