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The meaning of sha‘a’ir

1. Khalil ibn Ahmad Farahidi says, “Sha‘artuhu (from the same root as sha‘a’ir) means: I contemplated and reasoned it out and I understood it…”15

2. Jawhari says, “Sha‘a’ir are the deeds and rites of the hajj, and anything which is a standard of obedience and banner of submission to Allah, the Exalted, is a part of sha‘a’ir… and the sha‘a’ir of a group of people in war is their banner which distinguishes them from their enemies. Also, ash‘artuhu fasha‘ara means, ‘I explained it to him, and he understood’.”16

3. Firuzabadi says, “Ash‘arahu’l-amr means that ‘an order/command was made known to him’… and the shi‘ar of hajj are rites, ceremonies and manifestations of the hajj…”17

4. Ibn Faris says, “Ish‘ar means ‘manifesting and making something known by means of the senses’, and masha‘ir means ‘things that are apparent and known’. Its singular is mash‘ar, which means ‘position, situation or place which has been made manifest and apparent by means of certain signs’.”18

5. Qurtubi says, “Anything which is intended for Allah, the Exalted, and comprises a command serving as a sign of manifestation and declaration is called shi‘ar or sha‘a’ir. Shi‘ar means ‘a sign or indication’ and ash‘artu means ‘I declared’. Sha‘irah means ‘a sign’, and the sha‘a’ir of Allah refer to the signs and symbols of the religion of Allah.”19

What we can deduce from the preceding discussion is that the word sha‘a’ir can be employed for sensory declarations. Also, according to the usage employed by the Holy Qur’an, this word indicates ceremonial declarations and propagation of religion and spreading the Light of Allah.

This word has an additional aspect though and can also be employed to include the dimension of reverence and exaltation. Even though this dimension is not found in the essence and substance of the word sha‘a’ir, it exists in the essence of words which are affiliated to the word sha‘a’ir.

In conclusion, sha‘a’ir does not merely mean rites and ceremonies of the hajj as such. True, the ceremonies and rites of the hajj are called masha‘ir because there is an aspect of declaring and manifesting in them. However, to put it another way, the sha‘a’ir are not the religion of Allah in and of themselves, but exist as dimensions of honoring and revering the religion of Allah.


15. Kitab al-‘Ayn, vol. 1, p. 251.

16. Sihah al-Lughah, vol. 2, p. 699.

17. Qamus al-Muhit, vol. 2, p. 60.

Adapted from: "The Uprising of Ashura and Responses to Doubts" by: "‘Ali Asghar Ridwani"