(photo credit: REUTERS/Naseer Ahmed)
Thousands of Shi'ite Muslims stream through a mosque in the Iraqi city of
They are celebrating one of the holiest days on the Islamic
calendar - Ashura.
It marks the death over 1,300 years ago of Imam
Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed at the battle of Kerbala in Iraq in 680, in
the culmination of a power struggle that ushered in the Sunni-Shi'ite divide
which still shapes the Middle East's political map.
That led to the division
of Islam into two sects - Sunni and Shi'ite - a schism that continues to plague
the Islamic world.
Shi'ites across the Middle East consider Ashura a day
In Lebanon, worshipers cut their heads and slap their
wounds, a sign of solidarity with Hussein's suffering.
The ritual self-flagellation, though, is considered controversial.
Shi'ites across the country hold rallies during Ashura but Nabatiyeh is one of
the few places where Shi'ites observe the tradition of drawing blood by
In Bangladesh it's a day of celebration for the majority Sunni
Muslims - a celebration of a victory for Islam through Imam Hussein's
But for Shi'ites it is a sad affair where, like in
Afghanistan, they whip themselves in mourning until their backs bleed.
the Iraq capital too, these Shi'ites have cut their heads with swords so they
can relive the pain Hussein experienced in the fateful Battle of
Shi'ites make up only 15 percent of the world's Muslims, and
traditionally mourn for one month as part of the Ashura festival.
is also observed in many other countries with sizeable Shi'ite populations,
including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria.