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The Stages of the Rites of Azadari-2

They had existed there during the weak rule of the Ikshidids whom the Fatimids overthrew. Al-Maqrizi in al-Khitat has explained that the call for grief for al-Husayn took place during the time of the Iksh-ldids and its scope was broadened during the time of the Fatimids. Yet the situation of the rituals of the rites of remembrance in Egypt before the Fatimids was the same as their situation on Iraq before the Buwayhids. They existed but they aroused opposition against them from some fanatical sectarian elements. An example of this is what happened on 'Ashura' in the year 350 when a disturbance occurred between the soldiers and a group of citizens at the tomb of Umm Kulthum. It appears that this was because of the rites of remembrance that had been held on that day.
However, we should notice that the situation was not always like this during the 'Abbasid period. There was a long period of time for the Shi' a in Egypt when they were exposed to persecution. An example of that is what happened to them when Yazid ibn 'Abd Allah ibn Dinar was appointed governor of Egypt by the 'Abbasid Caliph, al-Muntasar, in the month of Rajab in the year 242. 'He searched for all the Rawafid (Shi' a) in Egypt, destroyed them or punished them and afflicted them. Their important members were suppressed and groups of them taken to Iraq in the worst possible way.' [31]
These measures seem to have been taken in the year 245. After the coming of the Fatimids, the rituals on 'Ashura ' became official ceremonies of state, and the rites of remembrance became one of the cultural institutions of the state. The favourable political situation in Iraq, Iran, Egypt and North Africa gave the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn a golden opportunity to become widespread. They became public under the protection of the state on most occasions. This did not stop them from arousing the opposition of fanatical groups, especially the Hanbalites in Iraq.
In the atmosphere of freedom and security which political development provided over a vast geographical area, the rites of remembrance were able to attain for themselves developments in form which were of great importance, the most outstanding of which we have discussed in the first part of this section. Similarly they achieved for themselves changes in the mode of their content, which we will discuss in what follows.
The developments of mode in the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn during the first stage occurred in the following ways: There was a widening of the exposition of the details of the events and the ancient causes which had preceded them, including matters associated with the succession to the Apostle of God, the policies which were followed during the reign of 'Uthman and the Umayyad policy in a comprehensive manner.
We find manifestations of this development in the poetry of the second century of the hijra and after, insofar as in the second half of the second century there begins to appear what we could describe as 'lamentation poetry with a historical and theological tendency.' The poetry comes to use the events of history with the rationality of theologians in order to give an explanation to the subject of al-Husayn. Sufyan ibn Mus'ab al-'Abdi (d. 120 or 178) and al-Kumayt ibn Zayd al-Asadi (d. 120) were possibly the first who used this technique in lamentation poetry, even though al-Kumayt's poetry of praise and of the virtues of the Holy Family shows more of this style than his lamentation poetry.
When we come to the third century of the hijra and what follows it, we find this kind of lamentation poetry widely among the poets of lament for al-Husayn. Such poets include 'Abd al-Salam ibn Raghban (known as Dik al-Jinn), Di'bil al-Khuzati, al-Qasim ibn Yusuf, the secretary, al-Sharif al-Radi and al-Sharif al-Murtada. This kind of poetic mode continued to grow and spread until by the end of the fifth century lamentation poetry came to be like a record of history and virtues. We judge that this phenomenon in lamentation poetry would be reflected in the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn during this period.
There was a growth in the extent of the mentioning of virtues in the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn. The rites of remembrance began to include the mentioning of the virtues and the outstanding position in the history of Islam of the Imams of the Holy Family, the testamentary designations (wasaya) by the Apostle of God of the Imams and the opposition of some of the umma to these testamentary designations. In addition to that special forms of honour were expressed about Imam al-Husayn.
We became acquainted with this new phenomenon in the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn through the lamentation poetry which was composed in the second century and afterwards. Similarly we learn of it through the books about the death of al-Husayn which were compiled after the second century insofar as these books became concerned with the recording of Traditions about virtues of the Holy Family and al-Husayn and expressions of honour as well as the historical account.
