H®OSAYN B. ¿ALI |
ii.IN POPULAR SHI¿ISM Imam H®osayn's revolt and tragic death at Karbala@ in present-day Iraq (10 Moháarram 61/10 October 680) was one of the greatest calamities in the early history of the Muslim community. The cult of H®osayn first evolved locally, where the archetypal motif of the "God who dies" had been deeply engrained since the ancient Mesopotamian traditions. The elements specific to the cult of H®osayn, which have come together to establish the ¿AÚæura@ (q.v.) and Moháarram devotions, may none the less be retraced to their own historical context.
According to tradition, H®osayn's son ¿Ali Zayn-al-¿AÚbedin (see ¿ALI B. H®OSAYN) made a pilgrimage to his tomb with the women survivors of the Karbala@ massacre forty days later (arba¿in; q.v.). It seems, however, that the pilgrimage of Arab penitents (tawwa@bun) in 65/684 (see Denny, "Tawwa@bu@n" in EI2) served as the prototype for Moháarram devotions, since it placed emphasis on remorse, self-sacrifice, moaning, and wailing. Later, the revolt of Mokòta@r (66-67/685-87; see Hawting, "al-Mukhta@r b. Ab^ ¿Ubayd al-Thakáaf^" in EI2) sparked the Kaysaniya movement, which branched out into various groupings that supported the Imamate of H®osayn's half-brother, Moháammad b. al-H®anafiya (d. 81/700-701), whom they regarded as the Mahdi. With his war cry "Revenge for al-H®osayn!" Mokòta@r systematically hunted down and murdered those he considered responsible for H®osayn's death, including both Umayyads and Kufans. He mobilized the discontented Persian clients of Arab tribes (mawa@li), and thus Persians came to participate in the early development of Shi¿ism.
While H®osayni Alids remained quiet politically, a tradition of pilgrimage to the tombs of H®osayn and the other Karbala@ martyrs quickly developed. Although they were to be repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt, from ¿Abbasid times onwards, the tomb and mausoleum (maæhad) also benefited from generous gifts and endowments from rulers of various dynasties, including the Buyids, Seljuqs, Il-Khanids, Safavids, and Qajars, which helped it to survive and flourish (see E. Honigmann, "Karbala@"). The shrine suffered more recently when it was sacked by the Wahha@bis in 1215/1801. Many pilgrimage (zia@ra) texts dedicated to H®osayn and the martyrs of Karbala@ therefore came to be written, which could be recited in actual (or mental) pilgrimages.
In association with this pilgrimage, a genre of religious literature also evolved, called maqtal or maqa@tel after the Maqtal al-H®osayn attributed to the traditionist Abu Mekònaf (d. 157/774; on Arabic maqtals, see e.g., al-Mowaffaq al-K¨úa@razmi, Maqtal al-H®osayn li'l-K¨úa@razmi, Najaf, 1367/1947; ¿Abd-al-Razza@q Musa@wi, Maqtal al-H®osayn aw H®adit¯ Karbala@, Najaf, 1383/1963. On Turco-Persian maqtal literature, see Calmard, 1975, pp. 220 ff.). These texts contain many more stories that are miraculous and supernatural than historical sources such as T®abari's Ta@rikò, and they include accounts of Mokòta@r's terrible vengeance. Although originally in Arabic, the maqa@tel inspired the Turkish and Persian maqtal-na@mas, which were recited by storytellers (madda@há) who also produced other religious epics, such as Abu Moslem-na@ma, Mokòta@r-na@ma, and Jang-e Moháammad-e H®anafiya. Rather than grief and lamentation, these epics emphasize the theme of vengeance by the so-called "73 avengers of H®o-sayn's blood," most of whom are non-historical, such as Moháammad b. al-H®anafiya.
In addition to these religious epics, elegiac poetry (mart¯iya; on Persian mart¯iya literature dedicated to the martyrs of Karbala@ and other Shi¿ite sacred figures, see Calmard, 1975, pp. 193 ff., 510 ff.; Clarke, pp. 13-28; Hanaway; and Haywood) in Arabic and Persian about the Ahl-e Bayt (q.v.), particularly H®osayn and the Karbala@ martyrs, was increasingly composed by authors of both Shi¿ite and Sunnite persuasion. Under the Seljuqs (1038-1194), this devotional literature spread widely through storytellers. During this time, elegies (mara@t¯i) and eulogies (mana@qeb) continued to be composed, in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish, by learned theologians, poets, and popular storytellers. A major synthesis of maqa@tel and mana@qeb literature was provided by H®o-sayn-Wa@¿ezá Ka@æefi (d. 910/1504-05) in his Rawzµat al-æohada@÷. During the imposition of Twelver Shi¿ism by the Safavids (1501-1722), Ka@æefi's work became the textbook of preachers, thus called rawzµa-kòúa@ns, who also continued to use material from epic, elegiac, theological, and historical literature. Along with Ka@æefi's book, the celebrated Mohátaæam Ka@æa@ni's (d. 996/1587 or 1000/1591) Dava@zdah band on the tragedy at Karbala@ was used extensively in Moháarram ceremonies and served as an unrivalled model for further elegies, homilies, and dirges.
