Every year Muslims from around the world hold religious mourning ceremonies for the third Shia Imam who achieved martyrdom in the desert of Karbala in 680 AD.
Following the copious invitations sent by the people of Kufa to Imam Hussein, he headed for that city to rule them. However, they betrayed him and left him alone facing the army of Yazid, the self-proclaimed Caliph of the time, who sought to win his allegiance by force. In the inequitable war that ensued, the army of Yazid killed Imam Hussein and 72 of his companions ruthlessly and took their families hostage.
Muslims all over the world, both Sunnis or Shias, and even affiliates from other religions, hold mourning ceremonies every year and commemorate the tragedy that took place in Karbala. Meantime, some groups engage in inappropriate mourning rituals, such as hacking their heads with machetes, which have been reproached by many Islamic scholars and even the leader of the Islamic Revolution.
Mosques, hussainiyas and other religious centers are covered in black during Muharram. Shia scholars, eulogists and actors deliver speeches, perform passion plays and chant elegies in remembrance of the Karbala tragedy.