Our next door neighbor brought by a gift of lentil, bean and corn stew today. Her explanation was that today is the anniversary of their imam's death. I had totally forgotten about it, partly because the Islamic calendar is lunar, which means that the dates of religious holidays are different every year.
Today is important for Shia Muslims as they commemorate Ashura, the death of Imam Hussein over 1000 years ago. Many devout men will go to the mosque and beat themselves with chains until they shed blood, to demonstrate their grief.
The significance of this date is that it marks the split of Islam between Shia and Sunni, an event that still has great impact on world events. Much of the violence that you read about in Iraq today has its roots in the death of Imam Hussein and the division of the Islamic world.
May God open their hearts to the One who died so that they can be reconciled to Him.
One interesting side note: an acquaintance of mine who is not a practicing Muslim told me that the stew actually originated with Noah. There is an old tradition predating Islam that when Noah and his family left the ark and came down Ararat, they only had a handful of dried food remaining--lentils, peas, beans, and corn.