Middle East update: September 19 2018

HOLIDAYS Yom Kippur began at sundown on Tuesday, and Ashura begins at sundown tomorrow, so Columbia University professor Hamid Dabashi has put together a little piece on the two religious observances’ shared heritage: Both Jewish and Muslim observers have noticed this proximity between Yom Kippur and Ashoura. On the occasion of the two holidays coinciding in… Continue reading Middle East update: September 19 2018

Ashura and Yom Kippur greetings

For the second year in a row, the Jewish (Rosh Hashanah) and Islamic (Ras al-Sana) new years fell on the same date on the Gregorian calendar, September 20. Which means that the tenth day of those respective years, Yom Kippur for Jews and Ashura for Muslims, also fall on the same Gregorian date, which is… Continue reading Ashura and Yom Kippur greetings

That time of year

The month of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic (Hijri) calendar, is one of four months that, in addition to Ramadan, are explicitly identified as sacred months in the Qurʾan. This is probably an extension of a pre-Islamic Arabian tradition wherein certain months were set aside to be free from violence. The tenth day… Continue reading That time of year


Amid all the San Bernardino news, I almost forgot that today is (or really was, at this point) Arbaʿeen (there are some great photos at that link). This is a Shiʿa religious observance that occurs forty days (hence the name, arbaʿin, which is Arabic for “forty”) after Ashura, the commemoration of the day when Imam… Continue reading Arbaʿeen

Today is (the start of) Ashura, 1437 AH

Tomorrow (which starts at sundown tonight) is the tenth of the month of Muharram (the first month of the year) on the Islamic calendar, also known as Ashura (ashr = 10). This day is commemorated by some Sunnis and all Shiʿa with fasting and ritual. For Sunnis, Ashura is traditionally (going back to Muhammad) observed… Continue reading Today is (the start of) Ashura, 1437 AH

October 10 and the problem with “this day in history”

Today is the traditional anniversary of the Battle of Tours (732), which either saved the Christian world as we know it or interrupted a small Arab-Berber raiding party from getting deeper into France, depending on your point of view. I’d have written a big thing about it for today, but here’s the thing: I’m traveling,… Continue reading October 10 and the problem with “this day in history”

Holidays and anniversaries

Sundown last night marked the beginning of the Islamic holiday of Ashura, the tenth day of the month of Muharram (ashr is “ten” in Arabic), when the Shiʿa Imam Husayn, son of Ali, was killed at the Battle of Karbala in 680 (it’s also a holiday, albeit a less important one, for Sunnis, and anyway… Continue reading Holidays and anniversaries