Misrepresentation of Shia Islam in the media and the role played by tatbir

SHAFAQNA – Tatbir (Arabic) is amongst a set of bloody rituals that are performed by some Shia Muslims in commemoration of the great tragedy of Karbala, when the family of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s) was massacred by a group of Muslims. Tatbir is performed by striking the head with a sword or knife until blood gushes out. In the Persian language Tatbir is called Qama Zani.

Some Shias in the Indian subcontinent also perform an act called Zanjeer Zani (usually called Zanjeer). It involves repeatedly striking the back with a chain of blades with the intention of cutting the skin and causing blood to flow. Tatbir and Zanjeer are the two most widely practised of the blood shedding rituals. Other rituals include injuring oneself with a stone, padlock or chain.

Although these blood shedding rituals are historically not a part of Shia Islam, for many Shia Muslims they have become a central part of their religious practice. Some Shias hold these rituals in very high regard and reckon them to be amongst the most holy acts of worship.

The zealous advocates of the blood rituals put a huge emphasis on these acts and employ a lot of resources to promote their practice. Some of them can be quite hostile to those Shia who do not hold the these practices in such high esteem or consider the rituals to be detrimental to the image of Shia Muslims.

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