TEHRAN -- Millions of Muslims across the world on Thursday observed Ashura, which commemorates the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (AS), the third Shia Imam and the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (Peace upon Him).
Ashura is the culmination of a 10-day annual mourning period in the lunar calendar month of Muharram for Imam Hussein (AS), who was martyred along with his 72 companions in the Battle of Karbala in southern Iraq in 680 AD after fighting courageously for justice against the much larger army of the Umayyad caliph, Yazid I.
The Muharram ceremonies symbolize the eternal and unwavering stance of truth against falsehood and humanity’s struggle against injustice, tyranny and oppression.
Each year on Ashura, the mourners, dressed in black, march in mass processions, listen to elegies and hold noon prayers, with benefactors distributing votive foods.
In Iran, however, ceremonies were different this year as gatherings in closed areas and street marches were banned due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Iranians were also advised not to go on pilgrimage to neighboring Iraq amid a closure of borders over the coronavirus outbreak.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei attended a mourning ceremony on the eve of Ashura.
Speaking on Wednesday night, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah thanked the participants in the Muharram rituals who honored coronavirus safety protocols.
He also noted that Hezbollah and Amal movement had agreed not to hold an Ashura march this year because of the virus outbreak.
“The lesson from the Karbala tragedy is that we should not be indifferent when it comes to helping the right and fighting the wrong, something that the Islamic resistance has learnt,” Nasrallah said.
In Afghanistan, Shia mourners marched peacefully in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif days after the Taliban’s takeover of the country.
In Nigeria, at least three people were martyred and a dozen more wounded after police forces attacked a commemorative Ashura mourning procession held by local Shia Muslims in the northern state of Sokoto.
According to the Islamic Movement in Nigeria on Friday, Nigerian police attacked Ashura mourners in the eponymous state capital with live ammunition and tear gas on Thursday, martyring at least three people and seriously wounding 12 more.
The movement posted pictures of the bodies of the three mourners who were shot dead by the Nigerian police to refute their claim that “neither a Shia member nor anybody was killed or injured” in Sokoto on Thursday.
The mourning ceremony was largely held peacefully, but police attacked at the end when mourners were saying the closing prayer.
The movement identified those killed as Bello Muhammad Illela, Imrana Umar Yabo, and Hasan Abubakar Sokoto.
The movement said Ashura mourning processions were held in various state capitals and major towns across Nigeria without any report of police attack on mourners, asking why such a brutal raid on mourners was carried out in Sokoto.
The Islamic Movement in Nigeria is led by Shia Muslim cleric Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky.
A powerful bomb also exploded among a group of Pakistani Shia mourners commemorating Ashura in the eastern Pakistani province of Punjab, martyring at least five people and injuring scores of others.
Local police estimated that more than 50 mourners, including children, had also been wounded when a roadside bomb struck the mourning procession in the city of Bahawalnagar on Thursday.
Iran’s foreign ministry condemned the terrorist attack, expressing deep sympathy with the families of the victims.
Insisting on the need to combat all forms of such inhumane acts of terrorism, ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh called for collaboration among all regional states in the persistent fight against perpetrators, organizers, sponsors and financial backers of such attacks.