About this blog

This blog contains my thoughts & also my repostings of various articles & emails of interest. The topics covered in this blog are Islam & Islamic history; Shi'ism; News, Analysis & contemporary issues; Religion, etc. I do not suport all of the views presented in the various articles in my blog, unless otherwise noted. I have reposted these articles for reading interest and intelligent, enlightened open discussion.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mourning of Muharram

* 1 Etymology

* 2 Background
o 2.1 History of commemoration
o 2.2 Azadari Movement in Lucknow

* 3 Types of Mourning
o 3.1 Ziarat Imam Husayn Shrine
o 3.2 Matam
o 3.3 Taziya

* 4 Hadith
* 5 See also
* 6 Notes
* 7 Further reading
* 8 External links

The Mourning of Muharram is an important period of mourning in the Shi'a branch of Islam, taking place in Muharram which is the first month of the Islamic calendar. It is also called the Remembrance of Muharram (Arabic: ذكرى محرم or مناسبة محرم‎). Many of the events associated with the remembrance take place in congregation halls known as Hussainia.

The event marks the anniversary of the Battle of Karbala when Imam Husayn ibn Ali, a grandson of Muhammad the founder of Islam, and a Shia Imam, was killed by the forces of the second Umayad caliph Yazid I. The event is marked by arranging 'majalis' (gatherings) to review Islamic teachings and to commemorate Husayn's sacrifice. The mourning reaches its climax on the tenth day, known as Ashura, on which the forces of Yazid killed the 72 individuals who fought, including Husayn and his family and supporters. The women and children left living were made prisoners and transported to Yazid's court in Damascus.

The words Azadari and Majalis-e Aza has been exclusively used in connection with the remembrance ceremonies for the martyrdom of Imam Hussain. Majalis-e Aza, also known as Aza-e Husayn, includes mourning congregations, lamentations, matam and all such actions which express the emotions of grief and above all, repulsion against what Yazid stood for.

The term majalis has both a grammatical meaning and a meaning which relates to Aza-e-Husayn. In its technical sense, a majalis is a meeting, a session or a gathering.

The Azadari of Muharram was started by the family of Muhammad (the Ahl-ul-Bayt) after the death of Muhammad's grandson Husayn ibn Ali at the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD. Following the battle of Karbala, Muhammad's granddaughter Zaynab binte Ali and sister of Husayn, began mourning for the fallen and making speeches against Husayn ibn Ali's opponents: Ibn Ziyad and Yazid I. News of Husayn ibn Ali's death was also spread by Imam Zain-ul-Abideen, who succeeded Husayn as the Shia Imam, via sermons and speeches throughout Iraq, Syria and Hejaz.

Zainab and Zainu l-Abi Din informed the people that Yazid had martyred Imam Husayn and seventy-two of his companions including his six month old son Ali Asghar, and that their women and children were taken as prisoners to Syria. When word of mourning reached Yazid he decided to release the captive women and children from the prison in Damascus, out of fear of public revolt against his rule. He sent for Zainu l-Abi Din, informed him of the impending release and asked if he wished for anything further. Zain said he would consult with Zainab. She asked Yazid to provide a place where the people could mourn for Imam Husayn and others of Muhammad's household. A house was provided, and here Zaynab binte Ali held the first Majlis-e Aza of Husayn and started the Mourning of Muharram.

History of Commemoration

The mourning and commemoration for Husayn ibn Ali originated in Arab Iraq, as this is where Husayn was martyred. However, they were held in Iran as early as the twelfth century, when both Sunnis and Shias participated in them. In the Safavid period, the annual mourning ceremonies for Imam Hosayn, combined with the ritual cursing of his enemies, acquired the status of a national institution. Expressions of grief such as sine-zani (beating the chest), zangir-zani (beating oneself with chains), and tage-zani or qama-zani (hitting oneself with swords or knives) emerged as common features of the proliferating mourning-processions (dasta-gardani). Mourning for the martyred Imam also took place in assemblies held in buildings erected especially for the purpose, known either as Hussainia or takia, as well as in mosques and private houses. At these assemblies, called either rawze-khani (the recitation of Rawzat al-Shuhada by Hosayn Waeze Kashefi (d. 910/1504-05)) or marsia-khani (the recitation of elegies), professional reciters and preachers would recount the deeds of the martyrs and curse their enemies, arousing the emotions of the mourners who responded by singing dirges at appropriate intervals in the narrative. Theatrical representations of the tragedy at Karbala (ta'zia)—possibly the most remarkable feature of the entire corpus of Muharram ritual—also made their appearance in the Safavid period.[1]

