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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!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ashura 2015

At sunset on the night of Thursday October 22 (for 2015) and lasting through the sunset on Friday, October 23 is the Islamic holiday of Ashura. Some Muslims in North America follow a different interpretation of when the holiday starts and observe it from Friday evening October 23 through sunset on Sunday October 24. This post in no way is meant to indicate the interpretation for which of these is correct; I simply want to make readers aware of the dates possible. 

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.

Sadly this holiday has often been marked by sectarian violence. With this in mind, I have given below a list of the many Ashura attacks since 1994.
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 Moslems – 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 Moslems 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 Moslems, 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 Moslems 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 Moslem 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

 Rawalpindi Ashura Attack, 2013
Because of tensions between Shi’ites and Sunni Moslems, Ashura has sadly been marked by violence between the two groups in recent years.

Ashura last year in 2013 was no exception. Several attacks including a suicide bombing left 41 worshippers dead in Karbala, Iraq. At the same time, a suicide bomber in Diyala Province, Iraq left 32 dead and 80 injured.  In Pakistan a Sunni mob attacked a Shi'ite procession in Rawalpindi, Pakistan leaving 10 dead and 80 injured.

In recent years, in 2012, a bomb attack on a Shi'ite procession in Dera Ismail Khan in Northwest Pakistan  left seven people dead (including three children) and over 30 injured. On Ashura, 2011, in two separate attacks in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, Shi'ites were targetted. In an unusual targeting of Shi'ites in Afghanistan, 63 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 46; the second (involving two coordinated bomb explosions) killed at least six more and wounded 18.  Seven additional bombs were set off among Shi'ites in three separate locations in Baghdad killing at least 8 and injuring 18 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.

For coverage of the 2013 attack in Pakistan, please see:
For coverage of the 2013 attacks in Iraq, please see:
For coverage of the 2012 attack in Pakistan, please see:
For coverage of the 2011 Afghan attacks, please see 
For coverage of the 2011 Iraqi attacks, please see

The modern history of sectarian killings on Ashurah began with the 1994 attack in MasshadIran when a prayer hall bombing murdered 25 worshippers.

Over the last decade, a partial list of violent sectarian attacks on Ashura would include:

  • 2004, Karbala and Baghdad, Iraq – Over a dozen coordinated suicide attacks, 178 killed, at least 500 injured
  • 2005, Baghdad, Baqouba and Latifiya, Iraq – Coordinated suicide bombing, 27 killed, 60 wounded
  • 2006, Hangu, Pakistan – Attacks on Shi’ite worshipers, 36 killed, over 100 injured
  • 2006, Herat, Afghanistan -- Two Shiite mosques burned to the ground accompanied by mob attacks, 4 killed and 27 injured
  • 2007, Balad Ruz, Iraq – Suicide bombing of Shi’ite procession, 23 klled, 57 injured
  • 2007, Baghdad Iraq – Coordinated bombing and gunfire attacks on Shi’ite pilgrims, 9 killed, 24 injured. 2007, Hafriya, Iraq
  • 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
  • 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
  • 2010, Chabahar, Iran – Double suicide bombing attack on Shi’ite procession, 33 killed, 95 injured 
  • 2011, Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan – Two suicide bombings, one at the Abu Fazi Mosque in Kabul during services left 70 people dead and at the Blue Mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif left 4 dead.
  • 2011, Mahmoudiya, Iraq -- Bombing kills one and injures 3
  • 2011, Latifiyah, Iraq -- Bombing kills 2 and injures 4
  • 2011, Mosul, Iraq -- Twin bombings kill 2 policemen and kills 3 civilians and injures x 
  • 2011, Baghdad, Iraq -- Eight separate attacks killing 34 and injuring 64
  • 2012, Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan --  Procession bombing killing 7 people (including 3 children) and injuring 90
  • 2012, Sanaa, Yemen --  Bombing killing 4 people and injuring13
  • 2013, Karbala, Iraq -- Suicide bombing killing 41    
  • 2013, Diyala Province, Iraq -- Suicide bombing in Diyala Province, killing 32 and injuring 80 
  • 2013, Rawalpindi, Pakistan -- Sunni mob attacked a Shi'ite procession killing 10 and injuring 80  
  • 2013, Karbala, Iraq – Suicide bombing kills 41
  • 2013, Diyala Province, Iraq – Bombing kills 32 and injures 80 injured. 
  • 2013, Tikrit, Iraq – Car bombing kills 3 policemen and 8 civilians
  • 2013, Fallujah, Iraq – Three policeman’s houses bombed killing four
  • 2013, Baquba, Iraq – Triple bombing killing 28
  • 2013,  Rawalpindi, Pakistan -- Sunni mob attacks Shi'ite procession in Rawalpindi, Pakistan leaving 10 dead and 80 injured.
  • 2014, Buraida, Saudi Arabia -- Gunmen kill 5 and injure 9 during prayer services
  • 2014, Baquba, Iraq -- Three coordinated bomb attacks kill 8 and injure 28
  • 2014, Tikrit, Iraq -- Car bombing kills 11 including 3 police officers
  • 2014, Fallujah, Iraq -- Three coordinated car bombs target homes of police officers, killing four

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

Opening clip art "Every day is Ashura Day":From Teqe America's website: http://teqeamerica.com/events/holidays

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

The image of Rawalpindi Ashura Attack, 2013: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2013-11/16/c_132892310.htm

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