Rafed English

Different types of religious rites and ceremonies

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

Religious rites, which have been subject to objection or disagreement by certain sects of Islam, are of diverse kinds listed as follows:

1. Celebrating the birth anniversaries of the great personalities of the religion, such as birth anniversaries of the Noble Prophet (S) and the Holy Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (as). The Wahhabi sect considers such celebrations to be acts of innovation in religion. They contend that celebrating these days amounts to heresy [bid‘ah], straying and deviation.

2. Celebrating memorable days in the history of Islam like days on which great events happened, such as the day when the Holy Prophet (S) was appointed to prophethood, the day the glorious Battle of Badr took place, the day the Battle of Khandaq occurred, the day of the Conquest of Mecca, the night of the Prophet’s (S) ascension to heaven [laylat al-mi‘raj], the night of his migration to Medina, the Day of Mubahalah,1 the Day of Ghadir2, and other similar events.

3. Another level of holding religious rites and paying homage to the signs of Allah occurs, for example, when followers of the Fourteen Infallibles (as) inhabit and improve the areas around the graves and shrines of the religious awliya’. The followers of these infallible people build domes and minarets over their shrines in order to serve as a declaration to mankind that the people buried there are the true Imams and divine leaders for mankind. Therefore, the act of raising shrines on their graves serves to invite people to follow the Fourteen Infallibles (as).

4. Yet another way of paying homage to the signs of Allah is when Muslims make diligent efforts to preserve geographical places where important events took place. For instance, Muslims have preserved the sacredness of the location where the event of Ghadir took place, the Cave of Hira’,3 the place where the Battle of Badr occurred, the mosques wherein the Holy Prophet (S) performed prayers, and various other places of this kind. Nowadays, many Muslims visit these sacred places with the hope of seeking gifts of divine favor.

5. Organizing mourning ceremonies in memory of Imam al-Husayn (as) and the other awliya’ of Allah is another way of paying homage to the signs of Allah. This takes the form of establishing memorial gatherings to commemorate the lives and the struggles against oppression of these great people. Muslims all over the world establish memorial ceremonies to honor Imam al-Husayn’s martyrdom and recite accounts of his sufferings and the hardships imposed upon him, his family and all his companions in an attempt to keep alive his battle against corruption and oppression.

6. Another type of religious ceremony is gathering to recite group prayers and supplications with a common intention.
1. Mubahalah was the day when the Noble Prophet (s) received orders from his Lord to challenge the Christians to come forward and engage in calling upon Allah to curse the liars. The Prophet was ordered to come with his near ones and the Christians too were supposed to bring their near ones. The Prophet came with al-Hasan, al-Husayn, Fatimah and ‘Ali. The Christians changed their minds about engaging in this encounter and backed down. The Qur’an says, “But whoever disputes with you in this matter after what has come to you of knowledge, then say, Come let us call our sons and your sons and our women and your women and our near people and your near people, then let us be earnest in prayer, and pray for the curse of Allah on the liars.” (Surat Al ‘Imran 3:61) [Trans.]

2. The day that Imam ‘Ali (as) was appointed as the Prophet’s successor. [Trans.]

3. Hira’ is the name of a cave where the Noble Prophet (s) used to go on retreat for meditation before being appointed to the prophethood. It was actually while he was in the cave of Hira’ when the first revelation from Allah was revealed to him: “Read in the name of your Lord who created. He created man from a clot. Read and your Lord is Honourable, who taught (to write) with the pen, taught man what he knew not.” (Surat al-‘Alaq 96:1-5) [Trans.]

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