Legendary accounts about H®osayn and his martyrdom were from the outset influenced by his status as a Shi¿ite Imam, and one of "the fourteen immaculate personages," (Ùaha@rdah Ma¿sáum; q.v.), who are endowed with an extraordinary anthropogenic nature in Shi¿ite cosmogony (see COSMOGONY AND COSMOLOGY v.) The cosmic dimension of his martyrdom was thus enhanced by his status among the most venerated Ahl-e Bayt and the fifth of "the people of the cloak" (Panj Tan; Ahl-e Aba@) to die, thus symbolizing the death of all of them. The belief in H®osayn's return as a precursor of the Mahdi at the end of time was also prevalent in early Shi¿ite eschatology (Ayoub, pp. 223 ff.). Parallels were drawn between his fate and the passion and ascension of Jesus Christ; thus the day of ¿AÚæura@ is celebrated on a Friday, although in fact it fell on a Wednesday. A parallel was also drawn between H®osayn and John the Baptist, as precursors of the Messiah, or Mahdi (Ayoub, pp. 246-47; Crow, pp. 90, 97, 105-6). For instance, the sky turned blood-red and wept for both of them when they were killed, each by individuals who were thought to have been illegitimate children, and it was believed that their blood would participate in the apocalyptic revenge. H®osayn's suffering is also compared with the Prophet Job's afflictions, and the universal character of the tragedy of Karbala@ is seen to have been anticipated by Cain's murder of Abel (and the revenge that would follow), as well as by Abraham's sacrifice of his son Ishmael (Ayoub, pp. 32-33, 235-36, 246-47), among other such examples.
Many legends grew about the miracles performed by H®osayn's blood and his severed, "talking" head, including the conversion of a monk, which is the reason why a Byzantine ambassador is included among the cast at Yazid's court in the ta¿zia, or passion play. H®osayn's legends and their related symbols may have been influenced by Persian pre-Islamic themes, such as the murder of ia@voæ and its revenge. This includes the tulip (la@la) representing the blood and suffering of martyrs, and the prominent role attributed to the hero's horse; moreover, in contrast to H®osayn, who has a heavenly nature, his murderers are demonized and transformed into animals, and it is believed that apocalyptic revenge will also afflict their descendents. However, the most important devotional aspects of H®osayn's cult are connected with redemptive suffering and intercession, emphasizing the merits of lamenting, weeping, repenting, suffering, and striving for revenge. Audiences tend to find particularly moving the anecdotes about H®osayn's nativity (a premature baby of six months, like Jesus), his repeatedly foretold tragic destiny together with that of his elder brother H®asan, and all the miracles connected with his death and its aftermath. H®osayn is referred to, often together with H®asan and their mother Fa@tÂema (q.v.), by many honorific titles, including in particular: Sayyed aba@b Ahl al-Janna (Master of the Youths of Paradise) or Sayyed al-ohada@÷ (Prince of Martyrs). Traditions concerning H®osayn were repeatedly published and commented on by later generations of Shi¿ite and Sunnite theologians, together with those about the rest of the Ahl-e Bayt. They were systematically compiled by Moháammad-Ba@qer Majlesi (d. 1110/1699 or 1111/1700) in his massive work, the Beháa@r al-anwa@r (q.v.). Majlesi's work and those of other theologians were then used together with maqa@tel and elegiac literature by the most literate rawzµa-kòúa@ns.
