Posted by: alcrabat | 27 January 2011

Moroccans celebration of ASHURA

Written by  Houda Belhaj Int 5 Winter 2011

Ashura is great day celebrated by all muslims around the world on the 10th day of Muharram, the 1rst month which marks the beginning of the Islamic new year. The meaning of the word “Ashura” is related to the number ten in Arabic language.

This day has varying significance within muslim communities, which is why people around the world commemorate it in different ways. For Shiite muslims, it’s a sad event. Indeed, this day is well-known because of mourning[1] for the martyrdom of Husayn Ibn Ali, the grandson of the the Prophet Muhammad (peace and prayers be upon him), at the Battle of Karbala[2] on 10 Muharram in the year 61AH[3].

Despite this, Sunni muslims comemorate the victory God has given to his prophet Moses, who fasted this day to express gratitude to God for liberating the Israelites from Egypt .The story of the prophet [4] Muhammed peace and prayers be upon him(ppbuh) told that he went to Medina and found the Jews fasting on the tenth of Muharram. Muhammed(ppbuh) inquired of them,”What is the significance of this day on which you fast?” They replied, “This is a good day, the day on which God rescued the children of Israel from their enemy. So, Moses fasted this day.” Muhammad said: “We have more claim over Moses than you.” From then, muslims have fasted on combinations of two or three consecutive days including the 10th of Muharram (the 9th and 10th or 10th and 11th).

In Morocco, Asuhra is considered as a social celebration because it’s an occasion observed by many people, children especially. Sure, customs and traditions differ from one region to another but Moroccan families in general, usually gather for special meals and children enjoy many exciting activities. According to Mrs. Ghitta (housewife): “all Moroccans prepare couscous with guedid in dinner the day before. This special meal called guedid is made from pieces of meat left over Eid Al-Adha dried in the sun after being seasoned with spices and saved until Ashura”.

The trade of special goods, like toys, drums and dried fruits (almonds, walnuts “Guarguaa”, dates, raisins, dried figs and peanuts) flourishes in traditional stores and supermarkets as well. So, Ashura in Morocco is tied to games and play. The variety of toys such as, dolls, plastic guns, cars, swords, masks, makes the choice so difficult for children and also for their parents. Further more, some toys (known in Moroccan dialect as “Tâarija” and “Bendir”[5]) are bought by children and by adults as well. On this occasion, playing with drums and beating on tambourines on the night before Ashura(9th day of muharam) is a common part of Moroccan folklore and popular art and has been  a characteristic of  Moroccan society for a many decades. Anass (secondary school student) said: “When the evening comes, children and young people light a great fire which we call ”shaala”’ in the neighbourhood square and they start to sing and dance around it for hours. However, there have been big changes in recent years because there have been some accidents and some children have ended up in hospitals due to the improper use of the fireworks and rockets. So, the government has banned these activities”.

In addition, children enjoy a lot of “Zem Zem” or playing with water on the day of Ashura.They get excited because they are completely free to spray water at their friends and adult neighbours in the street. However, nowadays people don’t like such things because chidren and young people become aggressive and unpolite by using dirty items like eggs and colored water.

According to some Islamic scholars there are some legends and misconceptions that have managed to find their way into the Ahsura celebrations, but have no support from authentic Islamic sources. For example, Moroccans associate Ashura with a mythical character they call “Baba Aichour” who is a legendary figure appearing in the songs of young women and children, who sing songs and ask for money while beating drums and shouting: “Atini hak Baba Aichour”.

Moreover, some people believe the period of Ashura is an occasion to acquire good fortune and search for happiness. The trade of some plants and superstitious items is observed. Also, many Moroccans go to a “shawaafa”(magician) or “fkih” ( person who has supernatural skills) in order to reveal what’s wrong in their life and their destiny or to explain to them the magic to which they have been subjected. The majority of Islamic scholars believe these activities are not in line with Islamic practices.

According to Mr Alali Abdsamad (preacher and Islamic scholar) : “preserving some traditions which distinguish Moroccan society is a good thing. People usually fasted on Ashura in emulation of the Prophet Mohammed (ppbuh) who fasted on this day. By doing that, muslim communities comemorate Israel being saved from an Egytptian Pharaoh as is confirmed by the Quran and authentic hadith in Sahih Bukhari and Muslim.Therefore, fasting during Ashura is recommended but not obligatory. Moroccans also used to distribute alms and Zakat to the poor and those in need. However, Muslims in general are concerned with fighting the spread of superstitions and some acts of magic in the name of Islam, since these are against our beliefs.”.

Information’s sources :

-Some interviews with people

[1] To be sad when someone passed away.

[2] It’s  place in Iraq.

[3] Hegire year in islamic calendar.

[4] Reported by Ibn Abas,  who was a companion of Muhammed (ppbuh)

[5] Kinds of drums.


  1. it is a good essay.and also you are right go on …

  2. Yes, congratulate yourselves for successfully massacring the family of your own prophet.

  3. I like this writing because it(deffuculte) of athour
    but it is veru good

    • hello have you anthour wriiting of green march pleaze my sister

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