Moharram mourning in world countries
The arrival of the month of Moharram is reminiscent of the innocent martyrdom of Imam Hussein (PBUH) and his companions and it fills the hearts of Muslims and even free-spirited people of the world with grief.
As it becomes more and more obvious, the love of Hussein has gone far beyond geography, colour of skin, language spoken, culture and even religion. In this article we will discuss the Moharram ceremonies in Europe.
The greatest Shia community in Germany lives in Hamburg. Thus, every year the ceremonies of Moharram and Ashura are held at the Islamic center of the city with the participation of thousands of lovers of the Ahl al-Bayt of the Prophet of Islam. On the days of Tasu'a and Ashura (9th and 10th of Moharram respectively), the ceremonies begin with speech and the speech ends with eulogies on Imam Hussein and his companions while people beat their chests. On the day of Ashura, over 2000 dishes are distributed to the attendees.
The Shias of Denmark hold mourning ceremonies at Husseinias. Daar al-Hussein, which used to be run by martyr Ayatollah Hakeem, is one of these Husseinias. It was built in 1990 by Iraqis residing in the capital Copenhagen. This institute holds courses for enthusiast. There is another Husseinia, run by Iranians, which holds programs like Dua Kumail and eulogies on the Ahl al-Bayt, especially Imam Hussein.
As in the Americas, the mourning ceremonies of Imam Hussein are held very gloriously. For instance, Imam Ali Mosque in New York is the place where Muslims swarm for holding mourning ceremonies in Moharram. University students in New York also invite religious scholars to explicate Imam Hussein's uprising through holding of discussions and delivering speeches.
In Canada, there are more than 1 million Muslims from various countries. More than 1 third of this number are Shias. These Shias hold mourning ceremonies for Imam Hussein in the first ten days of Moharram. What makes these gatherings attractive for different age groups are the speeches delivered about the event of Ashura and the historical lessons that can be learnt from it. On the day of Ashura, Shias mourn and beat their chests with tears in their eyes. Mourning ceremonies are usually held in roofed places but recently some groups of mourners have turned to streets and squares of cities and towns which has left great impact on viewers and bystanders. Another spectacular work for the recent years has been the installation of some placards, posters and propaganda stickers in big cities to introduce Imam Hussein (AS). This has been done on vehicles, too.
Shias and lovers of the Ahl al-Bayt have an outstanding presence in Africa, too. They hold numerous ceremonies and rituals during the month of Moharram. The lovers of Ahl al-Bayt usually keep symbols of Karbala and Ashura at their homes and every morning seek blessing from them with special respect.
Ashura traditions have been held with special fervor for a few past years in some African countries. In Harar city of Ethiopia, for instance, people go the house of each other in orderly groups on the days of Tasua and Ashura. They recite the holy Qur'an unanimously and then curse the killers of Imam Hussein and his companions. Women in Harar prepare special items in the shape of jars and as soon as these groups of people reach their neighborhood, they throw the jars at them and the youths in the groups break them into pieces with the sticks they have. This symbolizes their hatred toward the perpetrators of the crimes of Ashura. Then, the women receive the participants with halva, Haleem and other local foods. The climax of the ceremonies occurs on the day of Ashura. Then, they perform four-rak'a prayers and follow it with the recitation of Ziyarat Ashura. Speeches and eulogies are held more broadly on this day.
Nigeria is another African country where the followers and lovers of the Prophet and his infallible progeny hold mourning ceremonies ardently in spite of the oppressive pressures piled against them by the regime. The capital city Abuja and the cities of Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Bauchi, Yola and even Daura, as the birthplace of president, are the scenes of glorious ceremonies on commemoration of Imam Hussein and his companions. The Nigerian Muslims owe this expansion of ceremonies to the tireless efforts of Allameh Sheikh Abrahim Zakzaky, the selfless scholar who has been under pressure and torture with his wife for more than 4 years and who lost 3 of his sons on a single day as the government forces poured to his residence and put him and other people around him in shackles and chains.
Malaysia is a country in Southeast Asia. Over 60% of the 31 million people of the country are Muslims. More than 2% of these Muslims are Shias. During the month of Moharram, the native Muslims and migrants converge in Kuala Lumpur and hold glorious mourning ceremonies. Like other Islamic countries, Muslims of Malaysia make Nazri foods in Moharram especially on 9th and 10th of this month known as Tasua and Ashura. These foods are distributed freely among the people even non-Muslims. One of the common foods is made of rice and milk that is flavored by almond, walnut, hazelnut, cashew, pomegranate seeds, coconut powder, cinnamon, and pistachio powder. A special halva of rice is also prepared and distributed among mourners on the day of Ashura.
The Shias of India hold different ceremonies in the two months of Moharram and Safar, particularly during the first ten days of Moharram. They erect the banner of Hazrat Abbas in the beginning of Moharram as the sign of start of grief and mourning. Many Muslims, especially Shias wear black and most of those who have left their homes come back even if they are abroad. Indians believe that they should mourn in their hometown. The Indian Shias glorify the eve of Ashura as the Night of Qadr in Ramazan and keep vigil till morning prayer while they are engaged in mourning for Imam Hussein (AS). This continues the next day, i.e. the day of Ashura, with beating their chests and also chaining on their back. Public ceremonies are held at places called Imambara.
The making and distribution of Nazri food is common in India as in Muslim countries. In addition, from the first day of Moharram, mourners of Imam Hussein are received by sherbet and cool water. On the day of Tasua, milk is distributed among people as a sign of respect to the 6-month-old infant of Imam Hussein, Ali Asghar (AS) who was brutally martyred by the hordes of Yazid while the Imam had raised him in his hands asking the Godless hordes for a drop of water for the burnt liver of the infant. On the days of Tasua and Ashura, people prepare a special food called Hazeri that is made of bread and kebab or something like the Iranian Qeymeh. Then they distribute it among the people particularly the needy. There are eulogists in India who are Hindu but if they are asked about Ashura, they not only praise Imam Hussein but they consider it an honor to cry for him.
We just mentioned a few countries as samples of the communities where mourning ceremonies are held for the Chief of Martyrs Imam Hussein (AS). Some other countries where these ceremonies are held are Iraq, Kuwait, Turkey, Azerbaijan Republic, Arabia, Britain, Thailand, Russia, China, Austraia, Myanmar and so on. The common point among these ceremonies is that the memory of Karbala and mourning for Imam Hussein and other martyrs of this catastrophic event acts as an engine that strengthens the spirit of resistance in nations and communities against the bullying powers. This is indeed the lesson of Imam Hussein for nations and generations: to stand firmly on values and not bow to the dictate of oppressors till one attains victory or martyrdom which is another victory.