The Ziyara in the Legal Texts
Hundreds of sound Traditions have been reported from the Imams of the Holy Family, in many of which there is the call to make pilgrimages to al-Husayn and that this should be done at all times, as well as on specific days, and from near and from far.
Similarly texts have been reported from them, which give the pattern of the pilgrimages which are made to al-Husayn at specific times and on every other occasion.
In the same way the Imams of the Holy Family had performed pilgrimages to al-Husayn, themselves. By that they were a model for their Shi'a in this matter. The earliest example which we have of that is the action of Imam Zayn al-'Abidin 'Ali ibn al-Husayn. He used to go from Medina to Karbala' to make pilgrimages to the tomb of his father. One of the Shi'a of the Holy Family saw him at the mosque of Kufa. Since he was surprised at his presence, he asked him: 'What has brought you to a land in which your father was killed?' He answered him: 'I have made a pilgrimage to my father and I have performed the salat in his mosque.' 13 It appears from the question of the questioner that he was surprised at Imam 'Ali ibn al-Husayn's presence. This suggests that the pilgrimage had not yet become widespread and a familiar matter.
In what follows, we shall mention some selected texts which contain the basis for the legality of the pilgrimage as a principle. They, also, include the urging and wish for it to be done.
1. In a Tradition whose chain of authorities goes back to Imam Muhammad al-Baqir ibn 'Ali ibn al-Husayn, the latter said: 'Order out Shi'a to make pilgrimages to the tomb of al-Husayn b. 'Ali. Doing this is a duty for every Muslim who acknowledges the Imamate of al-Husayn.' 14
2. In a Tradition whose chain of authorities goes back to Zurara, who reported: I said to Abu Jafar (i.e. Imam Muhammad al-Baqir), 'What do you say about anyone who makes pilgrimages to your father when he is afraid?' He answered, 'God will keep him safe on the day of the greatest fear. The angels will meet him with good news and he will be told: Do not fear and do not be sad. This is the day of your success.' 15
3. It is reported on the authority of Musa ibn Umar, on the authority of Hassan al-Basri, on the authority of Mu'awiya ibn Wahb, who recounted: I asked permission to visit Abu 'Abd Allah (i.e. Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq). I was told to enter. So I went in and found him in his place of prayer in his house. I sat until he had finished his salat. Then I heard him address his Lord in private prayer saying:
O God, forgive me and my brother, and those who make pilgrimages to the tomb of al-Husayn, who have spent their wealth and made their bodies go there out of a desire for reverence towards us, out of hope for what there will be with You for them through contact with us, out of a joy which they have entered into through Your Prophet, in answer to out command and because of anger which they have entered into against our enemies. By that, they wish for Your approval. Reward them on our behalf with happiness. Watch over them night and day and remain, in the best way possible, with their families whom they have left behind Accompany them and protect them from the evil of every tyrant, from every weak and violent one of Your creatures and from the evil of devils, both jinn and human. Give them the most excellent reward which they hope for from You through their absence from their homes and through their preference of us to their sons, their families and their relations. O God, our enemies denounce them for their journey. Yet that does not stop them from journeying to us, out of opposition by them to those who oppose us. Have mercy on those faces which have been burnt by the sun. Have mercy on those cheeks which have twisted in grief at the hollow grave of Abu 'Abd Allah (i.e. Imam al-Husayn). Have mercy on those eyes which have shed tears, out of mercy for us. Have mercy on those hearts which have mourned and been enflamed for us. Have mercy on that cry which was for us. O God, I entrust to you those bodies and those souls until you receive them at the watering-places of Heaven on the day of the greatest thirst.
Mu'awiya ibn Wahb continued: He continued to pray while prostrating as he made this prayer. When he finished I said, 'May I be your ransom, If what I heard you saying was said to someone who did not know God, I would think that Hell-fire would never feed on anything of him. By God, I wish that I had made a pilgrimage (ziyara) to him and not performed the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj).' He replied, 'I do not rejoice with you for that.
What prevents you from making a pilgrimage to him?' Then he went on, 'Mu'awiya, why did you not do that?' 'May I be your ransom,' I replied, 'I did not see that the matter had reached all this extent.' He said, 'Mu'awiya, those in Heaven who pray for those who make pilgrimages to him are more than those who pray for them on earth.' 16
4. In the Tradition from Ibn Bukayr, that latter said: I said to Abu 'Abd Allah (i.e. Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq), 'I stopped at al-Arjan. My heart struggled with me about staying at the grave of your father. When I left, my heart was apprehensive and worried so that I went back out of fear of the authorities, informers and soldiers from the garrisons.' He said: 'Ibn Bukayr, don't you want God to see you fearful concerning us? Don't you known that God shades anyone who is afraid, out of fear for us, under the protection of His throne. His reporter under the throne is al-Husayn and God keeps him safe from the terrors of the Day of Resurrection. The people will be terrified but he will not be terrified. The angels will bring succour to his power and they will quieten his heart with good news." 17
5. In a Tradition of Abu'Abd Allah (Imam Jafar al-Sadiq), he said: "Ali (ibn Maymun al-Sayigh), make a pilgrimage to al-Husayn and do not abandon him.' 'Ali ibn Maymun asked: 'What reward will there be for anyone who goes to him?' He replied: 'For him who goes to him on foot, God has ordained a good reward for each step and the removal of an evil for each step, and He has raised his rank.' 18
6. In a Tradition which is reported from Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq, he said: 'Whoever would rejoice to be at the tables of light on the Day of Resurrection, let him be among those who make pilgrimages to al-Husayn ibn'Ali.' 19
7. In a Tradition from Imam Musa al-Kazim ibn Jafar, who said: 'The least reward for one who makes a visitation to al-Husayn on the banks of the Euphrates, if he recognises his right, his sanctity and his authority as Imam, will be that his past and later sins will be forgiven.' 20
8. In a Tradition whose chain of authorities goes back to Imam 'Ali al-Rida ibn Musa, he said: 'Every Imam has a mutual compact with his close associates and his Shi'a. This compact can be properly fulfilled and carried out by making visitations to their tombs. Whoever of them makes a visitation to them out of the desire to make such a visitation and in confirmation of their desire, for them their Imams will be intercessors on the Day of Resurrection.' 21
There are examples of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of texts which have come from the Imams of the Holy Family urging pilgrimages to al-Husayn in different ways.
Some of these texts came in answer to questions from different men; others were made from the beginning without any question in order to direct the thought of the Shi'a towards pilgrimages. Because of these texts which are specific to the pilgrimage to al-Husayn or those in which the Imams urge pilgrimages to the Prophet and other Imams or other righteous men and woman a Shi'ite social and cultural climate has developed in respect to the pilgrimage, in a general way, and in respect to the pilgrimage to al-Husayn, in particular. This has formed an emotional human tendency which constantly grows in importance in all lives and places which it travels through at all times and in all circumstances.
Among the evidence for the growing importance of the pilgrimage among the Shi'a is the story that one of the adherents of the Shi'a complained to the seventh Imam, Musa al-Kazim ibn Ja'far, that the pilgrimage to al-Husayn had become so well-known that the pious pilgrim was no longer able to practise it without drawing attention to himself. This was something which was a negation of the piety which made a Muslim prefer to do good works secretly. He reopened: I went to the Imam and said: 'May I be your ransom, people who know of this matter 22 and others who do not, are making pilgrimages to al-Husayn. Even women are making the journey to him. It has become very famous so that I have held myself back going because of the fame which I have seen it to have.' The Imam stopped without answering for some time. Then he came towards me and said: 'O Iraqi, since they make themselves known, you will not make yourself known! By God, anyone who goes to al-Husayn recognising his rights, cannot but have his past and later sins forgiven by God.' 23
Fear of the official authorities did not succeed in limiting the development and spread of this tendency. There are texts which indicate that the measure of the authorities only had a slight effect. It appears that this tendency-as the nature of things requires-began little by little. Then it constantly grew in importance and its scope widened. It came to have fixed seasons which were formed at a very early period, at least in the time of Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq. In a Tradition recorded by 'Abd Allah ibn Hammad al-Basri, the Imam said to him: 'I have learnt that people are going to the tomb of al-Husayn from regions around Kufa as well as other people and women who mourn for him. That is in the middle of the month of Sha'ban. Among them are reciters who recite, story-tellers who tell his story, mourners who mourn and poets who recite laments.' 'Yes,' I answered. 'May I be your ransom, I have seen some of what you describe.' He said: 'Praise be to God Who has caused there to be among people, those who come to us, praise us and lament for us. God has made our enemies those who criticise them for being close to us, and others who threaten them and revile what they do.' 24
It appears that the Imam meant the 'Abbasids and their followers by his last words.
All the means of transportation known at that time were used in travelling to make a pilgrimage to the tomb of al-Husayn in addition to walking. 25 The same is the case right up to the present time-the majority of the text lays stress on the importance of walking to make a pilgrimage to al-Husayn. In some texts, however, there is mention of boats. The texts in Kamil al-ziyara come from Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq, with the exception of one text which comes from Imam al-Baqir. It is certain that this tendency had begun to grow and spread its scope during the Umayyad period.
Similarly groups of pilgrims used to come in crowds from the majority of the regions of the Islamic world at that time, perhaps even all of them. Instructions are mentioned in the texts to pilgrims who came from Khurasan, Arjan and Yemen.
As for those who were unable to get to the tomb of al-Husayn, they were able to perform the ritual of ziyara at a distance. The Imams have given texts for the ziyara to al-Husayn from a distance. The report of Malik al-Juhm contains an explanation of the appropriate actions for a believer to do when he is far from Karbala' and cannot travel there to perform the pilgrimage to al-Husayn. Malik said: I asked the Imam: 'May I be your ransom, what should someone do who lives far away from the place and cannot get to it on the Day of 'Ashura '?' Imam al-Baqir replied: 'On that day he should go out into the desert or up on a high roof of his house. There he should give an indication of his wishing peace to be with al-Husayn and he should strive in prayer against his killer. After that he should perform two rakas, doing that on the middle of the day before the sun begins to decline. Then he should mourn for al-Husayn and weep for him. He should, also, tell those in his house to weep for him.' 26
In this way the opportunity was provided, for everyone and in all circumstances, to participate in and be influenced by the ziyara and through that to renew contact with al-Husayn and what he represents. This facet of the legality of performing the ziyara, even while at a distance from the tomb, which has mentioned, reveals the intense anxiety of the Imams of the Holy Family to fix firmly the roots of the institution of ziyara in every heart in order to provide the widest scope of its educational and guiding task.
While the performance of the pilgrimage is something which is recommended on every day of the year, there are special days and nights in which the merit for performing it is greater. They are: the Day of 'Arafat (Yawm 'Arafat), that is 9th Dhu al-Hijja; the Day of Sacrifice (Yawm al-Adha), that is the 10th Dhu al-Hijja; the Day of the End of the Fast (Yawm al-Fitr), that is 1st Shawwal; the Day of'Ashura', that is 10th Muharram; 1st of Rajab; 15th of Rajab; 15th of Shatban; and the Nights of Destiny (layal al-qadr), that is 19th, 21st and 23rd of the month of Ramadan. Sometimes added to these times is the pilgrimage made to him on 20th of Safar, which is the ziyara of the forty days (on the occasion of the passing of forty days after the martyrdom of al-Husayn; that is from 10th Muharram to 20th Safar). On that day a great number of pilgrims gather at the tomb of al-Husayn at Karbala', even though it does not enjoy, with the religious scholars, the status which is accorded to the rest of the times for pilgrimage which we have mentioned earlier, because the narration for the pilgrimage after forty days has a weak chain of authorities and is supported by weak evidence.
By this direction of theirs-in addition to the personal factor of al-Husayn and his revolution with every Muslim-the Imams of the Holy Family have been able to make the personality, revolution and tragedy of al-Husayn and what happened to him, his family and his followers at Karbala', into a living vibrant thing which is continually recalled. By means of the performance of the pilgrimage, they have made it something which preserves contact with his reasons and objectives, something which brings praise and veneration to al-Husayn and his family, something which contains the pledges which the pilgrim makes before God that he will keep to this path and follow this way, also something which includes the denunciation of the oppressive deviating forces which committed their hideous crime at Karbala', and the denunciation of all other forces, later on, which followed those criminal forces in their example, their slogans and their attitude.
May God curse a people who killed you. May God curse those who gave them the possibility of fighting against you. May I be innocent before God and you of them, their party and their followers. 27
May God curse those who fight against you. May God curse those who ordered it. May God curse those who got that order and accepted it. 28
The ruling powers, in the time of the Umayyads and the 'Abbasids and those who followed, became aware of the danger of this current and of its ability to produce a state of consciousness of the situation among the people and a repudiation of the dominant political forces. Therefore throughout Islamic history, various attempts were made by the authorities and their supporters, aimed at stopping the increasing number of pilgrims to Karbala'.
The attempts appeared in two different manifestations.
The First Manifestation was to put garrisons and guards on the roads leading to Karbala' to stop the pilgrims from reaching the grave of al-Husayn and to carry out various punishments on those who were apprehended. The punishment, on some occasions, was death.
It appears that this repressive manifestation was so cruel that its effects were reflected in the demeanour of the Shi'a in performing the pilgrimage. It was also the reason for the great number of questions about the rules for the pilgrimage in circumstances of fear. It reached such a degree that Ibn Qawlawayh al-Qummi devoted a special chapter in his book with the title: Chapter Forty-five: The Reward for the Pilgrimage to al-Husayn made in Fear. In it he has recorded some of the things which have been set out by the Imams of the Holy Family in this matter. Some of what he presents is reported from Imam Abu Jafar al-Baqir and the other part of it is from Imam Abu' Abd Allah al-Sadiq. This means that the repression of this Shi'ite practice existed in the Umayyad period and continued into the 'Abbasid period. In what follows, there will be some of the texts which Ibn Qawlawayh has presented.
It is reported from Muslim ibn Muhammad: Abu Ja' far Muhammad ibn'Ali (i.e., Imam al-Baqir) asked me: 'Are you going to the tomb of al-Husayn?' 'Yes,' I replied, 'but in fear and dread.' He said: 'The more intense this is, then the reward for it will be in accordance with the fear.' 29
It is reported from al-Asamm that Ibn Bukayr said: I said to Abu 'Abd Allah (i.e. Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq), 'I stopped at Arjan. My heart struggled with me about staying at the grave of your father. When I left, my heart was apprehensive and worried so that I went back out of fear of the authorities, informers and soldiers of the garrisons ....' 30
Another example is reported by al-Husayn ibn Abi Hamzaal-Thumali. He recounted: 'Towards the end of the period of the Marwanids, I went to perform a pilgrimage to the grave of al-Husayn, keeping myself out of view of the Syrians until I reached Karbala'. Then I hid myself in the area of the tomb until the middle of the night ....' 31
Another example are the words of'Abd Allah ibn Hammadal-Basri to Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq: 'May I be your ransom, I used to go to the grave of al-Husayn until I became beset by the authorities who were determined to guard their wealth. I was well-known to them. So out of precautionary dissimulation (taqiyya), I gave up going to it.' 32
Another example is the answer Misma' Kardin gave to Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq when he asked him whether he was going to the tomb of al-Husayn. He said: 'No, I am a man well-known to the people of Basra, among whom are people who follow the wishes of the Caliph. We have many enemies among the tribesmen including those who hate the Shi'a and others. I could not be sure that they are not watching my situation on behalf of the sons of Sulayman.' (The Sulayman who is mentioned here is Sulayman ibn 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas, the governor of Basra.)
This method of combatting the pilgrimages to al-Husayn did not succeed in checking the overriding tendency which continued to grow in size and importance. The texts, which Ibn Qawlawayh and others have reported, and the fact of history confirm that this tendency remained firm and constantly increasing without the repression having any effect on it.
The Second Manifestation was the attempt to remove the object of pilgrimage. This was done by the destruction of the tomb of al-Husayn and the wiping out of any trace of it so that its place would become lost and would not be found. This manifestation occurred in the reign of the'Abbasid, al-Mutawakkil, through the decision he made to destroy the tomb of al-Husayn. We will let Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani tell us his methods in what he has reported of that time:
Al-Mutawakkil was very hostile towards the descendants of Abu Talib, cruel towards their group and suspicious of their activities. He had great anger and animosity towards them and was very doubtful and suspicious of them. It occurred to him that Ubayd Allah ibn Yahya ibn Khaqan, his vizir, also used to think badly of them and the denunciation of their activity seemed good to him. He carried out actions against them that none of the 'Abbasids before him had carried out. Among these, he ploughed up the grave of al-Husayn and removed all trace of it. He put armed garrisons on the rest of the roads. Anyone they found making a pilgrimage to it, they brought to him. He killed or punished them severely.
Ahmad ibn al-Ja'd al-Washa reported to me-and he was a witness of it: The reason for ploughing up the grave of al-Husayn was that one of the songstresses used to send their young girls to him, before he was Caliph, to sing to him when he was drinking. When he assumed authority, he sent for that songstress. He learnt that she was absent and had gone to perform a pilgrimage to the tomb of al-Husayn. News of this reached her and she hurried back. She sent one of her young girls to him whom he was familiar with. He asked her, 'Where were you?' She answered, 'My mistress went to make the pilgrimage and she took us with her.' It was in the month of Shaban. So he asked, 'Where were you making a pilgrimage to in the month of Sha'ban?' 'To the tomb of al-Husayn,' she answered. He flew into a rage and ordered her mistress to be imprisoned, and he confiscated her property. He sent one of his men, called al-Dizaraj-who was a Jew-to the tomb of al-Husayn. He ordered him to plough it up, obliterate it and destroy everything around it. He carried that out. He destroyed everything around it, demolished the building and ploughed up about two hundred fields around it. When he reached his grave, no one would approach it. So he brought some Jews and they ploughed it up. Then he made water flow all around it. He put armed garrisons in control of it. There was a mile between each armed garrison. No one could perform the pilgrimage without being apprehended by them and sent to him.
Muhammad ibn al-Husayn al-Ashnani reported to me: My promise to perform the pilgrimage seemed impossible in those days because of the terror. Then I decided to risk my life to do it. A perfume merchant helped me to do that. We set out to perform the pilgrimage, hiding by day and travelling by night until we came to the area of al-Fakhiriyya. From there we departed in the middle of the night and went into between two garrisons so that we came to the grave of al-Husayn. It was hidden from us. We began to sniff for signs of it and search for some aspect of it until we came upon it. The structure, which had been around it, had been torn down and burnt. Water had been made to flow over it and the place where bricks had been sunk down so that it had become like a ditch. We performed the rituals of the pilgrimage to him. We threw ourselves down on the ground and smelled a fragrance from it which I have never smelled anything like. It was like some kind of perfume. I asked the perfume merchant, who was with me, 'What fragrance is this?' 'By God, I have never smelled any kind of perfume like it,' he replied. We made our farewells and put marks around the grave in a number of places. When al-Mutawakkil was killed, we gathered with a group of the descendants of Abu Talib and the Shi'a to go to the grave. We removed the marks and restored it to the state which it had been before. 33
Al-Tabari has reported in his history concerning the events of the year 236 34 : It has been mentioned that an official of the head of the shurta proclaimed in the area: 'After three hours, any man whom we find at his tomb, we will send to the dungeons.' The people fled. They were prevented from going there. The place was ploughed up and the area around put under cultivation.
We must presume that his terrorisation had some effect for sometime on the activity of the movement towards performing the pilgrimage and that it caused it to become moribund. Indeed the persecution seems to have increased in some periods to such an extent that the 12th Imam (al-Mahdi Muhammad ibn al-Hasan) was obliged to issue a general directive to the Shi'a in which he forbade them from performing pilgrimages to the cemetery of Quraysh in Baghdad (the sacred site of the graves of the two Imams, Musa ibn Ja'far al-Kazim and Muhammad al-Jawad) and the sacred site of the grave of al-Husayn at Karbala'. 35
Even though the method of repression and the method of destroying the grave, in addition to the former, had made the development of the movement to perform these pilgrimages moribund for some time, or had prevented them, they had not succeeded in bringing them to an end in any final way. The Shi'a seized every opportunity available to activate the movement to perform the pilgrimage, especially after periods of repression and persecution. Moreover, after such periods, the movement to perform the pilgrimage used to return in a more intense and varied form that had been the case before its prevention and the suppression and punishment of the pilgrims. The only explanation for that is the fact that al-Husayn's revolution and personality continued to grow without any interruption in popular consciousness in a way which could not be stopped at any point, such was its size and nature. It is still growing and spreading its extent even to the present day.
After having got to know about the pilgrimage from the external aspect-its motives, history, preventions, circumstances, time and continuous growth-it is necessary for us to become acquainted with it from within-if that is the correct expression. We shall examine examples from the texts which have been reported from the Imams of the Holy Family of how the pilgrimage to al-Husayn was to be performed, together with a brief analysis of each of the texts.
We shall put forward here two examples of prayers of the ziyara of al-Husayn. One of these is long and detailed and the other is brief and general. The two examples should be considered as representative of dozens of texts which have been reported from the Imams of the Holy Family about how the pilgrimage to al-Husayn should be performed. Of a similar nature are those texts which have been laid down about how the pilgrimage to the other Imams of the Holy Family, apart from al-Husayn, should be performed.
These two examples are reported from Imam Abu 'Abd Allah (Jafar al-Sadiq).
13. Al-Kulayni, Rawdat al-Kafi, (Tehran, 1389 A.H.), 255.
14. Ibn Qawlawayh, op cit., 121.
15. Ibid, 125.
16. Ibid., 115-118.
17. Ibid., 125-6.
18. Ibid, 1334.
19. Ibid , 1 35.
20. Ibid, 138.
21. Ibid., 122.
22. 'This matter' (amr) is a term which occurs frequently in reports and Traditions from the Imams of the Holy Family; it also occurs in the questions of their followers. It means 'Shi'ism'. A person who knows 'this matter' is a Shi'ite, and someone who does not know 'this matter' is a non-Shi'ite. Perhaps this expression to indicate Shi'ism was used in conversations because of the atmosphere of caution which prevailed among the Shi'a as a result of the state's hostile attitude to them.
23. Ibn Qawlawayh, op. cit., 140.
24. Ibid, 3254.
25. Ibid, 13}5.
26. Ibid, 154,163.
27. Ibid., 176.
28. Ibid, 202.
29. Ibid, 127.
30. Ibid, 126.
31. Ibid, 111-2.
32. Ibid, 125.
33. Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani, Maqatil al-Talibiyyin, 579-9. Ibn Khallikan has also reponed: When al-Mutawakkil destroyed the tomb of al-Husayn in the year 226, al-Bisaml recited: 'By God, if it was the Umayyads who wrongfully killed the son of the daughter of their Prophet, his cousins have come against him in the same way. By my life, here is his tomb destroyed. They regretted that they had not participated in killing him. So they pursued him as a corpse.' Al-Tusi has reported in al-Amali (p. 209) from-Abd Allah ibn Daniyya al-Turi, who said: I made the pilgrimage (hajj) in the year 247 A.H. When I came from pilgrimage (ha.ul and went to Iraq, I made a ziyara to the tomb of'Ali b. Abi Talib in a state of fear because of the authorities. Then I went to make a ziyara to the tomb of al-Husayn. Its ground had been ploughed up, water had been poured over it, and oxen and men sent to work on it. With my own eyes, I saw oxen being driven over the ground. They were driven over it until they came to the tomb where they turned to the right and left of it. Even though they were beaten fiercely with sticks, it did not make them tread directly on the grave. It was impossible for me tomake a ziyara. Therefore I headed for Damascus while reciting: By god, the Umayyads came against .... Cf. Adab al-Taff, (Beirut, 1969) 327.
34. Al-Tabari, op cit., IX, 185.
35. I'lam al-Wara, 421; al-Tusi, al-Ghayba, 172. It appears that in this period of the'Abbasid dynasty the terrorisation had become so much greater than what it had been in the beginning of theeAbbasid government and in the Umayyad period that the Imam was impelled to order a temporary halt to be made in the movement of the Shi'a to make the ziyaira. This situation had not ccurred in the time of Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq from which the majority of the reports about making the ziyara in a state of fear come. In some of these he directs the Shi'a not to give any consideration to fear as an excuse for not making the ziyara. For example, his words to Mu' awiya ibn Wahb: 'Do not abandon the ziyara of the tomb of al-Husayn because of fear .... Ibn Qawlawayh, op. cit, 126.
Adapted from the book: "The Revolution of al-Husayn (a.s.)" by: "Shaykh Muhammad Mahdi Shams al-Din"
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