It did not take long for public rites of remembrance for H®osayn's martyrdom to develop from the early pilgrimages. Under the Buyids (q.v.), Mo¿ezz-al-Dawla officiated at public celebrations of ¿AÚæura@ in Baghdad (352/963; see Calmard, 1975). (This provoked Sunnite counter-commemorations for many years.) These commemorations were also encouraged in Egypt by the Fatimid ruler al-¿Aziz (r. 365-86/975-96; Daftary, p. 185). From Seljuq times, ¿AÚæura@ rituals began to attract many participants from a variety of backgrounds, including Sunnites. With the enforcement of Twelver Imamism by the Safavids, Moháarram ceremonies extended throughout the first ten days of Moháarram (this remains unclear for pre-Safavid times). They were often called by European observers (Calmard, 1996, pp. 178-81) "the Feast of H®asan and H®osayn," on the basis of the devotees' shouts of "H®asan! H®osayn!" and "Ya@ H®asan! Ya@ H®osayn!" (hence the "akòse-vakòse" heard in Caucasian areas). In their most elaborate form, public rituals then included: (1) Daily and nightly sermons in public places, palace courtyards (as well asprobablymosques, takias, and háosayniyas, q.v.), with the participation of many women. (2) The ritual of burying oneself up to the head. (3) A processions of penitents engaged in self-mortification using stones, chains, and blades, as well as burning themselves. (4) Ritual fights between neighboring quarters belonging to rival H®aydari and Ne¿mati factions (see H®AYDARI AND NE¿MATI). (5) Parades of coffins and a large bier of H®osayn (nakòl) accompanied by banners (see ¿ALAM VA ¿ALAÚMAT), mimicry, and pageantry, with the more dramatic elements taking place on the central venue (mayda@n) and on floats. (6) Ritual burning of effigies of villains (¿Omar-koæa@n). Moháarram parades thus took on certain carnivalesque aspects, mixing joy with grief.
Most of these elements were retained in the official post-Safavid Moháarram ceremonies, although the ritual cursing of the first three caliphs was abandoned. In the course of the 18th century, the merging of stationary rituals (majles-e rawzµa-kòúa@ni) and processions (see DASTA) gave birth to the theatrical performances of ta¿zia, or æabih-kòúa@nis, the passion plays. Under the Qajars, in order to accommodate large crowds of devotees, takias and háosayniyas were built in increasing numbers in Tehran and all over Persia. While being concentrated on the events at Karbala@, the ta¿zia repertoire includes many other stories, from those about early prophets to those about contemporary personages. Female audiences tend to be moved in particular by stories about H®osayn's mother Fa@tÂema, his sister Zaynab, his wife Bibi ahrba@nu (q.v.), and the tragic fate of H®osayn's sons, ¿Ali-Akbar and ¿Ali-Aság@ar (q.v.), his half-brother ¿Abba@s (see ¿ABBAÚS B. ¿ALI), and his nephew Qa@sem b. H®asan, allegedly married to his daughter Zobayda (also called Fa@ tÂema-Kobra@).
Along with the composition of ta¿zia scripts, elegies and dirges (nawháas) to be sung in Moháarram rituals were composed in great numbers, some by outstanding Qajar poets such as Qa@¿a@ni (1223-70/1808-54), Yag@ma@ (ca. 1196-1276/1782-1859), Soruæ Esáfaha@ni (1228-85/1813-68), and Wesáa@l-e ira@zi (1193-1262/1779-1846). Safavid street-fighting was replaced by less violent competitions between the residents of neighboring quarters, mainly in the parading of banners, ritual singing, and self mortification, the latter taking the form of chest-beating (sina-zani) and flagellation with chains (zanjir-zani) or swords (tig@-zani, qama-zani). Moháarram ceremonies extended into the month of S®afar during the Qajar period. This extension was perhaps due to the commemoration of the arba¿in on 20 S®afar, when the Ahl-e Bayt made a pilgrimage to H®osayn's grave, and the miraculous rejoining of his head and body (the sar o tan feast, a celebration attested in Safavid times). Furthermore the commemoration of the death of Imam H®asan was held on 28 S®afar (Masse, I, p. 136).
During the Qajar period ta¿zia-kòva@nis were sponsored by the Shah and the grandees. The most lavish presentations were performed in the huge Takia Dawlat established in Tehran by Na@sáer-al-Din Shah in the 1870s. Although it eventually started the tradition of secular theater in Iran, the ta¿zia tradition itself suffered setbacks from politico-social changes, losing its official sponsoring and being restricted to provincial towns and villages. Ta¿zia- kòúa@nis and extreme self-mortification were repeatedly condemned by the Shi¿ite ulama. The tradition was eventually revived by the Iranian intelligentsia in the 1960s, notably at the Shiraz art festival and on televi-sion. Moháarram ceremonies influenced not only Iranian theater but also architecture and painting. Specially constructed takias or háosayniyas were decorated with murals depicting the battle at Karbala@ and related scenes. These were also painted on wood, glass, and canvas. From Safavid times, such scenes were painted also on large leather screens which were used by traveling storytellers in their "one-man shows" (æema@yel-garda@ni or parda-da@ri). They were also reproduced in miniatures and lithographed booklets.
