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Self-flagellation

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Self-flagellation is the disciplinary and devotional practice of flogging oneself with whips or other instruments that inflict pain.[1] In Christianity, self-flagellation is practiced in the context of the doctrine of the mortification of the flesh and is seen as a spiritual discipline.[2][3] It is often used as a form of penance and is intended to allow the flagellant to share in the sufferings of Jesus, bringing his or her focus to God.[4][5][6]

The main religions that practice self-flagellation include Christianity and Judaism. The ritual has also been practiced among members of several Egyptian and Greco-Roman cults.

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Flagellation

Flagellation

Flagellation, flogging or whipping is the act of beating the human body with special implements such as whips, rods, switches, the cat o' nine tails, the sjambok, the knout, etc. Typically, flogging has been imposed on an unwilling subject as a punishment; however, it can also be submitted to willingly and even done by oneself in sadomasochistic or religious contexts.

Christianity

Christianity

Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. It is the world's largest religion with roughly 2.38 billion followers representing one-third of the global population. Its adherents, known as Christians, are estimated to make up a majority of the population in 157 countries and territories and are a minority in all others.

Mortification of the flesh

Mortification of the flesh

Mortification of the flesh is an act by which an individual or group seeks to mortify or deaden their sinful nature, as a part of the process of sanctification.

Penance

Penance

Penance is any act or a set of actions done out of repentance for sins committed, as well as an alternate name for the Catholic, Lutheran, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession. It also plays a part in confession among Anglicans and Methodists, in which it is a rite, as well as among other Protestants. The word penance derives from Old French and Latin paenitentia, both of which derive from the same root meaning repentance, the desire to be forgiven. Penance and repentance, similar in their derivation and original sense, have come to symbolize conflicting views of the essence of repentance, arising from the controversy as to the respective merits of "faith" and "good works". Word derivations occur in many languages.

Judaism

Judaism

Judaism is an Abrahamic, monotheistic, and ethnic religion comprising the collective religious, cultural, and legal tradition and civilization of the Jewish people. It has its roots as an organized religion in the Middle East during the Bronze Age. Modern Judaism evolved from Yahwism, the religion of ancient Israel and Judah, by the late 6th century BCE, and is thus considered to be one of the oldest monotheistic religions. Judaism is considered by religious Jews to be the expression of the covenant that God established with the Israelites, their ancestors. It encompasses a wide body of texts, practices, theological positions, and forms of organization.

Christianity

Magdarame (penitents) during Holy Week in the Philippines
Magdarame (penitents) during Holy Week in the Philippines

Historically, Christians have engaged in various forms of mortification of the flesh, ranging from self-denial, wearing hairshirts and chains, fasting, and self-flagellation (often using a type of whip called a discipline).[7] Some Christians use excerpts from the Bible to justify this ritual. For example, some interpreters claim that Paul the Apostle's statement, "I chastise my body" (1 Corinthians 9:27), refers to self-inflicted bodily scourging.[8] Prominent Christians who have practiced self-flagellation include Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformer,[9] and Congregationalist writer Sarah Osborn, who practiced self-flagellation in order "to remind her of her continued sin, depravity, and vileness in the eyes of God".[2] It became "quite common" for members of the Tractarian movement within the Anglican Communion to practice self-flagellation using a discipline.[10]

In the 11th century, Peter Damian, a Benedictine monk in the Roman Catholic tradition, taught that spirituality should manifest itself in physical discipline; he admonished those who sought to follow Christ to practice self-flagellation for the duration of the time it takes one to recite forty Psalms, increasing the number of flagellations on holy days of the Christian calendar.[4] For Damian, only those who shared in the sufferings of Christ could be saved.[4] Throughout Christian history, the mortification of the flesh, wherein one denies oneself physical pleasures, has been commonly followed by members of the clergy, especially in Christian monasteries and convents. Self-flagellation was imposed as a form of punishment as a means of penance for disobedient clergy and laity.[4]

In the 13th century, a group of Roman Catholics, known as the Flagellants, took this practice to extremes. During the Black Death, it was thought of as a way to combat the plague by cleansing one's sins. The Flagellants were condemned by the Roman Catholic Church as a cult in the 14th century.

