My friend Dr. Edith Szanto (fellow University of Toronto alum) reports here on the world’s largest annual pilgrimage. In this Shiite pilgrimage, devotees flock to the location where the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussain was killed by a rival. Shiites go to mourn the martyrdom of who they believe was the true successor to the prophet.
How big is the pilgrimage? Dr Szanto indicates over 20 million people – essentially, all of Australia on pilgrimage. In addition, many Shiites desire to bury their loved ones close to the gravesite of Hussian and his father Ali, making the area one of the largest gravesites in the world with 5 million buried.
The killing of Hussain was pivotal to the development of the split between two groups of Muslims, known today as Shiites and Sunnis. This division dominates geo-politics in the Middle East, with the Shiite Iranian leadership opposing the Sunni Saudi rulers and proxy wars between these two groups occurring in Iraq and Lebanon. Religion’s influence is vast, aiding people through trauma, providing comfort from loneliness, forming community, and also creating rivalries that can last centuries.
The ritual started on August 30 and ends October 9th.
Ashura commemorating martyrdom of Prophet’s grandson, Tehran, 2016 (source:Wikipedia commons).