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‘Ashura, a festival for Bani Umayyah

Bani Umayyah not only opposed holding mourning ceremonies for the Doyen of Martyrs, Imam al-Husayn (as), but they also went so far as to introduce it as a day for festivities and happy celebrations. They did this as a practical measure of opposing mourning for Imam al-Husayn (as).

Abu Rayhan Biruni writes, “Muslims believed that it was ominous and a cause of bad omens to burn tents or cause fires, carry the heads of dead people on spears, making horses race or run over dead bodies on the day of ‘Ashura because that was the day when the child of the Holy Prophet was killed.

These ominous actions have never at all occurred in the history of mankind, even among the most corrupt and perverted peoples. However, Bani Umayyah used to decorate and adorn themselves and hold festivities on the day of ‘Ashura. They used to invite guests to participate in their happy celebrations.

This custom was prevalent during their reign, and continued to exist even after their decline. On the other hand, the Shi‘ahs used to mourn and weep and visit the holy land, Karbala, where Imam al-Husayn (as) was killed.”41

Maqrizi writes, “The ‘Alavis, followers of Imam‘Ali (as), in Egypt used to mourn and cry on the day of ‘Ashura. After the fall of the Fatimids and their government, the Ayyubis ascended to power and started holding joyful celebrations in the same way and custom as the Shamis.

This vile custom was established by Hajjaj ibn Yusuf during the reign of ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan for the sake of opposing the Shi‘ahs of ‘Ali (as) who used to mourn and express sorrow on the day of ‘Ashura.” Then, he adds, “I myself have experienced and witnessed the celebrations held by the Ayyubis.”42

Ibn Hajar Haythami says, “The first person who instituted and inaugurated celebrations on the day of ‘Ashura was Hajjaj ibn Yusuf Thaqafi. He did this in the presence of ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan and a number of the Holy Prophet’s (S) companions and tabi‘in. It was then that it was announced that remembering al-Husayn (as) and his afflictions in sermons was forbidden [haram].43

Hasan ibn ‘Ali Saqqaf Shafi‘i says, “In the book called, “Al-Amir”, Makiyafilli has written about these issues and derived the contents of this book from facts regarding political survival. One of the strategies for political survival that he has adapted is the logic that “the end justifies the means”.

According to this principle, it is permissible for political leaders to bury the event of ‘Ashura for the sake of achieving their political aims; even though this is inconsistent with religion and acceptable moral standards; they have tried to extinguish the fire of ‘Ashura and have endeavored to bury the event of Karbala in this manner.

It is for this same reason that they resorted to fabricating and forging hadiths and attributing them to al-Husayn’s (as) ancestor, the Holy Prophet (S). Because the government propaganda apparatus was not consistent, discrepancies and contradictions appeared. They forged numerous hadiths for the sake of burying the event of Karbala, but none of these were successful.

The only thing that continued to hold and survive against all the odds was the event of Karbala. The issue of considering shedding the blood of al-Husayn (as) to be permissible [halal] is truly significant…”44


41. Biruni, Al-Athar al-Baqiyah, p. 524.

42. Maqrizi, Al-Khitat, vol. 2, p. 385.

43. Sawa‘iq al-Muhriqah, p. 221.

44. Al-Hadi Magazine, 7th year, no. 2.

Adapted from: "The Uprising of Ashura and Responses to Doubts" by: "‘Ali Asghar Ridwani"

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