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The Public Rites of Remembrance for Imam Hussein (A.S): Part 1

imam hussein (a.s)

The revolution of Imam Hussein (A.S) was a tremendous event which sent a convulsion through the whole of Islamic society, breaking down the false calmness and the silence which had wrapped itself around it. It made Islamic society think again about its view of many of its political conventions and it gave rise to a movement of self- criticism which was awakened in men's consciences. The soldiers returned to their towns and their tribes with the news of the horror, which they had seen and helped to commit, and of the terrible end that came to revolutionaries.

Along the roads from Karbala to Kufa, Syria and Medina, the people saw the column of prisoners and the heads of the martyrs. They were affected emotionally by the spontaneous rites of remembrance and those of the family which took place at different places. The spontaneous effect of the revolution, together with the profound grief and extreme distress which it aroused, must have given the people, who knew about what happened, an excuse for gathering together, a subject of conversation, and an incentive to re-examine their attitudes and opinions and to review their position with regard to the whole system.

What had happened was on such a great scale and of such importance that it was impossible to ignore it. What had happened was an Islamic revolution, in which many of the men, who led it and were martyred in it, were at the very peak of Islamic society, the foremost of them being Imam Hussein (A.S). The gatherings of people, which the emotional effect of the tragedy and the effect of the rites of remembrance, whether of the family or spontaneous, brought about, are, in our view, the core from which the rites of remembrance for Imam Hussein (A.S)as an institution began and developed during the course of history.

The remembrance rites for Imam Hussein (A.S) began immediately after the end of the revolution and news of it had spread in Islamic society. They began, however, in a spontaneous and simple way. Small groups of indignant Muslims, both followers of the Holy Family and others, used to hold meetings in a house of one of them, in a mosque, in a street, or in an open square. They would speak about Imam Hussein (A.S), his followers and his family and what had happened to them; they would criticize the authorities who had attacked him and their legal extension as represented by the governor in the area; they would renounce them; and sometimes they would recite some poetry of lament which had been composed about the revolution, its hero and its dead.

Through the ages, these rites of remembrance developed and passed through various stages until they reached the present form in which they are held today. We will examine these stages later. For the present, we want to explain the factors which led to these spontaneous gatherings being transformed into a cultural and sociological institution which has incomparable influence, namely the rites of remembrance for Imam Hussein (A.S). In our opinion, the Imams of the Holy Family are the ones who induced these spontaneous gatherings to go in this direction and change into an institution with customs and traditional practices.

The earliest sources, which we believe prompted these groupings to become the cultural institution of the rites of remembrance for Imam Hussein (A.S), refer to a very early period after the revolution, I mean after the month of Muharram in the year 61. These texts have been reported from Imam 'Ali ibn al-Husseinn Zayn al-'Abidin (A.S) (38-95). He had been present in the revolution with his father, Imam Hussein (A.S), from its beginning until its terrible end and he had tasted the bitterness of being taken prisoner with his aunts and sisters and the other women of the Holy Family. In these texts Imam Zayn al-'Abidin (A.S) explains the reward to be gained by anyone who wept for the tragic fate of Imam Hussein (A.S). One such text is the following:

Whatever believer’s eyes shed tears for the death of Imam Hussein (A.S) until they flow over his cheeks will be provided by God, as a consequence, with rooms in Paradise which he will inhabit for a long time. Whatever believers eyes shed tears until they flow over his cheeks because of the grievous harm inflicted upon us by our enemies in this world, will be provided by God, as a consequence, with a true abode in Paradise.

We consider that this explanation, and others like it, gave a specific direction to these spontaneous gatherings which were being held after the end of the revolution. This direction was based on the following idea: A constant reason for these gatherings would be easily achieved when there was a special meeting to discuss and study a tragedy which was overflowing with reasons for weeping.

By Shaykh Muhammad Mahdi Shams al-Din

Source: almaaref.org

Other links:

The Route of Imam Hussein from Mekka to Karbala

Basic Information on Ashura and Imam Hussein (A.S)

Imam Al-Hussein’s March: The means and the goals

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