The History and Philosophy of Aza of Imam Hussein (a.s.) - part 2
Just as Hadhrat Musa Kalimullah had been raised in the palace of the enemy of Allah, Firaun, Bibi Zainab laid the foundation of aza-e-Hussain in the very capital of his murderer !
On their return to Madina, Bibi Zainab took over the leadership of aza-e-Hussain in the city of the Holy Prophet. This aroused such strong emotions in the people and such revulsion against the oppressor that Amr ibne Said ibne al-Aas wrote to Yezid to have Bibi Zainab exiled from Madina. This was done in the beginning of 62 A.H. Bibi Zainab died shortly afterwards.
Both the 4th and 5th Imams greatly encouraged aza-e-Hussain. In their times aza-e-Hussain had to be performed in utmost secrecy as the regime was opposed to any remembrance of Kerbala. The poets who composed elegies and the devout Shiahs who attended the gatherings at which these elegies were recited did so at the risk of their lives. Nonetheless, the poets continued to pour out their emotions in their poetry.
Some of these poetry are extant today and one can see the intensity of faith and sadness enshrined in the words of the poets.
When we examine Ziyarat-e-Waritha, we can see not only a testimony of the greatness of Imam Hussain and the moving sentiments describing his sacrifice for the cause of Allah, but also a solemn pledge and a commitment by the reciter:
"And I make Allah, His angels, His prophets, and His messengers, witnesses to the fact that I believe in Imam Hussain and in my return to Allah. I also believe in the laws of Allah and in the consequences of human actions. I have subordinated the desires of my heart to his (Imam Hussain's) heart and I sincerely submit to him and (promise to follow his commands)."
Clearly, this undertaking was never meant by our Imams to be an empty ritual. Recitation of Ziyarat-e-Waritha is a commitment to Imam Hussain's cause made in the presence of Allah and the angels and the prophets and the messengers and in full awareness of the final accountability of human action. One must always reflect upon the seriousness and solemnity of this pledge.
Until the time of ghaibat-e-kubra, we find that our Imams always encouraged aza-e-Hussain. They saw in aza-e-Hussain not only a demonstration of grief for Imam Hussain and the martyrs of Kerbala but also a renewal of one's commitment to Allah and His laws as expounded in the Holy Qur'an and the ahadeeth.
We have records of the sayings of the representatives (Naibs) during ghaibat-e-Sughra explaining and encouraging aza-e-Hussain. From 329 AH onwards the fuqaha and the 'ulemas took it upon themselves to perpetuate the message of Kerbala.
Shaykh Ibne Babawayh-al-Qummi better known as Shaykh as-Suduq who died in 381 AH was the first scholar to have introduced prose as medium of conveying the message of Imam Hussain. He would sit on a pulpit and speak extempore while many of his students sat by the side of the pulpit and recorded the speech. His speeches have been preserved and to this day are known as the Amali (dictations) of Shaykh Suduq.
As Islam spread, different cultures adopted different modes of aza-e-Hussain. Taimur Lang introduced the institution of tabut and alam in India. As Islam spread southwards on the sub-Continent, the form underwent changes to take into account local cultural influences so as to portray the message of Kerbala in the medium best understood by the local people, both Muslims and non-Muslims.
By the beginning of the 19th Century, there was not a corner of the world, from Spain to Indo-China, which did not have some form of demonstration on the 10th of Muharram.
The form varied from country to country. In Iran, the most popular form has been passion plays as a medium transmit the message of Kerbala in addition to the majaalis from the minabir.
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