The Stages of the Rites of Remembrance for al-Husayn (a.s.)
In the nature of the case, when the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn were founded, they did not exist in any already completed way. They were not fixed in a single form in the centuries which followed. They developed and changed during different historical periods and elements were introduced into them which had not existed in them before.
We consider that, from their institution to the present, the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn have passed through three major stages, represented by the historical and cultural epochs through which the Muslims, in general, and the Shi' ites, in particular, lived. These left their mark on their institutions, including the rites of remembrance. Each of these three major stages, which we will classify, also had changes within so that the researcher could divide each of these stages into many more stages.
The three stages, which we consider the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn to have gone through from the time they began up to the present, are the following: (i) the first stage began shortly after the revolution, i.e. a year after 61, and it continued until the fall of Baghdad at the hands of Hulagu, or shortly before that; (ii) the second stage began at the time of the fall of Baghdad, or shortly before that, and contined through the dark ages of the history of the Muslims until the modern period; and (iii) the third stage was from the beginnings of the modern period until the present.
These are the stages which we consider that the rites of remembrance have passed through from their institution until now.
We do not have the sources for an exhaustive investigation of the stages, development, fixed content and changing content of the rites of remembrance throughout its history.
In the preface of this book we explained that this study of the revolution of al-Husayn in popular consciousness was a pioneering work insofar as we do not know of any study on the subject before this one. As a result our study suffers from a paucity of sources which would make it easier.
With God's guidance we come to what we consider as the basic source for this study and what we consider as a contributory source to the basic source, in addition to the general sources of history, civilisation and intellectual development.
In our view the basic source is the books about the death of al-Husayn (maqtal). For this reason we will rely on these books in our analysis of the stages, through which the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn passed, and of the content of the rites in each of those stages.
The contributory source is the poetry of lamentation for al-Husayn in the different Islamic periods insofar as, in some cases, it reflects the state of the rites of remembrance during that time, even though it lacks relative exactness in portraying the actual situation of the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn because the personal and subjective element in it dominates the objective factor, which we assume to be the mark of prose writing in the books about the death of al-Husayn.
What made us consider the books about the death of al-Husayn to be a basic source for this study was our knowledge that the writers, both Shi'ite and non-Shi'ite who were closely attached to the Imams of the Holy Family, had written much about the death of al-Husayn. Although some of them had written about this subject in response to a purely scientific motive, we consider that group of writers to be small and rare. There is no doubt that most writers on this subject wrote in response to two integrated motives. One of these was the motive of religious piety and emotional loyalty to the Holy Family. The second was in response to the people's demand for written material which set out the account of the death of al-Husayn for use in gatherings and meetings held to keep the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn alive.
In view of this, these latter books reflect, with objective truth, the situation of the rites of remembrance during the periods in which they were written, since they are, without any doubt, a mirror of the general view of the rites of remembrance, their cultural content and the elements which formed this content.
In what follows, we will put forward some of the texts from some of the books about the death of al-Husayn which demonstrates that these books were written in order to be read at the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn.
In the introduction to his book, Muthir al-Ahzan, Ibn Nama al-Hilli (d. 645) says:
O man of insight and understanding, O man of reason and dreams, behold the watchword of grief. Let grief clothe men of faith. Imitate the Apostle in love for the children of Fatima the fair and pure. O you who love the family of the Apostle, wail like the women bereft of her children wails. Weep with flowing tears for the Imams of Islam. Perhaps you may give them solace for the tragedy by showing grief and dejection and by declaring your yearning and your lamentation. Make me happy through your wailing and keening. Mourn for him whose death shook the throne of Heaven. Shed tears for the man who was killed in a distant land ... I was told by my father, may God have mercy upon him, that Imam al-Sadiq said: 'Whoever refers to us at a gathering with the slightest word or whose eyes overflow with a tear, even the amount of the wing of a mosquito, because of compassion towards us and sympathy for our tragedy, will have his sins forgiven ...'
I have written this account of the death of al-Husayn as one which is intermediate between the other accounts .... Hearts should delight in the sweetness of its expression. The sleeper will wake from his sleep and dozing.
The man who ignores this tragedy and the man who is forgetful of grief and distress will pay attention .... O listeners, if you missed the honour of giving support and were deprived of fighting against that cavalry, you have not missed the opportunity of letting your tears flow for the noble lords of the family and putting on the watchword of grief for the family ... .
Ibn al-Ghuti, in his book, al-Hawaidith al-Jami'a, has reported some of the incidents which indicate that the books about the death of al-Husayn were compiled to be read out at the gatherings for the rites of remembrance, from which it can be assumed that it was a common phenomenon and a firm element in the practices of keeping the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn alive. It supports our view for considering the books about the death of al-Husayn as a basic source for our study. He says:
In the year 641, al-Muttasim sent to Jamal al-Din 'Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Jawzi, the inspector of public order (muhtasib), to stop the people from reading aloud the account on the death of al-Husayn on the Day of 'Ashura' and reciting it in the rest of the areas beside Baghdad, except at the grave of Musa ibn Ja'far ... .
In Muharam in the year 648, al-Muttasim prohibited the people of Kufa and al-Mukhtara from wailing, reciting and reading aloud the account of the death of al-Husayn, out of fear that it would go beyond that into something which would lead to disorder.
As a result of this, in our study of the stages, cultural content and the differing elements of each stage of the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn, we will examine the books about the death of al-Husayn in terms of them being representative of the periods in which they were written and therefore representative of the revolution of al-Husayn in popular consciousness in each of those periods. We will also seek the help of the poetry of lamentation for this purpose, alongside the general sources for the history of civilisation and intellectual development.
In these three stages the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn always included a fixed element just as changing elements were found in them.
