Etiquette of Mourning for Imam Husain (peace be upon him)
Grief and sorrow are not only related to severity of oppression and atrocities but also to the victim of this oppression. The graveness in slapping a young man as compared to an infant is completely different.
Those who object to narrating the incidents of Karbala in Muharram or commemoration of Muharram itself or to the amount of gatherings and processions concerning Muharram or any other related activity, undermine its importance and confine the event of Karbala to a mere historical event. Were they to have an iota of understanding about the victims of these atrocities and what lofty positions these personalities held in the universe, they would admit that not only us, even if the entire universe were to weep over their calamities, it would not fulfill the right of mourning on them. If we consider the position and status of Imam Husain (peace be upon him) and then reflect upon how much we mourn for him, it will be nothing short of an embarrassment for us.
Imam Husain (peace be upon him) is not an ordinary personality. He enjoys the lofty position of “Husain is from me and I am from Husain”. His name adorns the divine throne. According to a tradition from Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny), it is inscribed on the divine throne, “Surely Husain is the lamp of guidance and the ark of salvation”. He is the Proof of Allah over all. He is the Caliph of Allah. His Imamate encompasses the heavens and the earth. There exists not a single creature which has not accepted his Mastership and is not obedient to him. But only among humans and Jinn do we find some who disobey Allah. Else, we do not find any other creation which disobeys Allah. They are all subservient to Allah and hence accept the Imamate and Mastership of those appointed by Allah as their Imam. These personalities are the source of blessings for the universe. The Imamate of Imam Husain (peace be upon him) is not confined to humans only, but every atom of this universe accepts his Imamate and submits to him.
We find concepts in Ziyaarat Jaame’ah such as Imams being referred to as ‘Kahf al-Waraa’ which means ‘safe haven for the creatures’, ‘Bekum tumsik al-samaa’ i.e. ‘the skies are supported due to your existence’, ‘Bekum tunzil al-ghaith” i.e. ‘rains descends due to you’ and ‘Dhalla kullo shaiin lakum’ which means ‘everything is subservient to you’.
If a family consists of thousands of members and its responsibility lies on the shoulders of one person who fulfills their needs, appropriately cares for them, everyone benefits from him, their life depends on him, and a tyrant oppresses such a person and mercilessly murders him, how many people will be affected by such despotism? All those benefiting from him will be affected. The extent of grief over him will be the same as the domain of his bounties.
The entire universe benefits from the bounties of the divine Proof. He is God’s representative on earth. Imam Husain (peace be upon him) was the Proof of God and the divine representative. Entire universe benefitted from his benevolence, bestowals and blessings. Hence, when Imam Husain (peace be upon him) was martyred, the whole universe mourned for him. Skies turned red to express their grief while red winds blew and expressed their sorrow. The sun and the moon were eclipsed. Blood oozed out of the earth. When grief reaches a climax, eyes do not just shed tears, they shed tears of blood. This was the extreme effect of the martyrdom of Imam Husain (peace be upon him) on the universe that everything wept tears of blood. Unless the blood of these innocent personalities is avenged and the killers of Imam Husain (peace be upon him) are truly punished, this condition of grief will continue.
The effects of this oppression did not end in 61 A.H. but continue even today and so does the sorrow and grief. It is strange that people neither condemn the oppressor nor strive to end the oppression and nor do they pass rulings against those heinous acts. On the contrary, they dislike mourning over the oppressed. They do not dislike the sound of the whip of the oppressor, but they are pained by the sound of chest beating. These supporters of the tyrants can prevent us from mourning, but can they also prevent the skies, the sun and the moon from mourning? Can they stop the earth from weeping tears of blood? The grief of Imam Husain (peace be upon him) is not confined to this world. Everything, from the greatest of galaxies to the unnoticeable atoms, mourns over Imam Husain (peace be upon him). Each expresses grief in its own way. This grief is both personal as well as universal.
Apart from being the grandson of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) and the son of Imam Ali (peace be upon him) and Hazrat Fatima (peace be upon her), Imam Husain (peace be upon him) was also the divine representative and the caliph of Allah. He was not martyred due to any personal enmity but just because he was the divine proof and divine representative. Therefore this attack is not upon him but rather upon God. Undoubtedly, Imam Husain (peace be upon him) is called “the blood of Allah”. Therefore, the realm of the grief over Imam Husain (peace be upon him) is equal to the domain of Allah’s divinity.
This is the sorrow of all prophets, messengers, saints, Imams, martyrs, truthful ones, pious people and all the believers and Muslims. Every person who accepts divine monotheism and considers Allah’s worship as an honour will definitely commemorate the grief of the divine proof. This grief and sorrow will also be in proportion to divine cognition. On sighting the moon of Muharram, Imam Musa Kazim (peace be upon him) would be so aggrieved that none would even see him smiling. Imam Reza (peace be upon him) said,
“This sorrow has caused our blood to flow profusely and has made us sob bitterly”.
