by Wellwisher

I have an Egyptian co-worker who quite often runs into me in the hallways. In the past, he had greeted me with “Al salaam-o aleikom,” to which I responded with “Aleikom-o salaam,” with as much an Arabic accent that I could borrow.

Once, when we were both in an elevator, he who had already - on the basis of my name – determined that I was from the Middle East, asked me about my country of origin and the religion I practiced.

Where I work, it is not considered appropriate to ask one’s nationality or religion. Unless a closed friendship is already forged, such inquiries are seen as disrespectful, or even occasionally discriminatory.

Nevertheless, not wanting to disappoint him, I responded to his questions as briefly, and as politely, as I could. In return, he divulged his own background to me. He was a new immigrant wanting to settle and to provide for his family.

None of these hallway encounters appeared to me as unusual, or in any way discomforting. Until a few days ago, when he followed his greetings with, “It’s Moharram. Do you know?” To which I responded, “Yes. Happy New Year.” Then, he dropped the bombshell on me, “Ashura Mobaarak!” And, walked away. Did I hear him say that?

Where I was raised, we never considered Ashura as an occasion to celebrate. On the contrary, Ashura was always commemorated with mourning, and even self-flagellation. (Readers unfamiliar with Ashura are referred to Hooman Majd’s new book, The Ayatollah Begs to Differ, which covers the ceremonies in observance of Ashura in Iran, extensively.)

I was shocked. I have never bothered to find out how Ashura is seen by Sunni’s.  Do they celebrate that conflagration in Karbala? Or, did he think Shi’ite’s do? Was he uninformed? Insensitive? Or, naughty? This was one of those experiences I would rather forget, as soon as I could.

This morning I left home reminding myself to say “Merry Christmas” to every Armenian friend and acquaintance I meet. This has become a tradition for I who have always had Armenian friends as classmates and coworkers. What was farthest from my mind was Ashura.

That was until the Egyptian and I ran into each other. In his usual disposition, he announced, “It’s Ashura today.” “In Palestine,” was my tactless response. After that exchange, I was so mindful of my own bizarre reaction that I could not discern whether what I saw on his face was a smile, a smirk, or any other expression.

Was I reacting to his earlier remark about Ashura? Or, was there indeed a parallel - in my mind – between the two events? I wondered what made me react the way I did? Do historical experiences – not our own – form our character? Our judgment?

Is it a sense of betrayal in us – if I am allowed to generalize – that links us to Palestinians, or others we identify as victims of foreign imperialists? Or, is it the arrogance of today’s victors that compel us to forget their yesteryear victimhood?

Is the world endowed with enough resources to support a decent and peaceful life for every one of us? Or, are greed and usurpation requisites for the natural selection?


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more from Wellwisher

Imam Hossein was a thief and a murderer!

by Yazeed (not verified) on

Thank God Yazeed killed Imam Hossein and his entire freaking family.



by ahvazi on

I came to work this morning and told my co-worker lets have some Kabob for lunch. He said that he was fasting (he is a Sunni).  This brother's name is Ali and I Love the way he practices his religion and shows much respect to other non-Moslems (a rare combination)  

I believe religion is love, inhameh zangir zaden belongs to akhoonds and khoraafaat.

Prophets, Hazrateh Ali va Imam Hussein are represetative of Allah's love and mercy (Thus we say Bismelaaheh Rahmaneh Rahim)and not brought to be tools of power-hungry, and yek mosht oghdeyeh K**Khol!!

Happy Ashura joonam!!!


sunnis and ashura

by sanazi on

From what I understand, Sunnis do not do ashura in the sense that they are mourning for the martyrdom of Husayn, but rather for the Sunnis ashura is a day that they remember certain incidents that hapened in the Koran (ex: such as God's mercy on Adam, or Job being healed from his illness etc.). However, there are no confirmation that these incidents/stories mentioned in the koran took place on the day of Ashura! Also, it is recommended, but not obligatory, that Sunnis should fast on the day of Ashura.


Ashura is indeed an occasion to celebrate

by Hosseindoost (not verified) on

It marks the triumph of human resolve to resist the evil - at the cost of human life.


I had one American wish me

by JL (not verified) on

I had one American wish me "Happy Ashura" too!
Although I'm not religious it caught me off guard.
I felt it is definitely not an occasion to celebrate and thought that he meant well but did not know better, so I said nothing.
Later dscussing it with some other friends they informed me that some sunnis(?) celebrate the occasion.
It seemed strange to me since this was the day the prophet's grandson was killed. Even if they disagreed with certain points in the sunni/shiite why would they want to celebrate the death of the grandson of the prophet?
Never did find out if what I had been told by the friends was actually true.



by Ajam (not verified) on

Dear wellwisher, I'd say it's a little bit of both! As a defeated people who has suffered from the colonialist pursuits, we see a little bit of ourselves in Palistinians, and Western expansionist arrogance in Israelies!


The house of prophet is universally respected and venerated

by Aziz (not verified) on

Sunni's share with the Shia the reverence for the House of Mohammad. Indeed both Martyrdom of Ali and Ashura are great occasions for sorrow for all Moslems, not just Shia. (and indeed for anyone who reads history)

The debate between the two great branches of Islam is on the determination of the rightful political leader,(or the Caliph) between the theory of blood line Imamate versus the right of majority to elect the most meritorious believer.