This fixed element in the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn has been, from its inception right up to the present time, the story of the revolution of al-Husayn with a concentration on the tragic aspect of it: the treachery and betrayal of the Kufans; the extreme oppression of the Umayyads and their rejection of true values; the prevention of water reaching al-Husayn's camp; the thirst of the women, children, fighters and horses which that led to; the conversations between the women and children and al-Husayn and others about the problem of water and thirst; the conversations of al-Husayn with his followers, or his brothers, or his sisters, or the Umayyad army; the insistence of Ibn Ziyad in humiliating al-Husayn and the refusal by the latter and those with him to accept injustice; al-Husayn's call to his family and followers to leave him and save themselves and their refusal to do that with declarations of their determination to support him until death in very moving words; the martyrdom of his followers and the members of his family and the killing of youths and children; and the rites of remembrance reach their climax with death of al-Husayn together with exact details about the place of his death and about every place of death at Karbala '.
In addition to the story of al-Husayn's revolution, there is within the fixed element criticism of the authorities when reasons for that criticism exist.
In Umayyad and 'Abbasid times, that criticism was often clearly stated because these rites of remembrance were held in secret at that time. The criticism may be through allusions and indirect indications when there are men of the authorities who are associated with the Shi'a who may cause fear of indicating this attitude openly.
After the criticism, the guiltiness of the authorities has to come to an end with cursing. The cursing of the Umayyads and those who followed their policy have become a fixed characteristic in the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn.
This is what we understand to have happened during the Umayyad and the'Abbasid periods. Later, in times of freedom, the rites of remembrance were held in public. The criticism and cursing of the Umayyads and 'Abbasids took place openly without arising any opposition from the actual authorities. That was because it had become criticism which was devoid of any political content, even though criticism of people in the past may on many occasions be an indirect criticism of the existing authorities.
The First Stage
The rites of remembrance for al-Husayn began in this stage in a simple form, as we mentioned in the introduction of this chapter. However, throughout this stage, they developed in form and in mode.
The formal aspect, we believe, provided the rites of remembrance with fixed times, i.e. they entered into a framework of time and became a cultural activity which was progrAmined in terms of times. This programme of times consisted of:
Occasions connected by time with memory of al-Husayn's revolution. They were the first ten days of the lunar month of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic year. After the 10th Muharram (the day of the battle) was made a special day of memorial, the first days of Muharram (lst-l0th) became, in the later period of this stage, special days of memorial. This means that the temporal span for carrying out the rites of remembrance and showing grief was extended from what it had been at the beginning of the institution of rites of remembrance. Days of memorial which had become times to make the pilgrimage (ziyara) to al-Husayn's grave. The most important of these is, in our estimation, the night and day of 15th Sha'ban. Some early texts issued by Imam Muhammad ibn'Ali al-Baqir give evidence for that. In them the Imam urges that the pilgrimage be made to the grave of al-Husayn on the middle day in the month of Sh'aban. More were issued by Imam al-Sadiq with regard to that matter.
It appears from a text, mentioned earlier, which 'Abd Allah ibn Haminad al-Basri reported from Imam al-Sadiq that the 15th Shaban was a very important occasion for the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn.
Next in importance to the night and day of the 15th Sha'ban, in terms of performing the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn, are the other days in the year on which the Imams have urged the pilgrimage to al-Husayn to be made. For example, there is the Day of 'Arafat, which is 9th Dhu al-Hijja, the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar; the evening of the festival at the end of the fast ('id al-fitr), which is the 1st Shawwal, the tenth month of the Islamic calendar; 1st Rajab, the seventh month of the Islamic calendar; and there are other occasions.
These days were days of memorial for people to gather together where a great number of people would meet to perform the pilgrimage of al-Husayn. If we are allowed to consider the picture which comes in the report given by 'Abd Allah ibn Haminad al-Basri as a model, we could hold the view that these days of memorial were also great seasons for the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn as well as being days of memorial for the pilgrimage. Circles and gatherings were held at which poems in praise of the Holy Family and in lament for al-Husayn, his family and his followers were recited, and the events of the Battle of Karbala' were discussed.
We can hold the view that the rites of remembrance on these occasions were not limited to the shrine of al-Husayn at Karbala' but took place in many of the countries where the Shi'a lived on those days on which the pilgrimage took place. The Shi'a, who were unable to get to Karbala', used to perform the rituals of the pilgrimage away from it. This kind of ritual of pilgrimage would be appropriate for the performance of the rites of remembrance by those of the Shi' a who were far away from Karbala' as the evidence of the report from Imam Muhammad al-Baqir, which we mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, suggests. In it there is a direction to the Shi'a who are far away from Karbala' on the Day of 'Ashura' to perform rites of remembrance.
A clear text has been reported by al-Sayyid Muhsin which gives evidence for and expresses the idea that the days of memorial for the pilgrimage were days of memorial for the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn. It says:
'It is reported in Kitab al-Muhadara wa-AkAbar al-Mudhakara by al-Tannukhi that there was at the Ha'ir in Karbala' a man called Ibn Asdaq who used to recite poetry about al-Husayn in the wailing style. Abu al-Hasan, the scribe, sent Abu al-Qasim al-Tannukhi 'Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Dawud, the father of the author of al-Nashwar, to this reciter so that he should recite in the wailing style for al-Husayn a poem to some of the Kufan poets. The poem begins:
O eyes flow with tears and let them fall unceasingly.
Abu al-Qasim commented:
'This was 15th Sha'ban and the people at that time were put under great pressure by the Hanbalites when they wanted to go out to the Ha' ir. I continued to be polite with them until I got out and I was in the Ha'ir on the evening of 15th Sha'ban.' 22 This probably took place between the end of the third century of the hijra and the beginning of the fourth, as Abu al-Qasim al-Tannukhi was born in 278 and died in 342.
