The Mourning of Muharram (also known as the Remembrance of Muharram or Muharram Observances) is a set of commemoration rituals observed primarily by Shia and Sufi Muslims, as well as some non-Muslims.
The commemoration falls in Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar.
Many of the events associated with the ritual take place in congregation halls known as Hussainia.
The event supposedly marks the anniversary of the Battle of Karbala (AD 680/AH 61), when Imam Hussein ibn Ali, a grandson of Prophet Muhammad, was martyred by the forces of the second Umayyad caliph.
Family members and companions accompanying him were either killed or subjected to humiliation.
The commemoration of this event during the yearly mourning season, with the Day of Ashura as the focal date, serves to define Shia’s communal identity.
Muharram observances are carried out in countries with a sizable Shia population. This sect mourn during Muharram.
Storytelling, weeping and chest-beating, wearing black, partial fasting, street processions, and re-enactments of the Battle of Karbala form the crux of the observances.
According to Shia sources, the mourning of Muharram was started by the family, especially women, of Muhammad (the Ahl-ul-Bayt) immediately after the death of his grandson and even before entering Damascus.
Following the battle of Karbala, Muhammad’s granddaughter Zaynab bint Ali and sister of Imam Husayn began mourning for the fallen and making speeches against Imam Husayn ibn Ali’s opponents: Ibn Ziyad and Yazid I.
News of Imam Husayn ibn Ali’s martyrdom was spread by Imam Zain-ul-Abideen, who succeeded Imam Husayn as the Shia Imam, via sermons and speeches throughout Iraq, Syria, and Hejaz.
The mourning rituals evolved differently in different places until the Safavid dynasty established a centralized Shia state in the 16th century.
The annual mourning ceremonies and ritual cursing of Husayn’s enemies acquired the status of a national institution.
Self-flagellation has been practiced but is now considered haram (prohibited) by most Usuli Shia authorities.
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