Should We Commemorate Ashura In the Sunni Or Shia Way?

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Whenever the Muslim New Year comes upon us, it splits the Muslim community right into two distinct groups, Sunnis and Shias, that in itself would be a good thing if each gave the other space to practice their faith but then soon it turns into a war of Us vs Them. Why? Because both sides refuse to let go of their own, often conflicting, version of history or even acknowledge the remote possibility that their narrative may be passed down to them through centuries of political, religious and social discourse.

Since yesterday, my news feed is showing messages of disappointment from Shia friends as to the non-participation and lack of zeal from Sunni friends in commemoration of Hussain (ra). Their complaint has some validity as more often than not Sunnis do become silent and turn a blind eye to the events that took place fourteen centuries ago.

So I want to let my shia friends know that I am cognizant of the sacrifices rendered by Hussain (ra) and his family. He stood for justice, truth and he refused to pay allegiance to a man who was corrupt. It is also tragic how Yazid unjustly murdered Hussain (r.a) and his family.

I am not one of those who say this is a fight between the sahaba so we should stay out of it, that stance is flawed, it favors the tyrant and ignores a very important chapter in the history of Islam. It is important to remind everyone that bravery and courage should not just be applauded but also commemorated and the brutal manner in which the light of Hussain was blown out must be mourned.


Source: Ashura –

However, I disagree with those Shia Muslim who take this mourning to an extreme where they indulge in self harm, self flagellation, on some occasions during majlis indulge in hate speech and present unverified accounts of history as facts in a religiously charged rant.

When the memory of Hussain (ra) is commemorated in this manner during the Ashura by majority of the Shia Muslims and then in response Sunni Mullahs indulge in hate speech of their own, it leaves very little space for those in the middle who wish commemorate the memory of Hussain (ra) in the true Hussaini spirit of piety, peace, non-violence and love.

Such voices are drowned out by both which eventually move away from both sects as they agree with neither and don’t agree and want to be associated with that sect and the narrative they preach.

Truth is the first casualty of war and in this war of sectarian narratives we have truly lost Hussain. Frankly speaking do we know anything about the historical Hussain without our religious narratives? Instead of commemorating Ashur the way Sunnis and Shias do now, we should be encouraged to learn facts about this day without religious biases.

We should learn about the historical Hussain, his story, his struggle and his ultimate sacrifice instead of a Sunni or a Shia Hussain. If anyone can bridge the gap between two estranged sects of Islam, it is not the Sunni or Shia hussain it lies in the historical Hussain. The man, not the legend. The hero of Islam and a champion of truth.

Maybe we should invest in commemorating Hussain in a way that binds us together rather than dividing us every time Islamic new year is around so that our future generations can reap the rewards of peace and tolerance. So that we don’t indulge in US vs Them narratives anymore and focus on the common between us, our beloved Hussain!

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