Shi’ite Muslims commemorate Ashura, amid heatwave

Thousands of Shi’ite Muslim worshippers converged at Imam Hussein’s holy shrine in Iraq’s Karbala on Friday to commemorate Ashura, a religious festival to honor the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, amid a heatwave that hit the region.

With temperatures in Iraq currently soaring over 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit), but still, worshippers gathered to run, walk and beat their chests in circles while chanting – all rituals carried out to celebrate the holy festival.

Volunteers distributed bottles of water while fans blowing cold air and water were set up to help keep the visitors cool.

“We are serving in the area between the two Holy Shrines. We specialize in distributing water and cold drinks to alleviate the burden of heat for visitors. You know, the temperatures in Kerbala governorate and all of the central and southern Euphrates governorates reached 50 degrees Celsius, of course, this constitutes a burden for visitors,” Sabah Janabi, a resident of Karbala.

“This year, the temperature increased, but it did not affect the visitors. Thank God, even if the temperature increases, it does not affect us, if it was hot or cold and if the weather is not suitable, we come to visit the Shrine,” said Tarmour, Hassan, a worshiper.

Imam Hussein died in the battle of Kerbala in A.D. 680. The battle cemented a schism in Islam between Shi’ites and Sunnis.

The entire rite lasts more than a week and ends on Ashura, or the 10th day of the Muslim month of Muharram – which marks the moment Hussein was killed and beheaded by his enemies in Kerbala.