In the first part of the blog post I tried to highlight some of the events which surrounded the Tragedy of Karbala. And now as promised I am presenting the second part, in which I will discuss the reason behind public mourning in moharram, big Juloos or processions, Azadaari, Maatam and related rituals and their importance.
Tragedy of Karbala was a remarkable event in the history of mankind, there exists several aspects of understanding it and huge research has already been done, but still we come across people who have doubts, and they say:
It was a war, it is sad people got killed, but why mourn so long?
We also feel sad on the death of Imam Husain and his family but why do you take out these processions?
Why Taboot(coffin), Zuljanah(Imam Husain’s Horse), Tazia (Imitation of tomb of Imam Husain) and Alams (Flags), Camels etc in the procession? Why do people kiss the Taboot and cry over it ?
Why these religious lectures or Majlis with huge congregations of mourners ?
Why beat yourself over the death of Imam Husain?
and many more …
Several scholars have very successfully explained these points but I feel at times that they did’nt convey it well. Still a huge number of people don’t have access to those literature and their lectures, and on the contrary illiteracy spreads like fire and that’s what we now see, people gaping with open mouths full of doubt and confusion.
Here I will just try to share some of the points which I got to know from different sources and elders and which I feel might be helpfull for others. I am a novice to this very strict and touchy subject but still I will put forward whatever best I can as per my study. And this blog welcomes all its readers and followers to comment and clarify to strengthen this subject and the motive.
To start with we will have to go a bit into the history and the surrounding events. After the horrifying day of Ashura when all the men sacrificed their life, the Yazidi army attacked their tents and started burning them. They captured each and every member of the family, women were insulted, their kids were beaten mercilessly. The soldiers of Yazidi army didn’t actually knew the background of these people.
Yazid was genetically barbarian. He knew about his grandmother Hinda who chewed the liver of Hazrat Hamza and about his grand father who had cruel conflicts with The Prophet. He had seen his father Maviyah fighting and conspiring against the father of Husain, Ali-ibne-AbiTalib. But he knew very well that this war cannot be just won by power, so his team spread the rumor and misinformation. Those were the times of lack of means of reliable communication. People used to believe on accounts which they could not confirm. Those who used to go against the rumor were generally negated or bought.
So the army was under the impression that they actually butchered enemies of religion and they successfully won over the mutiny. What they didn’t knew was that the women and kids whom they were torturing were infact the members of the family of their own Prophet Mohammad (asmwam) and the rebel named Husain who has been mercilessly killed after being kept hungry and thirsty for three straight days is the same Imam Husain who has been the favorite of their own Prophet. It was the same Husain of whom the Prophet said that he along with his brother Hasan will be the guardian of the gates of heaven and no one can pass without their will.
There are reported incidences before the day of Ashura where some men in Yazid’s army got to know of this secret, some of them switched sides like Hur and his family who later sacrificed their life with the Imam, while there were many who out of shear fright ran away and left Karbala before the plunder started.
The prisoners of Karbala included widows, children, sick and injured men and women. After the tragedy of Karbala these women and children were taken to the capital of Syrian Empire. The painful journey was of around a thousand kilometers. The children who could not walk were tied to back of camels and were given no or very little food. The people belonging to the cities and towns on way hurled abuses and threw stones at the poor prisoners. The women were not allowed to mourn the death of their husbands and kids. They were insulted, beaten and tortured. This caravan reached the city of Damascus which was the seat of the throne of Ameer-e- Shaam or the King of Damascus – Yazeed ibne- Mawiyaah.
The prisoners were brought in the court before Yazeed, all the severed heads of the men were also presented. During these trial proceedings Imam Zainulabedin(Son of Imam Husain ) and Hazrat Zainab (Sister of Imam Husain and aaughter of Amir-ul-Momineen Ali ibne-Aabi Talib) gave some of the most beautiful lectures and sermons before the people. These sermons were eye opening for people who got to know about the actual events of karbala and the atrocities committed. They also understood the reason behind Imam Husain’s stand against the tyranny of Yazeed.
These sermons and lectures given by both Imam Zainul Abedin and Janabe Zainab laid the foundation of the current day Moharram Majlalees and Congregations. The aim is to touch the various aspects of the events around Karbala and also the Islamic values and philosophy. The purpose remains to keep people informed about the great sacrifice and also inculcat true values of Islam and the teachings of Ahlulbait among the people.
After around a year in captivity these prisoners were released from the prison. During this year the masses got to know about the misdeeds done by Yazid. Even some of the nobles started to revolt. There was so much pressure on Yazid that he was not left with any option but to release the family of Prophet Mohammad from the prison.
After the release the first thing which Zainab requested was for a place where they can mourn the dead. The most painful thing done to them was that after the death of Imam Husain and his companions the ladies and kids were not allowed to mourn. They were not allowed to cry. And now the first things after the release which Zainab wanted was a place where she and the family can mourn the dead. They wanted this day from long time.
So a place was given to them which laid the foundation of first Ashur Khana or Imam Bada. The ladies cried over the dead, people from around the villages came and paid there respects. The crying over the Shaheeds of Karbala then became a regular practice, where year over year people started mourning the death of the family of Prophet Mohammad. It was also a kind of a protest and reaction to the misdeeds of Yazid and the oppression which earlier barred them from crying and mourning. Imam Bada became a common place for mourning during Moharram and also a place to deliver sermons and majlis.
There were many people at that time who could not reach for Imam Husain’s help and they repented for this and started beating themselves in agony and pain. They wanted to die with Husain in Karbala and they failed in doing so. Some of the people came to know about the karbala much after the death of Husain and they too repented they wanted to be part of Husain’s camp. The practice of beating while mourning started as a practice to repent and then overtime people beat themselves in pain over the helplessness of Husian and his camp.
People started taking out huge processions on the roads in towns and villages to spread the message of Karbala and to aprise people about the reality. The processions were mainly designed to inform people about the events. In those days people used to show the burnt and bloodied flags, clothes and other items of the the shaheeds to the people on the roads. Even the horse used by husain and his armour was demonstrated so that people should believe. This practice continued in other parts of the world where people started demonstrating copies of the sacred articles like flags, horse etc.
A coffin became a part of all of the demonstrations because the martyrs of Karbala did hot have a proper burial and nobody could raise their coffins. Simlarly Tazia’s or the Imitation of tomb of Imam Husain became part of the processions for the people who could not visit the tomb in Karbala, Iraq. This became a way to pay respects.
So by this all through the world the events around Karbala got highlighted. People started understanding the message. but the practice continues and it really is the longest running demonstration against the tyranny and oppression of a ruler. This is a way of doing a propaganda and the aim is to let people understand the true Husain and the reason of his Great Sacrifice.
Hope I was able to bring and clear some of the points which I aimed at.