Across Iraq, millions of Shia Muslims gather to mark Ashura
The Shia Muslim community across Iraq commemorated Ashura on Friday, 28 July, one of the community's most important events of the year, marking the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson, Hussein.
Ashura falls on the tenth day of Muharram, the first month in the Islamic calendar. In the ten days leading up to Ashura, Shias (usually under the Twelver Shia subsect) attend congregation halls known as Hussainiyat to listen to religious stories and partake in prayer.
Late on Thursday, 27 July, Shia Muslims gathered at Sulaimaniyah City's Hussainiyeh to mourn the martyrdom of Hussein.
"This year's Ashura marks 1,384 years since the martyrdom of Imam Hussein. We commemorate this day as per the Sunnah of the Prophet and the Ahlul Bait[the specific members of the household of the Prophet]," Saaid Isa Barzinji, representative of the Supreme Islamic Council in Sulaimaniyah, told The New Arab.
"Our Prophet Mohammed has said in true hadith, 'Hussein is from me, and I am from Hussein. Allah loves anyone who loves al-Hasan [junior brother of Hussein] and al-Hussein."
Another participant, Dr Abdulamir Hussein, commended the late Jalal Talabani, former Iraqi president, for establishing the Hussainiyeh in Sulaimaniyah. He said without the Hussainiyeh, the Shia minority in the city could not mark their religious ceremonies.
Asked what he thinks of those Shias who curse the Prophet's wife, Aisha, the Prophet's first and second Caliphates Abu Bakr As-Siddiq and Umar ibn al-Khattab, Hussein said, "I think they are ignorant since cursing would only lead to division among the Muslims."
Hussein is believed to have been killed in battle by forces loyal to the then-ruling caliphate in 680 AD. This – among other disagreements – ingrained a deep rift in Islam and continues to play a crucial role in shaping Shia and Sunni identities.
Among the most recognised scenes are processions commemorating Hussein's death, with mourners dressed in all black, with some mourners whipping their backs.
Millions of Iraqi Shias gathered in the Iraqi holy cities of Karbala and Najaf to mourn the killing of Imam Hussien.
In a tweet, influential Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr cursed the souls of Yazid and Muawiyah and their followers, describing them as "killers of Hussien".
Followers of Sadr have marked the day by wearing white coffins and chanting slogans in support of Sadr, and the holy Muslim book of the Quran, an indication that Sadr might return to the political arena.
Muawiyah, an early Islamic leader and founder of the Umayyad dynasty of caliphs, fought against Ali Ibn Abi Talib, Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law and the fourth caliph of Islam after the passing away of the Prophet.
According to historical narratives, Yazid, the sitting caliph in Damascus, reportedly demanded that Hussien pledge allegiance to him or face death. Hussien refused, and eventually, a bloody battle ensued in the city of Karbala on the date of Ashura. Yazid's army subsequently killed every male member of the Prophet's family before finally killing Hussien.