'Ashura is an annual Shi'i ritual commemorating the death of Imam Husayn at the Battle of Karbala in AD 680. In Bahrain, the ritual runs for two weeks and involves processions with more than 100,000 participants. Bahrain is a small but ethno-sectarian heterogeneous island state, where a Sunni minority dominates a Shi'i majority. The religious ritual of 'Ashura therefore has deep political connotations, and a variety of analyses, aspirations, and actions are played out in the context of the ceremonies. This article discusses 'Ashura from the various viewpoints of participants and observers, thereby raising the question of the relationship between analysis and event. I argue that the ritual itself includes an interpretation of the relationship between the Sunni and Shi'i sects, and that this leads to a variety of reflections among Bahrainis on what 'Ashura is and should be.