Ashura Day: Why Shia Muslims mutilate themselves & their children (WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES)

Saudi Shi'ite Muslims flagellate themselves with chains during an Ashura procession in Qatif, east Saudi Arabia, October 24, 2015. © Faisal Al Nasser
Blood has been spilt as Shia Muslims marked the Day of Ashura, commemorating the death of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, Imam Hussein, with mass self-flagellation ceremonies.

Thousands of men took to the streets of Iraq, Afghanistan, India, Lebanon and other countries on Saturday, cutting themselves with swords, knives and sharp chains. 

Saudi Shi'ite Muslims flagellate themselves with chains during an Ashura procession in Qatif, east Saudi Arabia, October 24, 2015. © Faisal Al Nasser

It wasn’t only grownups who participated in the brutal ritual, as video from the southern Indian city of Hyderabad shows toddlers having their foreheads cut by relatives. 

The self-flagellations are intended to emulate the suffering of Hussein, who lost his life fighting the Umayyad Caliphate in 680 AD in Karbala, near Baghdad in Iraq.

A Shi'ite Muslim boy shouts religious slogans after flagellating himself during a Muharram procession to mark Ashura in Srinagar, October 24, 2015. © Danish Ismail

The body of the Muslim prophet’s grandson was then mutilated by his killers, leading to his martyrdom. 

Shi'ite Muslims march on streets with swords during Ashura procession in downtown Manama, Bahrain, October 24, 2015. © Hamad I Mohammed

It happened on the tenth day of the Islamic month of Muharra, and Ashura has been observed on this day annually for 1,300 years. 

Many historians believe that Hussein’s death was a turning point that led to the split of Islam into Shia and Sunni sects. 

Afghan Shi'ite Muslims flagellate themselves during an Ashura procession in Kabul, Afghanistan October 20, 2015. © Omar Sobhani

The self-flagellations on the Day of Ashura have been heavily criticized, with many Shia clerics encouraging believers to donate their blood to hospitals instead.

A Shi'ite Muslim who fainted from bleeding after tapping his foreheads with a razor is carried on a stretcher during a Muharram procession to mark Ashura in Nabatieh town, southern Lebanon October 24, 2015. © Ali Hashisho