What is Ashura? (also Aashuora and other spellings)
Ashoura is marked on the tenth day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar,
by all Muslims.
Who is Hussain?
In the month of Muharram 61 AH (approx. 20th October 680 AD), an event took place
in Iraq at a place known as Kerbala on the bank of the river Euphrates.
It seemed in those days insignificant from the historical point of view.
A large army (70,000 men) which had been mobilised by the Umayyad regime besieged
a group of persons numbering less than a hundred and put them under pressure to
pay allegiance to the Caliph of the time and submit to his authority. The small
group resisted and a severe battle took place in which they were all killed.
It appeared at that time that like hundreds of similar events, this battle would
be recorded in history and forgotten in time. However, the events that occurred
on the 10th day of Muharram in Kerbala were to become a beacon and an inspiration
for future generations. Ashoura is marked on the tenth day of Muharram, the first
month of the Islamic calendar, by all Muslims.
The leader of the small band of men who were martyred in Kerbala was none other
than Husain (A), son of Ali bin Abi Talib (A) and grandson of the Holy Prophet (S).
Historical Chains of Kerbala
He is the 3rd Imam (leader) of Shia, well known for his kindness, charity and love
for the poor.
After the death of Mu’awiyah, Imam Hussein faced two bitter choices by the governor
of Medina: either to pay allegiance to the tyrant Yazid or to face execution. Because
of the threat Imam Hussein was forced to leave his birthplace, the city of Medina,
to Makkah on the 29th of Rajab 60H/May 6th 680AD.
Why remember Ashura?
The distance between Medina and Makkah is 420km. It took the Imam and his family
five days to travel to Makkah, they arrived on the 4th of Sha'ban 60H/May 11th 680AD.
Imam Hussein stayed in Makkah for 120 days, from the 4th of Sha'ban to the 7th of
Dhil Hijjah 60H/May 11th to September 9th 680AD. During this time Imam Hussein received
thousands of letters and delegates from Iraq inviting him to lead the movement against
the unjust rule of Bani Umayyad.
Still under the threat of assassination by Bani Umayyad, Imam Hussein, his family,
and companions abruptly departed Makkah and headed towards Iraq on the 8th of Dhil
Hijjah/September 10th 680AD, the same day that the pilgrims leave for Makkah to
Mena to perform the pilgrimage.
The distance between Makkah and Karbala, Iraq is 1,470km. At an average rate of
64km, it took the caravan of Imam Hussein 23 days to journey to Karbala. After passing
38 resting stations and villages Hussein's caravan finally reached the land of Karbala
on the 2nd of Muharram 61H/October 3rd 680AD.
The army of Bani Umayyad surrounded the camp of Imam Hussein in Karbala on the 9th
of Muharram/October 10th 680AD. The army numbered 30,000 soldiers commanded by Omar
The army of Bani Umayyad launched the battle of Ashura on the 10th morning of Muharram
61H/October 11th 680AD. The battle lasted for several hours. Imam Hussein, his family
members, and his 72 companions were massacred. Only one man survived, his son Imam
Ali ibn Al-Hussein Zainul Abidin, who assumed the Immamah (succession to the Prophet).
The remaining women and children of the family of Imam Hussein were driven as prisoners
of war on the 11th of Muharram/October 12th to the city of Kufa to meet with Ibn
Ziyad, the Governor of Bani Umayyad in Iraq.
On the 10th of Muharrum, the day of Ashura each member of Hussein's family bravely
fought and was martyred. The tyrants didn't even spare his infant 6 month old son
Ali Asgher and pinned a deadly arrow in the baby's neck and all men, women, and
children were denied water to drink for 3 days.
Although being a numerical minority, this did not deter them from continuing their
struggle. They faced hardships and faced the most brutal oppressor, regardless of
their condition. Hussein was killed on the battlefield as he did Sajdah while praying.
His head was removed from his body on the plains of Kerbala, mounted on a spear,
and paraded through villages and towns as it was taken to Damascus and presented
at the feet of Yazid.
Although Hussein suffered physically, he gained moral victory and immortality. He
refused to give into treacherous diplomacy, oppression and evil. His sacrifices
and sufferings are unparalleled in human history. He not only revived the true principles
of Islam but emerged as the leader of entire humanity. His actions of self-less
devotion to the cause of Allah seem fruitless since he gained nothing physically,
and lost everything of this world on account of his devotion and service to Allah.
After his head was slaughtered, his family was captured and taken as prisoners of
war, from Kufa to Damascus.
The commemoration of Ashura on the 10th of Muharram every year serves to remind
us of the sacrifices of Imam Hussain & his family for the truth.
, Imam Hossein
, Imam Hussain