Photos: Muslims worldwide mark holy day of Ashura

Ashura is observed on the tenth day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar, by all Muslims, and it marks the day Nuh (Noah) left the Ark and the day Musa (Moses) was saved from the pharaoh of Egypt by God.

The Prophet Muhammad used to fast on Ashura, a common tradition commemorated by Sunni Muslims.

For Shia Muslims, the day also commemorates the 7th-century martyrdom of Hussein, Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, in the Battle of Karbala.

To mourn his death in the year 680, Shia worshippers, wearing black, cry and beat their chests in unison and some flagellate themselves with swords and knife-edged chains.

More than 1,340 years after Hussein’s martyrdom, Baghdad, Tehran, Islamabad and other major cities were adorned with symbols of Shia piety and repentance: red flags for Hussein’s blood, symbolic black funeral tents and black dress for mourning, processions of men and boys expressing fervour in the ritual of chest beating and self-flagellation with chains.

In Afghanistan and Pakistan, authorities cut mobile phone services in key cities holding commemorations for fear of bombings. Internet monitoring group NetBlocks confirmed on Monday that Afghanistan was experiencing significant service disruptions.

In Iran, thousands of men and women shrouded in black thronged the streets of the capital Tehran.

Green plumage fluttered in the air. Camels covered with multi-coloured cloth paraded through the city, evoking how Hussein set out from Mecca with a small band of companions. Iranians pounded their chests in mourning and chanted in unison, while some mourners clad in black wept.

In Iraq, black flags of grief fluttered over the capital’s major thoroughfares.

Iraqis take part in an Ashura procession in Karbala, Iraq. [Anmar Khalil/AP Photo]


Staring at the heavens: Astronomy in medieval Islam

What lies beyond what is known? Who is responsible for the majesty of the stars? Since the revelation of Islam, the night sky has offered philosophers and theologians alike a window into understanding God, heaven, and our unique journey to salvation.

Social media users rarely if ever agree on anything.

As an active Twitter poster, I can testify first-hand that cyberspace is, most of the time, a cesspit of interminable disagreements and vexatious quarrelling.

Every now and then, however, users find common ground, a happening that brings them together, at least temporarily. The most recent unifier came after NASA published the first images of the James Webb Telescope.

Everyone was taken aback by the never seen before and breathtakingly beautiful photographs of deep space.

“To the medieval Muslim astronomers and scientists, the heavens provided a heady language of admiration and thoughtful reflection. Numerous verses in the Quran, the earliest surviving text from early Islam, instruct believers to ponder over the signs of God scattered all over the heavens”

Few today would disagree that there is something mystifying and humbling about the heavens and the starry night sky.

Like us, our ancient predecessors found much delight in their nocturnal sky gazing. But for ancient religionists and scientists, there was more to it than sheer curiosity and admiration.

NGC 3324 in the Carina nebula [photo credit: Nasa/Getty Images]
NGC 3324 in the Carina nebula [photo credit: Nasa/Getty Images]

To stare at the heavens was to communicate with the gods and reach into the realm of metaphysics. The practice belonged to astrology and good-natured magic.

We are told as much in the ancient Greek novel Aethiopica by Heliodorus. When the Egyptian priest admonishes the young Theagenes, he informs him that to study the heavens is to tread the path of wisdom and honesty:


Albuquerque Welcomed Muslims. Then Four of Them Were Killed.

Amid a citywide homicide spike, officials believe the recent deaths of four Muslim men are connected, leading to fear in a place where many immigrants and refugees had felt at home.


ALBUQUERQUE — Tahir Gauba attended funerals on Friday for two members of Albuquerque’s largest mosque, victims in a spate of apparently targeted killings that have shaken this Southwestern city, which in recent years has welcomed a growing community of immigrants and refugees.

Afterward at the mosque, Mr. Gauba ran into Naeem Hussain, a 25-year-old from Pakistan. “Naeem asked me, ‘Brother, what’s happening in Albuquerque?’” said Mr. Gauba, 43, who also came to New Mexico from Pakistan. “I told him, ‘It’s crazy right now, don’t leave your house if you don’t have to.’”

Hours later, Mr. Hussain was also dead, shot in a parking lot. It was the third killing of a Muslim man in recent weeks, and the fourth since November.