[Behaar al-Anwaar, vol. 44, p. 284, H. 17]
Imam Husain (peace be upon him) is the “Blood of Allah”. Allah has not promised such lofty rewards for any other act of worship as much as He reserved for this mourning. Only moistening of the eyes derives unimaginable rewards. But mourning also has certain etiquette like other actions such as prayers, fasting, pilgrimage etc.
The month of Muharram is a month of weeping and wailing and symbolizing the grief and anguish of the progeny of Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny). It is a month of renewing and emphasizing the covenant of Ghadeer, shedding tears of blood, expressing our attachment to Imamate and Mastership, expressing our hatred not only towards the enemies of Ahle Bait (peace be upon them) but also towards oppression and oppressors as a whole. It is a month of remembering and recounting the merits of the Ahle Bait (peace be upon them) and their miseries and enlivening the teachings of Islam. Hence, it brings along with it special etiquette to be observed.
- Guarding the Tongue
Since this month is when the virtues of Holy Prophet and his Holy Progeny (peace be upon them) and miseries faced by them are narrated, it is necessary to control and guard our tongue. If serving juice in a filthy glass is considered detestable, how can we consider narrating the excellences of the infallible Ahle Bait (peace be upon them) with our sinful tongue especially when their purity and infallibility can, in no way, be compared to the purity of an ordinary drink. These personalities are the axes of the Verse of Purification (Tatheer). Hence, it is necessary that we should be mindful about the nobility and holiness of this month and keep our tongue away from lies, backbiting, accusations and other sins and purify our tongue through remembrance of God, reciting Salawaat and seeking forgiveness. During these days, our beliefs should be purer and more fragrant than a rose. The level of our internal purity should be such that merely mentioning the names of the holy infallible ones should be a cause of increase in pureness. We are very well aware that Ahle Bait (peace be upon them) have nothing to do with sins and they hate sins extremely. Does it befit the lovers of the Chief of Martyrs, Imam Husain (peace be upon him) to remember him with the same tongue with which they sometimes lie, backbite and accuse others? Is the tongue like a cassette or a CD which can record both songs and recitation of Quran? Of course not! This tongue is also answerable to Allah and we must maintain its purity so that it becomes apt to utter Imam Husain’s (peace be upon him) name because his name guarantees purification from every sin.
- Purification of Eyes
Weeping over the tragedy of Imam Husain (peace be upon him) definitely has great rewards and is a cause of sins being forgiven. However, this also demands that our eyes be pure from the filth of sins. Eyes which get purified by shedding tears for Imam Husain (peace be upon him) are not expected to commit sins such as glancing at strange women and other prohibited things. The grief of pure personalities necessitates purity of eyes. Pure tears should be shed from pure eyes so that we attain proximity with pure personalities.
- Protection of Limbs
We should also be mindful of our hands. We carry the standard of Hazrat Abbas (peace be upon him), beat our chests calling out the names of Imam Husain, Hazrat Ali Akbar, Hazrat Ali Asgar (peace be upon them) and other martyrs of Karbala. We self-flagellate with our hands, use them to wipe our pure tears and seek blessings from food, etc (Tabarruk). We spread the floor-mat for mourning assembles (Majaalis) and mourning places (Azaakhaana). We revere various objects remembering Imam Husain (peace be upon him) like shrines and coffins with these very hands. Hence, we should be extremely careful that they do not get dirty with oppression and injustice. Our hands should be pure from both external and internal impurities.
Our feet also act as a medium through which we attend Majaalis, participate in processions, visit shrines and go for Ziyarat, enter mosques and stand on the prayer mat. Hence, we must ensure that we do not use these feet to go to forbidden places. We should use them to serve our parents, help the poor and needy, visit good places so that we are blessed with the good fortune of mourning for Imam Husain (peace be upon him) and the opportunity to attend Majaalis and processions.
- Safeguarding of Stomach
During this holy month, we will also have the good fortune of consuming Tabarruk. We must protect our stomachs from eating whatever is forbidden (Haraam) so that the effects of pure Tabarrukaat are visible to us and Halaal food does not mix with Haraam.
Overall, in this month, our entire life should be different than other months. We should behave in a manner which connotes that we are offering condolence to Hazrat Fatima Zahra (peace be upon her). We must try to complete our worldly tasks before the advent of Muharram so that we can spend these days participating in Majaalis and mourning. We should give priority to attending Majaalis and make it a part of our daily routine. We should not be pre-occupied with the world so much so that we do not find time for Majaalis or only put in a token attendance. The atmosphere of Muharram should not only be visible in mosques and religious places but even our homes, so that it may be evident to all that we are mourning. These are days of sorrow and not of happiness. We should wear black clothes and put up black flags.
To summarise, our life should be reflective of the mourning of Imam Husain (peace be upon him). Every act of ours should propagate the sorrow, the martyrdom and the message of Imam Husain (peace be upon him). Everybody should realise that our demeanor has changed and we are in mourning.
We should pay special attention to the fact that the honour which God has conferred upon us in the form of Imam Husain (peace be upon him) is not ordinary. It is an honour compared to which all kingdoms have no value. Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) has described the lofty position of mourners in the following words. He (peace be upon him) says,
“May God have mercy on our Shias. By God, our Shias are true believers. By God, they are constantly in sorrow and grief due to our tragedies and participate in it.”