The poetry of lament which was composed in this period is full of evidence of this phenomenon. Poetry and prose become integrated. We believe that the rites of remembrance began in the form of conversations. Then there came a story which was reported or a poem which was recited. Then there arose a written text (an account of the death of al-Husayn). At the end of this stage a form began to emerge in which poetry and prose were integrated. The rites of remembrance became a mixture of the two together. Prose tells the story of the tragedy in the spirit of giving an account of history and virtues and with only a limited amount of emotional expressions. Poetry colours the story and endows it with a sad tragic artistic quality.
We are not saying that the preacher for al-Husayn, whom we know today, could be found at the end of this stage. We are only saying that the predecessor of this preacher had begun to be formed at the end of this stage as represented by a story-teller who embellished his stories with pieces of poetry, or by a reciter who followed his recitation by giving account of the stories and the virtues or prepared for it in that way. Other Imams and other revolutions were included.
Since the Battle of Karbala', the deaths had been caused by the sword or poisoning of a great number of 'Alid revolutionaries against the Umayyads or the 'Abbasids or whose loyalty the authorities doubted or whom they suspected of specific political aspirations. Similarly some of the Imams of the Holy Family had been killed by poisoning or had died as they were being oppressed and persecuted by the governments of their time. The Shi'a used to grieve for what had happened. They would add these griefs of theirs to their great grief for Imam al-Husayn.
They would add the horrible events and tragedies, which filled the lives of these later Imams and revolutionary 'Alids, to their tragic inheritance which was linked to the lives of the Holy Family, in general, and to the Imams of the Holy Family, in particular. We know that this material of revival of memories was reflected in lamentation poetry. One of its outstanding features had become the mentioning of the hardships and misfortunes of the Holy Family at different times.
We think it likely that this material of revival of memories, which was reflected in lamentation poetry, was also reflected in the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn and had become more indispensible within the story-telling, poetic and critical element. We think it likely that the story-teller, or the wailing reciter, used to discuss in his stories, or his wailing recitation, what had happened to the Imams after al-Husayn, or what had happened to certain of the martyrs of 'Alid revolutions after al-Husayn.
He would do this in order to honour them, to tell of their fate and to recite what had been composed in lament for them. All that would be sealed with the mentioning of the tragedy of Imam al-Husayn as being the prototype and most painful to men's hearts of the tragedies which had befallen the Holy Family. Sometimes towards the end of this stage there was even the growth of 'Alid rites of remembrance in a general form. A report from the emir Tala ' i' ibn Zurayk (495-556) suggests this. On the night of 19th Ramadan in the year 556, which was the night he was killed a little before morning, he said:
'This is a night like that on which Imam 'Ali, the Commander of the faithful, was killed.' He ordered the reading of the account of his death. [32] Among the things which point to the correctness of our suggestion that the sufferings of the rest of the Holy Family had been introduced into the content of the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn is the growth in the compilations about the subject of the Holy Family.
During this stage books were compiled which included the life story of each one of the Imams or of the 'Alids who had been killed by the sword or by poisoning. Outstanding examples of such compilations are Maqatil al-Talibiyyin (The Killings of the Talibids) by Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani (d. 356) and Kitab al-Irshad (The Book of Guidance into the Lives of the Twelve Imams) by Shaykh al-Mufid. Both these writers did not limit their books to reporting the killing of al-Husayn but their writings were extended to others.
In Maqatil al-Talibiyyin, Abu al-Faraj al- Isfahani has mentioned all the Talibids whom he knew to have been killed at the hands of the authorities in Umayyad and 'Abbasid times, even though he had devoted a large chapter of his book to the killing of Imam al-Husayn. Shaykh al-Mufid, in Kitab al-Irshad, gives an account of all the Imams after mentioning Imam 'Ali's life, particularly with the Apostle of God and with Fatima.
