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The Rituals of Ashura

Saud Faisal
The Rituals of Ashura

"In a distant age and climate the tragic scene of the death of Husain will awaken the sympathy of the coldest reader." - Edward Gibbon, the great British historian. [The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, London, 1911, volume 5, pp. 391-2]

Ever year, on the tenth day of Islamic month of Muharram, hundreds throng the streets of Dhaka to commemorate the deeds and sacrifices of Imam Hussain (RA), Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) grandson. Shi'a Muslims observe this day through bringing out the Tazia procession which is mainly a self-flagellation ceremonial performance.

Men from different range of ages show their deep grief as they cut their body with knives, sharp machetes or chains (matam). Through this, they deem to relive the intolerable pain that Imam Hussain endured at the Warfield of Karbala.


Hussain lost his life on the deadliest fight of Karbala, dated back in 680 AD, during the rule of Umayad Dynasty, near Baghdad in Iraq. He rebelled against the unjust rule of the Ummayads and also refused allegiance toward them. As a consequence, on his journey back to Mecca, his caravan was intercepted at Karbala and he was killed and beheaded along with his family and companions by the opponents. Hussain is believed to have gained martyrdom through his death.


Historians assert the fact that the split of Islamic sects Sunni and Shi'a has resulted from the very death of Hussain. Irrespective of the sects, Muslims in Bangladesh, as elsewhere in the world, observe this day with due religious solemnity in a befitting manner. However, while the Shi'as believe in self-flagellations, Sunnis prefer to an optional fasting.


October 26, 2015
About Author

Saud completed his Diploma in Black & White Photography from Alliance Française de Dhaka in 1996. His works have been exhibited and published in various national and international arenas. To learn more about his passion, visit

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