1. Granted that the earliest pieces of Ashura poetry were composed on Ashura by the survivors of the Ashura Battle of Karbala in Arabic, the 6th Infallible Imam Ja`far al-Sadiq played a decisive role in encouraging Arab poets to compose poems, especially elegies, to mourn Imam al-Husayn’s tragic martyrdom. Therefore, he must be regarded as a pioneer of Husayni and/or Ashura literature in Arabic.
2. For a collection of Ashura poems in English, see Fakhr-Rohani, ed.,Ashura Poems in English, Explained and Annotated (2 vols.,Karbala:Imam al-Husayn’s Sacred Sanctuary; and Qom: Al-Mustafa InternationalUniversity, 2011).
3. In the same vein, the Iranian scholar Mr. Muhammad-Reza Hakimi echoed this shortcoming in that nobody had ever embarked on developing a literary history of the Shia. See his seminal article in Persian in Kheymeh, No. 62 (Esfand 1388 Sh[/March 2010]), p. 32.
4. In this paper, the focus is on Twelver Shia; however, other sub-denominations of Shia Islam, although not dealt with in this paper, may have their own literatures that generally pertain to Ashura and Imam al-Husayn.
5. It is timely to point to the efforts of the Infallible Imam Ja`faral-Sadiq to eternalize the memory of the Ashura tragedy in the historical memory of the Shia by recommending one of his followers by the name of Dawud b. Kathir al-Riqqi who paid a salaam unto Imam al-Husayn after each instance of drinking water. Hence, so long as the mankind needs water for survival, the memory of Imam al-Husayn will be reinforced in the collective and historical memory of the Shias.
6. The sacred sanctuary of al-`Abbas b. `Ali lies around 350 meters away from that of Imam al-Husayn to the east. Facing the direction of Qiblah, that is, toward Makkah, the sanctuary of al-`Abbas b. `Ali islocated a bit behind that of Imam al-Husayn on the latter’s left hand.Metaphorically, this implies that even after martyrdom al-`Abbas b.`Ali’s body has proven to observe religious politeness toward Imam al-Husayn as the Infallible Imam of the time.
7. There are several good books that deal with prostration upon thesoil of Karbala, e.g., Sayyid Muhammad-Mahdi al-Musawi al-Khirsan,al-Sujud `ala al-Turbah al-Husayniyyah (Karbala: Imam al-Husayn’s Sacred Sanctuary’s Library, 1426 AH/2005); Sayyid `Abd al-Rida al-Shahrestani, al-Sujud `ala al-Turbah al-Husayniyyah, ed. Haydar al-Jid (Karbala: Imam al-Husayn’s Sacred Sanctuary, 1431 AH/ 2010);and Amin Habib Aal Darwish, Turbah al-Husayn (Beirut: Dar al-Mahajjahal-Bayda’,1430 AH/ 2009). That prostration on the soil of Karbala is highly recommended is another effort to eternalize the memory of the oppression Imam al-Husayn endured for safeguarding Islam.
8. The contemporary Iraqi scholar, Sayyid Salman Aal Tu`mah, uses the term "Karbalayi poetry" for the poems composed by those Iraqi-cum-Arabic-speaking poets who are regarded as citizens of Karbala; see his book al-Husayn fi al-Shi`ral-Karbalayi ([Beirut: Mu’assisah al-Fikr al-Islami, 1422 AH/2001], p.6). This usage stands in opposition to what is termed here as “Karbala poetry”, for the latter concerns the poems that have something to dowith Karbala, its events, and/or its glories whether or not they are composed by citizens of Karbala, irrespective of the language used.
9. The number 40 is regarded as a sacred number in Islam. The Arabic word Arba`in means 40, hence it signifies this association.Furthermore, there is a special ziarat-text to be read out on such a day to express one’s veneration toward Imam al-Husayn.
10. One such poet who succeeded to render a full portrait of Imam al-Husayn's life and times was the renowned Urdu-speaking poet Mir Babr Ali, better known as "Mir Anis". Although a prolific poet inUrdu, some of his elegies in favor of Imam al-Husayn are available in English translation.
11. This is an electronic version of the same paper published in Message of Thaqalayn 12.3 (Autumn 2011): 95-101. Bibliography Aal Darwish, Amin Habib, Turbah al-Husayn, Beirut: Dar al-Mahajjahal-Bayda’,1430 AH/ 2009. Aal Tu`mah, Sayyid Salman, al-Husayn fi al-Shi`r al-Karbalayi, Beirut:Mu’assisah al-Fikr al-Islami, 1422 AH/ 2001. Al-Musawi al-Khirsan, Sayyid Muhammad Mahdi, al-Sujud `ala al-Turbahal-Husayniyyah, Karbala: Imam al-Husayn’s Sacred Sanctuary’s Library,1426 AH/2005. Al-Shahrestani, Sayyid `Abd al-Rida,, al-Sujud `ala al-Turbah al-Husayniyyah, ed. Haydar al-Jid, Karbala: Imam al-Husayn’s Sacred Sanctuary, 1431 AH/ 2010. Fakhr-Rohani, M.-R., ed., Ashura Poems in English, Explained and Annotated, 2 vols., Karbala: Imam al-Husayn’s Sacred Sanctuary; and Qom: Al-Mustafa International University, 2011. Hakimi, M.R., “Hemasehha-ye Maktabi”, Kheymeh, No. 62 (Esfand 1388Sh[/ March 2010]): 32-33