Millions of Shiites Mourn Ashura in Iraq

TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Millions of Shiites took part in mourning processions in the city of Karbala and other holy sites across Iraq to mark the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hossein (PBUH), grandson of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and their third imam.

Millions of Shiites Mourn Ashura in Iraq

Pilgrims from different parts of Iraq and many countries, including Iran, have converged on the Iraqi holy city of Karbala, home to the shrine of Imam Hossein, and other holy sites to commemorate Ashura, the day Imam Hossein and his 72 companions were martyred some 14 centuries ago.

For Shiite Muslims, Ashura is a solemn day of mourning the martyrdom of Imam Hossein in 680 AD at Karbala and is marked with mourning rituals and passion plays re-enacting the martyrdom.

Shiite men and women dressed in black also parade through the streets slapping their chests and chanting.

Ashura, which literally means tenth, falls on the 10th of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar. While always on the same day of the Islamic lunar calendar, the day of Ashura is always different in the Gregorian and other solar calendars.

Iraq, a Shiite majority country, is home to the shrines of six of Twelver Shiite imams. Apart from Imam Hossein's holy shrine in the city of Karbala, there are some other such shrines in Iraq.

The shrine of Imam Ali (PBUH), Shiites' first imam, is located in the holy city of Najaf, a town some 160 kilometers south of Iraqi capital of Baghdad. The city is now a great center of pilgrimage from throughout the Shiite Islamic world. It is estimated that only Mecca and Medina receive more Muslim pilgrims. As the burial site of Shiite Islam's second most important figure,the Imam Ali Mosque is considered by Shiites as the third holiest Islamic site.

Kadhmiya, now a neighborhood in Baghdad, also hosts the shrines of two other Shiite imams, namely the seventh and ninth imams Musa al-Kadhim (PBUH) and his grandson Muhammad at-Taqi (PBUH).

Samarra, a city 125 kilometers north of Baghdad,is home to the al-Askari Mosque, containing the mausoleums of the Shiite 10th and 11th imams, Ali al-Hadi (PBUH) and Hasan al-Askari (PBUH), as well as the place from the twelfth imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, known as the "Hidden Imam", went into occultation.

After US invasion, Muharram ceremonies in Iraq have been the target of numerous terrorist attacks. The deadliest took place in 2004 when near-simultaneous blasts in Baghdad and Karbala killed more than 170 people.

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