Shrine of Cairo's Al-Hussein Mosque closed on Ashoura

Ahram Online , Sunday 1 Oct 2017

Al-Hussein Mosque
File Photo: Al-Hussein Mosque (Photo: Ahram Arabic Gate)

The shrine of Al-Hussein Mosque in Old Cairo is closed for two days during religious Ashoura celebrations on Sunday.

The mosque's shrine holds special significance for Shia Muslims, who believe that the decapitated head of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Imam Al-Hussein, is buried at Al-Hussein Mosque.    

"The mosque itself is not closed, only the shrine, for cleaning, developing and maintenance," spokesman of the Ministry of Religious Endowments Gaber Tayea said on the TV programme Raay Aam on Saturday night.

In the past few years, Egyptian authorities have closed Al-Hussein Mosque on the day of Ashoura for fear of sectarian tension.

The mosque, one of the oldest and most prominent in Cairo, holds religious significance for both Shia and Sunni Egyptians.

The vast majority of Egypt's Muslims identify as Sunni, although there are no official figures on the number of Shia in the country.

"We cannot take a decision to close the mosque, it is only a precautionary measure taken by the mosque's Imam to avoid overcrowding during prayers," Tayea added.

The Ministry of Religious Endowments runs mosques in Egypt in accordance with Sunni doctrine, and does not recognise Shia mosques or rituals. Salafists, who are ultra-conservative Sunnis, reject the Shia denomination as a heresy. 

Salafists have repeatedly denounced the existence of Shia shrines in Egypt.

Tayea said during the interview that "Ashoura is like any other day in Egypt, all mosques are open. It is only a significant day for Shia and not all Egyptians."

Ashoura, the 10th day of the Islamic calendar, is celebrated by Muslims around the world as it marks the Prophet Moses' exodus from Egypt.

Shia Muslims commemorate on Ashoura the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Imam Al-Hussein.

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