[Sawaab al-A’maal, p. 257, H. #3]
In another reliable tradition, Imam Jafar Sadiq (peace be upon him) has recited the following supplication while in prostration. It should be noted that prostration is the peak of worship and a supplication therein is very significant, especially if accompanied with weeping. Shedding of tears during supplication is the sign of its acceptance. Now let us pay attention to the supplication of the Imam, that too in the state of prostration while shedding tears. If we wish to be the object of this supplication, then we should completely uphold its meanings.
Dear readers! From the time of death till the Day of Judgment, from there on till the time of accounting and from accounting till the final decision, every stage is so difficult that is not possible for anyone to bear its severity. Those difficulties are such that mountains cannot withstand them. We are so frail that we cannot even bear a normal illness of cold. How will we be able to bear those difficulties of the Day of Judgment? The supplication is as follows:
“(O God) Have mercy on eyes which shed tears in our condolence. Have mercy upon those hearts which feel our pain and are aggrieved for us. Have mercy on wailings that rise for us.
O Allah! I give these souls and bodies in Your trust until we meet them at the Pond (of Kausar) on the Day of Thirst.”
[Kaamil al-Ziyaaraat, p. 117, H. #2]
Mourning in this world will be the cause of meeting Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) at the Pond of Kausar on the Day of Judgment.
‘Sarkhah’ means ‘to weep loudly.’ Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) knew that people would weep loudly in the grief of Imam Husain (peace be upon him). Weeping aloud is directly proportional to the extent of grief.
A poet named Kumait came in the presence of Imam Muhammad Baqir (peace be upon him) and recited en elegy. Imam (peace be upon him) started crying and said,
“There is no man who remembers us or before whom we are mentioned and tears flow from his eyes, even if they be equal to the wings of a mosquito, except that Allah will build for him a house in Paradise and that (tear) will act as a barrier between him and the Hell-fire”.
- Kifaayat al-Asar, p. 248
- Behaar al-Anwaar, vol. 26, p. 390
This shows the importance of mourning over Imam Husain (peace be upon him) in the eyes of the Ahle Bait (peace be upon him) and this good fortunate is not available to everyone.
Mourning is not limited to the months of Muharram and Safar and the initial days of Rabi al-Awwal, although these months are specific for mourning. The above tradition shows that whenever the calamities of Ahle Bait (peace be upon them) are mentioned and one sheds a tear, he will be eligible for this reward.
Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) says that whenever the name of Imam Husain (peace be upon him) is mentioned, one should repeat the following thrice: “Sallalaahu Alaika Ya Aba Abdillah” i.e. Salutations be upon you O Aba Abdillah!
Similarly, another tradition says:
“If a person remembers Imam Husain (peace be upon him) and his Ahle Bait (peace be upon them) while drinking water and curses their killers, Allah will write for him 100,000 good deeds, forgive 100,000 sins and raise his position by 100,000 grades.”
[Al-Amaali of Shaikh Saduq (a.r.), p. 2]
This shows that mourning for Imam Husain (peace be upon him) is an ongoing responsibility. The true religion of Ahle Bait (peace be upon them) survives today due to this mourning. These tears have destroyed tyrannical and oppressive kings and have not allowed any tyrant to succeed in his plans which continues till date. Mourning is so effective that it has not allowed enemies of Ahle Bait (peace be upon them) to succeed at any time or place. There are so many rulings (fatawa) against mourning which fail miserably and God willing, this failure will continue till the Day of Judgment.
Considering its greatness and lofty position, it is now our responsibility to commemorate the mourning in such a manner that we become recipients of the prayers of Ahle Bait (peace be upon them).
We must ensure that we avoid all types of ostentation, competition, seeking fame and purify our intentions so that it results in divine satisfaction and pleasure. Our sole objective must be to acquire the pleasure of Ahle Bait (peace be upon them).
The incidents mentioned in the historical books pertaining to the event of Karbala are so agonizing that it is not easy to bear them. Weeping is not dependent on a new incident but it is related to one’s strong connection with Imam Husain (peace be upon him) and deep love for him (peace be upon him). When Janabe Zainab (peace be upon her) narrated the tragedies in Kufa, animals were seen sobbing. One statement full of pain from the depth of the heart is enough to lament.
Our Majaalis should be such that every gathering results in an increase in our love for Ahle Bait (peace be upon them) and hatred for their enemies. Our beliefs, religions duties and morals should improve so that Ahle Bait (peace be upon them) regard us as among them. Other rituals should also be performed in a similar manner. It should be clearly visible that this community is ruled by Ahle Bait (peace be upon them). Our appearance and behaviour should reflect the personality of the Ahle Bait (peace be upon them).
To summarize, we should commemorate every program, event, ritual and act related to the mourning of Imam Husain (peace be upon him) in a manner that Ahle Bait (peace be upon them), especially Imam-e-Zamana (may Allah hasten his reappearance) also attend it and bestow their blessings upon us.