The Mourning of Muharram (or Remembrance of Muharram or Muharram Observances) is a set of rituals associated with both Shia and Sunni Islam. 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.
The event marks the anniversary of the Battle of Karbala, when Imam Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad, was killed by the forces of the second Umayyad caliph. Family members accompanying him were killed or subjected to humiliation. The commemoration of this event during the yearly mourning season, with the Day of Ashura as the focal date, serves to define Shia communal identity. Muharram observances are carried out in countries with a sizable Shia population.
The words Azadari (Persian: عزاداری) which mean mourning and lamentation; and Majalis-e Aza have 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.
Expression of grief with thumping of the chest by Shia Muslims is known as Latmya, Latmaya or latmia in Arabic-Persian countries. In India and Pakistan it is called Matam or Matam-Dari/Sina Zannee (chest beating).
Muharram rituals was often called by European observers "the Feast of Hasan and Hosayn," as the participants shout "Hasan! Hosayn!."
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.
According to Shia sources, The mourning of Muharram was started by the family, especially womenfolk, of Muhammad (the Ahl-ul-Bayt) immediately after the death of his grandson and even before entering Damascus. Following the battle of Karbala, Muhammad's granddaughter Zaynab bint Ali and sister of Imam Husayn, began mourning for the fallen and making speeches against Imam Husayn ibn Ali's opponents: Ibn Ziyad and Yazid I. News of Imam Husayn ibn Ali's death was spread by Imam Zain-ul-Abideen, who succeeded Imam Husayn as the Shia Imam, via sermons and speeches throughout Iraq, Syria and Hejaz.
According to the History of the Prophets and Kings, when Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin gave the sermon in presence of Yazid, he let them hold the mourning of Husain ibn Ali for three days in a formal manner.
During the Umayyad Caliphate, the mourning of Husain ibn Ali’s Killing was performed furtively in the homes of Shia Imam and their followers, but during the Abbasid Caliphate this mourning was observed in public mosques by the Abbasid rulers to draw a people’s attention .
As Chelkowski said, in fourth century in Baghdad, contemporaneous with the reigns of Sulton Muizz ad-Dawla of the Shia Buyid dynasty, the first public mourning ritual happened, and the market was closed by order of him on day of Ashura. The mourning rituals evolved differently in different places, until the Safavid dynasty established a centralized Shia state in the 16th century::118 The annual mourning ceremonies and ritual cursing of Husayn's enemies acquired the status of a national institution. According to popular belief, Shia rituals spread to South Asia starting at the end of the 14th Century with the conquests of Tamerlane.:120 Observance has since spread to countries such as India, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria, Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Yemen, Bahrain, Azerbaijan and Lebanon.
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Shia Muslims around the world every year commemorate the mourning custom of death of Husayn ibn Ali, his family and his follower in months of Muharram and Safar. They entitle him "Prince of Martyrs" and know him as a spiritual and political savior. He still has an important role in the religious and national consciousness of the people.
According to the Shia belief, taking part in the mourning ritual will be a help to salvation on the Day of Judgment, as Elias Canetti (winner of Nobel Prize) said “[it] became the very core of the Shiite faith ... of all the traditional religions of lament which could be adduced for closer consideration -- that of the Islamic is the most illuminating... The lament itself, as an impassioned pack opening out, to a true crowd, manifests itself with unforgettable power at the Muharram Festival Shiites”.
At first the mourning ceremonies and custom have been done in the open air at the main thoroughfare of city of village, a major intersection in the bazaar, the yard of the mosque, caravanserai and private homes. After a while, in order to protect mourners from weather, the Hussainiya and the Tekyeh were built.
The event is observed by many Sunnis, but to a lesser extent, and as a time of remembrance, rather than mourning. The Nizam of Hyderabad/Deccan Mir Osman Ali Khan, was not only a Sunni Muslim and the famous powerful ruler of Hyderabad Deccan State till 1948 but also a great lover of Ahle Bait.
After almost 12 centuries, five types of major rituals were developed around the battle of Karbala. These rituals include the memorial services (majalis al-ta'ziya), the visitation of Husayn's tomb in Karbala particularly on the occasion of the tenth day of Ashura and the fortieth day after the battle (Ziyarat Ashura and ziyarat al-Arba'in), the public mourning processions (al-mawakib al-husayniyya or the representation of the battle of Karbala in the form of a play (the shabih), and the flagellation (tatbir).
Imam Husayn Shrine is located at the mosqe and burial sites of Husayn ibn Ali, the third shia Imam in the city of Karbala, Iraq. Many Shia go on a pilgrimage to the Imam Husayn Shrine in Karbala, one of the holiest places for Shias apart from Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. Up to one million pilgrims visit the city annually to observe the anniversary of Imam Husayn ibn Ali's death. shia Muslims believe that pilgrimage to Husayn ibn Ali’s shrine like weeping saves them from condemned to hell at the day of judgment and all their guilt is removed.
