SHAFAQNA – An article in the Sunday Express this March 19 covered the controversial topic of self-flagellation in Islam, comparing the practice to medieval barbarism. The article read: “A shocking video from 2013 appears to show a group of men with bloodied backs thrashing themselves with bladed instruments as a baying crowd looks on. The practice, known as zanjeer zani, is so barbaric that it is banned in Iran, a Muslim republic.”
While certain Muslims have insisted on perpetuated such tradition, as part of of their Karbala mourning ritual, it is important to note that the highest Islamic religious authorities have strictly forbade self-flagellation.
Some great scholars such as Grand Ayatullah Khamenei have prohibited any self-mutilation such as self-flagellation with knives or chains and even walking on fire.Self-flagellation is forbidden (Haram) in Islam.
Ayatollah Khamenei noted in commentary published on Imam Reza website:
“Practicing Tatbir (i.e.self-flagellation) is one of the wrongdoings. I know that some people would say: “It was better for him not to mention Tatbir.” They would say: “Why do you bother with Tatbir? Some people do it, let them do!”. No! it’s not right to remain silent toward such a wrong action…
It is wrong that some people hold daggers and hit themselves on the head to bleed. What are they seeking?! How can this be an act of mourning?! Of course hitting on the head with one’s hands is a sign of mourning. You have seen it several times that when people face suffering, they hit on their chests and heads. This is a typical symbol of mourning. But where have you ever seen a person who is suffering from the loss of a dear one, hit on their head with a dagger and make it bleed?! How can this be an act of mourning?
Tatbir is a fabricated tradition. It is among the issues that does not belong to the religion and undoubtedly God is not also pleased with such a practice.
The more I thought about it, the more truly I realized I cannot overlook informing our dear people about Tatbir which is certainly an act of wrongdoing and a heresy. Do not practice it! I do not approve of it. If someone does something to pretend that they want to practice Tatbir, I will be truly dissatisfied with them. I am declaring this solemnly.”
While a minority few has failed to hear the calls of Islam’s highest religious authorities, onlookers should understand that such failure does not fall upon Muslims, or Islam.
Shia Islam does not stand for self-flagellation, or any form of self-mutilation.