Ashura, the 10th day of Muharram, falls on the 19th August this year.
It’s a special occasion for Muslims as it is a day marked by two significant events in the faith.
Crossing the Red Sea
Sunni Muslims and Jews fast on the 10th day of the month in the Lunar calendar to commemorate the latter stages of the Exodus, where the Prophet Moses split the Red Sea to guide the Israelites away from the oppression of the Pharaoh.
For Sunnis, fasting on this day is not only done for the remembrance of Allah and the acts of Moses, it is also said that one who fasts on the 10th (and one day before or after) will have their sins forgiven for that year.
It is not an obligatory fast (like the ones in Ramadan), but many Sunnis observe this event by choice every single year.
The Battle of Karbala
In the early Islamic ages following the passing of the Prophet Muhammed, a civil war broke out between the Muslims over succession and leadership.
Ashura is an important day for Shias as they mourn the martyrdom of Imam Husayn ibn Ali (the Prophet’s grandson) who was killed in the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD.
While travelling to Kufa, Husayn and a small gathering of his family and followers were intercepted at the Euphrates river by the ruling caliph’s (Yazid I) army.
A battle commenced in Karbala which ultimately led to the torture, killing and beheading of Husayn.
It was a line that should not have been crossed and led to the division of Muslims into the two largest sects.
Husayn’s fight and revolt against oppression is remembered by Shias world-wide. On this day, many make a pilgrimage to his shrine in Iraq or commemorate his sacrifice in mourning.