SHAFAQNA – The Mourning of Muharram, Remembrance of Muharram, or Muharram Observances, is a set of rituals associated with Shia Islam, which takes place in Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar. Many of the events associated with the ritual take place in congregation halls known as Hussainia.
Majlis in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
The event marks the anniversary of the Battle of Karbala when Imam Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad, and a Shia Imam, was killed by the forces of the second Umayyad caliph Yazid I at Karbala. Family members, accompanying Hussein ibn Ali, were killed or subjected to humiliation. The commemoration of the event during yearly mourning season, from first of Muharram to twentieth of Safar with Ashura comprising the focal date, serves to define Shia communal identity. At present, Muharram Observances are carried out in countries with noteworthy Shia population, including Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Lebanon, India, and Bahrain.
The words Azadari (عزاداری) which mean mourning and lamentation; and Majalis-e Aza have been exclusively used in connection with the remembrance ceremonies for the martyrdom of Imam Hussain. Majalis-e Aza, also known as Aza-e Husayn, includes mourning congregations, lamentations, matam and all such actions which express the emotions of grief and above all, repulsion against what Yazid stood for.
The term majalis has both a grammatical meaning and a meaning which relates to Aza-e-Husayn. In its technical sense, a majalis is a meeting, a session or a gathering..
According to Shia sources, The Azadari of Muharram was started by the family of Muhammad (the Ahl-ul-Bayt) after the death of his grandson Husayn ibn Ali at the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD. Following the battle of Karbala, Muhammad’s granddaughter Zaynab bint Ali and sister of Imam Husayn, began mourning for the fallen and making speeches against Imam Husayn ibn Ali’s opponents: Ibn Ziyad and Yazid I. News of Imam Husayn ibn Ali’s death was also spread by Imam Zain-ul-Abideen, who succeeded Imam Husayn as the Shia Imam, via sermons and speeches throughout Iraq, Syria and Hejaz.
Zainab and Imam Zain-ul-Abideen informed the people that Yazid had martyred Imam Imam Husayn and seventy-two of his companions including his six month old son Ali Asghar, and that their women and children were taken as prisoners to Syria. When word of mourning reached Yazid he decided to release the captive women and children from the prison in Damascus, out of fear of public revolt against his rule. He sent for Imam Zain-ul-Abideen, informed him of the impending release and asked if he wished for anything further. Imam Zain-ul-Abideen said he would consult with Zainab. She asked Yazid to provide a place where the people could mourn for Imam Husayn and others of Muhammad’s household. A house was provided, and here Zaynab bint Ali held the first Majlis-e Aza of Imam Husayn and started the Mourning of Muharram.
History of commemoration
The mourning and commemoration for Imam Husayn ibn Ali originated in Iraq, as this is where Imam Husayn was martyred. However, they were held in Iran as early as the twelfth century, when both Sunnis and Shias participated in them. In the Safavid period, the annual mourning ceremonies for Imam Hussein, combined with the ritual cursing of his enemies, acquired the status of a national institution. Expressions of grief such as sine-zani (beating the chest), zangir-zani (beating oneself with chains), and tage-zani or Qama Zani also known as Tatbeer (hitting oneself with swords or knives) emerged as common features of the proliferating mourning-processions (dasta-gardani). Mourning for the martyred Imam also takes place in assemblies held in buildings erected especially for the purpose, known either as Hussainia or takia, as well as in mosques and private houses.