Marking the beginning of Muharram, the first month in the Islamic calendar, this is the Islamic New Year festival. Muharram is a sombre month for Muslims, who derive messages from Hussein ibn Ali’s sacrifice. Muharram celebrations and traditions differ between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, and also between Muslim communities around the world.
Shi’a Muslims in countries including Afghanistan, Bahrain, india, Iraq, Lebanon and Pakistan organise matam (remembrance parades) with men gathering in the streets to take part in ceremonial chest beating. In Iraq, some Shi’a Muslims make a pilgrimage to the Imam Husayn Shrine on the grave of Husayn ibn Ali. In Iran, parts of south Asia, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago, the battle of karbala is re-enacted in special Condolence Theatre performances.
The word Muharram means ‘forbidden’ in Arabic. For this reason, many Muslims choose to fast on or around the Day of Ashura, the tenth day of Muharram. Mosques often provide nazar (sacred free meals) to Muslims between the ninth and eleventh days of the month. In the vast majority of countries, Muharram 2017 will begin on 21 September, but for a couple of countries it will begin the following day, on the 22 September.
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