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Ashura with Turkish Shias

In Religion on 03/07/2011 at 14:29

Ashura takes place on the 10th day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar. It is an ancient observance recognized in different ways among Sunni and Shia Muslims.

Last December, I attended the commemoration with Istanbul’s Shias in the Halkali district. Turkey’s Shia community claims three million followers. For them, Ashura is a day of mourning for the martyrdom of Huseyin, the grandson of the Prophet of Islam, at the Battle of Karbala.

Reenactments and plays attempt to relive the tragedy and keep the lessons of this event alive. Ceremonies are carefully performed, with rehearsals taking place the days before. Believers beat their chest (“deste” in Turkish) as a display of their devotion to Huseyin. Apparently, a popular Shia saying has it that “a single tear shed for Huseyin washes away a hundred sins”.

To learn more about Ashura, see here.