This past weekend marked the arrival of what Iranians call Shab-e Qadr (the Night of Power). According to Islamic tradition, one of the odd-numbered nights in the last 10 days of the month of Ramadan corresponds with the first revelation of Qur’anic verse and is especially holy. Shia Muslims in Iran observe this on the 23rd of Ramadan. Additional commemorations are held on the 19th and 21st to solemnise the assassination of Ali ibn Abi Talib, cousin of the Prophet Muhammad and first of the 12 Shia Imams.
Since the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989, official state services for Shab-e Qadr have been held at the late supreme leader’s Tehran mausoleum and attended by thousands of worshippers. This year, however, all services in Iran’s capital were cancelled. It was rumoured that millions of protesters were planning to show up to demonstrate against the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.