After this section by far the largest section of his book is specially devoted to Imam al-Husayn. Among the best pieces of evidence for the entry of this development of mode into the rites of remembrance for Imam al-Husayn is a famous ode by the poet Di'bil al-Khuzatl (d. 246), which he recited before the eighth Imam, 'Ali ibn Musa al-Rida in the town of Merv. In it he mentions: 'Ali as the Commander of the faithful, his place in Islam and how he was deprived of succession despite having the right to it; His sadness for 'Abd Allah ibn Ja'far, his father, Jatfar al-Tayyar, Imam 'Ali, Imam al-Husayn, Hamza ibn 'Abd al-Muttalib, Imam Zayn al-'Abidin and other 'Alids; He addresses the Lady Fatima, the fair, mentioning the graves of her descendants, two at Kufa, the graves at Medina, the grave at Fakh and in Gurgan and the graves in Baghdad. [33]
Then he returns to speaking of al-Husayn, his revolution and the tragedy of Karbala' with fuller detail than he had given at the beginning of his ode. This ode, at this period, shows the origin of this change of mode in the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn by mentioning all the hardships of the Holy Family together. That is because it reflects the popular Shi' ite awareness of the nature of the oppressive relationship between the rulers and the Holy Family. The Shi'ite is made sad and angry by this relationship.
This element in the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn has further developed in the second and third stages until its characteristics have become integrated through the growth which will be explained in the appropriate part of this chapter. This picture of the development of mode in the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn in this first stage which extends from 61 to just prior to the fall of Baghdad in the seventh century of the Hijra this picture is best reflected in five texts, in addition to the poetry of lamentation in this period as we have alluded to it within the study as well as the general sources for history and civilisation.
The five texts which we have just referred to are the following: Maqtal al-Husayn by Abu Mikhnaf Lut ibn Yahya. This text is preserved in the Ta 'rikh of Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari. [34] Maqatil al-Talibiyyin by Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani (d. 356). Kitab al-Futuh by Ibn A'tham Abu Muhammad Ahmad (d. 314). This book is also extensively reported in the Maqtal al-Husayn by al-Khawarizmi. Kitab al Irshad by Shaykh al-Mufid Muhammad ibn Numan. Maqtal al-Husayn by al-Khawarizmi Among these texts we can see that Abu Mikhnaf's has brevity, historical accuracy and a sensitive portrayal with the emotional outbursts being very limited.
The poetic element is rare except for the material organically related to the story of the battle. In the later texts we can see an increase in the presentation of the details, a concern to mention virtue and merit, a growth in the emotional expressions and a richness in extraneous poetic material which is not organically connected to the battle, whether in poetry of lamentation or poetry of virtues.
To summarise everything which we have mentioned, we can say that in its first stage the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn included a fixed element which was an exposition of the tragedy of al-Husayn together with criticism of the Umayyad and 'Abbasid government. This criticism was either explicitly stated or given in allusions depending on what was possible in the light of the circumstances of the rites of remembrance and the safety of the participants from attack by the authorities or by fanatical anti-Shi' ites.
The rites of remembrance developed during this stage in terms of form and content as we have mentioned earlier in this study. The development in mode was concentrated on the content in four ways: an expansion of the exposition of the details and historical background of the tragedy; the growth of the reports about virtues in the rites of remembrance; the integration of prose and poetry; and the inclusion in the rites of remembrance of the sufferings of the Imams of the Holy Family and other'Alid revolutionaries.
2. The Second Stage
In this stage the rites of remembrance preserved the fixed element, namely the account of the tragedy and criticism of the authorities. At this stage, however, the criticism of the Umayyads and 'Abbasids was direct as they no longer had any existence in the political life of Iraq, Iran and other Islamic countries, except in a formal way which had no value as a result of what took place in Mamluk Egypt.
Yet this clear direct criticism was now merely words without any real content. It was a theoretical criticism of something which no longer existed. Direct criticism of the contemporary authorities was a dangerous business which exposed the critics to the greatest dangers, sometimes death. We doubt, whether the direct criticism of the Umayyads and the 'Abbasids in this stage contained any attitude towards the contemporary authorities, which might have arisen out of a clear understanding of the guidance possible through the memory of al-Husayn, in the way which we indicated took place on some occasions in the first stage where there was indirect criticism of contemporary authorities.
