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Ashura among Iranian Shiites

Ashura ( Arabic عاشوراء ʿĀschūrāʾ , DMG ʿāšūrāʾ fromعَشَرَة aschara , DMG ʿašara 'ten'; in Urdu and Persian عاشورا, in English texts also Ashura ) is called the tenth day of the month of Muharram , the first month in the Islamic calendar . This day is significant for many Muslims around the world.

On this day the Shiites commemorate the death of their third Imam Husain in the battle of Karbala . He is considered a martyr whose murder represents a special event for Shiites and Alevis as well as in general in the history of Islam , which they commemorate with various funeral ceremonies. Husain was the son of Ali ibn Abi Talib (the first Imam of the Shiites and fourth caliph of the Sunnis) and the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed .


Before the battle of Karbala

According to Sunni scholars, in the time of ignorance before the proclamation of Islam, the Jews and some Arabs honored and celebrated the day of Ashura by fasting. The reason is said to have been, among others, the following events:

  • The prophet Moses is said to have crossed the Red Sea on this day when he left Egypt .
  • The wounds of the prophet Job , the patient, are said to have been healed by God on Ashura day.
  • Furthermore, the prophet Noah is said to be stranded with his ark on Mount Cudi (in today's Turkey) after the flood on this day .

Arabs may have adopted fasting from the Jewish Yom Kippur . The Prophet Mohammed is said to have fasted himself on that day. With the proclamation of Islam, he is said to have made fasting compulsory on this day, but after fasting became compulsory for Muslims in the month of Ramadan, he lifted this rule again. Sunnis therefore still consider fasting on this day to be recommended. In some households, a dessert with the same name ( Aşure or Aschure ) is still traditionally cooked and distributed to remember the stories of the prophets and the events of that time.

After the battle of Karbala

The battle of Karbala took place on the 10th of Muharram, 61 years after the emigration of the Prophet Mohammed (October 10, 680 AD), in which the grandson of the Islamic prophet Mohammed and third Imam of the Shiites Husain ibn Ali with his 72 companions from the army of Yazid I were killed because Husain refused to swear allegiance to him. The Umayyads therefore regarded this day as a blessed day and celebrated this day by fasting. The Shiites do not consider fasting to be recommended on this day. Shiites and Alevis mourn and still remember Husain today. Alevis also today express their thanks with Aşure that Zain al-Abidin , the son of Husain ibn Ali (and thus great-grandson of Mohammed) survived the battle of Karbala due to his illness.

Funeral ceremonies

Scene from a tragedy in Ashura in Iran
Scene from a tragedy in Ashura in Iran

Shiites, Alevis and some followers of other religions mourn Husain and his companions on the day of Ashura. At first, reading poems about the martyrs of Karbala and weeping was the only part of the funeral sessions; but gradually other traditions were added, including light beating on the chest (Sīnazanī), mourning spectacles ( Ta'ziya ) and reciting the lamentations of Hussain and others (Rawḍa-khwānī) and others, which were added in the time of the Buyids and in the rule of the Safavids emerged and became known. The majority of Shiite scholars reject self-flagellation ( tatbir ), which leads to injuries. Most of the mourning ceremonies begin on the 1st of Muharram with Husain's arrival in Karbala and can go on until the 12th of Muharram with the expulsion of the bereaved.

Aschura in Germany

In 2012, the German state of Hamburg declared Ashura - and at the same time the festival of sacrifice and the festival of the breaking of the fast at the end of Ramadan - to be public holidays. These holidays were thus equated with Reformation Day , Corpus Christi and the Day of Penance and Prayer .

In 2013, the Senate of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen decided to equate Islamic holidays with Christian and Jewish holidays. After a change in the law on Sundays and public holidays, members of the Islamic religious communities have the opportunity to attend church services on Ashura, the festival of sacrifice and the festival of the breaking of the fast; Students have no lessons.

Ashura and political protest

In the recent history of Iran, the Ashura celebrations have been used several times for political protests. Referring back to the historical events of the Battle of Karbala, the ruling government is compared to the caliph Yazid, while the Iranian people play the role of Hossein's followers who fight against the prevailing oppression.


Anti-Shah demonstration at the Ashura Festival 1978

On June 3, 1963, during the Ashura celebrations , the Shiite cleric Ruhollah Khomeini personally attacked Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi on the occasion of his reform program of the White Revolution in a speech in Ghom's Faizieh school by speaking out in the following words "against the tyrant of our time" turned:

“This government is directed against Islam. Israel is against the fact that the laws of the Koran apply in Iran. Israel is against the enlightened clergy ... Israel is using its agents in this land to remove the resistance against Israel ... the Koran, the clergy ... Oh Mr. Shah, oh exalted Shah, I give you the good advice to give in and (of these Reforms). I don't want to see the people dancing for joy on the day when you will leave the country on the orders of your masters, as everyone cheered when your father once left the country. "

After this speech, Khomeini was arrested on June 5, 1963. As a result, there were violent demonstrations on the same day, in which 32 demonstrators were killed. Iranian leaders later stated that the June 1963 protests marked the birth of the Islamic revolution .


The so-called Muharram protests of 1978 culminated on December 2, 1978, the day of the Ashura celebrations, in a mass demonstration with over two million participants around the Tehran Freedom Tower . The angry crowd demanded the resignation of the Shah and the return of Khomeini from French exile to Iran. The Shah left Iran on January 16, 1979. Khomeini returned to Iran on February 1, 1979 and was enthusiastically received by millions of Iranians. The Islamic Revolution had entered its decisive phase.


