Without any doubt, the mourning ceremonies held in honor of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) are among the highly important Islamic sacred traditions and we must do our best to hold these ceremonies with ever greater grandeur every year. These ceremonies are of such great religious importance that, under certain circumstances and in order to protect them against the enemies of Islam, they can turn in to a collective duty (al-wājib al-kifāī) from a religious perspective. This is due to the fact that these ceremonies serve as an effective means through which the permanence of Islam and the school of the Ahl-al-Bayt (a) is ensured.
In light of this reality, it is necessary that we hold these ceremonies with the proper planning and with the intention of culture building in accordance with the way of life of the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa). In this article, the most important elements in the mourning ceremonies of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) will be focused upon and discussed. We will utilize the viewpoints of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi in understanding the various subtle aspects related to these important ceremonies.
Sincerity in Action
One of the most important requisites for gaining a better understanding of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) and his message is sincerity in action and intention during the course of the mourning ceremonies. Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has emphasized this issue and he has stated: Purify your intentions when mourning for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) and refrain from only inviting certain famous speakers in order to gain larger crowds; utilize various different lecturers and eulogizers.
Resolving Various Societal Problems through the Use of the Mourning Ceremonies
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has mentioned the following in regards to proper mourning which will bring about the intended results: Mourning for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) is a very valu-able type of investment which will help to resolve many societal problems which we face. Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has also stated: One can utilize the mourning ceremonies in order to explain various social, cultural, and political issues to the people.
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has mentioned that the role of the lecturers, eulogizers, and financial supporters of these mourning ceremonies is key in bringing about the best possible results. He has said in this regard that: The Shias possess a resource by the name of mourning for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa); during our own time period, this is something which is run by the lecturers, eulogizers, and the financial supporters who fund these ceremonies. If these three groups are reformed, then the mourning ceremonies for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) will take on an extraordinary energy, through which many things will become possible!
The Necessity of Maintaining the Traditional Styles of Mourning in Line with the Teachings of the Infallibles (ʿa)
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has emphasized the necessity of maintaining the traditional style of the mourning ceremonies in line with the teachings of the Infallibles (ʿa). He has stated in this regard that: The mourning ceremonies must continue in the traditional manner based up-on the teachings of the Infallibles (ʿa) and these must continue to be guided by the guidance of the respected scholars. The banner of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) must be raised in all places all around the world. The gatherings of the people in public and private mourning must be held with ever greater grandeur and organization.
The financial supporters of these mourning ceremonies must continue to support and preserve these traditional methods of mourning. At the same time, they must be vigilant to keep these gatherings simple in nature and abstain from any form of waste, extravagance, or pretention. They must strive their hardest in order to attract the youth since this segment of society is in the most danger and they are the ones who will end up sacrificing the most in the defense of their faith.
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has then explained various issues related to the tunes which are utilized by certain eulogizers during the course of these mourning ceremonies. He has said in this regard that: The eulogizers must abstain from inappropriate tunes during the course of their work and they must try to make use of more serious lyrics so that the ceremony is not lessened in impact or dishonored.
The Necessity of Increasing and Combining the Emotional Impact of the Mourning Ceremonies with a Greater Level of Knowledge and Understanding
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has emphasized the key importance of combining the emotional impact of the mourning ceremonies with the proper knowledge and understanding. He has mentioned in this regard that: The mourning ceremonies must be held with great grandeur and this is something which will hurt the enemies of Islam greatly. The level of grandeur and perfection must increase year by year and whatever actions lessen this impact are censured and condemned.
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has then emphasized the essential nature of enhancing our understanding of what took place in Karbala and he has said: It is best that the respected lecturers in their speeches, and the honored eulogizers in their eulogies, all stand together in regards to their message. They must help to convey the message of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) to the masses and this can include the teachings of the Quran, the message of freedom from every type of slavery and dependency, the enj o i ning of the good, or the fight against oppression, tyranny, and corruption. With this goal in mind, and through utilizing the historical record, the youth can be better educated in regards to Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) and the reasons behind his fight against Yazīd.
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has explained the methodology of the mourning ceremonies and he has said: The best method of mourning is to organize huge gatherings where the holy goals of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) are mentioned and where the history of Karbala and its detailed analysis are explained for the people. The people must also organize mourning processions where they chant enlightening slogans and where well-thought-out pamphlets and posters with informative contents are handed out…
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has also mentioned the importance of reflecting upon the deeper messages of what happened at Karbala. Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has emphasized this point and he has said: The lecturers should not only suffice by the simple recitation of what took place at Karbala. They must analyze the roots of what took place in Karbala and they must reflect upon the blessings which came about from this great sacrifice. They must also mention the critical role of the people in preserving this great custom and way of life.
Rejecting Disgrace and Dishonor
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has explained the methods of mourning which builds people in a wholly constructive way and he has explained the things which should be avoided during the course of these mourning ceremonies. He has stated in this regard that: The lecturers and eulogizers must be careful to speak about the true message of ‘Ashura and they should abstain from mentioning any incorrect issues which may pertain to weakness or disgrace. The message of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) was that he would never accept disgrace (in bowing before Yazīd) and so we must reflect this message correctly and abstain from anything which goes against it.