Self-flagellation rituals were also practiced in 16th-century Japan. Japanese of the time who were converted to Christianity by Jesuit missionaries were reported to have had sympathy for the Passion of the Christ, and they readily practiced self-flagellation to show their devotion. The earliest records of self-flagellation practiced by Japanese converts appeared in the year 1555 in the regions of Bungo and Hirado in Kyushu.[11] These Japanese Christians wore crowns of thorns and bore crosses on their backs during the procession, which led to the place they had designated as the Mount of the Cross.[11]

Christians give various reasons for choosing to self-flagellate. One of the main reasons is to emulate the suffering of Christ during his Passion. As Jesus was whipped before his crucifixion, many see whipping themselves as a way to be closer to Jesus and as a reminder of that whipping.[12] Many early Christians believed that in order to be closer to God, one would need to literally suffer through the pain of Christ.[13] Paul the Apostle also alluded to inflicting bodily harm in order to feel closer to God in his letters to the Romans and to the Colossians.[14]

Self-flagellation was also seen as a form of purification, purifying the soul as repentance for any worldly indulgences. Self-flagellation is also used as a punishment on earth in order to avoid punishment in the next life.[14] Self-flagellation was also seen as a way to control the body in order to focus only on God. By whipping oneself, one would find distraction from the pleasures of the world and be able to fully focus on worshiping God.[12] Self-flagellation is also done to thank God for responding to a prayer or to drive evil spirits from the body (cf. Exorcism in Christianity).[13] The popularity of self-flagellation has abated, with some pious Christians choosing to practice the mortification of the flesh with acts like fasting or abstaining from a pleasure (cf. Lenten sacrifice).[12]

There is a debate within the Christian tradition about whether or not self-flagellation is of spiritual benefit, with various religious leaders and Christians condemning the practice and others, such as Pope John Paul II, having practiced self-flagellation.[15] People who self-flagellate believe that they need to spiritually share in the suffering of Jesus, and continue this practice, both publicly and privately.[15]

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Mortification of the flesh

Mortification of the flesh

Mortification of the flesh is an act by which an individual or group seeks to mortify or deaden their sinful nature, as a part of the process of sanctification.

Holy Week

Holy Week

Holy Week is the most sacred week in the liturgical year in Christianity. In Eastern Churches, which includes Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholic and Eastern Lutheran traditions, Holy Week occurs the week after Lazarus Saturday and starts on the evening of Palm Sunday. In the denominations of the Western Christianity, which includes the Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, Moravianism, Anglicanism, Methodism and Reformed Christianity, it begins with Palm Sunday and concludes on Easter Sunday. For all Christian traditions it is a moveable observance. In Eastern Rite Churches, Holy Week starts after 40 days of Lent and two transitional days, namely Saturday of Lazarus and Palm Sunday. In the Western Christian Churches, Holy Week falls on the last week of Lent or Sixth Lent Week.

Discipline (instrument of penance)

Discipline (instrument of penance)

A discipline is a small scourge (whip) used as an instrument of penance by members of some Christian denominations in the spiritual discipline known as mortification of the flesh.

Paul the Apostle

Paul the Apostle

Paul, commonly known as Paul the Apostle and Saint Paul, was a Christian apostle who spread the teachings of Jesus in the first-century world. Generally regarded as one of the most important figures of the Apostolic Age, he founded several Christian communities in Asia Minor and Europe from the mid-40s to the mid-50s AD.

Martin Luther

Martin Luther

Martin Luther was a German priest, theologian, author, hymnwriter, and professor. A former Augustinian friar, he is best known as the seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation and the namesake of Lutheranism.

Anglican Communion

Anglican Communion

The Anglican Communion is the third largest Christian communion after the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. Founded in 1867 in London, the communion has more than 85 million members within the Church of England and other autocephalous national and regional churches in full communion. The traditional origins of Anglican doctrine are summarised in the Thirty-nine Articles (1571). The Archbishop of Canterbury in England acts as a focus of unity, recognised as primus inter parescode: lat promoted to code: la , but does not exercise authority in Anglican provinces outside of the Church of England. Most, but not all, member churches of the communion are the historic national or regional Anglican churches.

Peter Damian

Peter Damian

Peter Damian was a reforming Benedictine monk and cardinal in the circle of Pope Leo IX. Dante placed him in one of the highest circles of Paradiso as a great predecessor of Francis of Assisi and he was declared a Doctor of the Church on 27 September 1828. His feast day is 21 February.

Psalms

Psalms

The Book of Psalms, also known as the Psalms, or the Psalter, is the first book of the Ketuvim ("Writings"), the third section of the Tanakh, and a book of the Old Testament. The title is derived from the Greek translation, ψαλμοί, meaning "instrumental music" and, by extension, "the words accompanying the music". The book is an anthology of individual Hebrew religious hymns, with 150 in the Jewish and Western Christian tradition and more in the Eastern Christian churches. Many are linked to the name of David, but modern mainstream scholarship rejects his authorship, instead attributing the composition of the psalms to various authors writing between the 9th and 5th centuries BC. In the Quran, the Arabic word ‘Zabur’ is used for the Psalms of David in the Hebrew Bible.

