The importance of spreading the teachings of the religion and honoring the sacred religious traditions pertaining to Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) and his sacrifice (as well as honoring the virtues of the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa)) are not hidden to anyone. One very important point in this regard is that we pay attention to the guidelines provided by Muslim scholars and jurists concerning the religious limits within which the mourning ceremonies of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) must be held. These are guidelines which will help us to increase knowledge and the love for the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) amongst the people. Let us look into these guidelines through the guidance and wisdom of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi:
The Necessity of Selecting Proper Names for the Groups Which Organize the Mourning Ceremonies of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa)
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has explained that one of the potential problems which exist is the s e l e c tion of unsuitable names for the groups which help organize the mourning ceremonies for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa). He has said in this regard: Sometimes, some of the groups s e l e c t names for themselves which are not good ones. Now, I am not saying that these names are Ḥarām (religiously unlawful) but they may serve as an excuse in the hands of the enemies who will mock the faith and say: What kind of a group is this which s e l e c ts such a name! Instead of such potentially harmful names, the groups can s e l e c t proper and worthy names such as: ‘the lovers of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa)’, or ‘the servants of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa)’, or ‘Fervent adherents of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa)’. These are much better names…
The Necessity of Fighting against Religious Populism
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has slammed the religious populism practiced by some eulogizers and lecturers who explain various religious concepts incorrectly to the public and trivialize issues such as divine forgiveness merely to keep the public interested in attending the mourning ceremonies. Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has said in this regard: The respected eulogizers and lecturers should not give people the green light for sinning through their words during the mourning ceremonies for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa). For example, they should not tell people that all of the sins which they have committed throughout the year will be forgiven if they attend the mourning ceremony of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) during the month of Muḥarram.
Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) was martyred for the sake of the religion and so we must strive to strengthen the faith and not weaken it. When we look at Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) and his sacrifice, we see that he was essentially killed for the sake of prayer. When we look at the Lady Zaynab, we see that she spent the night of Ashura praying the night prayers. So how can anyone give people the green light that they can sin all year round and just by attending these mourning ceremonies, their every sin will be wiped away? Despite all this, some have depicted a skewed image of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa)’s school through their incorrect practices and by giving the people the green light for sinning!
Exaggeration as a Serious Detriment to the Mourning Ceremonies of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa)
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has critiqued the practices of some of the mourning ceremony groups in exaggerating the standing and the rank of the Infalible Imams (a). He has mentioned the following in this regard: One must abstain from anything which even resembles exaggeration in regards to the Infallibles (ʿa) and other religious notables. The respected eulogizers must always keep this issue in mind, since exaggeration in regards to the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) possesses two primary problems.
The first problem is that it goes against the teachings of Islam, while the second problem is that these exaggerated words will quickly reach the ears of the enemies of Islam through modern day mass media and they will quickly utilize this in telling everyone that Shias are disbelievers (Kāfir). Therefore, everyone must be very careful so that the less educated do not speak words of disbelief or exaggeration during the course of lectures or eulogies.
The Necessity of Utilizing Authentic and Suitable Sources in Speaking about the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa)
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has explained one of the more important detriments to the mourning ceremonies of Ashura caused by distortions created in regards to this event. Thus, in order to eradicate such distortions and protect this great event against similar detriments, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi emphasized the necessity of the lectures and eulogies being based on authentic sources and refrain from using stories and narrations which are unauthentic in nature. Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has made the following remarks in this regard: Poetry and words must either be of words which have directly been narrated (through the authentic sources) or they must be genuinely representative of what the Imam (ʿa) and his companions may have been feeling in accordance to the situation they were in. The dignity and the position of the Imam (ʿa) must be preserved when reciting poetry or giving lectures.
For example, a eulogizer recited the following: ’Oh Imam al-Husayn (ʿa), I am certain that you only wish to see Akbar be married’. This statement awfully lessens the greatness of Ashura in the eyes of the people. Unfortunately, the people who spread these types of distortions and deviant ideas are limiting Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) to their own limited scope of thought, while the struggle of the Imam (ʿa) was much greater than such trifle things. Therefore, the eulogizers and lecturers must be careful to recite well-thought out works which are in line with the movement of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa). In addition to well-thought out works, these dear individuals must be careful to utilize well-sourced and authentic narrations, and they must do their best to truly present the reality of what took place at Karbala to their audience.
The Necessity of Refraining from Unsuitable Music during the Eulogies
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has explained that another one of the potential problems which can arise in the mourning ceremonies of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) pertains to the use of certain songs which are religiously impermissible. Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has stated in this regard: The songs which are s e l e c ted must be suitable for the mourning ceremony. We have a series of songs which are sad and traditional in nature, and these are quite effective in creating a sense of sadness in the audience. Lately though, we are seeing some instances of songs which are completely unsuitable. These songs are sourced from Western culture or the time of the Shah and they are considered to be completely unlawful from a religious perspective. God willing, the eulogizers will refrain from utilizing such songs . It must also be said that the songs used by the eulogizers should not imitate the unlawful songs…
The Necessity of Properly Educating and Training the Eulogizers
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has considered the comprehensive education of the eulogizers as one of the most important foundational issues which can prevent the occurrence of various distortions and problems in relation to the mourning ceremonies of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa). Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has mentioned in this regard that: The respected eulogizers and lecturers should spend some time in a course pertaining to the methodology of their field and they should follow the traditional methods of mourning for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa).
