‘Ashura’ is the name of the first Islamic lunar month of Muharam. The month of Muharam marked the second era in Islam, at this point the prophet Mohammed moved from Mecca to Medina.
Ifran – The prophet spent the rest of his life in Medina and built a fortified religious and political regime.
Although ‘Ashura’ comes into Islam as part of the traditions shared with other Abrahamic religions , it remains a source of conflict between Shi’a and Sunni Muslims. The two denominations disagree on how it should be celebrated.
‘Ashura’ is observed as a religious occasion all over the Muslim world. However, while for some Muslims it is a joyous occasion, for others it is a time of sorrow and reflection. Sunni Muslims celebrate by fasting on the ninth and tenth days of Muharam. Meanwhile,the Shi’a commemorate it in different ways.
Many nationalist Shi’a see ‘Ashura’ as a time of sadness, mourning the death of Hussain Ibin Ali, a grandson of the Prophet Mohamed, who was killed by the troops of Yazid Ibn Mu’awiyya in the Battle of Karbala. This clash was an important event but came about as a consequence of the political machinations, and conflicting interpretations of the holy text.
With rise of nationalism as a concept, the ‘Ashura’ has become a symbol of patriotism in the Middle East and North Africa. Many Moroccan Shi’a now see it as a time to travel to Iraq where they participate in the memorial of Hussain in Karbala. Although Morocco cut diplomatic relations with Iraq due to its intervention in suspected religious activities, the Moroccan constitution in Article 41 guarantees the freedom to worship.
‘Ashura,’ like many religious festivals across the globe has become commercialized. Although the first day of ‘Ashura’ is a national holiday, it is celebrated only on the tenth day. More and more, the festival is becoming a social event more than a spiritual occasion.. Now, the celebration calls for buying dried fruits, nuts and kernels, toys, and games. This is most prevalent in the popular markets of the old Moroccan cities. The colourful toys and sweets are very eye-catching wherever one goes, and the sounds of electronic games and toys are catching and easy on the ears.
It is the subject of much debate how such a religious occasion has changed from spiritual to economic, or sometimes swings between them. Religion as a system is exposed to other cultures and is vulnerable to social challenges. At some point in history ‘Ashura’ joined the ranks of religious festivals, from all faiths, whose meaning becomes diluted by societal and economic agendas.
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