Liturgical year

Liturgical year

The liturgical year, also called the church year, Christian year or kalendar, consists of the cycle of liturgical seasons in Christian churches that determines when feast days, including celebrations of saints, are to be observed, and which portions of Scripture are to be read either in an annual cycle or in a cycle of several years.

Flagellant

Flagellant

Flagellants are practitioners of a form of mortification of the flesh by whipping their skin with various instruments of penance. Many Christian confraternities of penitents have flagellants, who beat themselves, both in the privacy of their dwellings and in public processions, in order to repent of sins and share in the Passion of Jesus.

Black Death

Black Death

The Black Death was a bubonic plague pandemic occurring in Western Eurasia and North Africa from 1346 to 1353. It is the most fatal pandemic recorded in human history, causing the deaths of 75–200 million people, peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351. Bubonic plague is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis spread by fleas, but it can also take a secondary form where it is spread by person-to-person contact via aerosols causing septicaemic or pneumonic plagues.

Japan

Japan

Japan is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and is bordered on the west by the Sea of Japan, while extending from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north toward the East China Sea, Philippine Sea, and Taiwan in the south. Japan is a part of the Ring of Fire, and spans an archipelago of 6852 islands covering 377,975 square kilometers (145,937 sq mi); the five main islands are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa. Tokyo is the nation's capital and largest city, followed by Yokohama, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Fukuoka, Kobe, and Kyoto.

Judaism

Some Jewish men practice a symbolic form of self-flagellation on the day before Yom Kippur as an enactment; it is strictly prohibited in Judaism to cause self-harm. Biblical passages such as "it shall be a holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls" (Leviticus 23:27) were used to justify these actions. It was a common practice in the Middle Ages for men to whip themselves on the back 39 times.[16] However, since biblical times Judaism has largely considered Yom Kippur as a day of spiritual atonement achieved through fasting, introspection, and other interpretations of the commandment "afflict your souls" that do not involve bodily self-harm.[17]

Islam

Zanjerzani in Iran
Zanjerzani in Iran

Much of the Twelver Shia community tries to emulate Imam Husain through self-flagellation in the same way that Christians try to emulate Jesus Christ. This is exhibited through the public performance of matam. The Shia counterpart to a Christian flagellant is a matamdar. This ritual of matam is meant to reaffirm one's faith and relationships by creating a deep bond among the participants through their shared religious devotion. Despite the violent nature of this ritual, the love and vulnerability associated with it makes it a fundamentally positive and affirmational ritual performance.[18] Many Shia communities worldwide march in massive parades every year on the Day of Ashura, during the mourning of Muharram, to commemorate the Battle of Karbala and the martyrdom of Imam Hussein. During these parades, devotees hit themselves on the chest or slash themselves with blades on chains called zanjerzani. Though it is uncommon, some Shia communities hit themselves on the back with chains and sharp objects such as knives. This happens in many countries including India, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, United States,[19] and Australia.

Self-flagellation is just as controversial in Islam as it is in Christianity. In 2008, a prominent court case involving a resident of the UK town of Eccles, who was accused of encouraging his children to self-flagellate, provoked widespread condemnation of the practice. Shias responded by affirming that children should not be encouraged to self-harm, but defending the importance of the ritual when performed by consenting adults.[20] However, some Shia leaders fear that the practice gives their religion a bad reputation, and recommend donating blood instead.[21]

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Husayn ibn Ali

Husayn ibn Ali

Abū ʿAbd Allāh al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib was a grandson of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and a son of Ali ibn Abi Talib and Muhammad's daughter Fatima, as well as a younger brother of Hasan ibn Ali. He is claimed to be the third Imam of Shia Islam after his brother, Hasan, and before his son, Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin. Being a grandson of the prophet, he is a member of the Ahl al-Bayt. He is also considered to be a member of the Ahl al-Kisa, and a participant in the event of Mubahala. Muhammad described him and his brother, Hasan, as "the leaders of the youth of Paradise."

Mourning of Muharram

Mourning of Muharram

The Mourning of Muharram is a set of commemoration rituals observed primarily by Shia people. The commemoration falls in Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar. Many of the events associated with the ritual take place in congregation halls known as Hussainia or Imambargah.

