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Ashura Literature: Its Status amongst the World Literatures and for Comparative Studies

Albeit, and at times, difficult to define, the term “literature”, in its broadest sense, is used to refer to a body of works and texts that have (almost) the same subject-matter. [1] There are some characteristics common to a great majority of literatures, among them,(a) they have certain canons, and (b) they have more than one levelof reading. Literary canons are expected to make and represent the best genres or types of texts to be emulated by the posterity.

Inaddition, there are at least two levels observable in literary texts: the text and the sub-text.Whereas the former finds expression in the very paragraphs, sentences,and words used in the text, the latter is mainly concerned with theideas and points unsaid, yet implied and conveyed. Ashura literature is credited with being a sui generis type of literature. It has not been created to entertain its audience; it seeks to be perceptive, informative,educative, and is replete with both Islamic religious and/or human values.

Such characteristics raises it so high that it can hardly find any counterpart in other types of literature, hence only the best types and genres of literature sever produced in human communities can be compared with it. Ashura literature can be placed in the range of world literatures.It is produced by its own devotees, those who take pride in spending their mental energy and literary talent in the cause of the Prince of Martyrs, Imam al-Husayn, all forthe sake of the Divine satisfaction.

At the same time, there is no linguistic, national, racial, generic,religious, and temporal boundary for Ashura literature. Its ordinary types can be readily produced by almost any creative-minded and devoted person. Due to such characteristics, Ashura literature can be produced and appreciated by a qualified devout individual. Ashura literature can enjoy, and deserves, a special place in world literatures for comparative studies. Since in comparative literary studies two or more literatures are compared, generally separated onthe basis of their nations, cultures, themes, or languages, Ashura literature can be one such literature.

Similarly, because the scope of comparative literature well covers the relationship between literature and other areas of education, knowledge, and belief, e.g.,history, religion, and so forth, culminating in comparing literature against gains in other spheres of human experience and expression, it makes a suitable ground for studying the effects of religious, historical, national, and cultural values, stereotypes, and outlooks on and in Ashura literature.Furthermore, Ashura literature may be subject to an inner comparative study, that is, various pieces of Ashura literature can be compared with one another, either in one and/or in two or more languages. The other possibility is to adopt an outer comparative study: some scenes of the Ashura tragedy to be compared with other tragic scenes in other literatures, religions, and cultures.


1. This article was first published in Hussein Revivalism, No. 8, p.32. (Hussein Revivalism is published by Imam al-Husayn's Sacred Sanctuary at Karbala, Iraq).

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