Shia Muslims in metro Detroit mark Ashura, a holy day

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SHAFAQNA- For centuries, Shia Muslims have commemorated Ashura, a holy day that recalls a battle in 7th-Century Iraq between an unjust ruler and Imam Hussain, the grandson of Islam’s prophet.

Hussain lost the battle and was killed, but his struggle for freedom is remembered every year on Ashura, which falls on Tuesday this year for Shias in metro Detroit. Across Michigan, thousands of Shias are to gather today in mosques to hear stories about the battle and the meaning of justice. Metro Detroit has one of the highest concentrations of Shia services in the U.S., with speakers from around the world visiting during Ashura to deliver lectures.

This year, Ashura is taking on a special significance because Shias see their struggles against ISIS as analagous to the 7th-Century struggles that Imam Hussain fought against a tyrant named Yazid. Shias say that just as followers of Imam Hussain were beheaded and enslaved in battle, victims of ISIS now are being similarly beheaded, enslaved, and killed. ISIS, also known as ISIL or the Islamic State, views Shias as heretics and has targeted them and others for killings.

“Ashura is repeating itself,” said Imam Husham Al-Husainy, an Iraqi-American who leads the Karbalaa Islamic Education Center in Dearborn. “It’s a historical event that has reality today.”

Al-Husainy’s mosque is named after a city in Iraq, Karbala, where the 7th Century battle took place. In the past, Iraqi Shias saw Saddam Hussein as the Yazid of their time, commemorating Ashura in the hope that Saddam Hussein would one day be overthrown. Now, they see ISIS leaders as the new Yazids (not to be confused with Yazidis, the minority religious group also being oppressed by ISIS.)

“Imam Hussain said, ‘I’d rather die than live under oppression,’ ” explained Al-Husainy. “Today, they’re implimenting Ashura. They’d rather fight ISIS than live under oppression, just like in Karbala.”

For many Shias in metro Detroit, Ashura is also a time to reconnect with friends and family. The Ashura services take place over 10 days and nights that end today inside Islamic centers, where meals and tea are served. On Sunday, many walked from Fordson High School in Dearborn to Ford Woods park in an Ashura procession. At the Imam Ali Islamic Center in Detroit, lamb, beans and rice are cooked in deep vats for worshippers.

Afthal Alshami of Dearborn was at the center Sunday night to sip tea with friends after services. He said that some ask God for help with problems in their lives during Ashura.

“Imam Hussain died for freedom,” Alshami said. “The same thing is happening today.”

source : http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2014/11/04/ashura-shia-detroit-dearborn-commemorated/18441295/

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