On December 26, 2009, on the eve of the Ashura festival, demonstrations against the country's government took place from early morning until late at night in all major cities in Iran. Brutal scenes took place in Iran's capital Tehran . Protesters critical of the government and the Basij militias fought bitterly throughout the day , involving the use of batons and tear gas. Reports show that police and the Basij militia fired live ammunition at demonstrators, killing many demonstrators. The demonstrators shouted, among other things, “Death to the dictator” and “Do not be afraid, we will all stick together”. For security reasons, the former President Chatemi had to break off his address in a mosque in northern Tehran after a few minutes. For the first time, calls for the end of Velayat-e faqih could be heard.

The following day the situation escalated and at least eight fatalities were reported. Demonstrations and sometimes violent clashes with the security forces were reported from 21 cities in Iran. The aim of the protest actions was no longer a reform of the existing system, but a regime change. In chants that could be heard in the streets on the day of the Ashura festival on December 27, 2009, demonstrators shouted: "We will fight, we will die, we will recapture our country."

The government, judiciary and police reacted with a large wave of arrests the day after the Ashura festival. More than 300 people from the political environment of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi , the leader of the opposition movement, were arrested, including Ebrahim Yazdi , the general secretary of the Iranian freedom movement and the professor of medicine Noushin Ebadi, sister of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi . According to the Iranian state television, the clergyman Abbas Waes Tabasi, representative of the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei , the successor of Khomeini, described those who were behind the current protests as "enemies of God" ( mohareb ba choda ), who were executed according to Sharia law would have to be.


On December 6, 2011 , a series of attacks occurred in Kabul , Kandahar and Mazar-i-Sharif , which was primarily aimed at a procession of Shiites in Kabul. It was the largest attack on the Shiite minority in the entire Afghan war . 50 people were murdered in total.

Ashura in the Gregorian calendar

The 10th Muharram falls on the following days of the Gregorian calendar

  • 2009: January 7th and December 27th
  • 2010: December 16
  • 2011: December 6th
  • 2012: November 24th
  • 2013: November 13th
  • 2014: November 3rd
  • 2015: October 23
  • 2016: October 11th
  • 2017: October 1st
  • 2018: September 20th
  • 2019: September 9th
  • 2020: August 30th
  • 2021: August 18th

As is common with Islamic festivals, the evening before is part of the festival, as the days begin with sunset.

See also


  • Florian Bernhardt: Redefining "Ashura" ritual in Iraq. The Islamist Movement and the Student Processions (mawakib al-talaba) during 1966–1968. In: “Anthropos”, Vol. 110, No. 1 (2015), pp. 63–72.
  • Peter Heine: The Islamization of Ashura. Urbanization of Islamic Rites in Morocco. in: Tribus 39, 1990, pp. 159-164;
  • Yitzhak Nakash: “An Attempt to Trace the Origin of the Rituals of ʿĀshūrāʾ” in Die Welt Des Islams 33, 1993, pp. 161-181.
  • Article ashura ; in: Adel Theodor Khoury, Ludwig Hagemann, Peter Heine: Islam-Lexikon A – Z. Stories - ideas - design ; Herder Spectrum, Vol. 5780; Freiburg / Breisgau et al .: Herder, 2006; ISBN 978-3-451-05780-9 ; (= Digital Library Volume 47); P. 141
  • Christopher de Bellaigue : In the rose garden of the martyrs. A portrait of Iran. CH Beck, 2nd ed., Munich 2006, pp. 11-21 and 335-337
  • Carlos Widmann , photos: Georges Abbas: Qom: The power of the pious. In: Geo-Magazin. Hamburg 1980,3, pp. 36-60. Informative experience report on the Ashura festival. ISSN  0342-8311

Web links

Commons : Ashura  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Rumi Club: Ashure. (PDF) Retrieved September 17, 2018 (English).
  2. “The Jews of Medina and the people of the Quraish tribe in Mecca , but also Mohammed himself, used to fast in the Jahiliyya on that day. The Jews at that time stated that they usually fasted on the day God once saved the children of Israel from the enemy in the time of the prophet Moses . When fasting in Ramadan was made compulsory by the revelation of the Koran , Mohammed made fasting on the day of Ashura a free choice. ”- Saheeh al-Bukhari , volume 3, chap. 31, no.218
  3. Sahih Bukhari Book 31 Hadith 222. Retrieved September 17, 2018 .
  4. Sahih Muslim Book 6 Hadith 2518. Retrieved September 17, 2018 .
  5. Ayoub: Shi ' ism . 1988, p. 258-259 .
  6. Alevi Community Germany eV State Representation Bavaria: Alevi Community Germany eV State Representation Bavaria. Retrieved September 17, 2018 .
  7. Islam is now part of Hamburg , taz, August 14, 2012
  8. Katajun Amirpur , Aschura , (accessed October 10, 2016)
  9. Senate decides on equality of Islamic holidays , Migazin, May 13, 2013
  10. Gholam Reza Afkhami: The life and times of the Shah ; University of California Press, 2009; P. 234.
  11. Abbas Milani: Eminent Persians ; Syracuse University Press, 2009; P. 51.
  12. ^ Protest in Iran Dead in Tehran and hundreds of arrests . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , December 28, 2009. ISSN  0174-4909 . Retrieved May 28, 2012. 
  13. Iran: Protesters and anti-riot units are engaged in brutal skirmishes ; Spiegel-Online, notification of December 26, 2009.
  14. ^ Protest in Iran: dead in Tehran and hundreds of arrests ; FAZ.NET, notification dated December 28, 2009
  15. Ulrike Putz: Violence in Iran: Demonstrators force regime on the defensive ; Spiegel-Online, notification dated December 28, 2009.
  16. Protests in Iran: Ahmadinejad attacks the opposition Spiegel Online, December 29, 2009
  17. Video shows police brutality in Iran Focus Online, December 30, 2009
  18. More than 50 dead in the attack in Kabul Süddeutsche Zeitung, December 6, 2011