The Mullah spoke at length on the virtue of Ta’ziyah, the mourning processions which include bloodletting and self-flagellation. He concluded his speech by saying, “Arise to commence the mourning procession, attaining thereby divine reward!”
The chorus band began to sing and the mourning ceremony commenced. Everyone assembled in the centre of the Hussainiyyah with the exception of two people, I was one the two. I was too embarrassed, and my self-respect would not allow me to strike my chest in such a manner. The other person happened to be the Sheikh himself!
The important question is: Why are you aloof, O respected master? Do you also feel embarrassed; and does your self-respect also prevent you from participation? Was it not a few moments ago that you were lecturing about the virtue of striking oneself and wailing?
In the middle of the quad was an elderly man striking himself, whilst the Sheikh sat at the front of the Hussainiyyah, looking on at the scene before him like a spectator, observing what his own hands had caused!
It saddened me deeply to see a man in the twilight years of his life beating himself in this uncivil manner, all while thinking that he is fulfilling an act of worship through which he would achieve proximity to Allah. Who will bear the sin of these people?
It had been an awkwardly long time since I last attended such gatherings. It was only out of amusement and my inquisitive nature that brought me here today. In hindsight, I wish that I had not come and witnessed the embarrassment of fellow man.
Did the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam ever beat himself in this way? Would he accept this for his Ummah? Did any of the Imams ‘alayhim al Salam do this? Was this not the bequest of Imam Hussain ‘alayh al Salam to his sister Zainab:
O my beloved sister, I have taken an oath so fulfil my oath; do not tear your collar because of me, and do not scratch your face because of me, and do not wail over me in lamentation when I perish.
In fact, the grandfather of Imam Hussain ‘alayh al Salam, the Greatest Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said to al Zahra’ ‘alayha al Salam, “When I am deceased then do not scratch your face and do not hang any hair over me, and do not wail over me, and do not carry out any lamentation for me.”
The clergy’s adamancy on observing these rituals serves absolutely no purpose other than bolstering their position and securing funds for their centres. Since time immemorial they have been discussing the martyrdom of Imam Hussain ‘alayh al Salam, his miracles, and supernatural feats. Not once have they focused on his life prior to his martyrdom. Never do they discuss his life of abstinence and piety, nor the manner in which he worshipped his Lord and Creator. Instead, they will harp on about the permissibility of calling upon him instead of Allah.
They never once discuss the fact that Imam Hussain ‘alayh al Salam participated in the conquest of North Africa, and that he fought with the Muslim armies from Egypt all the way till Morocco.
They only discuss his birth and his martyrdom, as if he was born and immediately assassinated, as if there were nothing significant or worthy of mention in his life but these two events. His actual contribution and achievements are of little or no concern to them.
What concerns them instead, is the resting place of Imam Hussain ‘alayh al Salam; perhaps on account of this being such a lucrative asset. Their concern is how they can exploit his tragedy, which in turn fuels their lust for power and wealth as it is easy to prey on the sympathies of the ordinary folk. As long as people continuously visit these tombs, the Mullah’s have a secure income stream. They manipulate the emotions of the simple-minded and work them up in a frenzy, encouraging them to self-flagellate and mourn; whilst they themselves are not motivated by the love of Imam Hussain ‘alayh al Salam but for the love of filling their own bellies.
Some have tried to present a justification for these practices from the Shari’ah; saying that the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam cried over his son Ibrahim when he passed away, as well as over his uncle Hamzah when he was martyred.
There is no denying that the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam cried on these occasions but did he salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam resort to beating himself every year to commemorate the passing of his son or uncle? Crying at the time of someone’s passing is only natural, but extending that to an annual procession or ritual is something else entirely.
Did the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam call people for parades every year where he instructed them to slap their faces and chests in memory of his son’s passing? Did he say that slapping oneself was an act of worship, earning those who perform it a magnanimous reward?
On the other hand, if these were not mandated by the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam what right does anyone have to invent additional rituals based on his own whims and fancies, rituals for which Allah has not revealed any proof, yet to declare to the people that Allah will reward them for such action? Since when has the Divine right for determining reward and punishment been transferred to man? Furthermore, what is the purpose of bearing patience in the face of calamity if mourning ceremonies become part of the religion? Is it that the Qur’an encourages Sabr (patience) in vain?
وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُم بِشَيْءٍ مِّنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِّنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُم مُّصِيبَةٌ قَالُوا إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ أُولَٰئِكَ عَلَيْهِمْ صَلَوَاتٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ وَرَحْمَةٌ ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُهْتَدُونَ
We shall certainly test you with fear and hunger, and loss of wealth, lives and fruits. And give glad tidings to the patient ones: those who, when a calamity befalls them, say, “We surely belong to Allah and to Him are we to return.” Such are the people upon whom are blessings and mercy from their Lord, and those are the ones who are rightly guided.
Reflect on what awaits those who endure Sabr in the face of affliction: blessings, mercy, and guidance!
The Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, at whose hands the religion was completed and who described the acts of worship in detail, did not advocate these Ta’ziyah performances. Are the clergy more knowledgeable than the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and the Imams ‘alayhim al Salam for them to claim that this is an act of worship, worthy of reward? Has Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala revealed something new upon these scholars for them to invent new rites of worship?
وَلَا تَقُولُوا لِمَا تَصِفُ أَلْسِنَتُكُمُ الْكَذِبَ هَٰذَا حَلَالٌ وَهَٰذَا حَرَامٌ لِّتَفْتَرُوا عَلَى اللَّهِ الْكَذِبَ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَفْتَرُونَ عَلَى اللَّهِ الْكَذِبَ لَا يُفْلِحُونَ
And do not say to that which your tongues describe that “this is permissible and this is impermissible” such that you ascribe to Allah falsehood. Those who ascribe falsehood to Allah will definitely not succeed.
 A Shia place of worship – translator.
 Al Mufid: Al Irshad, 2/94; Al Majlisi: Bihar al Anwar, 3/45.
 Al Kulayni: Al Kafi, 5/527; Al Hurr al ‘Amili: Wasa’il al Shia, 3/272.
 Surah al Baqarah: 155-157.
 Surah al Nahl: 116.Back to top