people who tried to destroy Islam and the family of the Prophet and all that they stood for - as well as those who watched, listened and did nothing.
In the month of Muharram in the year 680 AD on the Western calendar, there was a large army at a place known as Kerbala on the bank of the river Euphrates in Iraq.
The army besieged a group of less than 100 people and put them under pressure to pay allegiance to the caliph Yazid and submit to his authority. A caliph is the head of state in an Islamic community.
The group, led by Hussain, resisted and were all killed after a severe battle. Hussain was the grandson of the Holy Prophet.
When Hasan, the brother of Husain passed away, Husain became the leader of the household of the Holy Prophet. He respected a peace treaty that was signed by Hasan before his death, and refused to do anything that went against the agreement. Husain preferred to focus on looking after the religious needs of the people, and was recognised for his knowledge, piety and generosity.
Husain's opponent was Yazid, whose father and grandfather had for many years tried to sabotage the mission of the Holy Prophet. It appears that Yazid enjoyed drinking wine and playing with pets.
Husain saw his role as the one who had to warn the Ummah (the Islamic community) of the danger of deviating from the path of peace.
Husain was killed on the battlefield and his head was severed, mounted on a spear and paraded through villages and towns to Damascus, where it was presented at the feet of Yazid.
The purpose of Ashura is to commemorate the tragedy of Kerbala, and the actions of Husain ad a conscious confrontation and a courageous resistance for a sacred cause. Husain and his supporters were the only people that were willing to stand up to Yazid. If Husain had remained passive, that would have meant the end of Islam as it is known today.