Welcome to the David Victor Vector Blog

Welcome to the David Victor Vector blog. This is blog that covers religious observances around the world international affairs and global business. This blog describes religious holidays for most major religions as well as raising issues dealing with globalization, international business ethics, cross-cultural business communication and political events affecting business in an integrated world economy. I look forward your discussion and commentary on these articles and subjects. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


In 2013, at sunset on Wednesday, November 13 (depending on the sighting of the moon) and lasting through sunset on Thursday, November 14, is the Islamic holiday of Ashura. Some Muslims in North America follow a different interpretation of when the holiday starts and observed it from Monday evening November 14 through sunset on November 15. I make no attempt to indicate here which is proper. This is only informational. In any event, Muslims observing the holiday should be excused from class, including if needed making arrangements for make-up examinations.

As part of the religious observance discussions, I would like to share a bit on the holiday with you. Because Arabic does not transliterate consistently into other languages, Ashura is also commonly spelled as Ashoura or Ashurah. In India, where it is a national holiday, it is often known as Moharram and in the Caribbean (especially Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica) the holiday is called Hosay.

Religious Significance

While Ashura is celebrated by all Moslems, it is of particular importance to Shi’ites for whom it is one of the most important holidays of the Moslem calendar.

For most Muslims – Shi’a and Sunni alike -- Ashura is believed to be the date that Nuh (Noah in the Jewish and Christian tradition) had his ark come to rest after the Flood.   It is also believed to be the birthday of the Moslem Prophet Ibrahim (who is the same person as the patriarch Abraham of the Jewish and Christian Bible). Some Muslims believe that Ashura will be the date on which Qiyaamah (doomsday) will take place (although this position is rejected by many others).  Finally, Ashura is widely believed to be the anniversary of the creation of the Ka’aba, the holiest structure in Islam and the center point of the haj to Mecca.

For Shi’a Muslims, Ashura is the anniversary of the murder of Husayn ibn Ali at the Battle of Karbala  
Husayn ibn Ali (626-680)
in the year 680 (61 AH in the Moslem calendar).  Husayn ibn Ali (born in 626) was the grandson of the Prophet Mohamed and is considered by Shi’ites to have been the Third Imam and thus the rightful successor to the Prophet.  As this is one of the centrally defining beliefs of Shi’a Islam, Shi'ites believe that (what they view as) the martyrdom of Husayn is symbolic of the sacrifices needed in the face of all that is unjust, oppressive or  repressive.  

For Shi’ites, Ashura is a mandatory fast day and a day for mourning.  Many Shi’ite traditions also include public gatherings of men who beat themselves on the chest, cut their heads and similar activities to share in the pain that Husayn ibn Ali experienced. The Ashura page on the Holiday Year website has a selection of some (moderately graphic) images of worshippers cutting themselves in worship at

Many Shi’ite traditions include special chants accompanied by drumbeats and stage performances reenacting the Battle of Karbala.

Most Sunni Muslims also celebrate Ashura, although they do not usually recognize anything to do with Husayn ibn Ali.  For Sunnis, Ashura marked the 10th day (Ashura actually means 10th in Arabic) of the Hejirah, when Mohamed fled with his followers to Medina.  He found the Jews there (on Yom Kippur) fasting in what the Muslim tradition considered to be in remembrance of Moses (a prophet for Islam as well as Judaism).  It is for this reason (with nothing to do with Husayn ibn Ali) that Sunnis have an optional fast on Ahurah.  It should be noted that Sunnis – while they feel no religious importance with the death of Husayn ibn Ali -- do regard his death as a sad incident of historical significance.   


Imam Husayn Shrine, Karbala, Iraq
Karbala, Iraq (also spelled Kerbala, Kerbela and Karbela) is the site of the Battle of Karbala. It remains a major pilgrimage destination for Shi'ites in particular, although often visited by other Moslems as well.  In the Imam Husayn Shrine in Karbala are the tombs not only of Husayn ibn Ali but also of the 72 martyrs of the Battle of Karbala.
Indeed, because of its significance, for centuries, worshippers have gone on pilgrimage to Karbala, Iraq to the shrine of Husayn’s martyrdom there. 

As a side note, under the regime of Saddam Hussein, Ashura pilgrimages were banned because Saddam (probably at least in part rightly) interpreted the demonstrations at Karbala as expressions of protest against not just tyranny in general, but as specifically against those who considered his own rule tyrannical.  Only in 2004, with the fall of Saddam Hussein, were Shi’ites allowed again to make the pilgrimage to Karbala.  Sadly, 2004’s pilgrimage was marred by widespread violence including bomb attacks among the pilgrims which killed 170 people and wounded over 500 others.

History of Violence
Because of tensions between Shi’ites and Sunni Moslems, Ashura has sadly been marked by violence between the two groups in recent years.  Ashura 2011 was no exception. In two separate attacks in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, Shi'ites were targetted. In an unusual targeting of Shi'ites in Afghanistan, at least 60 people were killed and over 100 injured in separate attacks in Kabul and the normally peaceful Mazar-i-Sharif.  Meanwhile in Iraq, in Hilla, two car bombs targeted Shi'ites. Hilla is a city on the pilgrimage route to Karbala. The first hit a crowd of mostly women and children killing 16 and injuring 45; the second (involving two coordinated bomb explosions) killed at least six more and wounded 18.  Three additional bombs were set off among Shi'ites in three separate locations in Baghdad killing at least 11 and injuring at least 38 more. Finally, a gunman on the outskirts of Baghdad opened fire on Shi'ites marching in a procession toward Karbala, killing two and wounding four.

In 2012,  Ashura terrorist attacks in Pakistan targeted Shi'ites in five cities: Dera Ismail Khan, Karachi, Quetta, Rawalpindi and Bannu. The attacks ran for four days and left 52 dead and hundreds injured.  In all, 20 bombers were involved, with Pakistani police preventing the majority from completing their attacks.

While on a smaller scale, Ashura attacks in Yemen left four Shi'ites dead and 13 injured in the capital city of Sana'a. At the same time, police in Lebanon were able to foil an attempted attack on Shi'ites in al-Maslakh about 35 miles south of Beirut.

For coverage of the 2011 Afghan attacks, please see 

For coverage of the 2011 Iraqi attacks, please see
In addition to the attacks this year and the 2004 riots in Iraq mentioned above, some other incidents on Ashura in recent years have included
Ø  1994, Masshad, Iran --  Prayer hall bombing,  25 people killed
Ø  2004,  Karbala and Baghdad, Iraq – Over a dozen coordinated suicide attacks, 178 killed, at least 500 injured
Ø  2005, Baghdad, Baqouba and Latifiya, Iraq – Coordinated suicide bombing, 27 killed, 60 wounded
Ø  2006, Hangu, Pakistan – Attacks on Shi’ite worshipers, 36 killed, over 100 injured
Ø  2007, Balad Ruz, Iraq – Suicide bombing of Shi’ite procession, 23 klled, 57 injured
Ø  2007, Baghdad Iraq – Coordinated bombing and gunfire attacks on Shi’ite pilgrims, 9 killed, 24 injured. 2007, Hafriya, Iraq
Ø  2008, Basra, Iraq and Nasiriya, Iraq -- Clashes between the Iraqi military and the militant Shi’ite sect Jund As-Samaa (Soldiers of Heaven), 263 people killed -- Security checkpoint protecting worshippers attacked, 2 killed
Ø  2009, Karachi, Pakistan – Procession bombing, 43  killed, 60 injured; additionally, police arrested five terrorists as they thwarted a plot to hand out cyanide-laced water to Shi’ite pilgrims in the procession
Ø  2010, Chabahar, Iran – Double suicide bombing attack on Shi’ite procession, 33 killed, 95 injured

As in past messages, I am summarizing a complex and deeply held set of beliefs here, but I still hope that you continue to find these messages of value.

Further Reading
For more information, Al Jazeera has good article from 2008 on Ashura at

Ashura.com is an entire website devoted to the holiday:

Islam house presents some information (though with a strong position taken against traditional beliefs such as the belief that it will be the date on which Qiyaamah will take place) on Ashura at

Other sources that may prove of interest are at


Philadelphia Dialog Forum


BBC Religions website

Clipart sources

The image of Husayn ibn Ali is from the Damascus in History and Pictures website (Husayn's skull was for many years preserved in Damascus' Ummayad Mosque):

The image of the Imam Husayn Shrine is from the free-usage files at Wikipedia at

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