These days of memorial, which were repeated in every year, brought together classes of people from different directions, from various countries and from a variety of cultural levels. This led to a unified view of the revolution of al-Husayn and to the enrichment of popular consciousness with new outpourings of the emotional and psychological influence which rooted the history and slogans of the revolution firmly in this consciousness, together with the spreading of the idea of the rites of remembrance in areas where it had not yet become established. Thus the rites of remembrance were instituted in new areas of the Islamic world every year.
The institution of the pilgrimage did the institution of the rites of remembrance a great service at the level of rooting the feeling for the cause of al-Husayn in the rites of remembrance in new lands year after year.
There was another formal element which entered the practice of the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn.
That was that there began to arise men and women who specialised in reciting the life of al-Husayn and others who specialised in composing poetry of lament with the styles of wailing.
The life story of al-Husayn, after being a dialogue between those gathered together, became a text which was recited while the others listened. Those who did the recitation were 'the story-tellers'. We have alread discussed the allusion to them in one of the accounts of the pilgrimage which tells of what happened at Karbala' on 15th Sha'ban, namely the account of 'Abd Allah ibn HAminad al-Basri. The texts which these story-tellers recited were the books about the death of al-Husayn. An indication of that is given in the historical accounts, some of which we have mentioned with regard to what happened during the reign of the 'Abbasid Caliph, al-Musta'sim. Similarly we have mentioned a clearly-stated text on the subject which came within the books about the death of al-Husayn.
After it having been the poet who recited his own poem or the special reciter of the poet reciting the poem of his poet in a gathering which was brought together by chance or hurriedly, there came men and women who specialised in memorising much of the poetry which was composed in lament for al-Husayn and in praise of the Holy Family. Then deliberate gatherings were held, which were for the purpose of keeping the memory of al-Husayn alive. The man or woman who specialised in the wailing technique would be invited to recite poetry in this special style in which the effects of voice-production served to help bring about weeping which was one of the aims of the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn.
The sources sometimes incidentally mention the names of some of the men and women who specialised in this special style of wailing recitation.
Abu al-Hasan, the scribe, sent Abu al-Qasim 'Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Dawud al-Tannukhl to a reciter called'Ali ibn Asdaq al-Ha'in so that he should recite poetry in the wailing style for al-Husayn at Karbala' on the evening of the middle day of Sha'ban to some Kufans. Abu al-Qasim was born in the year 278 and died in the year 342. Therefore at the end of the third century of the hijra or the beginning of the fourth century there existed specialist reciters of the wailing technique who enjoyed reputations which went beyond their own towns.
The name of Dharra, the wailing woman, is reported by al-Nisaburi according to what Shaykh al-Mufid (d. 413) mentioned in his Amail.
Ahmad ibn al-Muzaddiq, the reciter with the wailing technique, was alive in 346 and he enjoyed a considerable reputation in Baghdad.23
There was a professional reciter with the wailing technique in Baghdad whose name was Abu al-Qasim 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Shatranjl, who used to recite wailing poetry about al-Husayn at Karbala'. He must have been alive between the end of the third century of the hijra and the beginning of the fourth because he is mentioned for his wailing recitation of his poem to al-Nashi' al-Saghir, 'Ali ibn'Abd Allah ibn al-Wasif (271-365). 24
There was in Baghdad a famous accomplished woman wailing reciter called Khallab. She gave a wailing recitation of a poem by al-Nashi '. She was alive in 323. Al-Barbahari (d. 329) ordered her to be killed. 25 In Fatimid Egypt in the fourth century there was a group of people who specialised in wailing and recitation. We can assume that the same practice was taking place in Syria and Iraq. The following text illustrates the situation in Egypt. On the Day of 'Ashura ' in the year 396, it happened, as it did every year, that the markets were closed. The reciters came out to the mosque of Cairo and stopped there as they gathered for wailing a recitation. After that day, the chief judge (qadis) gathered the rest of the reciters who earned their living from wailing and recitation and said to them: 'You would not pester the people to take something from them if you stayed at your shops. Do not earn a living by wailing and reciting. Whoever wants to do that can do it-in the desert.' 26 This formal development in the practice of the rites of remembrance is one of the changes which occurred during the first of the stages of the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn. There is no doubt neither reciters nor story-tellers could recite from written texts when this stage began in the first century of the hijra. This development was introduced later when the remembrance rites took on the character of an institution with special dates and customs and when this institution, as a result of that, began to create its own time schedule, its own devices and its own human apparatus.
We will see that the story-teller, who used to undertake the task of giving the historical information about the revolution and would speak to the mind and the emotions through his stories, and the reciter, who used to arouse the emotions of his listerners with the poetry of lamentation we will see that both of these men became united in the following period in the second stage into the preacher of the pulpit for al-Husayn who brought together the function of the story-teller and the function of the reciter.
In the middle of this period the geographical area where the performance of the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn was held spread in the climate of relative freedom which was provided by Shi' ite political forces gaining power in many of the Islamic countries.
From the year 333 the Hamdanids began to extend their domination over Syria and Mosul. Under the protection of their government Shi' ism flourished. Naturally, as a result of that, Shi' ite thought and Shi' ite institutions flourished. Aleppo became a centre for Shi'ite jurisprudence just as it became a destination for Shi'ite men of culture, scholars and poets. There is no doubt that the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn gained a share of this relaxation which gave an opportunity for those who cared for it to practise it and develop it in form and mode.
The poetry of lament for al-Husayn flourished in this climate. The lamentation poetry which was composed under the Hamdanids reflected the people's increasing concern for the institution of the pilgrimage, as we mentioned earlier when we gave evidence for it in the discussion of the pilgrimage (ziyara) in the poetry of lamentation for al-Husayn. This leads to the belief that the rites of remembrance gained a great share in that especially after the Fatimids gained control over Egypt which influenced, and was influenced by, the Syrian region.
Muhammad Kurd 'Ali in his book Khitat al-Sham, mentions this in a discussion of the group called 'Mutawalis', i.e. the Shi' a, when he refers to the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn: 'During the Days of 'Ashura ' the Shi' a gather and perform rites of remembrance for al-Husayn ibn 'Ali, the martyr of Karbala'. Their observance of that goes back a long way to the period of the tragedy ... . It appears from the life of Dik al-Jinn al-Humsi in Kitab al Aghani that these gatherings to perform rites of remembrance for al-Husayn were well-known at this time.' 27
At the time when the Hamdanids became masters of Syria the Buwayhids, who were also of the Shi' a, took control of Iraq and Iran, gradually depriving the 'Abbasid Caliph of all effective authority. This provided the land which gave birth to the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn the opportunity to enjoy a freedom, which it had frequently lost, to perform the rituals of the rites associated with al-Husayn. In this way the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn developed greatly in form and mode.
It seems that at first the Buwayhid did not publicly and clearly proclaim their Shi'ite position. They did not make the state a party to the practices of the rites of remembrance. They only allowed the people freedom to practise them. However, some two decades later they did make the rites of remembrance a state affair.
Ibn al-Athir has reported in the events of the year 352:
In this year the state ordered the people to shut their shops on the 10th of Muharram and to suspend the markets and all buying and selling. The people did that, and the Sunnis had no power to prevent that because of the great number of the Shi' a and the fact that the authorities were from them. 28 It is well-known that the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn did not begin in Iraq at this time. They go back to the earliest Islamic times as we mentioned previously. In this period they became much more widespread and during the rule of the Buwayhids they became an official ceremony.
The Buwayhids may have delayed the announcement of the rites of remembrance as an official institution out of their concern at the beginning of their establishment of their state, for the feelings of a group of their subjects who were not Shi'ites. On the eve of the Buwayhids assumption of power, the Hanbalites had become fanatically hostile towards these rites of remem- brance. They had used violence in their opposition to Shi' ite activity in this field. There are many historical texts which provide evidence for that. Among these is the following report in Bughyat al-Nubala ':
There was in Baghdad a famous accomplished woman wailing reciter who was known as Khallab. She gave a wailing recitation of a poem by al-Nashi' and we heard her in the houses of some of the leaders, because at that time the people were not able to perform wailing recitation except with support from men in authority or secretly because of the Hanbalites. This incident took place in 232, i.e. ten years before the Buwayhids came to power.
We have already referred to the text which explains that 'the people were put under great pressure by the Hanbalites when they wanted to go out to the Ha'ir.' We commented that this took place between the end of the third century of the hijra and the beginning of the fourth.
The Hanbalites then, were using violence in their opposition to the rituals of al-Husayn as represented by the rites of remem- brance and the pilgrimage. Ibn al-Athir's statement, '... the Sunnis had no power to prevent that because of the great number of the Shi' a,' is not correct. The Sunnis in Iraq even participated in the rites of remembrance. Those among the Sunnis who opposed these rituals were a small group, the Hanbalite sect.
These sectarian clashes because of the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn seem to have begun at an early time in respect to this period. That was when the Shi' a in the 'Abbasid era tried to perform the rituals associated with al-Husayn publicly and especially in the month of Muharram. Ibn Taghri Burdi has reported in the events for the year 174:
Then partisanship rose and there were disturbances between the Sunnis and the Rafidites (Shi' a). 30
He does not give the reason for that but it seems likely to be the one which we have suggested.
Egypt had known the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn from a very early time. The Umayyad administration in the Hijaz was afraid of the consequences of the activity which Zaynab had been striving to carry out in Medina after her return from Karbala', where, through the family rites of remembrance, she was enflaming the Hijaz with the spirit of the revolution in a society which was ready for it. 'Amr ibn Said ibn al-'As the governor of Medina wrote to Yazid ibn Mu' awiya to tell him of his fear of the consequences of the movement of Zaynab if she continued her activities. He said: 'The presence of Zaynab among the people of Medina is inflAminatory. She is eloquent, clever and intellegent. She and those with her are determined to take vengeance for the death of al-Husayn.'
An order appears to have issued that Zaynab should be sent outside the Hijaz. This point in the history of Zaynab is unclear. How was the order for her to travel issued? Why was Egypt rather than any other country chosen? The sources do not provide us with an explanation of the real situation. What we do know from the sources is that Zaynab arrived in Egypt in the month of Sha'ban in the year 61, i.e. approximately eight months after the Battle of Karbala'. Maslama ibn Mukhallad al-Ansari, the governor of Egypt, met her in Bilbis with the leaders of the Muslims amid weeping and condolences. Maslama went with her and she resided with him. She lived there for about a year after her arrival and then she died on 14th Rajab in the year 62.
The Umayyad choice of Egypt as the place of exile for Zaynab may have arisen out of the belief that any propaganda activity she undertook there would have only limited effect on the stability of the Umayyad government, as Egypt was far away from events in Iraq and the people who knew about what was going on in Iraq was a very limited number of those in government and those associated with them. The ordinary people knew nothing about the true situations, in contrast to the people in Iraq, Syria and the Arabian peninsula where there was an active and busy exchange of ideas, news and people among them.
We believe that Zaynab, during the short period which she spent in Egypt, was able to influence the Egyptians, who came into contact with her, to varying degrees because she must have spoken to them about what had happened at Karbala'. However, we have to admit that this influence was so limited that its effects were not shown in any wavering of the people's allegiance to the Umayyad government in Damascus, although this influence was a nucleus whose importance for the future could not be ignored.
While the Hamdanids in Syria and Mosul and the Buwayhids in Iraq and Iran were planting their authority firmly and while the rites of remembrance and the other rituals associated with al-Husayn were flourishing under these Shi'ite governments, the Fatimids were extending their control over Egypt which they entered in 358. In this way the area, in which the rites of al-Husayn and the other rituals flourished, was increased far beyond what it had been in the past.
The Fatimids, when they took control of Egypt, did not introduce rituals to an area where the rites of remembrance had not existed. They had existed there during the weak rule of the Ikshidids whom the Fatimids overthrew. Al-Maqrizi in al-Khitat has explained that the call for grief for al-Husayn took place during the time of the Iksh-ldids and its scope was broadened during the time of the Fatimids. Yet the situation of the rituals of the rites of remembrance in Egypt before the Fatimids was the same as their situation on Iraq before the Buwayhids. They existed but they aroused opposition against them from some fanatical sectarian elements. An example of this is what happened on 'Ashura' in the year 350 when a disturbance occurred between the soldiers and a group of citizens at the tomb of Umm Kulthum. It appears that this was because of the rites of remembrance that had been held on that day. However, we should notice that the situation was not always like this during the 'Abbasid period. There was a long period of time for the Shi' a in Egypt when they were exposed to persecution. An example of that is what happened to them when Yazid ibn 'Abd Allah ibn Dinar was appointed governor of Egypt by the 'Abbasid Caliph, al-Muntasar, in the month of Rajab in the year 242. 'He searched for all the Rawafid (Shi' a) in Egypt, destroyed them or punished them and afflicted them. Their important members were suppressed and groups of them taken to Iraq in the worst possible way.' 31 These measures seem to have been taken in the year 245.
After the coming of the Fatimids, the rituals on 'Ashura ' became official ceremonies of state, and the rites of remembrance became one of the cultural institutions of the state.
The favourable political situation in Iraq, Iran, Egypt and North Africa gave the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn a golden opportunity to become widespread. They became public under the protection of the state on most occasions. This did not stop them from arousing the opposition of fanatical groups, especially the Hanbalites in Iraq.
In the atmosphere of freedom and security which political development provided over a vast geographical area, the rites of remembrance were able to attain for themselves developments in form which were of great importance, the most outstanding of which we have discussed in the first part of this section. Similarly they achieved for themselves changes in the mode of their content, which we will discuss in what follows.
The developments of mode in the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn during the first stage occurred in the following ways:
There was a widening of the exposition of the details of the events and the ancient causes which had preceded them, including matters associated with the succession to the Apostle of God, the policies which were followed during the reign of 'Uthman and the Umayyad policy in a comprehensive manner. We find manifestations of this development in the poetry of the second century of the hijra and after, insofar as in the second half of the second century there begins to appear what we could describe as 'lamentation poetry with a historical and theological tendency.' The poetry comes to use the events of history with the rationality of theologians in order to give an explanation to the subject of al-Husayn.
Sufyan ibn Mus'ab al-'Abdi (d. 120 or 178) and al-Kumayt ibn Zayd al-Asadi (d. 120) were possibly the first who used this technique in lamentation poetry, even though al-Kumayt's poetry of praise and of the virtues of the Holy Family shows more of this style than his lamentation poetry. When we come to the third century of the hijra and what follows it, we find this kind of lamentation poetry widely among the poets of lament for al-Husayn. Such poets include 'Abd al-Salam ibn Raghban (known as Dik al-Jinn), Di'bil al-Khuzati, al-Qasim ibn Yusuf, the secretary, al-Sharif al-Radi and al-Sharif al-Murtada. This kind of poetic mode continued to grow and spread until by the end of the fifth century lamentation poetry came to be like a record of history and virtues.
We judge that this phenomenon in lamentation poetry would be reflected in the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn during this period.
There was a growth in the extent of the mentioning of virtues in the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn. The rites of remembrance began to include the mentioning of the virtues and the outstanding position in the history of Islam of the Imams of the Holy Family, the testamentary designations (wasaya) by the Apostle of God of the Imams and the opposition of some of the umma to these testamentary designations. In addition to that special forms of honour were expressed about Imam al-Husayn. We became acquainted with this new phenomenon in the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn through the lamentation poetry which was composed in the second century and afterwards. Similarly we learn of it through the books about the death of al-Husayn which were compiled after the second century insofar as these books became concerned with the recording of Traditions about virtues of the Holy Family and al-Husayn and expressions of honour as well as the historical account. The poetry of lament which was composed in this period is full of evidence of this phenomenon.
Poetry and prose become integrated. We believe that the rites of remembrance began in the form of conversations. Then there came a story which was reported or a poem which was recited. Then there arose a written text (an account of the death of al-Husayn). At the end of this stage a form began to emerge in which poetry and prose were integrated. The rites of remembrance became a mixture of the two together. Prose tells the story of the tragedy in the spirit of giving an account of history and virtues and with only a limited amount of emotional expressions. Poetry colours the story and endows it with a sad tragic artistic quality. We are not saying that the preacher for al-Husayn, whom we know today, could be found at the end of this stage. We are only saying that the predecessor of this preacher had begun to be formed at the end of this stage as represented by a story-teller who embellished his stories with pieces of poetry, or by a reciter who followed his recitation by giving account of the stories and the virtues or prepared for it in that way.
Other Imams and other revolutions were included. Since the Battle of Karbala', the deaths had been caused by the sword or poisoning of a great number of 'Alid revolutionaries against the Umayyads or the 'Abbasids or whose loyalty the authorities doubted or whom they suspected of specific political aspirations. Similarly some of the Imams of the Holy Family had been killed by poisoning or had died as they were being oppressed and persecuted by the governments of their time. The Shi'a used to grieve for what had happened. They would add these griefs of theirs to their great grief for Imam al-Husayn. They would add the horrible events and tragedies, which filled the lives of these later Imams and revolutionary 'Alids, to their tragic inheritance which was linked to the lives of the Holy Family, in general, and to the Imams of the Holy Family, in particular.
We know that this material of revival of memories was reflected in lamentation poetry. One of its outstanding features had become the mentioning of the hardships and misfortunes of the Holy Family at different times.
We think it likely that this material of revival of memories, which was reflected in lamentation poetry, was also reflected in the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn and had become more indispensible within the story-telling, poetic and critical element.
We think it likely that the story-teller, or the wailing reciter, used to discuss in his stories, or his wailing recitation, what had happened to the Imams after al-Husayn, or what had happened to certain of the martyrs of 'Alid revolutions after al-Husayn. He would do this in order to honour them, to tell of their fate and to recite what had been composed in lament for them. All that would be sealed with the mentioning of the tragedy of Imam al-Husayn as being the prototype and most painful to men's hearts of the tragedies which had befallen the Holy Family.
Sometimes towards the end of this stage there was even the growth of 'Alid rites of remembrance in a general form. A report from the emir Tala ' i' ibn Zurayk (495-556) suggests this. On the night of 19th Ramadan in the year 556, which was the night he was killed a little before morning, he said: 'This is a night like that on which Imam 'Ali, the Commander of the faithful, was killed.' He ordered the reading of the account of his death. 32
Among the things which point to the correctness of our suggestion that the sufferings of the rest of the Holy Family had been introduced into the content of the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn is the growth in the compilations about the subject of the Holy Family.
During this stage books were compiled which included the life story of each one of the Imams or of the 'Alids who had been killed by the sword or by poisoning. Outstanding examples of such compilations are Maqatil al-Talibiyyin (The Killings of the Talibids) by Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani (d. 356) and Kitab al-Irshad (The Book of Guidance into the Lives of the Twelve Imams) by Shaykh al-Mufid. Both these writers did not limit their books to reporting the killing of al-Husayn but their writings were extended to others. In Maqatil al-Talibiyyin, Abu al-Faraj al- Isfahani has mentioned all the Talibids whom he knew to have been killed at the hands of the authorities in Umayyad and 'Abbasid times, even though he had devoted a large chapter of his book to the killing of Imam al-Husayn. Shaykh al-Mufid, in Kitab al-Irshad, gives an account of all the Imams after mentioning Imam 'Ali's life, particularly with the Apostle of God and with Fatima. After this section by far the largest section of his book is specially devoted to Imam al-Husayn.
Among the best pieces of evidence for the entry of this development of mode into the rites of remembrance for Imam al-Husayn is a famous ode by the poet Di'bil al-Khuzatl (d. 246), which he recited before the eighth Imam, 'Ali ibn Musa al-Rida in the town of Merv. In it he mentions:
'Ali as the Commander of the faithful, his place in Islam and how he was deprived of succession despite having the right to it; His sadness for 'Abd Allah ibn Ja'far, his father, Jatfar al-Tayyar, Imam 'Ali, Imam al-Husayn, Hamza ibn 'Abd al-Muttalib, Imam Zayn al-'Abidin and other 'Alids; He addresses the Lady Fatima, the fair, mentioning the graves of her descendants, two at Kufa, the graves at Medina, the grave at Fakh and in Gurgan and the graves in Baghdad. 33 Then he returns to speaking of al-Husayn, his revolution and the tragedy of Karbala' with fuller detail than he had given at the beginning of his ode.
This ode, at this period, shows the origin of this change of mode in the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn by mentioning all the hardships of the Holy Family together. That is because it reflects the popular Shi' ite awareness of the nature of the oppressive relationship between the rulers and the Holy Family. The Shi'ite is made sad and angry by this relationship.
This element in the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn has further developed in the second and third stages until its characteristics have become integrated through the growth which will be explained in the appropriate part of this chapter.
This picture of the development of mode in the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn in this first stage which extends from 61 to just prior to the fall of Baghdad in the seventh century of the Hijra this picture is best reflected in five texts, in addition to the poetry of lamentation in this period as we have alluded to it within the study as well as the general sources for history and civilisation. The five texts which we have just referred to are the following:
Maqtal al-Husayn by Abu Mikhnaf Lut ibn Yahya. This text is preserved in the Ta 'rikh of Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari. 34
Maqatil al-Talibiyyin by Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani (d. 356).
Kitab al-Futuh by Ibn A'tham Abu Muhammad Ahmad (d. 314). This book is also extensively reported in the Maqtal al-Husayn by al-Khawarizmi.
Kitab al Irshad by Shaykh al-Mufid Muhammad ibn Numan.
Maqtal al-Husayn by al-Khawarizmi
Among these texts we can see that Abu Mikhnaf's has brevity, historical accuracy and a sensitive portrayal with the emotional outbursts being very limited. The poetic element is rare except for the material organically related to the story of the battle. In the later texts we can see an increase in the presentation of the details, a concern to mention virtue and merit, a growth in the emotional expressions and a richness in extraneous poetic material which is not organically connected to the battle, whether in poetry of lamentation or poetry of virtues.
To summarise everything which we have mentioned, we can say that in its first stage the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn included a fixed element which was an exposition of the tragedy of al-Husayn together with criticism of the Umayyad and 'Abbasid government. This criticism was either explicitly stated or given in allusions depending on what was possible in the light of the circumstances of the rites of remembrance and the safety of the participants from attack by the authorities or by fanatical anti-Shi' ites.
The rites of remembrance developed during this stage in terms of form and content as we have mentioned earlier in this study. The development in mode was concentrated on the content in four ways: an expansion of the exposition of the details and historical background of the tragedy; the growth of the reports about virtues in the rites of remembrance; the integration of prose and poetry; and the inclusion in the rites of remembrance of the sufferings of the Imams of the Holy Family and other'Alid revolutionaries.
The Second Stage
In this stage the rites of remembrance preserved the fixed element, namely the account of the tragedy and criticism of the authorities.
At this stage, however, the criticism of the Umayyads and 'Abbasids was direct as they no longer had any existence in the political life of Iraq, Iran and other Islamic countries, except in a formal way which had no value as a result of what took place in Mamluk Egypt. Yet this clear direct criticism was now merely words without any real content. It was a theoretical criticism of something which no longer existed.
Direct criticism of the contemporary authorities was a dangerous business which exposed the critics to the greatest dangers, sometimes death.
We doubt, whether the direct criticism of the Umayyads and the 'Abbasids in this stage contained any attitude towards the contemporary authorities, which might have arisen out of a clear understanding of the guidance possible through the memory of al-Husayn, in the way which we indicated took place on some occasions in the first stage where there was indirect criticism of contemporary authorities.
At this stage the memory of al-Husayn had lost its political and social guidance, in the understanding of the Shi'ite, towards the plight which he was suffering as a result of the policies of despotic rulers. It had become a ceremony which was merely related to the Hereafter except on very rare occasions which sometimes might occur. Shaykh al-Turayhi has reported what appears to be his view of the function of the rites of remembrance in his work, al-Muntakhab
My brothers, weep and lament much for this great and noble man so that you may obtain a good reward from the great Lord. God has made our following them in the actions which he has made possible, our weeping for them with abundant tears and cursing their enemies, the Veople of error, take the place of fighting alongside in the day of the battle. 35
We doubt, however, whether he meant by 'their enemies, the people of error,' anyone except the Umayyads and the 'Abbasids and their governors who had persecuted the Holy Family. We think it very probable that he was not referring by this expression and others like it to every wrongdoer and oppressor of the people among the rulers and their supporters. This is supported by the fact that the examples which he gave were the rulers and governors who have been directly oppressive to the Holy Family by killing, imprisonment, terrorisation, confiscation, the destruction of graves and the like, without extending it to include ever wrongdoer and oppressor. The content of the first session which he gives in the book, al-Muntakhab, is evidence for that.
That was the position with regard to the fixed element. As far as changes were concerned, these occurred in the rites of remembrance in developments of form and mode which were of very great importance.
The developments in form appeared in the following two matters.
1. The days of memorial for celebrating the rites of remembrance became more fixed and more organised. Similarly the different human elements involved in the rites of remembrance, including wailing chanters, reciters and story-tellers became more numerous.
However, the rites of remembrance in this stage were subject to persecution and restrictions in nearly every part of the Islamic world.
The roots of Shi'ism in Egypt had been cruelly and savegely torn out after the fall of the Fatimids and the coming to power of the Ayyubids. The same was the case in Syria. In this stage, too, the Turks spread their authority to Iraq. Sectarian fanaticism against the Shi' a received protection which enabled it to persecute Shi' ite activities, and especially the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn. This was among the reasons why these activities were restricted to traditional Shi'ite centres (the sacred shrines in Iraq) and to those other places where the rites of remembrance could be held in secret or almost in secret. The only area in this stage where the rites of remembrance flourished was Iran after the Safavids came to power. In Iran Shi'ism became strong and its activities in every field flourished. The chief of these was the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn, which thrived under the Safavids.
2. The Second Stage In this stage, striking oneself became a firm element in some of the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn in Iraq and Iran.. This kind of striking oneself was one of the customs which the Buwayhids had introduced into the rites of remembrance. It was accepted by the emergence of a kind of rhythmic poetry in classical Arabic or in colloquial. The rites of remembrance used to begin or end with it and it was accompanied by striking the chest with the top half of the body being naked, or by striking the chest when still covered by clothes.
This used to happen in the rites of remembrance for men. In the women's rites the striking had been a basic element, as we have already indicated in this study, and it is still so today.
So much for the development in form. As for the development in the mode of content of the rites of remembrance, our evidence for that in this stage is the following books: (i) Manaqib Ali Abi Talib (The Outstanding Qualities of the Family of Abu Talib) by Ibn Shahrashub al-Sarawi al-Mazandaram (d. 588); (ii) Muthu al-Ahzan (The Arousal of Grief) by Ibn Numma al-Hilli (d. 645); (iii) Al-Luhuf fi Qatla al Zufuf (Sorrow for the Dead on the Banks) by Ibn Tawus al-Hilli (d. 664).
In addition to these, there are the poetic works which were composed in this period.
The Third Stage
As we mentioned earlier, the third stage of the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn began at the beginning of the modern period, and they have continued in this stage up to the present time.
Here we should notice that the books about the death of al-Husayn during this period are only of a very limited use as a source for observing the changes in form and mode which have occurred in the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn. The changes of mode which have been introduced into the rites of remembrance have a nature which differs fundamentally from the nature of the books about the death of al-Husayn, for these books are devoted to telling the story of the actual event. We shall see that the changes have made the rites of remembrance go beyond the story of the actual event to other aims and contents. Indeed, it is possible that some of the books about the death of al-Husayn have participated in tracing the modern direction in some respects, (e.g. the books of al-Amini in terms of historical accuracy). Some of this was in response to the demand for a new picture.