The Arabic term matam refers in general to an act or gesture of mourning; in Shia Islam the term designates acts of lamentation for the martyrs of Karbala. Male and female participants congregate 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 and Iraq, male participants may incorporate knives or razors swung upon chains into their matam. There are two basic forms of matam:
Matam in South Asia is the most significant and sensitive Shia identity marker.
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. Taziyas were popular through the Qajar dynasty until the early twentieth century, but the re-enactments 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 attempts since 1979, Muharram processions and various forms of the rawza khani are still more common.
By increasing the number of shia Muslim in cities and states, mourning of muharram’s ritual changed to a more elaborate form. In the ninth century, lamentation and wailing became propounded as a mourning tradition. Noha is the poem and story that be inspired from Maqtal al-Husayn (various books which narrate the story of the battle of Karbala and the death of Husayn ibn Ali) . The poet or another one read the noha with plaintive rhythm. The main subject of noha is the pain from the killing of Husayn ibn Ali. Noha consists of poems In different languages such as Arabic.
The reaction of the audience in the reenactment of the battle of karbala’ episode is significant for strengthening of distinct shia identity and the weeping over the killing of Husayn ibn Ali and his follower is one of these reactions. There is close relation between the lamentation and weeping. According to the narration, shia Imams had emphasized to weep for them, so it had transmitted to future generation. According to shia tradition, the weeping and the flow of tears provides condolences to Imam Husayn's mother and his family, as the living relatives (mostly women and children) were not allowed to weep or lament over their martyred family which involved Imam Husayn's, his family (including his two sons, a six-month old baby martyred by an arrow/spear to his neck and another 18 year who took a spear to his heart) and his companions. Lamenting and weeping for the (mazloom) wronged and offering condolences to his family, thus, will serve as one of the good deeds done by the mourners of Husayn (azadaar e Husayn) and will be helpful in saving them from being condemned to hell fire on the day of judgement.
Depending on the condition of society, the Muharram processions changes from one city to another. The common form is the starting of mourning processions from Hussainiya and the participants would parade through the streets of their town or village, finally they come back to Hussainiya for performing other mourning of muharram’s ritual. The procession was common ritual’s mourning of dead persons in Arabic states before the appearance of Islam. The breast- beating, flagellation and face-slapping (latm) are usual acts doing during the mourning procession, but breast- beating and face-slapping (latm) have more precedence and the history of doing this acts had been reached to Buyid dynasty period.
The acts of flagellation is the way for reenacting blood shedding of Husayn ibn Ali. The previous record of this act reaches to seventeenth century that had been done at Caucasus and Azerbaijan and nineteenth century that had been observed between the shia Twelver in central and southern cities of Iran and Arab world. There were various types of flagellation including striking by chests with palms, striking backs with chains, beating foreheads with knives and swords.
Rawda is one of the shia Iranian mourning ritual to commemorate the death of Husayn ibn Ali and his follower. specially it is the kind of public lamentation. Rawda means garden in Arabic language and this name is acquired from the title of Rawdat al-Shuhada, literary masterpiece book authored by Husayn Waiz Kashifi in Persian. The word of Rawda-khawani means "recitation from Rawdat alshuhada" and generally is named Rawda. At first this ritual became customary on first ten days of Muharram, but by passing of time it was performed during Muharam and Safar and other days of year. Today, Rawda is either the story of Rawdat of al-Shuhada or stories that Rawḍa-k̲h̲ w ān (person who does the recitation) creates by his skills and knowledge to release the original text of book. This ritual can be held at every where such as houses, the yard of mosque, the square of city or village and also Hussainiya and the Tekyeh. The origin place of Rawda was Iran, but then at Bahrain this ritual is seen in its original form and at other place like India, the modified form of it is held.
One of the most important and symbolic object used at mourning ritual is Alam. It is the ensign of Husayn ibn Ali in battle of Karbala and sign of the truth, bravery. The length of Alam is about 15 feet. Alam consists of flexible steel blades placed at upper part of it. Also Alam is decorated by plumes and fine embroidered silks and brocades.
Nakhl Gardani (Persian: نخل گردانی, Persian pronunciation: [næxl ɡærdɑːniː]) is a religious ritual carried out on the day of Ashura for commemorating the death of Husayn ibn Ali's death. Nakhl is a woody structure used as a symbolic representation of Imam's coffin and Nakhl Gardani is the act of carrying the Nakhl form point to another, resembling Imam's funeral.
In South Asia, 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". In Indonesia, the event is known as Tabuik (Minangkabau language) or Tabut (Indonesian).
Nakhl Gardani in Yazd, Iran.
Muharram mourning in Qom, Iran.
People lighting candles at the night of Ashura in Tehran, Iran.
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