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  • 12/17/2013

The Public Rites of Remembrance for Imam Hussein (A.S): Part 3

imam hussein (a.s)

From the sources, it appears that by the time of Imam Jafar ibn Muhammad al-Sadiq (A.S) (80 or 83-148), the gatherings devoted to the memory of the Holy Family and their tragedies, and the foremost of them, the tragedy of Imam Hussein (A.S), had become well-known in Shi'ite circles. It is reported that Imam al-Sadiq (A.S) said to al-Fudayl ibn Yasar, 'Al-Fudayl, do you sit together and talk?'

'Yes,' replied al-Fudayl.' The Imam then commented, 'Al-Fudayl, I love these gatherings. Keep the memory of our situation alive. God will have mercy on a man who keeps the memory of our situation alive.' We have already seen many texts which have been reported from Imam al-Sadiq (A.S) urging the composition of poetry about Imam Hussein (A.S)and explaining the great reward that will come to anyone who makes fifty or ten or five ... people weep through his recitation of such poetry. Such texts contributed greatly to the motivation of people gathering for this purpose. This kind of recitation required people to gather. Whenever the gatherings increased in size, the impulses to weep increased.

It seems that the recitation of poetry of lamentation for Imam Hussein (A.S) had developed during this period and a special style arose in it which was rather like wailing, or was even wailing itself. It was not merely the chanting or recitation of poetry. Elements of voice-production had begun to be introduced which increased its emotional and psychological effect. The words of Imam al-Sadiq (A.S) to Abu Harun al-Makfuf, when the latter recited him one of the poems of lament for Imam Hussein (A.S), illustrate this point. Abu Harun reported: Imam al-Sadiq (A.S) said to me, 'Abu Harun, recite to me about Imam Hussein (A.S).' I recited and he wept. Then he said, 'Recite as you were reciting.' He meant with emotion. So I recited: Pass the grave of Imam Hussein (A.S) and speak of his great purity. He wept...

Furthermore, it seems that in this period the development of the rites of remembrance for Imam Hussein (A.S) had acquired another character-, that is, it made men and women devote themselves to composing poetry of lament for Imam Hussein (A.S) and they made the style of wailing a special feature of this kind of poetry. Such a person was Abu Harun whom we have just mentioned. Another of them was Abu ' Umara, the reciter.

Alongside the reciters of poetry, who used to use the special form of wailing, we find another group of men who participated in the rites of remembrance for Imam Hussein (A.S) at this period. They are the story-tellers. Story-tellers had existed since the time of ' Uthman ibn 'Affan. It appears that their function was in the gatherings in the mosque after the salat. There they would tell stories about the wars of conquest, the life of the Prophet and the virtues of the Companions of the Prophet and they would give sermons of encouragement and warning. Mu'awiya ibn Abi Sufyan employed this group to spread his propaganda among the ordinary people.

After becoming a growing institution which attracted increasing numbers of people, the rites of remembrance for Imam Hussein (A.S) seemed to have come within the interest of the story-tellers, or they created special story-tellers of their own. An indication of this comes in an account reported from Imam al-Sadiq (A.S) which describes the state of the people at the grave of Imam Hussein (A.S) during the night of 15th Sha'ban. It shows that by this period there had developed story-tellers who were introducing the life of Imam Hussein (A.S) into their stories, or even limited their stories to it. Imam al-Sadiq (A.S) says: 'I have learnt that people are going to the tomb of Imam Hussein (A.S) from the regions around Kufa as well as other people and women who mourn for him. This is on 15th Sha'ban. Among them are reciters who recite, story-tellers who tell his story, mourners who mourn ....'

These reciters, mourners and story-tellers seem to be the early predecessors of the preachers from the pulpit of Imam Hussein (A.S) who have made their vocation preaching on the occasions of rites of remembrance for Imam Hussein (A.S) throughout the year.

During the time of Jafar al-Sadiq (A.S), the Shi'a derived some benefit from the fall of the Umayyad regime and the founding of the 'Abbasid state insofar as the Umayyads were occupied in fighting the wars which the 'Abbasids and their propagandists instigated against them. The 'Abbasids, in turn, had taken control of the government using the slogan that they were members of the Prophet's family (Ahl-ul-Bayt). Therefore it would not have been regarded as natural by the people for them to harass Imam al-Sadiq (A.S), the most illustrious member of the Prophet's family (Ahl-ul-Bayt) in the eyes of the Muslims. In addition to this, the 'Abbasids were distracted from close observations of Imam al-Sadiq (A.S) and the Shi'a of the Holy Family by trying to set up their state, on the one hand, and by fighting the Umayyads and destroying their bases, on the other hand. Imam al-Sadiq (A.S) and the Shi'a enjoyed a great deal of freedom during this period.

There were numerous directives and instructions issued by the Imam so that he would complete the structure of Shi' ism. There were also many gatherings of the Shi'a, and they developed their cultural institutions, in particular the institutions of the rites of remembrance for Imam Hussein (A.S) and the pilgrimage (ziyarat). However, Abu Jafar Mansur brought this activity to an end when he pursued the Shi'a and the members of the 'Holy family with death and banishment. This was one of the reasons which compelled them to restrict their activities and keep them secret. The Imams of the Holy Family continued their concern for the institution of the rites of remembrance which they showed concern for by support and directives. They personally used to meet the poets and reciters and used to hold special gatherings to listen to their poetry and recitations. Their womenfolk and their special followers would attend these gatherings.

The Imams had showed their great concern for these meetings with the poets at an early period, the time of Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (A.S), and then after that at the time of his son, Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (A.S). Among the outstanding people at these meetings was al-Kumayt ibn Zayd al-Asadi (60-120). He had gone to see Imam al-Baqir (A.S) and meet him in Medina. He recited to him an ode about his love for the Hashimites. Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (A.S) met the poet Jafar ibn 'Affan al-Ta'i and asked him to recite a poem of lamentation for Imam Hussein (A.S). Al-Sayyid al-Himyari, Isma'il ibn Muhammad (105-173 or 178), was another poet who met Imam al-Sadiq (A.S) and recited him his ode which begins: Pass the grave of Imam Hussein (A.S) and speak of his great purity.

Di'bil ibn 'Ali al-Khuza'i was a poet whom Imam Reza (A.S) met in Khurassan. He recited one of his odes to the Imam: Schools of verses of the Qur’an are without recitation and the place of revelation is like courtyards empty of people. There were many others besides these.

Alongside this direct activity of meeting poets and performing the rites of remembrance in their houses, the Imams of the Holy Family persevered in their efforts to direct the Shi'a to hold gatherings and meetings in order to keep alive the memory of the Holy Family and especially of Imam Hussein (A.S).

However, the Shi'a did not enjoy for long the relative freedom which had been afforded to them during the period of Imam al-Sadiq (A.S), as we alluded to earlier.

By Shaykh Muhammad Mahdi Shams al-Din

Source: almaaref.org

Other links:

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

Imam Hussein (A.S) and the Renewal of Islam

“Karbala”‌ Origin & Meaning

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