Commemoration of the tragedy at Karbala reached its apogee in the mid-nineteenth century. By then it had spread across a vast area, extending from the Middle East and the Caucasus eastwards to India, Indonesia, and Thailand, and it had even been established in Trinidad by Indian Muslim migrants. In Iran, the memory of Karbala came to permeate social and cultural life, with mourning assemblies and dramatic performances (not all shias agree with the re-enacting of the tragedy of Karbala however) being organized throughout the year, not only in Muharram. The occasion might be furnished by the death of a revered person or the need to fulfill a vow. Gatherings known as sofra (lit. tablecloth), in which the preparation and serving of food played a focal role, were exclusively feminine: the preachers as well as the mourners were all women, and the lives and tribulations of women such as Fatimah and Zaynab were the principal topic of commemoration. Gatherings of this type appear to have originated in the late nineteenth century.[1]

Types of Mourning

How the event is mourned differs between different branches of Shia and different ethnic groups. The event is also observed by many Sunnis, but to a lesser extent, and as a time of remembrance, rather than mourning[citation needed].

In the Twelver three traditional schools (Usooli, Akhbari, and Shaykhi), mourners, both male and female, congregate together (in separate sections) for sorrowful, poetic recitations performed in memory of the death of Husayn, lamenting and grieving to the tune of beating drums and chants of "Ya Husayn." Passion plays are also performed, reenacting the Battle of Karbala and the suffering and death of Husayn at the hands of Yazid. They offer condolences to Imam-e-Zamana also known as Imam al-Mahdi whom they believe will avenge the blood of Husayn and bring justice to the world.

Twelver Alevis also mourn, and they keep themselves from eating and drinking ("fasting") the first 10–12 days of Muharram. In this period, the Alevis wear black clothes, do not shave themselves and avoid any type of entertainment and pleasure. Originally, it is also forbidden to bath and change clothes during this period, but today most Alevis do not follow this rule. This is called "Muharrem Matemi", "Yas-i Muharrem" or "Muharrem orucu". But because it is also called "fasting", many people falsely think that Alevis celebrate the Muharram. The definition of the "fast" in this connection is different from the normal type of "fasting".

The only Ismaili group which mourns are the Mustaali, who mourn similarly to the majority of Twelvers.

For the duration of the remembrance, it is customary for mosques to provide free meals (nazar) on certain nights of the month to all people. These meals are viewed as being special and holy, as they have been consecrated in the name of Imam Husayn, and thus partaking of them is considered an act of communion with Allah, Imam Husayn, and humanity.
In South Asia, a number of literary and musical genres, produced by both Shias and Sunnis, that have been inspired by the Battle of Karbala are performed during the month, such as marsiya, noha and soaz. This is meant to increase the peoples understanding of how the enemies fought The Battle of Karbala against Husayn and his followers. In Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica all ethnic and religious communities participate in the event, locally known as "Hosay" or "Hussay"[citation needed]. In Indonesia, the event is known as Tabuik (Minangkabau language) or Tabut (Indonesian).

Ziarat Imam Husayn Shrine
Many Shia also tend to embark on a pilgrimage to the Imam Husayn Shrine in Karbala itself, as it is one of the holiest places for Shias outside of Mecca and Medina. Up to one million pilgrims a year visit the city to observe the anniversary of Husayn ibn Ali's death. [1] The shrine is located opposite that of Abbas ibn Ali.

Many of the male and female participants congregate together in public for ceremonial chest beating (matam) as a display of their devotion to Imam Husayn and in remembrance of his suffering. In some Shi'a societies, such as those in Bahrain, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Iraq, some male participants incorporate knives or razors swung upon chains into their matam.[2].

