En route to Tehran from Isfahan, we drove a couple of hours to the holy city of Qom. The day of our visit happened to be the Day of Ashura, the remembrance of Imam Hussain Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.
Parades and rituals of remembrance were celebrated around Iran, but for many of the devout and curious, a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Fatima Masumeh, was in store for hundreds of thousands of devotees.
Clogging the streets for miles, thousands streamed into the Shrine by the hour and offered their prayers.
In the west, images flood the Internet with bloodied men self-flagellating themselves to align themselves to the pain and sacrifice of Imam Hussain Ali. Men, at one time, used a knife to cut their head to make sure blood would flow as they flagellated themselves to get closer to the Imam’s suffering. The practice has been outlawed in Iran and there is no blood.
As you see from this video the ritual is still practiced and can feel violent to the western eye, but to the Shiite the ritual and practice of remembrance to Imam Hussain Ali is nothing but sacred.
According to Ashura.com “Day of Ashura reminds us of the sacrifices of the family of the Prophet Muhammad and makes us aware of the people, then and now, who tried to destroy Islam, as well as those who watched, listened and did nothing.”