At this stage the memory of al-Husayn had lost its political and social guidance, in the understanding of the Shi'ite, towards the plight which he was suffering as a result of the policies of despotic rulers. It had become a ceremony which was merely related to the Hereafter except on very rare occasions which sometimes might occur. Shaykh al-Turayhi has reported what appears to be his view of the function of the rites of remembrance in his work, al-Muntakhab My brothers, weep and lament much for this great and noble man so that you may obtain a good reward from the great Lord. God has made our following them in the actions which he has made possible, our weeping for them with abundant tears and cursing their enemies, the Veople of error, take the place of fighting alongside in the day of the battle.3
We doubt, however, whether he meant by 'their enemies, the people of error,' anyone except the Umayyads and the 'Abbasids and their governors who had persecuted the Holy Family. We think it very probable that he was not referring by this expression and others like it to every wrongdoer and oppressor of the people among the rulers and their supporters. This is supported by the fact that the examples which he gave were the rulers and governors who have been directly oppressive to the Holy Family by killing, imprisonment, terrorisation, confiscation, the destruction of graves and the like, without extending it to include ever wrongdoer and oppressor.
The content of the first session which he gives in the book, al-Muntakhab, is evidence for that. That was the position with regard to the fixed element. As far as changes were concerned, these occurred in the rites of remembrance in developments of form and mode which were of very great importance. The developments in form appeared in the following two matters.
1. The days of memorial for celebrating the rites of remembrance became more fixed and more organised. Similarly the different human elements involved in the rites of remembrance, including wailing chanters, reciters and story-tellers became more numerous. However, the rites of remembrance in this stage were subject to persecution and restrictions in nearly every part of the Islamic world.
The roots of Shi'ism in Egypt had been cruelly and savegely torn out after the fall of the Fatimids and the coming to power of the Ayyubids. The same was the case in Syria. In this stage, too, the Turks spread their authority to Iraq. Sectarian fanaticism against the Shi' a received protection which enabled it to persecute Shi' ite activities, and especially the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn. This was among the reasons why these activities were restricted to traditional Shi'ite centres (the sacred shrines in Iraq) and to those other places where the rites of remembrance could be held in secret or almost in secret. The only area in this stage where the rites of remembrance flourished was Iran after the Safavids came to power. In Iran Shi'ism became strong and its activities in every field flourished. The chief of these was the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn, which thrived under the Safavids.
2. The Second Stage In this stage, striking oneself became a firm element in some of the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn in Iraq and Iran.. This kind of striking oneself was one of the customs which the Buwayhids had introduced into the rites of remembrance. It was accepted by the emergence of a kind of rhythmic poetry in classical Arabic or in colloquial. The rites of remembrance used to begin or end with it and it was accompanied by striking the chest with the top half of the body being naked, or by striking the chest when still covered by clothes.
This used to happen in the rites of remembrance for men. In the women's rites the striking had been a basic element, as we have already indicated in this study, and it is still so today. So much for the development in form. As for the development in the mode of content of the rites of remembrance, our evidence for that in this stage is the following books: (i) Manaqib Ali Abi Talib (The Outstanding Qualities of the Family of Abu Talib) by Ibn Shahrashub al-Sarawi al-Mazandaram (d. 588); (ii) Muthu al-Ahzan (The Arousal of Grief) by Ibn Numma al-Hilli (d. 645); (iii) Al-Luhuf fi Qatla al Zufuf (Sorrow for the Dead on the Banks) by Ibn Tawus al-Hilli (d. 664). In addition to these, there are the poetic works which were composed in this period. The development in mode appears in the following matters:
i. The Language of the Rites of Remembrance
The language of the rites of remembrance is quiet and objective at the beginning of the first stage. It preserves this character for a long period of time during this stage. Then a change began to enter into this aspect towards the end of the stage so that it has become emotional in the second stage. The object of the language in the first stage was to portray the events of the revolution. In the second stage the object has come to be to arouse the mind and the emotions of the people attending the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn.
Just as rhyming-prose (saj') became an established feature in the style of writing and oratory in that period, so it did in the language of the rites of remembrance when the matter was not concerned with reading an historical text word for word and only depended on the composition of the preacher or the writer. Mostly this rhyming prose was weak, devoid of artistic grandeur. In what follows we will present two texts, one of which is by Ibn Numma and the other by Ibn Tawus in order to try and give a picture of the emotional language of the rites of remembrance. Ibn Numma wrote: (Al-Husayn) said: 'Arise for death which is inevitable.