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has continued that the duty of the eulogizers is to convey the correct message of the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) and this is particularly true when it comes to the message of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) in Ashura. He has stated in this regard that: The eulogizers must pay close attention to the words which they are reciting. These words must emphasize the true message of the champions of Karbala and it must not contain anything which will degrade this message amongst the masses. The actions of the Imam (ʿa) and his companions were the actions of champions and there was no room for any disgrace or compromise amongst them. The words which the eulogizers recite must also be accurate and they should be careful to never utilize any sources which are considered to be unauthentic.
Refraining from Superstition
According to Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, it is necessary to refrain from reciting various stories which have no historical basis, or those stories which may have a historical basis but are exaggerated in nature. In fact, one must refrain from anything which will bring disgrace to the religion and to the mourning ceremonies of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa). Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has mentioned in this regard that: The enemies strive hard to weaken the culture of mourning for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa). Towards this end, they may attempt to add certain superstitions or they may attempt to reduce the greatness of this event through other means. Therefore, those who are not well educated must be exceedingly careful not to utter words of disbelief (Kufr) and they must be careful not to exaggerate anything in regards to Ashura. They must furthermore refrain from harming their bodies and they must abstain from anything which the people consider as disgraceful. They must never give any excuses to the enemies and this will cause the enemies of the religion to lose hope in this regard.
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has spoken out against the dangers of adding superstitious elements to the mourning ceremonies of Ashura. He has further mentioned in this regard that: The people must abstain from Tatbir [i.e. striking oneself on the head with a blade as a form of mourning] during the mourning ceremonies for such acts bring harm to the Shia school of thought and they also bring great harm to Islam in general. It would be much more worthy if the mourners dedicated themselves to giving blood to those who need it in the form of blood drives. This will bring strength to the Muslim community and the Quran has mentioned that: ‘…and whoever saves a life is as though he had saved all mankind….’
A Key Element in the Mourning of Ashura is the Creation of Unity
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has spoken about the importance of maintaining unity amongst the Muslim Ummah; he has considered this as a key element which must be taken in to consideration in the mourning ceremonies of Ashura. He has mentioned in this regard that: We must never do anything which creates a break in the unity of the Muslims. The greatness of the mourning ceremonies of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) must never be lessened through the creation and escalation of conflict; if this is allowed to take place, it will cause happiness amongst the enemies of Islam. From this perspective, the people must abstain from anything which will bring disgrace to the Shia school of thought or anything which will cause disunity amongst the ranks of the Muslims.
Necessary Considerations regarding Proper Group Mourning Ceremonies
It is clear that many of the mourning ceremonies which take place for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) are performed in groups. These gatherings are the essential unit through which the tragedy of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) is relived and his many lessons are disseminated. In light of this reality, there are certain necessary points which must be taken in to consideration in order that these gatherings are performed in a correct manner and end up having the proper effects within the greater Islamic society. Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has delved in to some of these necessary elements and he has mentioned: The proper religious gathering must have a religious scholar at its head who can gradually explain the various aspects of Islam to the people who are there. Such a scholar can teach the people the things which they particularly need and he can also guide them in regards to Islamic ethics and morality.
Similarly, these religious gatherings must have a Quran reciter and a eulogizer. The Quran should be recited as well as certain types of suitable and relevant poetry. The founding members of such gatherings should also use their gatherings as a means of helping the poor (both within the gathering, as well as outside of it). The gathering also needs capable organizers who are part of the founding members (or at least consultants should be brought in from outside who can perform this duty); this will allow various decisions to be made properly in order that the group can progress in an efficient and positive manner. If any problems come (as they usually do) such people can help to quickly resolve them. The intention of these people must always be to help the gathering reach a higher state of faith and a more refined state of behavior and ethics. These gatherings must be formed with the intention of helping the Shia school of thought to spread to a more perfect degree amongst the wider society.
The Necessity of Mapping out the Proper Strategy in the Mourning Ceremonies for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa)
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has mentioned the key role played by the religious eulogizers who serve the cause of the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) and the necessity of proper planning in reaching a set of suitable goals. He has mentioned in this regard that: The eulogizers must have proper planning in regards to what they are doing. The realization of this necessity, after gaining the proper permission from the religious authorities , will give legitimacy to their actions… the gatherings in which these plans are disseminated must also be taken seriously.
A Final Word
In the present era, mourning for the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) has taken on a different hue. Some individuals, who know next to nothing of jurisprudence and the religious rulings, have begun to consider themselves as experts in regards to the rules related to the mourning ceremonies. These ignorant individuals have pulled others towards a path of great danger without realizing it themselves. These individuals have utilized these mourning ceremonies as a means of performing actions which go against the very essence of Islam. Without any doubt, mourning for the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) is one of the recommended actions of Islam but safeguarding the rights of others is considered as obligatory in Islam. Therefore, we must perform our mourning in a way where the rights of all the people are safeguarded.
Researched and edited at editorial deputy of his eminence office