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Karbala
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Karbala

Karbala, Iraq.
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Shrine of Husayn to the back, his half-brother Hazrat Abbas in the front. Photo: Antonio Edward.

Karbala, Iraq.
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Shrine of Husayn.

Karbala, Iraq.
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The courtyard in the shrine of Husayn.

Karbala, Iraq.
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Karbala, Iraq.
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Shrine of Hazrat Abbas.

Karbala, Iraq.
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Shrine of Hazrat Abbas.

City in Iraq with with 520,000 inhabitants (2005 estimate), situated about 50 km southeast of Baghdad.
Karbala is one of the most holy cities in Islam, but it is for the Shi'is that it plays the most important role. In 680 Husayn ibn Ali made a claim at the role of Caliph. His group had been promised that they would take over the Caliphate, when Caliph Mu'awiyya died. But upon his death in 680, this promise was not meant to be kept and Yazid seized power.
Husayn opposed this, and with a tiny army, only around 70 men, women and children, he faced Yazid's far more sizeable army at Karbala. In this battle Husayn was killed.
This story is very central for Shi'is today, and has gained a position in the Shi'i thinking not all to different from the crucifixion of Jesus in Christianity.
The battle at Karbala is now revered in two ways. Shi'is commemorate the happenings during the ten first days of the hijra-month Muharram, and many among them go on pilgrimage to Karbala.
For Shi'is Karbala is considered to be a bridge to Paradise, hence many have over the centuries had their bodies transported to Karbala to be buried here.

History
680: A battle between Husayn and Caliph Mu'awiya over the control of the Caliphate leads to the death of Husayn, and the final division between the orientations later known as Shi'i and Sunni Islam.
1802 April: An army of 12,000 Wahhabi soldiers occupy Karbala, and slay 4,000 of the inhabitants. They destroyed the holy sites of Shi'ism to the extent that they had to be rebuilt later.
2004 March 2: More than 110 people killed during the festival day of Ashura, in an attack on the Husayn Mosque.




By Tore Kjeilen