Ashura commemorated in Iran

Mourning ceremonies for the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (AS) on the day of Ashura were held on Saturday and Sunday all over Iran amid strict observation of coronavirus-related health protocols.

Every year, the Iranian people, along with other Shiite Muslims around the world, hold mourning rituals for the Imam’s martyrdom during the first 10 days of the Islamic lunar month of Muharram. The mourning ceremonies reach their peak on the 9th day of Muharram, or Tasua, and the 10th day, or Ashura.

Ashura marks the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (AS), the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) who was martyred in the Battle of Karbala on October 10, 680 (Muharram 10, 61 AH), nearly 14 centuries ago. The Imam’s heartbreaking martyrdom sent shock waves through the Muslim world as he was widely seen as a hero who sacrificed his life to challenge the corrupt ruler, Yazid ibn Mu’awiya.

On Sunday, millions of Iranians held nationwide rituals to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (AS), according to a Tasnim report.

This year’s Ashura came at a time when mourning ceremonies were held under health protocols amid fears of another wave of coronavirus, which has killed more than 21,000 people in Iran so far.

The mourners observed health protocols and social-distancing rules while taking part in the ceremonies across the country, a move that was praised by senior officials.

In a message to the people, President Hassan Rouhani showered the mourners with praise for observing health protocols including social-distancing.

“Now, the most accurate images of observing social-distancing in our collective memory are the images that will remain from this year’s mourning, and what more precious pride and honor than this,” Rouhani said.

Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli also issued a message to thank the mourners for observing health protocols.

Before Ashura ceremonies begin, the National Coronavirus Combat and Prevention Headquarters issued strict health guidelines for all religious associations, which planned to commemorate the occasion. Gatherings inside closed spaces were prohibited over fears of another coronavirus wave. Instead, mourners were advised to hold mourning ceremonies in open areas such as squares and streets while observing social distancing rules and wearing face masks. During the past 10 days, many squares and streets, among other places, have been turned into new venues for mourning instead of traditional places such as mosques and Hussainiyas.

In Tehran, mourners poured into the streets and squares of the capital in large numbers to listen to clergymen and eulogists praising Imam Hussein (AS) while keeping a safe distance between themselves.  Members of congregations (Heiats) also staged processions while beating drums in a sign of remembering the Battle of Karbala. Similar mourning rituals were held on the day of Ashura in other provinces across Iran.

Mourning ceremonies are not limited to weeping and beating chests. Cooking votive food, called Nazri, and distributing it among passers-by and the poor is also an integral part of the ceremonies, which is very popular among ordinary people. Some believe that serving or eating Nazri food makes their lives more blessed. During this year’s Muharram, Nazri foods were distributed among the people as usual.