Where would we be if Jesus was not raised from the dead?
Every year Shi’a Muslims ‘celebrate’ Ashoora. It’s not really a celebration, it’s more of a commemoration – almost like an annual funeral. After Sunni, Shi’a Muslims are the second largest sect. Their presence is strongest in Iran, Iraq and Bahrain.
Ashoora marks the day Hussein, the grandson of Muhammed, died in battle at Karbala (in modern Iraq) in 680AD.
Many see Hussein as a reformer, one who spoke against corrupt religious leaders and spoke for truth and justice. They see his martyrdom as the act of a righteous man who gave his own life for a great cause. Shi’a people often say, “every day is Ashoora and every land is Karbala”. By this they mean that every day, in every place, we should continue the fight against oppression and injustice.
For Shi’a people it is a day of tremendous significance and deep mourning. Special poems are recited and reenactments take place. Funeral processions are held for ten days beforehand, with men chanting and solemn drumming. Many will beat themselves with flails, and some even cut themselves with swords until the blood flows freely. Although discouraged, and in some places even repressed, these ceremonies have continued for over 1300 years.
To me, Ashoora is like Good Friday without Easter Sunday.
Jesus also spoke out against corrupt leaders. He proclaimed the truth – in fact, he claimed to be the Truth. Like Hussein he was betrayed by those who promised to support him. Like Hussein, he was subjected to a cruel death. Like Hussein, his followers were dejected and defeated.
But not for long.
Easter Sunday saw the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. His death had dealt with sin, and his life now brought eternal life to others. He sent the Spirit to each of his followers and commissioned them to go and tell others of this great news.
Paul acknowledged that, if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then we are fools and more to be pitied than all men. Every time I see an Ashoora parade, I think of that.
Join with us in praying:
- That our workers in Shi’a places would effectively use the story of Hussein as a ‘redemptive analogy’.
- That our work transforming lives and communities in these places would find ready acceptance among those who annually remember the struggle against oppression.
- That the annual mourning would turn to joy as many encounter not just one who died for the truth, but the Risen One who is The Truth.