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Ashura Across the Globe: When the World Came Together

From the remote villages of Africa to the bustling cities of New York and London, millions of Muslims across the globe commemorated the martyrdom of the Grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, Hussain ibn Ali on the 28th and 29th of July 2023. 

Millions flocked to Karbala, Iraq, the city where Imam Hussain is buried. The city hosted the world’s largest free food distribution for pilgrims, in the war-torn country that still suffers from poverty. 

TMJ News correspondent Fiza Raza from Iran mentioned how black flags that symbolize the mourning period were donned in public spaces, and private gatherings in homes were held as well as special programs for children. She said that mourners also spent large amounts of money to feed millions of people, and the entire country came together for a time of shared grief. Hundreds of thousands of mothers and their babies also gathered to pledge allegiance to Imam Hussain and his timeless sacrifice for Islam. To honor the 6-month-old baby of Imam Hussain who was also slain in Karbala, women raised their babies in unison.  

Correspondent Fousiya Bismi comments that Sydney and Melbourne in Australia are home to the largest Shia communities hailing from Lebanon, Iraq, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. She spoke of how around 50 programs were held each night across several centers of various cultures during the first 12 days of Muharram, culminating on the tenth day.

This day, commonly known as the Day of Ashura, is the day Imam Hussain, his family members and companions were brutally murdered in the plains of Karbala whilst being denied food and water for three days. Bismi says that a few thousand people gather together to hold a procession to mourn Imam Hussain in the Sydney Central Business District (CBD) with police and municipal permission. The Ashura March is about resistance and protest against all forms of oppression and “adulteration of the original message of God.” Bismi draws parallels to the “terrorists that tried to kill Jesus, and the ones who killed Imam Hussain” and that “they exist to this day.’’

Miantal, a correspondent from Pakistan, speaks of how the government has taken few measures to ensure the security of mourners commemorating the day of Ashura. Several attacks from suicide bombers in Pakistani cities have left hundreds of mourners dead in the last few decades, many of these places actively targeted for commemorating Ashura and remembering the tragedy of Karbala. Despite the ongoing threats that exist on these streets, thousands of people still flock through the streets, reciting eulogies and beating their chests as a symbolic gesture of grief. Their aim? To preserve the message and sacrifice of Hussain, he says. 

On the other side of the world, a ‘March for Justice’ walk was held in Dearborn, Michigan, of the largest marches in North America. This year marked the 9th annual procession in which Muslims, as well as non-Muslims, gather together to commemorate the tragedy of Karbala as well as stand for other injustices. Posters reading “Justice for Palestine” and “Hands of our Quran” among others were raised by attendees. A similar walk was also held in New York City, USA and other American cities. 

Neighboring Canada held gatherings where thousands of mourners came together to hear insightful lectures and eulogies about the day of Ashura. The Maqtal, which focuses on each individual person who was killed in Karbala, was recited as well as what happened afterward to the women and children, also known as Shaam-e-Ghariba. 

In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, several free food distribution tables were spread across the city center for mourners of Hussain. Thousands were provided with free food for days at stretch. A special walk for young children, an exhibit of the battlefield of Karbala with model horses and mini tents as well as peaceful processions took place in this small East African city. Organizers in Bujumbura, Burundi also hosted gatherings for their few hundred attendees. 

The list of cities around the world that commemorate Hussain and the tragedy of Karbala is endless. Ashura is a day deeply revered by millions of Muslims around the world, often marked by wearing black clothes and being overcome with grief and sadness for at least 10 days. Muslims mourn the atrocity where 30,000 Muslims came together under the orders of Yazid son of Muawiya to kill the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed (P), his family, children and companions, only 50 years after his passing. 

While many mourn the first ten to twelve days of Muharram, it is common practice to hold and attend gatherings (Majalis) for the rest of the month to honor the women of the Prophet’s household who were held captive in the dungeons. Many of them, including Imam Hussain’s four year old daughter Sakina, perished there due to anguish, injuries, grief and thirst. 

Ultimately, the practice shared across all cities and cultures around the world is one that was began with Zainab, sister of Hussain ibn Ali and grand-daughter of Prophet Mohamed. In a time of intense suppression and propaganda, the retelling of stories, recitation of eulogies and the holding of majalis gatherings is what preserved the revolution 1400 years ago, its success echoing till today. 

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  • Zamena Manekia Manji

    Zamena Manekia Manji is a breaking news writer for TMJ News with experience of over 10 years in the field. Her areas of focus are important breaking stories in North America specifically untold stories from a minority lens.

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