15/11/2013 05:21 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Ashura 2014: Devout Shia Muslims Mark Holy Day With Mass Self Flagellation Ceremonies (PICTURES)

Devout Shia Muslims across the world have mourned the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson with rituals including fire breathing and mass flagellation.

The ritual is known as Ashura, and is celebrated on the tenth day of the Islamic month of Muharram (the first month of the lunar calendar).

It marks the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Holy prophet in 680 AD in Karbala, near Baghdad in Iraq. He was killed by political rivals alongside an army of 72 men. Hussein's body was then mutilated, leading to his martydom.

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An Indian Shia Muslim takes part in ritual self-flagellation during Ashura in New Delhi on 15 November

As well as marking the occasion with self-flagellation - to emulate the suffering of Hussein - some Shia Muslims take part in processions which involve walking on coals and carrying a 'Tazia' - a replica of his coffin.

Blood donation drives are also organised for those who prefer to donate blood instead.

According to the BBC, the campaigns were launched by Shia clerics who believe self flagellation has no place in modern Islam.

The death of Hussein is the event which led to the split in Islam between the two sects of the Shias and the Sunnis.

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