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Muharram 2024

Scary rituals of self-flagellation are part of the annual mourning for the Prophet Muhammad's grandson

Dates: July 7–17, 2024

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Muharram is one of the four sacred months of the year. It is considered to be the most important after Ramadan. From the first of Muharram to the twentieth of Safar, Shia and Sunni Muslims commemorate the death of Imam Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad, his family, and followers during the Battle of Karbala. The focal date is the tenth-day mourning, called Ashura (also spelled Ashoura).


Every year a large number of Shia make a pilgrimage to the mausoleum of Imam al-Hussein in Karbala (Iraq) and take part in rituals, which include mourning and self-flagellation. Shia Muslims cut themselves with swords, chains, and knives to mourn for the Prophet Muhammad's grandson, al-Hussein. The rite that reenacts the death of Hussein is called Ta’ziyeh. People of all age groups practice these rituals. In some regions, even kids take part. The top places for watching Ashura processions and Ta’ziyeh rituals include Tehran, Nushabad, Natanz, Baraghan, and also Isfahan, Arak, and Yazd.

Ta’zieh Passion Play

Ta’zieh or taziya in Iran is part of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. The theatrical re-enactment of the Battle of Karbala is performed by special theatrical troupes called taziya groups. The colorful and unique performance, which dates back to the 10th century, is dedicated to the martyrdom of Imam Hussein in the Battle of Karbala. Combining religious and political motives with theater, the performance has a distinct Persian character and features mass processions. The passion play is often performed during the first 10 days of the month of Muharram. Since the 1940s, re-enactments declined in big cities. However, they are still popular in rural areas. In Tehran, visitors can observe the rituals at the Iranian Artists Forum (Khane Honarmandan Iran), located at Honarmandan Park, Iranshahr St., and at Tekyeh Dar-Ghazi (Taziyeh Saray-E Kan), located in the historical Kan district.

Other Traditions

Other Muharram traditions include lighting up bonfires on the streets and covering the body and clothes with mud. Sunni Muslims commemorate this day with voluntary fasting. This event is also held in many countries, like Pakistan, Iraq, Bangladesh and India. Cruel rituals, like cutting the body with knives or chains, were banned in Iran and Lebanon.

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