Ashura is celebrated on the ninth and tenth in the month of Muharram. The word ashura means “ten” and is a time of fasting, reflection and meditation. Jews of the city of Medina fasted on the tenth day in remembrance of their salvation from the Pharaoh. The Prophet Muhammad pledged he would fast for two days instead of one in this same remembrance, but he died the following year and so never fasted as he had hoped.
For many Muslims there is joy in commemorating all of the wonderful events traditions say occurred on this day, including: Noah’s ark came to rest, the Prophet Abraham was born, the Kaaba was built. Among Shiite Muslims, it is a day of special sorrow commemorating the martyrdom of the Prophet’s grandson ,Hussain, and his followers at the battle of Kerbala in Islam’s first century. It is commemorated in Shiite communities with a reenactment of these events and is a time of mourning.