Muharram is the beginning of the Islamic New Year but it is also the time when the Shia Muslims commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad who died during the battle of Karbala.
Unlike other festivals, it is not a joyful occasion. Muslims wear black on this day, which is the colour of mourning, and visit mosques and shrines.
Muharram is observed all over the world by Muslims. Shia and Sunni Muslims observe Muharram for different reasons.
Ashura – which comes from the Arabic word for 10 – falls on the 10th day of Muharram, the first month of the lunar-based Islamic calendar.
The Shia Muslim community mourns Imam Hussain’s death on the day of Ashura by flagellating themselves with sharp objects on Muharram. This exemplifies the suffering Imam Hussain Ali experienced shortly before his beheading.
The day stands as a symbol of struggle against injustice and oppression. In recent years, some Shia clerics have discouraged the bloodletting, saying it creates a negative image of their community.
Sunni Muslims observe the day by fasting and reflecting on the tragedy that befell Imam Hussain.
This month is observed by respecting the sacrifice of the martyrs by praying in abundance and refraining from all joyous events.
(Danish Qazi is a freelance photojournalist.)