Today is Eid al-Ghadir (or Eid al-Ghadeer if you prefer), a Shiʿa festival commemorating Muhammad’s final sermon, delivered at a place called Ghadir al-Khumm in 632. During this sermon, Muhammad is said to have told the thousands of people assembled that “Of whomsoever I have been mawla, Ali [Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law] is also to be his mawla” (or thereabouts, your translation may vary). You can read more about this event in my Islamic History series, but the short version is that mawla has many meanings, one of which is “lord” or “master,” so Shiʿa, who hold that Ali was Muhammad’s rightful successor, believe that this sermon was Muhammad’s designation that Ali should be the next leader of the proto-Islamic movement. However, since mawla can also mean something more mundane, like “helper” or “friend,” Sunnis hold that Muhammad was just telling the community (many of whom didn’t care for Ali or what he represented — the possibility of hereditary rule — all that much) that, “hey, if you like me, you should be down with Ali as well.” For the Shiʿa, the idea that Muhammad dragged everybody out into the Arabian desert to issue a final sermon whose main point basically boiled down to “please be nice to Ali when I’m gone” rings fairly hollow, and without weighing in on the question of proper succession I have to say they do have a point there. Since the sermon itself appears in both Shiʿa and Sunni collections of hadith, it seems likely that it was a real historical event (or as real as anything about Muhammad’s life), since if it were completely made up you’d expect Sunni scholars to have ignored it altogether.
So that’s the historical and traditional side of this holiday. On the modern side of things, Eid al-Ghadir is another Shiʿa holiday, like the upcoming Ashura, whose commemorations attract large crowds of Shiʿa Muslims to public spaces, which then become attractive targets for Sunni terrorists. Today at least 33 Iraqi Shiʿa were killed when a series of bombings, almost certainly carried out by Daesh, struck at Shiʿa targets in Baghdad:
Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Baghdad, said that the bombings followed a familiar pattern and ISIL, which is fighting in northern and western Iraq, has carried out many similar attacks in the last few months.
“No one has claimed the attacks but they do follow a pattern that are very familiar to us – when ISIL gets squeezed elsewhere they take out revenge with attacks in the capital.”
In Monday’s attacks, a suicide car bomb blew up at a security checkpoint on Aden square, at the entrance of the northwestern area of Kadhimiyah, killing 22 and wounding 41, a senior Baghdad police officer told the AFP news agency.
A bomb in the popular Mredi market in the northern Sadr City area killed three and wounded at least 21 people, the same source said.
In Habibiyah, on the southern edge of Sadr City, a suicide car bomb attack left at least eight dead and 25 others injured.
IraqBodyCount.org says that 568 Iraqi civilians have been killed so far this month (not including today’s violence) and 13,186 so far this year, which already makes 2014 the deadliest year in Iraq since 2007.