One form of mourning is the theatrical re-enactment of the Battle of Karbala. In Iran this is called taziya or taziyeh. Theatrical groups that specialize in taziya are called taziya groups.[3] Taziyas were popular through the Qajar dynasty up into the early twentieth century, but the reinactments slowly declined until they were mostly abandoned in the large cities by the early 1940s. Nonetheless, taziyas continued to exist in Iran on a smaller scale especially in more rural and traditional areas. Reza Shah, the first of the Pahlavi dynasty, had outlawed taziyas. Despite some attempts at since 1979, Muharram processions and various forms of the rawza khani are still more common.[4]

In South Asia where dramatic commemmorations are less significant, ta'zīya came to refer as specifically to the miniature mausoleums used in processions held in Muharram. It all started from the fact that the great distance of India from Karbala prevented Indian Shi'is wish to buried near tomb of Imam Husayn or frequent pilgrimages(ziyarat) to tomb. This is the reason why Indian Shi'is established local karbalas on the subcontinent by bringing soil from Karbala and sprinkling it on lots designated as future cemetries. Once the karbalas were established on the subcontinent, next step was to bring Husayn's tomb-shrine to India. This was established by building replicas of Husayn's mausolem called ta'zīya to be carried in Muharram processions. Thosands of ta'zīyas in various shapes and sizes are fashioned every year for months of mourning of Muharram and Safar; and are carried in processions and may be buried at the end of Ashoura day or Arbain day.[5]

Muhammad said:

Surely, there exists in the hearts of the Mu' mineen, with respect to the martyrdom of Husayn, a heat that never subsides.[6]

Muhammad said:

O Fatimah! Every eye shall be weeping on the Day of Judgment except the eye which has shed tears over the tragedy of Husayn for surely, that eye shall be laughing and shall be given the glad tidings of the bounties and comforts of Paradise. [7]

Ali ibn Hussein said:

Every Mu'min, whose eyes shed tears upon the killing of Husayn ibn' Ali and his companions, such that the tears roll down his cheeks, God shall accommodate him in the elevated rooms of paradise. [8]

Ali said to Ibn Abbas:

(Once when he happened to pass by Karbala), Isa Jesus sat down and began to weep. His disciples who were observing him, followed suit and began weeping too, but not comprehending the reason for this behaviour, they asked him: "O' Spirit of God! What is it that makes you weep?" Isa Jesus said: "Do you know what land this is?" The disciples replied: "No." He then said: "This is the land on which the son of the Prophet Ahmad shall be killed.[9]

See also

* Azadari
* Marsia
* Noha
* Soaz
* Ta'zieh
* Hussainia


1. ^ a b Calmard, J.. "'AZAÚDAÚRÈ". Encyclopedia Iranica. http://www.iranica.com/newsite/articles/v3f2/v3f2a063.html. Retrieved 2008-01-18.
2. ^ Ahmad, Munir (2 January 2008) "Pakistan election to be delayed by one month following Bhutto killing, official says" Associated Press from Yahoo News
3. ^ Chelkowski, Peter (ed.) (1979) Taʻziyeh, ritual and drama in Iran New York University Press, New York, ISBN 0-8147-1375-0
4. ^ Martin, Richard C. (ed.) (2004) "Taziya" Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World Macmillan Reference USA, New York, p. 691 ISBN 0-02-865912-0
5. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=A4q58Af5zAoC&pg=PA413&lpg=PA413&dq=taziya+in+India&source=web&ots=257T8R-z6A&sig=J4SYzj-ECvzG-gZ1-y3ifbZqxDo&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result#PPA413,M1 Islamic Art in the 19th Century By Doris Behrens-Abouseif, Stephen Vernoit
6. ^ Mustadrak al-Wasail, vol. 10,pg. 318
7. ^ Bihar al-Anwar, vol,: 44;pg,:293
8. ^ Yanaabe'al Mawaddah, p. 419
9. ^ Bihar al-Anwar vol. 44,g. 252

Further reading

* The history of Al-Tabari, Volume XIX The Caliphate of Yazid, translated by I. K. A. Howard, p:164 Husain The Saviour of Islam, by S.V. Mir Ahmad Ali.
* Mustadrak al-Wasail, vol. 10,pg. 318
* Bihar al-Anwar, vol,: 44;pg,:293
* Yannaabe' al-Mawaddah, pg.: 429
* Ghurar al-Hikam, Vol: 1/ pg.: 235
* Bihar al-Anwar vol. 44,g. 252

No comments: