A divisive and bloody clash more than 1,000 years ago – the Battle of Karbala – is similar to today's violence in Iraq, leaders from Turkey’s Alevi community have claimed.
They were speaking to Anadolu Agency on the anniversary of the historic conflict which is commemorated by Sunni, Shiite and Alevi people – the latter group claiming to have more than 10 million citizens across Turkey.
Mustafa Ozcivan, chair of the Alevia Haji Bektash Veli Cultural Association in Turkey's central Nevsehir province, says violence perpetrated by the ISIL had echoes of the violence from Karbala.
"A group which identifies itself with Islam has been killing people of different religions. This is exactly the same as the incident (Karbala) 1,000 years ago. A Muslim cannot kill anybody for the sake of Islam," he says.
Some 13 centuries ago today, on the tenth day of the Islamic sacred month of non-violence called Muharrem, the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Hussein was beheaded in the Battle of Karbala along with his six-month-old infant son.
Hussein and his supporters had refused to pledge allegiance to the Umayyad caliph Yazid, considered as unjust by Hussein’s supporters who argued that leadership of the Muslim world belonged to him.
Ozcivan points to the fact that the Karbala bloodshed happened in almost the same region where ISIL has been rampaging today.
"Those who have brought violence to the Middle East today are versions of Yazid, who is a symbol of injustice, cruelty, and egoism," says Ali Riza Ugurlu, president of the Alevi-Islam Religious Services at Cem Foundation in Istanbul.
"There are two sides in Karbala. One is Hussein, the symbol of all goodness, justice, and rights; the other one is Yazid, who killed him."
He says if Karbala had been interpreted correctly, there would not be an ISIL today.
The battle took place in 680 AD in the modern-day Iraqi city of Karbala – it has held a central place in Islamic history ever since due to its brutality.
Since then, millions of Muslims all around the world have held memorial services to show their allegiance to Imam Hussein.
The most symbolic ritual is walking the 90 kilometers from to Karbala from the city of Najaf.
This year, however, because of the ongoing conflict in the country, not many people are expected undertake the pilgrimage.
"We are planning to go there next year, but not by walking – probably by bus," says Ozcivan.
From the first day of Muharrem, Alevis in Turkey perform a 12-day fast as they commemorate Karbala at Djemevis, Alevi places of worship.
They also prepare a special type of dessert called Ashura, which means in Arabic 'the 10th of Muharram', the exact date when Hussein was killed.
To commemorate the Day of Ashura, Shiite Muslims also wear black, mourn for the dead, reflect on the Karbala fighting and help the poor.
A commemoration ceremony will be held on Monday in the Darica district of Turkey's northwestern Kocaeli province with broad participation from around 10,000 Shiite people.
Yahya Kemal Utar, one of approximately three million Shiites who live in Turkey, points to a "wrong understanding of Ashura.”
"This is not a festival that we should enjoy by eating and celebrating; this is a day of mourning," stresses Utar who is president of the Jaaferism and Ahl al-Bayt Foundation in Kocaeli.
He claims that there were some well-wishers who got in touch to congratulate his community on the occasion of holy Muharrem.
"This is not something to be congratulated on; we are going into mourning," he says.
Although some Shiite communities are also known to participating in distinctive acts of self-flagellation during Muharrem – as a way of showing their pain – Utar said they do not perform this act, which is not accepted by many Muslims.
"Karbala memorial ceremonies should not be something that separates Shiites from Sunnis or Sunnis from Alevis," says Hasan Apaydın, secretary-general of the same foundation.
"On the contrary, Karbala commemorations should direct us all to unity, because this is a sorrow of all Muslims; not only Shiites."
Referring to the ongoing violence in the Middle East, a dede (an Alevi religious leader) – Celal Celik, from Karacaahmet Djemevi in the Uskudar district of Istanbul told AA:
"We should all be like Hussein against today's tyranny, and come together by being united as Alevis, Shiites, and Sunnis. Only then, will there be no more Karbala incidents."
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