In this stage the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn have witnessed developments in form and mode of very great impor- tance.
In terms of form, the security and freedom which the Shi'ite community has enjoyed in most places have enabled the rites of remembrance for Imam al-Husayn to be performed publicly at every time in the year without fear of prohibition by the authorities or the populace. However, in areas where the ShI' a do not enjoy religious freedom, limitations on the performance of the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn have continued to be imposed by the authorities in those areas, some of which are in the Arab world and some outside it.
The occasions for performing the rites of remembrance have become more numerous. In Iraq and Iran and some other countries, the rites of remembrance are performed during the two lunar months of Muharram and $afar, throughout the night and at the beginning and end of the day, by various craft and cultural groups, as well as by individuals. This is done in every place which is appropriate for such a meeting provided the weather is suitable. They occur in every Shi'ite town of any significance or in which there is a large number of the Shi' a.
Similarly rites of remembrance for al-Husayn are held on the day of the memorial of the Prophet's death, in memory of the death of each of the eleven Imams of the Holy Family, who have died, in memory of the death of the Lady Fatima, the fair, of the Lady Zaynab, daughter of Imam Ah and of Muslim ibn 'Aqil. On the occurrence of the memorial day of the death of any one of these persons according to the lunar reckoning, rites of remembrance are held in which a preacher reviews his life, tells of the oppressions and tyranny carried out against him and recites some poetry composed in praise and lament for him. He finishes the rites of remembrance by mentioning Imam al-Husayn and some of what happened to him.
Similarly rites of remembrance for Imam al-Husayn are held in Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, other Gulf regions and some other countries on the evenings of the days of the month of Ramadan. The sessions of these rites of remembrance have acquired great favour with the ordinary people.
In the same way, many people have adopted the practice of holding rites of remembrance for al-Husayn in their houses or in small mosques in the quarters of cities during Friday, during the day or the night, each week or on other days in the week suitable for such rites to be held as far as work or free-time for people to come is concerned. The people who come to such rites are frequently neighbours, friends or relatives of the man who is holding these rites of remembrance.
The practice has arisen of holding a session of the rites of remembrance in order to celebrate a new house by blessing it through remembering God, the Prophet and the Imams of the Holy Family.
Sometimes, some people hold a session of the rites of remem- brance when returning from the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) and on other personal occasions. The custom has also arisen of the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn being part of an opening session of a service for the dead or a gathering for commemoration.
We can designate these kinds of rites as 'private rites of remembrance' and the other we would term 'public rites of remembrance'.
Public rites of remembrance are held in public places: squares, large mosques, clubs and places dedicated to al-Husayn. A great number of people share in providing the finance for them. The money which they contribute is spent on the financial reward which is paid to the preacher and on the hospitality given to those who come to the rites of remembrance, in terms of sugar, coffee tea, etc. Money is also spent on hiring or buying cushions and the cost of the electricity.
These developments, which made the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn into occasions which were frequently held throughout the year and attracted a very great number of people, led to the setting up of special places for the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn called 'commemoration halls for al-Husayn' (al- husaynEyya), 'clubs of al-Husayn' (al-nadi al-husayni). They are big halls specially devoted to the performance of the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn. In recent years they have come to be used for other religious, social and cultural occasions as well, such as farewell parties, parties in honour of people and other such things.
It seems that this institution is not a modern innovation but goes back to much earlier times. Amir 'Ali, in his A Short History of the Saracens, writes: 'One of the most imposing buildings in Cairo during the Fatimid period was the 'Husayniyya'. It was a building of vast size in which remembrance of the death of al-Husayn at the Battle of Karbala' was celebrated. 36
The words of Amir 'Ali suggest that this was an official institution and that the Fatimid Caliphs used to take part directly in holding ceremonies of mourning for al-Husayn.
In the third stage of the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn, this institution has become a general phenomenon among Shi' ite Muslims In every Shi' ite town, small or big, whatever its economic state may be, there will be a building for this purpose which will be called either 'Husayniyya' or the club of al-Husayn (al-nadi al-husayni). Large towns are distinguised by the fact that they include a number of commemoration halls for al-Husayn. Sometimes also in a great Shi'ite quarter in the big cities there are a number of commemoration halls for al-Husayn.
Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin has discussed this Shi'ite institution in his book, Khitat Jabal Amil. He writes: 'The halls of commemora- tion for al-Husayn were built in order to perform rites of mourning for Imam al-Husayn, the martyred grandson of the Prophet. The origin of these halls of commemortion for al-Husayn came from the Indians and the Iranians who built them in their towns. They also built them in Iraq. They made religious endowments for them and provided overseers and superintendents for them. They consist of a building of stone with a courtyard and in them there is also a pulpit. A stranger may take refuge in them and the community provides him with accommodation. The poor also stay at them. Rites of mourning for the lord of martyrs are performed in them on a certain day each week and on the first ten days of the month of Muharram. They differ in size, quality and income according to who was responsible for them being built. They were not known of before the present period in Jabal 'Amil. The first hall of commemoration for al-Husayn built in Jabal 'Amil was at Nabatiyya. Then a number of other halls of commemoration for al-Husayn were built.' 37
This institution has now beome one of the established cultural phenomena in all Shi' ite lands as we have already mentioned.
These developments led to the growth of new religious endow- ments. Indeed these halls of commemoration for al-Husayn are endowed properties which bring public advantage. The chairs, cushions, chandeliers, electricity, lamps and equipment for making tea and coffee are all endowments. Similarly, endowments have been made for the banners and the black fabrics which are spread out and cover the walls of these halls o
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