Friday, February 10, 2006

Ashura

It is the new year of Hegira. This year, which started on 31January, has the number 1427. Muslim Shias have certain rituals during the first ten days of the year. They commemorate the death of their third Imam, Hussein bin Ali bin Abi-Talib, who was killed in the year 61 Hegira (683 A.D.). By the way, bin & ibn have the same meaning in Arabic which is ‘son’. Hussein bin Ali is the grandson of Prophet Mohammed of Islam. He is the son of Fatima, daughter of Prophet Mohammed.

Ali is a cousin & son in law of Prophet Mohammed. He ruled as the forth caliph of the Prophet. His period was unstable because of a struggle between him and the governor of Syria, appointed by the second caliph (Omar). Mu’auyah bin Abi-Sufyan, governor of Syria, was a very ambitious man. He wanted so hard to be the caliph, so he used the tragedy of killing the third caliph, by the mob, as a pretext to declare disobedience to the forth caliph. After exchanging many letters, skirmishes & a battle, Ali was assassinated. Ali’s son Hassan was to be chosen as the fifth caliph. Mu’auyah would not let Hassan be the new caliph, so he caused lot of trouble again. After negotiation between the two rivals, Hassan consented to renounce the caliph position & to declare Mu’auyah as the caliph. Hassan, the 2nd Shias’ Imam, made an agreement with Mu’auyah that he would be the successor of Mu’auyah.

Later on, Hassan was poisoned according to the Shias’ story, and Mu’auyah declared his son, Ye’zeed, as his heir to the caliphate. When Ye’zeed became the caliph, Hussein, brother of Hassan, was pledged allegiance by the Iraqis through a series of letters sent to him in Mecca. Hussein was uninterested in the matter of caliphate, since he was a devout Muslim. But the continuous letters from Iraq, and Ye’zeed’s playfulness as a caliph, awakened the reformer in Hussein. So he traveled to Iraq to join his supporters in a town called (Kuffa, about 160Km south to Baghdad). At the same time Ye’zeed appointed a tough man as his representative in Iraq & as the ruler of Kuffa. Amazingly, this man managed to change the standpoint of the Kuffis to be against Imam Hussein.

The events reached the peak on the 10th day of the year 61 Hegira. On that day Imam Hussein, and more than seventy persons of his family & escorts, were killed after a quick unequal battle. The Umayyads, from which Mu’auyah & Ye’zeed descend, is the cousin family of Mohammed’s. Both families descend from a tribe called Quraish, but the Umayyads might be described as power seekers and had a pragmatic perspective. The Umayyads adopted repression as a way of ruling, since the killing of the grandson of Prophet Mohammed caused to them lot of uprisings.

‘Shiaa’ literally means partisans or devotees; it is the name used to refer to Ali & his descendants’ followers. The Shias believes that Ali should be the caliph after Prophet Mohammed, and his sons later. Such demand represented a continuous threat to every muslim ruler. As a result the Shias day after another has become a kind of unorganized political opposition. Each year they try to express themselves through the Ashura rituals. These rituals have no relation to the main Islam doctrine. Because of these rituals, the muslim radical extremists view the Shias as polytheist and deserve death. Repression has its deep roots in the Arab & Islamic culture, which continued till 2003 here in Iraq. The Shias since then are free to practice their rituals. Still, they are a preferable target to the suicide bombers sent to them by the muslim extremists.

The Shias’ rituals are some kind of repentance for not championing Imam Hussein on that historical day. Moreover, the rituals represent a way of spiritual purification from daily wrongdoings. On the other hand, some people view the days of Ashura as a recreation, since many activities take place. Free food is available everywhere; parade-like processions organized; poetry depicting the tragedy of Hussein is recited; characterization of the events of that historical day is presented in streets; processions of people lashing their backs with chains can be seen; others gather in groups listening to poems recited in certain rhythm hitting their chests by hands; clergymen give ceremonial speeches & recite the epic of the tragedy; and many other activities which I may not recall.

3 Comments:

Blogger Running Man said...

i have no idea what that is all about.

9:30 AM  
Blogger Solomon2 said...

Yes, but why is it important that Muslim leadership be linked to the desecendants of Mohammed at all? I ask this only out of ignorance, not hostility.

9:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This seems to me a pure power struggle than any spiritual quest on the part of followers. Cousins and brothers fighting among each other and killing one another only means politics of power. If prophet (PUBH) was really respected and revered how could they kill his daughter, son in law and his grand children cold bloodedly . It beats me to understand the psyche of the times.

And why Allah, the all knowing, has not ordained and granted the Prophet,the chosen one with a worthy son or at least a non controversial, acceptable to all type successor to the Prophet than allow them fghit and kill among themselves?

By the way 'Ashura' in Sanskrit means 'Demon'

6:21 PM  

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