Naeem Hussain was the third Muslim man killed in recent weeks, and the fourth since November.
Naeem Hussain was the third Muslim man killed in recent weeks, and the fourth since November.Credit…

The killings, which law enforcement officials believe are connected, have raised alarm in a city that the authorities had sought to shape into a haven for immigrants and refugees, including hundreds who resettled from Afghanistan in the past year, since the withdrawal of the U.S. military presence there.

The possibility that someone could now be targeting Muslims, in a city already reeling from a harrowing spike in murders, has many in Albuquerque asking how this could happen.

One of the victims, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, moved from Pakistan to attend the University of New Mexico. He had become president of its graduate student association before going into city planning. Another, Aftab Hussein, 41, worked at a local cafe.

Naeem Hussain, the 25-year-old who was killed on Friday, had started his own trucking business and become a U.S. citizen just weeks earlier. The recent killings were preceded by the fatal shooting in November of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, a Muslim immigrant from Afghanistan, who was attacked outside the grocery store that he owned with his brother.

“There are recent arrivals who are fearful, and there are people who are U.S.-born Muslims who are also are on edge,” said Michelle Melendez, director of the city’s Office of Equity and Inclusion. “The victims are everything from professionals to students to working-class people.”


Ashura Signifies that Truth Will Never Die

(Note: Ashura is a day holy to Shi’a Muslims memorializing the death of Ali’s son, Hussain, in battle in Kerballa, Iraq in 680 CE. which also has spiritual significance related to his martyrdom. This article references a Lebanese Christian scholar who interestingly ties Hussain’s martyrdom to the suffering of Christ)

George Zaki al-Hujjaj made the remark in a forum recently held by IQNA under the title of “Imam Hussein’s (AS) Depiction in Christianity”.

Syrian thinker, author and media activist Antoine Barbara and Lebanese scholar and researcher Luis Saliba were the other Christian figures addressing the forum.

Hujjaj said Ashura is the day in which blood gained victory over sword and the truth overcame falsehood.

He said Imam Hussein (AS) was an absolute hero who remained steadfast and never bowed to oppressors.

“(Imam Hussein) fought to the last drop of blood and with his martyrdom, created an epic of bravery and defending the truth.”

Hujjaj added that in this era humanity needs the likes of Imam Hussein (AS) to remain unwavering in defending the truth and justice and stand up to oppressors.

In his address, Saliba said what happened to Imam Hussein (AS) is something that brought Shia Muslims and Christians closer together.

He referred to contemporary Christian figures like Gibran Khalil Gibran, Mikhail Naimy, and George Jordac as only some of the Arab Christian figures who have written about AHl-ul-Bayt (AS).

Calling for dialogue among Christians and Shias, he said there are many commonalities between followers of Jesus (AS) and followers of the Ahl-ul-Bayt (AS).

He said there is also much similarity between the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (AS) and what happened to Jesus (AS) as well as between Hazrat Zahra (SA) and Mary (SA), the mother of Jesus (AS).

Saliba said dialogue between Shias and Christians will promote Islam-Christianity dialogue and enhance peaceful coexistence among the followers of the two faiths.


The Ukrainian Muslims fighting against Russia

Those who have joined the war effort against Russian forces also fight past injustices and to return to Crimea.

Kharkiv, Ukraine – Ali Khadzali stands among the blown-out buildings of his hometown, Kharkiv, about 50 kilometres (31 miles) from Ukraine’s border with Russia.

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion began in February, Khadzali has worked with a team of six volunteers to provide humanitarian assistance and evacuate people from areas hit hard by the fighting.

Khadzali, a warm, charming 30-year-old, wears a skullcap, a hoodie, and cargo pants. He is on a break between the day’s duties early one afternoon in mid-May. Russian forces have been pushed back from the city, but intense shelling has reduced much of the northern suburbs to debris.

The distant rumble of artillery still reverberates through this now empty neighbourhood. Nearby, a large playground with colourful swings and seesaws is strangely intact, framed by high-rise buildings blackened and scarred by weeks of bombardment.

Khadzali was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, to a Ukrainian mother and a Syrian father. He would regularly visit Syria until war broke out there in 2011. In 2015, Russia’s intervention in Syria’s now 11-year-old civil war tipped the scales in favour of the Assad regime.

