Visiting Iran during Ashura and Muharram can be a truly extraordinary experience – and a perfect time to experience one of the most important and significant events of Shia Muslims in Kashan.
But Ashura in Iran can be a fascinating time to travel in the country, as it allows particular insights into the Shia Muslims and hospitable disposition of the Iranian people.
Muharram is a month of remembrance and modern Shia meditation that is often considered synonymous with Ashura. Ashura, which literally means the “Tenth” in Arabic, refers to the tenth day of Muharram. It is well-known because of historical significance and mourning for the murder of Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad.
Shiite begin mourning from the first night of Muharram and continue for ten nights, climaxing on the 10th of Muharram, known as the Day of Ashura. The last few days up until and including the Day of Ashura are the most important because these were the days in which Imam Hussein and his family and followers (including women, children and elderly people) were deprived of water from the 7th onward and on the 10th, Imam Hussain and 72 of his followers were killed by the army of Yazid I at the Battle of Karbala on Yazid’s orders. The surviving members of Imam Hussein’s family and those of his followers were taken captive, marched to Damascus, and imprisoned there.
In Kashan, for the first ten days of the month believers gather in prayer halls, mosques, and makeshift tents in the streets where they participate in mourning ceremonies, ritual chestbeating, and lamentations, as well as processions that march through the streets carrying battle standards. At the end of every ceremony, cooked food that has been offered as a pledge (nazr) to Imam Hossein is distributed to participants and to the poor.
Shi’as believe that Imam Hossein is the host of this ceremony and undertake the preparations in his name, and that consuming this food has healing properties. They feel that by mourning for the martyred Imam, feeding mourners in his name, or slaking their thirst, they receive blessings and divine reward.