Moháarram ceremonies are accompanied by profound expressions of grief, the wearing of mourning garb, abstinence, and the endurance of other hardships. Because of the merit attached to weeping, in order to increase tears, adjuvants, such as grilled lentils, have been used (Calmard, 1975, pp. 455-56; idem, 1974, p. 97). There is a widespread belief that devotees will produce tears kept in bottles for Judgement Day. Special virtues are also attached to prayer tablets (mohr) made from the clay of Karbala@ (torbat) believed to be mixed with H®osayn's blood. Merit is also believed to be derived from meeting the expenses of these commemorations, for decoration, accommodation, appropriate food and drinks (tea, coffee, food for the poor on 10th Moháarram, etc.). Besides royal and other official sponsorship, these expenses have been increasingly supported by communal and private contributions. H®osayn's cult and the Moháarram rituals have been particularly important for the Persian zurkòúa@na (gymnasium) tradition and guilds (see ASáNAÚF).
From pre-Safavid times, the "Karbala@ paradigm," as a symbol of tyranny and injustice, has had political implications, with oppressors often being labeled as "the Yazids of the Age." This includes the Ottoman sultans and even the Qajars, since some of the Shi¿ite ulama encouraged rumors that their ancestors had assisted Yazid against ¿Ali's family (Calmard, 1975, p. 192; idem, 1974, p. 91; Algar, pp. 121, 252). H®osayn's revenge and the Advent of the Qa@÷em also had a symbolic meaning for the persecuted Ba@b (Ama@nat, pp. 377-78; see also Calmard, 1976-77b, p. 193). From the Constitutional revolution of 1905-11 (q.v.), Moháarram rituals took a more definite political character. In 1977-79, mourning transformed into revolution, and it continued to assume political functions under the Islamic Republic (see ¿AZAÚDAÚRI). Symbols relating to the blood of the Karbala@ martyrs were frequently used, such as H®osayn's red flag, and the blood shed by the insurgents and martyrs of the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88 (see GRAPHIC ARTS ii.).
H®osayn's martyrdom is commemorated by Shi¿ite communities throughout the world. In Iraq, apart from the pilgrimage to Karbala@, the traditions are similar to those which take place in Iran, but there are no dramatic performances. Ta¿zia-kòòva@nis influenced by the Persian tradition are, however, performed in Lebanon. Dramatized Moháarram rituals were also introduced in Central Asia in the late 18th century (Turkmenistan, Ferg@a@na, Bukhara) through the influence of Persian elements in the population. In South Caucasian khanates these rituals retained the sanguinary self-mortification characteristic of the Safavid period; and, until around the time of the Soviet Revolution of 1917, passion plays could be performed openly. In Ottoman areas and Kurdistan, Moháarram ceremonies remained connected to the rituals of mystical orders. The Qezelba@æ, the Bekta@æis (see BEKTAÚIYA), and the abaks, who have in common an intense devotion to the Imams, all hold special mourning ceremonies for H®osayn. Besides fasting, the Bekta@æis accompany their ritual weeping by reciting Fozµuli's H®adiqat al-so¿ada@÷. On the last day, they eat "a¶üre," a sweet dish made from rice and milk specially for this occasion, hence its name. As far as the Nosayris are concerned, like Jesus before him, H®osayn was not really killed, and so they celebrate ¿AÚæura@ joyfully.
In the Indian subcontinent, H®osayn's martyrdom has been commemorated for centuries. Although local traditions have over time permeated the associated beliefs and rituals, the elegiac literature in the vernacular languages (Urdu, Hindi, Sindhi, etc.) was influenced originally by the Persian sufi tradition. Devotional aspects, both private and public, are paramount, especially during the recital by the rawza-kòúa@ns, which are called rawza-kòúa@nis. Mourning assemblies have sometimes been held in buildings erected specifically for this purpose (called ema@mba@ras, ¿aza@-kòa@nas, and ¿a@æur-kòa@nas), such as the huge ema@mba@ras which were built in Lucknow (Cole, pp. 94 ff.; Hassan ul-Ameene, IV, pp. 189-90). The processions with the ta¿zia (or ta@but), a supposed reproduction of H®osayn's tomb, are believed to have special qualities; the most precious ones have been kept in ema@mba@ras, and at the end of the celebrations the others have been buried in a local "Karbal@a@ ground" (as may have been the case in Safavid Persia; Mrs Meer Hassan Ali's Observations, p. 18; Ja¿far Sharif, p. 182; Hollister, p. 173). The participants in the Shi¿ite processional rituals, including Sunnites and Hindus, compete with each other in their acts of devotion. These affairs have often had a festive rather than mournful character, with much spectacular pageantry, including parading elephants, but a tradition of passion play performances has never developed here. By the mid-19th century, these Moháarram rituals had been exported to the Caribbean island of Trinidad by Indian migrants (Korom and Chelkowski, pp. 150-75). Since the creation of Pakistan in 1947, there has been an effort to eliminate extraneous influences from the Moháarram rituals and to revive the practice of extreme self-mortification.
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