Battle of Karbala

Battle of Karbala

The Battle of Karbala was fought on 10 October 680 between the army of the second Umayyad Caliph Yazid I and a small army led by Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, at Karbala, Sawad.

India

India

India, officially the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives; its Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand, Myanmar, and Indonesia. The nation's capital city is New Delhi.

Pakistan

Pakistan

Pakistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is a country in South Asia. It is the world's fifth-most populous country, with a population of almost 243 million people, and has the world's second-largest Muslim population just behind Indonesia. Pakistan is the 33rd-largest country in the world by area and 2nd largest in South Asia, spanning 881,913 square kilometres. It has a 1,046-kilometre (650-mile) coastline along the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman in the south, and is bordered by India to the east, Afghanistan to the west, Iran to the southwest, and China to the northeast. It is separated narrowly from Tajikistan by Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor in the north, and also shares a maritime border with Oman. Islamabad is the nation's capital, while Karachi is its largest city and financial centre.

Iraq

Iraq

Iraq, officially the Republic of Iraq, is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered by Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, the Persian Gulf and Kuwait to the southeast, Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the southwest and Syria to the west. The capital and largest city is Baghdad. Iraq is home to diverse ethnic groups including Iraqi Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens, Assyrians, Armenians, Yazidis, Mandaeans, Persians and Shabakis with similarly diverse geography and wildlife. The vast majority of the country's 44 million residents are Muslims – the notable other faiths are Christianity, Yazidism, Mandaeism, Yarsanism and Zoroastrianism. The official languages of Iraq are Arabic and Kurdish; others also recognised in specific regions are Neo-Aramaic, Turkish and Armenian.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan

Afghanistan, officially the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central Asia and South Asia. Referred to as the Heart of Asia, it is bordered by Pakistan to the east and south, Iran to the west, Turkmenistan to the northwest, Uzbekistan to the north, Tajikistan to the northeast, and China to the northeast and east. Occupying 652,864 square kilometers (252,072 sq mi) of land, the country is predominantly mountainous with plains in the north and the southwest, which are separated by the Hindu Kush mountain range. As of 2021, its population is 40.2 million, composed mostly of ethnic Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks. Kabul is the country's largest city and serves as its capital.

Iran

Iran

Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, and also called Persia, is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered by Iraq and Turkey to the west, by Azerbaijan and Armenia to the northwest, by the Caspian Sea and Turkmenistan to the north, by Afghanistan and Pakistan to the east, and by the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf to the south. It covers an area of 1.64 million square kilometres, making it the 17th-largest country. Iran has a population of 86 million, making it the 17th-most populous country in the world, and the second-largest in the Middle East. Its largest cities, in descending order, are the capital Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan, Karaj, Shiraz, and Tabriz.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia, officially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), is a country in Western Asia. It covers the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and has a land area of about 2,150,000 km2 (830,000 sq mi), making it the fifth-largest country in Asia, the second-largest in the Arab world, and the largest in Western Asia and the Middle East. It is bordered by the Red Sea to the west; Jordan, Iraq, and Kuwait to the north; the Persian Gulf, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to the east; Oman to the southeast; and Yemen to the south. Bahrain is an island country off the east coast. The Gulf of Aqaba in the northwest separates Saudi Arabia from Egypt. Saudi Arabia is the only country with a coastline along both the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, and most of its terrain consists of arid desert, lowland, steppe, and mountains. Its capital and largest city is Riyadh. The country is home to Mecca and Medina, the two holiest cities in Islam.

Lebanon

Lebanon

Lebanon, officially the Republic of Lebanon or the Lebanese Republic, is a country in Western Asia. It is located between Syria to the north and east and Israel to the south, while Cyprus lies to its west across the Mediterranean Sea; its location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Basin and the Arabian hinterland has contributed to its rich history and shaped a cultural identity of religious diversity. It is part of the Levant region of the Middle East. Lebanon is home to roughly six million people and covers an area of 10,452 square kilometres (4,036 sq mi), making it the second smallest country in continental Asia. The official language of the state is Arabic, while French is also formally recognized; the Lebanese dialect of Arabic is used alongside Modern Standard Arabic throughout the country.

Australia

Australia

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. With an area of 7,617,930 square kilometres (2,941,300 sq mi), Australia is the largest country by area in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country. Australia is the oldest, flattest, and driest inhabited continent, with the least fertile soils. It is a megadiverse country, and its size gives it a wide variety of landscapes and climates, with deserts in the centre, tropical rainforests in the north-east, and mountain ranges in the south-east.

