All religions have extremist fringes, Islam is of course no different. What I was surprised to learn is that these gripping photographs of self harm on the Day of Ashura are not a rare fringe occurrence. The Shi’a branch of Islam, although historically the underdog, has a huge following across many countries and the mourning of the Day of Ashura is observed across the globe.
The event and its bloody performance have been going on for hundreds of years across multiple countries.
Above is a practising Shi’a Muslim in Karbala, Iraq and below, Baghdad.
The Day of Ashura is an important day of sorrow in the Islamic calendar. Shi’a Muslims lament the martyrdom of Hsayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad which occurred on October 10th in the year 680 AD.
Photos above and below were taken in Bahrain.
More pictures on next page…
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The story goes that Hsayn ibn Ali was travelling to find water with 72 friends, family members, women and children. They met the forces of an army of Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad. His forces were 100,000 strong so there wasn’t going to be much of a fight.
Hsayn ibn Ali was slaughtered, beheaded and mutilated along with the rest of the men in the group. This next picture was taken in Kabul, Afghanistan:
More on next page…
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Ashura day is the 10th day of Muharram (the first month of the Islamic calendar) and followers agonize over the slaughter of Muhammad’s relative.
People of all ages indulge in self-flagellation. They cut themselves with knives, blades, swords and chains.
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Many Shi’a marjas (Shi’a leaders) have banned this self harm and instead urge people to simply donate blood to Red Cross or whoever, which is a much better idea. But regardless of much disapproval, many Islamic sections of multiple nations still indulge in self-mutilation on this holy day.
Pictures above and below taken in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.
The believers are demonstrating anguish at the fact they weren’t at the battle, and the blood that is spilled is believed to purge them of their sins. The next two pictures were taken in Rangon, the former capital of Burma.
Disturbing images of children on the next page. Be warned…
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Shi’a and Sunni groups, although both Muslim, disagree on many of the finer points of Islam. The Day of Ashura is no different. It is this day that Sunni extremists often decide to attack Shi’a groups. Often with bombs.
The battle that Hsayn ibn Ali died in on that fateful day was part of a war over who would become the next caliph of the Muslim faith, i.e. the head of the Muslim community. Both sides disagreed on the leadership choice and that’s where Islam became separated into the two strands. In a similar way to Protestants and Catholics, these two sections of the same religion have endured mutual hatred for years.
People can get up to whatever they like in my book, as long as they’re only hurting themselves. The fact that children get involved hits a nerve. That’s called child abuse.
Whatever your thoughts on religion…
… leave the kids alone.
It’s not a surprise that weird religious rituals still go on, it’s no real surprise that children end up involved in these rituals. The blood shed is no surprise and the widespread nature of the rituals isn’t much of a surprise either. Religion always brings out the weird in people.