“Both of my homelands, Ukraine and Syria, were invaded by Russians,” Khadzali says.

The playground where we meet Ali Khadzali [
Buildings in an empty neighbourhood in Kharkiv show the scars from weeks of bombardment [Micah Reddy/Al Jazeera]

Joining the war effort

In 2015, Khadzali became a chaplain – an imam offering spiritual services within a military context.


What is the Islamic New Year—and how is it celebrated?

The arrival of a new crescent moon heralds the beginning of a sacred month—and a period of mourning and reflection for many Muslims.

When the new crescent moon appears on July 28, 2022, Muslims around the world will celebrate the beginning of the Islamic New Year, also called the Arabic or Hijrī New Year. For many Muslims, Muharram, the sacred month that kicks off each new year, is a time of mourning and reflection.

Here’s an introduction to the holiday—what you need to know about its origins, how it’s observed around the world, and why it occurs in the middle of July.

Origins of the lunar calendar

The Islamic New Year takes place during the first month of the Hijrī, or Muslim lunar calendar. Though majority-Islamic countries are governed by the solar Gregorian calendar, the lunar calendar is used to calculate the dates of religious feasts and important observances such as the Hajj pilgrimage. Because the Hijrī relies on the movements of the moon, the Muslim calendar has just 354 or 355 days, making it about 11 days shorter than the solar Gregorian calendar with 365 days (366 in leap years).

Umar I, the second Muslim caliph, instituted the calendar in 639 C.E. as part of a broader attempt to standardize and organize Islamic life and traditions—and possibly so the calendar would stand apart from those used by other religions.

In the late 19th or early 20th century Iran, Shia Muslims mourn the death of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammed who was killed at the Battle of Karbala in 680 C.E.PURCHASE GIFT OF LEONA SOUDAVAR IN MEMORY OF AHMAD SOUDAVAR, BRIDGEMAN IMAGES


Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri killed in drone strike, Biden says

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed over the weekend in a drone strike in a U.S. counterterrorism operation, President Joe Biden announced Monday night. 

“He carved a trail of murder and violence against American citizens, American service members, American diplomats, and American interests,” President Biden said in his brief remarks from the White House balcony. “Now, justice has been delivered. And this terrorist leader is no more.”

The president said that al-Zawahiri was killed in Kabul. U.S. government had multiple, independent sources confirming al-Zawahiri’s whereabouts at a safehouse, a senior administration official told reporters on a call Monday evening. He was ultimately taken out by a drone at 9:48 p.m. ET Saturday, while he was on the balcony of the safehouse, and his family members were in different rooms of the house. The U.S. government, the senior administration official said, has a high level of confidence that no one else was killed in the strike. 

The senior administration official said the strike was a result of careful, patient and persistent work by counterterrorism officials over the course of months and years. The official also noted the quick, decisive action of Mr. Biden once they determined where the al Qaeda leader was located. 

The senior administration official said the president received regular updates as the U.S. government zeroed in on al-Zawahiri. Once the safehouse was located, the president wanted to understand more about the layout of the safehouse’s doors and windows to avoid other casualties. In a July 25 meeting, the president authorized a precise, tailored air strike that would minimize civilian deaths as much as possible, the senior administration official said. 

With al-Zawahiri’s death, all of top plotters of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks are either dead or captured.

The strike comes nearly one year after U.S. troops withdrew from Afghanistan, something that was not lost on the president. The Biden administration has long made the argument that it can continue to address terrorist threats to the American people without boots on the ground in Afghanistan, from “over the horizon.” 

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the killing of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a U.S. drone strike
U.S. President Joe Biden addresses the nation on the killing of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a U.S. drone strike, in Washington, U.S. August 1, 2022. Jim Watson/Pool POOL / REUTERS

“When I ended our military mission in Afghanistan almost a year ago, I made a decision that after 20 years of war, the United States no longer needed thousands of boots on the ground in Afghanistan to protect America from terrorists who seek to do us harm,” Mr. Biden said. “I made a promise to the American people that we’d continue to conduct effective counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and beyond. We’ve done just that.” 

Two intelligence sources familiar with the matter said the strike was carried out by the CIA. A senior administration official said there were no civilian casualties, which the president reiterated Monday night.