Eccles, Greater Manchester

Eccles, Greater Manchester

Eccles is a town in the City of Salford in Greater Manchester, England, 3 miles (4.8 km) west of Salford and 4 miles (6.4 km) west of Manchester, split by the M602 motorway and bordered by the Manchester Ship Canal to the south. The town is famous for the Eccles cake.

Source: "Self-flagellation", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2022, November 28th), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-flagellation.

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References
  1. ^ Abbott, Geoffrey. "Flagellation." Encyclopædia Britannica. Last modified December 6, 2016. Accessed March 5, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/topic/flagellation.
  2. ^ a b Rubin, Julius H. (1994). Religious Melancholy and Protestant Experience in America. Oxford University Press. p. 115. ISBN 9780195083019. In the many letters to her correspondents, Fish, Anthony, Hopkins, and Noyes, Osborn examined the state of her soul, sought spiritual guidance in the midst of her perplexities, and created a written forum for her continued self-examination. She cultivated an intense and abiding spirit of evangelical humiliation--self-flagellation and self-torture to remind her of her continued sin, depravity, and vileness in the eyes of God.
  3. ^ Lasky, Jack. “Flagellation.” In Salem Press Encyclopedia. Salem Press, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d Fudgé, Thomas A. (20 October 2016). Medieval Religion and its Anxieties: History and Mystery in the Other Middle Ages. Springer. p. 243. ISBN 978-1-137-56610-2. As justification for the mortification of the flesh, Peter Damian argued that only those who participated in the sufferings of Christ could be partakers of the promise that the faithful, one day, would inherit the kingdom of God and thereby join Christ in glory.
  5. ^ Jeremiah, Ken (10 January 2014). Christian Mummification: An Interpretative History of the Preservation of Saints, Martyrs and Others. McFarland. p. 92. ISBN 978-0-7864-8979-4.
  6. ^ Abbott, "Flagellation.”
  7. ^ Grayling, A. C. (29 August 2008). "Religion and its mortifying history of self inflicted pain". The Times.
  8. ^ Tierney, John. “Flagellation.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Last modified September 1, 1909. Accessed March 5, 2020. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06092a.htm.
  9. ^ Wall, James T. The Boundless Frontier: America from Christopher Columbus to Abraham Lincoln. University Press of America. p. 103. Though he did not go to the ends that had Luther— including even self-flagellation — the methods of ritualistic observance, self-denial, and good works did not satisfy.
  10. ^ Yates, Nigel (1999). Anglican Ritualism in Victorian Britain, 1830-1910. Oxford University Press. p. 60. ISBN 9780198269892. Self-flagellation with a small scourge, known as a discipline, became quite common in Tractarian circles and was practised by Gladstone among others.
  11. ^ a b Shin, Junhyoung Michael (2013). "The Passion and Flagellation in Sixteenth-Century Japan". Renaissance and Reformation. 36 (2): 5–43. doi:10.33137/rr.v36i2.20166. JSTOR 43446513.
  12. ^ a b c "Why do some Catholics self-flagellate?". BBC News. 24 November 2009.
  13. ^ a b Griffiths, Mark D. (4 May 2017). "Religious Self-Harm". Psychology Today.
  14. ^ a b Beam, Christopher. “How Would Pope John Paul II Have Gone about Self-Flagellating?” Slate Magazine, Slate, 27 Jan. 2010, slate.com/news-and-politics/2010/01/how-would-pope-john-paul-ii-have-gone-about-self-flagellating.html.
  15. ^ a b "Antiquated Religious Rituals Live On in 21st Century". Universal Life Church Ministries. 9 May 2019. Archived from the original on 19 January 2021.
  16. ^ Gilad, Elon. “10 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Yom Kippur.” Last modified September 10, 2013. Accessed April 2, 2020. https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/10-things-you-didn-t-know-about-kippur-1.5332142
  17. ^ Sonsino, Rifat. "You Shall Afflict Yourselves," SBL Forum. Last modified August 2005. Accessed 27 December 2020. https://www.sbl-site.org/publications/article.aspx?ArticleId=435
  18. ^ Ruffle, Karen G. (November 2015). "Wounds of Devotion: Reconceiving Mātam in Shiʿi Islam". History of Religions. 55 (2): 172–195. doi:10.1086/683065. S2CID 162944212.
  19. ^ "Video of self-flagellation with knives and chains at mosque in Atlanta, Georgia, USA". YouTube. 2014. Archived from the original on 2016-03-07.
  20. ^ Kazmi, Nadeem (28 August 2008). "Why self-flagellation matters for Shia Muslims". The Guardian.
  21. ^ "What is Ashura?". BBC News. 6 December 2011.

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