Many Muslims around the world, both Sunni and Shia, will celebrate Ashura on the tenth day of the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar, which starts at sunset on Monday, September 9. For Shias, Ashura is a major religious commemoration of the martyrdom of Hussein, a grandson of Muhammad, and for Sunnis it is a day of fasting.
For Shia Muslims, who comprise about 15% of the total worldwide Muslim population, Ashura is a bloody, solemn day of mourning the martyrdom of Hussein in 680 AD in Karbala, which is in modern day Iraq. It is marked with displays of public mourning and chanting with men slapping their chests and bodies with sharp objects to imitate the suffering of their martyr. Many Shia also make pilgrimages to the Mashhad al-Husayn, the shrine in Karbala, Iraq, that is traditionally held to be Hussein’s tomb.
For most Sunni Muslims, Ashura is a day of fasting commemorating the day Noah left the Ark and the day that Moses and God’s people were saved from the Egyptians by God. It is also a day to reflect and give thanks to the prophets for their sacrifices. Some also gather with family and friends to share food and desserts and exchange gifts.
Let’s take time to pray for Muslims as they devote this day to mourning, fasting, and spending time in thanksgiving and reflection. May they draw closer to the true and living God who sees and loves them and wants to have relationship with them.
Father, we pray that as Muslims set their hearts to suffer like Hussein suffered, that they would instead encounter and know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. Help them see that Jesus has already suffered and paid the highest price for their souls, through whom they can have eternal life. Father, we pray that you would give Your church love for Muslims across the world. Make us like Jesus who “felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”