In reality, performing eulogies is a combination of both knowledge and art, and the previous generation has much valuable experience in this regard which they can transfer to the new generation. Through such trans-generational education, the religious and intellectual scope of thinking can be increased greatly. We hope that the older masters of this art give importance to this issue and they enact a program of action for the education of the youth. Through the fulfillment of this important issue, we hope that our master, Imam al-Mahdi (ʿa), will be pleased with us and that our actions will also be accepted by Imam al-Husayn (ʿa).
The Necessity of Not Encouraging the People to Take Off Their Shirts while Mourning
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has explained that taking off one’s shirt while mourning is one of the problems related to the mourning ceremonies of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa). He has mentioned in this regard that: Do not allow some people to strip off their shirts during the course of the mourning ceremonies. This type of mourning has not been confirmed in the narrations related to the Imams (ʿa) as a legitimate form of mourning and it has easily become an excuse in the hands of the enemies. These types of actions are, in effect, in violation of the proper respect which must be shown to the Imam (a) during the mourning ceremonies held for him. The clear proof of this is that no one would take off their shirt when mourning for their deceased mother or father.
Not Encouraging the People to Harm Their Bodies
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has censured the act of harming one’s body during the course of the mourning ceremonies for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa). He has mentioned in this regard that: The mourning should not be in a way where the body is seriously harmed for our religion has forbidden this. Therefore, the people should not be encouraged to harm their bodies. The mourners of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) should utilize their bodies in defending the religion against the enemies of Islam (and not in hurting themselves uselessly).
Abstaining from Overly Heavy Mourning during the General Mourning Sessions
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has explained that overly heavy mourning should be abstained from. He has mentioned in this regard that: You should abstain from overly heavy mourning as much as possible. The skillful eulogizer is one who is able to take the audience through the calamity from one side and out of it from the other. Such a eulogizer creates an effective atmosphere where the people mourn properly (without overdoing it). Naturally, days such as Ashura (the 10th day of Muḥarram) or Tāsūʿā (the 9th day of Muḥarram) can be considered as exemptions to this rule.
Keeping the Time of Prayer in Mind
One of the most important duties of the lecturers and eulogizers is keeping the time of prayer in mind during the course of the mourning ceremonies for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa). From this perspective, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has stated that: The respected eulogizers and lecturers must keep the time of prayer in mind and they should stop the programs at the proper times so that the audience can perform their prayer. Prayer is the pillar of the religion and it is a means whereby the society is trained and educated.
Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) stood against the volleys of enemy arrows and he offered his prayer on the day of Ashura. This shows us that even under the most difficult of circumstances prayer is still the most important thing for us. Even on the field of battle, we must never put aside our prayers. In light of this reality, we must not allow ourselves to delay our prayers during the mourning ceremonies for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa).
Tatbir: A Pretext in the Hands of the Enemies
It can clearly be stated that one of the biggest dangers and deviations which has taken place in regards to mourning for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) is the act of Tatbir. This has turned into a pretext in the hands of the foreign mass media against the Shia school of thought. Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has definitively taken a stance against such acts and he has stated: The people must refrain from actions such as cutting themselves with blades for these actions are a tool in the hands of the enemies.
The enemies utilize these things to question the entire issue of mourning for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) and this is a tool which they utilize against the Shia school of thought. If anyone must be struck with a blade, it should be the enemies of humanity. We must understand that simply having good intentions is not sufficient; rather, the act itself must essentially be good and holy as well. These types of acts are neither authorized in any of the sourcebooks, nor are they accepted by the wise and logical members of our religious community.
A Final Word
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has mentioned the importance of connecting emotion with knowledge and wisdom in regards to the mourning ceremonies of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa). He has made the following remarks in regards to this issue: Without any doubt, some of the eulogizers and unaware people (naturally the majority of well-educated eulogizers are separate from the aforementioned minority) have mentioned certain incorrect things during their mourning ceremonies for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) or during other events for the rest of the Infallibles (ʿa). In some cases, they have mentioned exaggerated accounts of the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa).
These things have no connection with the essential nature of mourning for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa); the genuine type of mourning is something which awakens the Muslim nation and gives them further awareness and understanding. This is a school of thought which helps people develop more refined human characteristics. The primary reason which we mourn is to keep alive the sacrifice of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) and his goals. This practically refers to the fight against oppression and disgrace. Therefore, the mourning ceremonies must be held in a way where all the people are made aware of the goals of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa). The methods which are used in these ceremonies must be in line with the guidelines of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa), as well as the rest of the Infallibles (ʿa), and the wise members of the Muslim community.
Researched and edited at editorial deputy of his eminence office
. Ghuluw (exaggeration) is an act where certain exaggerated or impossible things are said in regards to an individual in order to embellish their existence or actions. One example of this is the attribution of divinity to Imam ʿAli (ʿa) or the rest of the Imams (ʿa); this would be considered as an act of Ghuluw.
. Tatbir [transliteration of the Arabic term] is an act of mourning which involves making some cuts on the head with a blade so that blood runs on the face