They rose and the two armies met, foot-soldiers and horsemen. The battle was fierce. Because of the dust that raised, courage was hidden. The hard strong spear whetted the black blood while the Yemeni sword was heard striking into heads. Al-Husayn, peace be with him, did not find anyone to listen to his warning amid those who fell in war. They had disbelieved in the Apostle without preferring the cutting swords and spear-tips. There was nothing left between them except skulls and sliding swords. You could see the heads falling like down-pouring rain and burnt-out sparks. You could recite verses in describing the situation because you knew the battle would make them become decayed bones. [36]
Ibn Tawus wrote about the return of Zayn al-'Abidin with the prisoners to Medina: Then he, the blessings of God be with him, journeyed to Medina with his family. He looked at the house of his people and his men. He saw those houses wailing in the name of their circumstances and wailing at the misfortunes of their tears as they fiowed for the loss of their defenders and their men. They grieve for them with the grief of bereaved women. They ask the people at the halting place about them. Their grief was excited by the deaths of their killed ones.
The houses call out for their sake and for the bereaved among them. They say, 'People, forgive me wailing and lamenting. Help me in this noble tragedy. These people, at whose loss I grieve and for whose noble conduct I yearn, were the companions of my days and nights, the lights of my darkness and my dawns, the sinews of my honour and my pride, the causes of my strength and my victory, and what is left of my suns and my moons.'
Rhyming-prose continued to be a permanent style in the language of the rites of remembrance until the end of this stage and the beginning of the third stage, insofar as Shaykh Fakhr al-Dm al-Turayhi (d. 1075) was a representative of the second stage of the rites of remembrance through his book al-Muntakhab. This book represents a development in the manner of writing the account of the death of al-Husayn. He divided it into sessions (majalis) and parts in accordance with the nights and days on which the rites of remembrance were held. I maintain that Shaykh al-Turayhi used emotional rhyming-prose in writing the sessions which he compiled in al-Muntakhab. In that way we know that the stage began with the language of the rites of remembrance in emotional rhyming- prose and ended in this form as well.
ii. Historical Accuracy
In this stage the scope was extended to include embellishments in the narration of events and became particularly tolerant in accepting accounts connected with actions which would lead to exciting the emotions. Among the examples of that is the account of the marriage of al-Qasim ibn al-Hasan ibn 'Ali ibn 'Abi Talib to the daughter of al-Husayn. Another is the report that the 'Abbasid Caliph, al-Mutawakkil, continued to plough up the grave of al-Husayn for twenty years.37
Both of these reports were untrue. When al-Qasim ibn al-Hasan died as a martyr, he was still a youth who had not reached the age to marry, and there is no reliable historical text concerning this marriage. Similarly the period of the caliphate of al-Mutawakkil, from the time he was given the pledge of allegiance to the time he was killed, was about fifteen years. (He was given the pledge of allegiance in 232 and he was killed in 247). Other manifestations of this lack of historical accuracy are found in the acceptance of the suggestions of some of the writers about the death of al-Husayn as if they were historical facts.
iii. Poetry
In their first stage the rites of remembrance limited the poetry to what was organically connected with the Battle of Karbala', like the rajaz rhymes of the fighters and similar things. Then during the first stage the rites of remembrance developed and began to include poetry of lament and about virtues composed by later poets.
It might even be the composition of the author of the particular account of the death of al-Husayn himself. This is what we find in Ibn Numma al-Hillis book, Muthir al-Ahzan, where most of the pieces of poetry appropriate to the situation which he is discussing in his account of the death of al-Husayn are his own compositions. He, even, introduced poetic material which was alien to the account of the death of al-Husayn, as though it might be appropriate for it. Thus he wrote: 'I have concluded this book of mine with the verses of Ibn Zaydun al-Maghribi which cut deep into the heart of the grief-stricken like a javelin. [38]
Then he quoted a long passage from a famous poem of Ibn Zaydun. This development which occurred in the rites of remembrance towards the end of the first stage increased in a distinct and clear way in the second stage. Thus the poetry of lamentation about the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn became, in the very late period, basic material in the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn. Similarly the poetry about virtue which was composed in praise of the Holy Family also became basic material in the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn.
