On Tuesday December 6, tens of thousands of Lebanese Shia Muslims gathered in Dahiyeh, the suburbs south of Beirut bombed by Israel in 2006, to commemorate the Ashoura holiday. The tenth day of Muharram – the first month in the Islamic calendar – is marked annually by Shia who mourn the killing of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohamed, in Karbala, modern day Iraq, in the year 680.
Worshippers started the morning in mosques listening to a mullah recite the story of the killing of Hussein and his followers. Many weep as the retelling reaches the point when Hussein was murdered. The Hassanein mosque, which belonged to the late Mohamed Hussein Fadlallah, is a landmark in central Dahiyeh where hundreds of mourners gather. For decades, Fadlallah was the most well-known Shia religious figure in Lebanon and was revered across sectarian lines. He died in July 2010.
After the retelling of Hussein’s killing, mourners joined together and marched through the streets of Dahiyeh. Some carried religious signs, pictures of Iranian leaders such as Ruhollah Khomeini, former Hezbollah leader Abbas al-Mussawi (assassinated by Israel in 1992), and the flags of Hezbollah, Lebanon and Palestine.
The procession ended at a football field where Mussawi’s successor and current Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah made a surprise public appearance – to the jubilation of thousands of roaring supporter – declaring: “We tell all those who bet on scaring us or threatening us that we are the companions of Imam Hussein, [and we] say he will never be humiliated.” He then left and continued his speech on TV screens from an undisclosed location.
|1) A crowd gathers in the Hassanein mosque on the day of Ashoura [Matthew Cassel/Al Jazeera]
|2) Mourners on Ashoura commemorate the death of Hussein ibn Ali, grandson of the prophet Mohamed [Matthew Cassel/Al Jazeera]|
|3) Imam Hussein was killed in the Battle of Karbala on the tenth day of Muharram, leading to the annual commemoration [Matthew Cassel/Al Jazeera]|
|4) Mohamed Hussein Fadlallah used to lead the congregation at this mosque, south of Beirut, and was widely revered [Matthew Cassel/Al Jazeera]|
|5) Not everyone can fit inside the mosque to listen to the story of Imam Hussein’s martydom [Matthew Cassel/Al Jazeera]|
|6) Members of Lebanon’s Scout movement wear headbands celebrating Ruqayyah, a daughter of the Prophet Mohamed [Matthew Cassel/Al Jazeera]
|7) In the procession from the mosque, Scouts wheel a portrait of former Hezbollah leader Abbas al-Mussawi [Matthew Cassel/Al Jazeera]|
|8) Men on the procession through the Dahiyeh district wore headbands celebrating Abbas, brother of Imam Hussein [Matthew Cassel/Al Jazeera]|
|9) Members of the Shia community often show their grief on Ashoura by beating their chests [Matthew Cassel/Al Jazeera]|
|10) Residents of Dahiyeh took to the rooftops to watch the religious rally pass by [Matthew Cassel/Al Jazeera]
|11) Hundreds of women joined the march through the city’s streets [Matthew Cassel/Al Jazeera]|
|12) Shia mourners chant prayers during the march for what they consider Imam Hussein’s sacrifices made for Islam [Matthew Cassel/Al Jazeera]|
13) Hassan Nasrallah is popular in south Beirut, where posters justify Hezbollah’s arms: ‘Weapons are our collective choice’ [Matthew Cassel/Al Jazeera]
|14) The Day of Ashoura brings many people onto the streets of their neighbourhood [Matthew Cassel/Al Jazeera]|
|15) Spectators watch the long shadows of the mourners as they pass [Matthew Cassel/Al Jazeera]|
|16) Crowds clear a path to watch Scouts parade with Lebanese flags through the area heavily bombed by Israel in 2006 [Matthew Cassel/Al Jazeera]|
|17) One flag-bearer also wears a portrait of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s supreme leader between 1979 and 1989 [Matthew Cassel/Al Jazeera]|
|18) Many in the crowd carried pictures of Hezbollah party leader Hassan Nasrallah – but few realised he would be attending [Matthew Cassel/Al Jazeera]|
|19) When Nasrallah made a surprise personal appearance, the thousands who had gathered roared in delight [Matthew Cassel/Al Jazeera]|
|20) Nasrallah said the crowd were ‘companions’ of Imam Hussein, on a stage which read: ‘We are ready for you, oh Hussein’ [Matthew Cassel/Al Jazeera]|
Follow Matthew Cassel on Twitter: @justimage