Thursday, November 6, 2014

Tributes and traditions

In the concluding part of this series, let's look into some of the prominent forms our tribute to the martyrs takes and the various traditions that have evolved with regard to it over the centuries.

The present:

One of the notorious forms of tribute known to the world at large is that done by the Shia muslims who take out procession in dramatic recreation of the one taken by Yazid, who disintergrated the head and limb of Imam Hussayn and several warriors and displayed them atop lances, after declaring victory in the battle and holding in captive the family and survivors of Hussayn's side.

Shias are a division of muslims who emerged as a consequence of conflicts which occured during the rule of Hazrath Ali (father of Imam Hussayn).

The Shias immerse themselves in complete mourning annually during Muharram by shunning all pleasures in this month, reciting eulogies (poems of lamentation) and taking out such processions with acts of chest-beating and self-flagellation.

The origin of this form is obscure, but as far as I understand (forgive me if I'm wrong) it must be adopted from the lamentations of the people of Kuffa (some of the earliest shias who had sworn their faith and support to Imam Hussayn but back-tracked on witnessing a single display of wrath by Yazid) who joined the procession taken by Yazid, crying their hearts out and beating their chests, regretting their cowardice and helplessness.

To know the details of the above incident read the section of "events before the battle" in the wikipedia article of Battle of karbala.

I'm really in blind as to when, where or how the self-flagellation became a part of the ritual, but it was around 4th or 5th century Hijri (islamic calendar). Long after the battle had been fought in 1st century Hijri.

The Sunni division of Islam, however do not express such passionate forms of mourning, instead display a silent form of mourning by recalling the incidents of Karbala, paying their homage to the martyrs by reciting verses from the Holy Quran, distributing food and charity in their,name, and reciting eulogies in gatherings.

Few sufi-shrines and sects of sunni do take out simpler form of procession, but it is not done on large scale or joined by mass as it was an act done by Yazid and the Sunni's condemnation of him repels them from adopting any similarity to him.

But as many experts say and I believe the actual tribute which will honour the warriors cause and which they too would dearly wish for, is us to derive lessons from their lives and death, and inculcate them in our lives, to differentie good from evil, just from savagery and stand strong against every wrong-doing, follow the divine principles and never shun from our duties even in the most darkest hour.

I had a short yet effective discussion the other day on facebook about the message of karbala. You can access it here.

But one really wonderful message which this annual observance sends out is, and which must be of some solace to the warriors is, that the Shia and Sunni cults are so opposed to each other almost always, sometimes to heart-wrenching extent, yet in this hour of grief both come together to share the sorrow as a true family would. They stand united even through their diversities. A cause Hazrath Ali and his amazing family always sought to achieve- communal unity.

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