Al-Turayhis book, al-Muntakhab, is the best text to represent the development which took place in the rites of remembrance during this stage. It includes poetry of lamentation and of virtues composed about Imam al-Husayn or the other martyrs from the Hashimites so that frequently the session of the rites of remem- brance begins with a piece of lamentation poetry or poetry about virtues and ends with a long poem by one of the later poets.
Similarly within the session there are included pieces of poetry connected with the rites of remembrance or the virtues of the Holy Family or some other poetry which seems appropriate to mention in the course of a story which has been introduced into the rites of remembrance in order to serve the purpose of emphasising the virtues or the tragedy.
iv. The Virtues of the Holy Family
Among the developments which were introduced into the rites of remembrance during its first stage was their inclusion of accounts of the virtues which were reported from the Apostle concerning the Imams of the Holy Family or what was reported in praise and honour of them by other men of Islam. This characteristic clearly increased in the rites of remembrance during their second stage. Special books about the great qualities of the Holy Family were compiled. The book, Manaqib Ali Abi' .Talib, by Ibn Shahrashub exemplifies this in the second stage of the rites of remembrance.
The chapter devoted to Imam al-Husayn begins by giving general reports about his virtues from Imam al-Sadiq, from Abu Hurayra reporting from the Apostle of God, from al-Mufaddal ibn ' Umar reporting from Imam al-Sadiq, from al-Suddi, the exegete, from Imam Musa ibn Ja'far and others, together with poetry about his virtues by al-Zahi, al-Qadi ibn Qadus al-Basri, Kashajim and al-Bashnawi. Then he devotes a section to the miracles of Imam al-Husayn which he concludes with some poetry about his virtues by al-Susi and al-Saruji. He follows this with a section which is about the miracles and signs from Imam al-Husayn after his death, which is permeated with poetry of lament.
After this comes a section about the noble moral qualities of Imam al-Husayn, which is full of poetry about his virtues. He, then, goes on to a section about the Prophet's love for Imam al-Husayn, which contains much poetry appropriate to that subject. He follows this with a section about his noble accomplishments, which he concludes with a piece of poetry about his virtues. That is followed by a section giving his dates and different names, which is concluded with a poem in praise of his virtues which he attributes to Imam al-Husayn on the Day of 'Ashura'. A further section comes with expressions about his virtues and great qualities, which is also permeated with poetry about his virtues.
Finally, there comes a section about his martyrdom. Since we find that the extent of the concern with virtues has become deep and increased its roots in the rites of remembrance for al-Husayn in their second stage in the way we have just described, we will also find that the extent of the concern with virtues in the rites of remembrance is, at the end of their second stage, interposing itself with the rites of remembrance themselves, and becoming part of its internal fabric. The book, al-Muntakhab, by al-Tarihi gives us a picture of the growth of this extensive concern with virtues in the internal structure of the rites of remembrance. Here we find the virtues mentioned alongside the incidents of the tragedy in order to give a feeling of its grievousness and to form in the listener feelings of respect, love and disaster.
The first section of the third session, for example, is devoted to the second night of the first ten days of Muharram. It begins by mentioning some of the virtues of the Commander of the faithful, 'Ali ibn 'Abi Talib. Within this it mentions the attitudes of those who reject them. Then the author turns his attention to the tragedy of Karbala'. He says: '. . . Hold true to the truths of the tragedies to his offspring, his sons, his Shi' a and those who loved him. Only look at the dead on the ground, or the imprisoned one as he suffered throughout his journey, or the unveiled women on the humps of camels whose faces are scrutinised by me ....' Then he mentions the learning of Imam al-Husayn in the time of 'Umar ibn al-Khattab. He goes on to say: 'How strange are people who know their noble virtue but still commit dreadful acts against them ....' [39] Al-Turayhi continues in this session and others in this style of mixing virtues together with the tragic events.

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