Rafed English

The Language of the Rites of Remembrance for al-Husayn (a.s.)

The language of the rites of remembrance is quiet and objective at the beginning of the first stage. It preserves this character for a long period of time during this stage. Then a change began to enter into this aspect towards the end of the stage so that it has become emotional in the second stage. The object of the language in the first stage was to portray the events of the revolution. In the second stage the object has come to be to arouse the mind and the emotions of the people attending the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn.

Just as rhyming-prose (saj') became an established feature in the style of writing and oratory in that period, so it did in the language of the rites of remembrance when the matter was not concerned with reading an historical text word for word and only depended on the composition of the preacher or the writer.

Mostly this rhyming prose was weak, devoid of artistic grandeur. In what follows we will present two texts, one of which is by Ibn Numma and the other by Ibn Tawus in order to try and give a picture of the emotional language of the rites of remembrance.

Ibn Numma wrote:

(Al-Husayn) said: 'Arise for death which is inevitable.' They rose and the two armies met, foot-soldiers and horsemen. The battle was fierce. Because of the dust that raised, courage was hidden. The hard strong spear whetted the black blood while the Yemeni sword was heard striking into heads. Al-Husayn, peace be with him, did not find anyone to listen to his warning amid those who fell in war. They had disbelieved in the Apostle without preferring the cutting swords and spear-tips. There was nothing left between them except skulls and sliding swords. You could see the heads falling like down-pouring rain and burnt-out sparks. You could recite verses in describing the situation because you knew the battle would make them become decayed bones. 40

Ibn Tawus wrote about the return of Zayn al-'Abidin with the prisoners to Medina:

Then he, the blessings of God be with him, journeyed to Medina with his family. He looked at the house of his people and his men. He saw those houses wailing in the name of their circumstances and wailing at the misfortunes of their tears as they fiowed for the loss of their defenders and their men. They grieve for them with the grief of bereaved women. They ask the people at the halting place about them. Their grief was excited by the deaths of their killed ones. The houses call out for their sake and for the bereaved among them. They say, 'People, forgive me wailing and lamenting. Help me in this noble tragedy. These people, at whose loss I grieve and for whose noble conduct I yearn, were the companions of my days and nights, the lights of my darkness and my dawns, the sinews of my honour and my pride, the causes of my strength and my victory, and what is left of my suns and my moons.'

Rhyming-prose continued to be a permanent style in the language of the rites of remembrance until the end of this stage and the beginning of the third stage, insofar as Shaykh Fakhr al-Dm al-Turayhi (d. 1075) was a representative of the second stage of the rites of remembrance through his book al-Muntakhab. This book represents a development in the manner of writing the account of the death of al-Husayn. He divided it into sessions (majalis) and parts in accordance with the nights and days on which the rites of remembrance were held. I maintain that Shaykh al-Turayhi used emotional rhyming-prose in writing the sessions which he compiled in al-Muntakhab. In that way we know that the stage began with the language of the rites of remembrance in emotional rhyming- prose and ended in this form as well.

40. Ibn Nama, Muthir al-Ahzan, 41

Adapted from the book: "The Revolution of al-Husayn (a.s.)" by: "Shaykh Muhammad Mahdi Shams al-Din"

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