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The Rituals of Imam Husain’s (peace be on him) mourning and the Religious Authority (Marjaiyyat)

A group of Shias enquired from Grand Ayatullah His Holiness Syed Ali al-Husaini al-Sistani (may Allah grant him a long life) regarding Azaadari (mourning rituals) of Imam Husain (peace be upon him). Their question and the reply of the Grand Marja of our time are mentioned hereunder. We pray to Allah, the Most High, the Most Merciful and Forgiving, through the medium of Prophet Muhammad and his progeny (peace be upon them), to bestow us with such bounties of Azaadari that every aspect of it is accepted in their infallible presence and it becomes a cause of their satisfaction especially that of the Master of the time, inheritor of the martyrs of Karbala, His Eminence Hujjat Ibn al-Hasan al-Askari (peace be upon both of them). May it result in good fortune and blessings in this world and makes us eligible to receive their intercession in the hereafter. Aameen!

Question:

To,

Grand Ayatullah al-Sayed al-Sistani (may Allah grant him long life):

Salaamun Alaikum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuh

We are a number of pilgrims setting out to Karbala to attend the Arbaeen (20th Safar – 40th day of Martyrdom) and pay tribute to Imam Husain (peace be upon him). In order to benefit from this spiritual journey and earn the reward of visiting the tomb of the Chief of Martyrs as well as to know what we do not know, we are in need of your fatherly advice which we hope to spread across all segments of the community. May Allah grant you long life! We earnestly call on you to furnish us with your advice and pray for us.

A Group of Believers

Reply by Grand Ayatullah al-Sayed al-Sistani (may Allah grant him long life):

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

Praise belongs to Allah and peace and benedictions of Allah be upon our master, Muhammad and his pure progeny.

It is befitting for believers whom Allah has granted success to perform pilgrimage, to note that Allah, the Exalted, chosen Prophets and their noble successors from amongst His servants to be divine proofs and authority over people and that whose teachings people should follow to be guided aright. Allah the Almighty has encouraged people to visit the sacred sites so that those infallible leaders are continuously remembered and held in reverence. Since those nobles are the best examples of servitude to Allah, the Glorified, striving in His way and sacrificing for the cause of His everlasting religion, visiting their shrines, commemorating them and narrating their stories will remind the believers of Allah, the Exalted, His doctrines and injunctions.

Hence, it is one of the essentials of this pilgrimage that the pilgrim, in addition to remembering Imam Husain’s (peace be upon him) sacrifices and devotion in the way of Allah, the Exalted, observes the teachings of Islam including those relating to prayer, hijab, self-reform, selflessness and moral etiquette etc. so that his pilgrimage may be a step towards developing and training the soul for accepting these and consolidating their effects until the next pilgrimage. It is only by doing so that attending these ceremonies will be practically the same as attending the lessons of the Imam (peace be upon him).

Indeed, we have not been in the time of the Ahle Bait (peace be upon them) to learn from them directly and be educated by them. But Allah, the Exalted, has preserved their conducts for us and has persuaded us to visit them, as they are our role models. As the contemporaries of Ahle Bait (peace be upon them) lived with them and were put to test, Allah also wants to test us as to how far we are sincere in our desire to live with them and follow their teachings. Hence, we must be careful about being truthful in our desire to see them. We must know that if we act as per their advice, it is hoped that we shall be resurrected along with their friends. For, it has been reported that Ameer al- Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Talib (peace be upon both of them) said in the Battle of Jamal:

“Today we are accompanied by those who are still in the loins of their fathers and wombs of their mothers.”

Therefore, it is not difficult for each of us who has a true and pure desire to act according to the teachings of the Ahle Bait (peace be upon them) and tread their footsteps. We should purify ourselves through the medium of their purity and adorn ourselves with their educational methods and manners.

Fear Allah in relation to your prayers! As stated in traditions, it is the pillar of your religion and the ascension of the believer. If it is accepted, all other acts will be accepted and if it is rejected, all other acts of worship will also be rejected.

It is befitting for believers to offer their prayers on time because Allah loves those who rush to prayer as soon as they hear the call for it. It is not appropriate for a believer to engage in any other acts of worship in the prime for prayer because prayer is the best form of obedience to Allah. It is has been narrated from the Ahle Bait (peace be upon them) that:

“Our intercession will not be attained by that person who undervalues the prayer”.

About Imam Husain’s (peace be upon him) special attention to prayer on the Day of Aashurah, it has been reported that he told his companion, Abu Sumaamah al-Saidaawi, who reminded him of the prime-time for the prayer:

“You remembered the prayer, may Allah include you among the praying ones.”

Then and there he established prayer under a rain of arrows.

Fear Allah in relation to your sincerity! The value and blessings of one’s deeds depends on how far he is sincere in performing them for Allah’s sake because Allah will not accept deeds which are not purely for Him. It has been narrated from the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) that he announced during the Muslims’ emigration from Makkah to Madinah: “Whoever migrates for the sake of Allah and His Messenger, he has migrated to Him and whoever migrates to make worldly gains, he has migrated to the world. Allah will reward sincere deeds to the extent that it will increase to seven hundred folds and He doubles the rewards for whomsoever He wants.”

Hence, it is necessary for the pilgrims to remember Allah and be mindful of every step and every deed to be for Allah’s sake. They should know that Allah has not bestowed anyone with a blessing as precious as sincerity in belief, speech and conduct. An act which is devoid of sincerity ends with the end of life in this world whereas a sincere act will be lasting and blessed in this world and the hereafter.

Fear Allah in relation to Hijaab! Observing modest clothing is amongst the most important thing that Ahle Bait (peace be upon them) heeded to even in the most difficult circumstances and they were the best role models in terms of observing modest clothing. Imam Husain (peace be upon him) was not hurt by anything as much as by the enemy violating his dignity and respect. It is, therefore, necessary for all pilgrims, especially ladies, to observe modesty in their conduct, clothing and appearance and to avoid whatever is deemed a violation of this like wearing tight-fitting clothes, mixing up in an abominable way with members of the opposite gender and wearing glittering jewellery. In fact, it is befitting for believers that in order to keep the sacred ceremony untainted, they have to, as far as possible, adhere to the highest levels of modesty.

We pray to Almighty Allah to elevate the position of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his descendants) and his pure family (peace be upon them), due to the sacrifices they made in the way of Allah and their efforts to guide His creatures. May He increase the salutations and blessings upon them as He has sent greetings to previous Prophets especially Prophet Ibrahim and his family!

We also pray to Allah to bestow blessings upon the pilgrimage of the pilgrims of Imam Husain (peace be upon him) and accept it in the best way as He accepts the deeds of His noble servants so that they may, through their lifestyle and deeds in this pilgrimage, be a role model for others for the rest of their lives and be rewarded for their love of and obedience to the household of the Prophet (peace be upon them) and for preaching their mission.

We pray that on the Day of Judgment, when all the people are called with their Imam, they (these pilgrims) are called along with Ahle Bait (peace be upon them). May the ones who are martyred in this way, due to their sacrifices and sufferings which they have gone through, be resurrected with Imam Husain (peace be upon him) and his friends. Verily, He is all Hearing, Ever Responsive!

13 Safar, 1435 A.H.

Question 1

What is the opinion of His Eminence regarding the following tradition from Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him):

“Whoever weeps or tries to weep upon Husain (peace be upon him), Paradise is obligatory upon him.”

Reply

In His Name, the Most High!

Yes there are many traditions of which some are even to the extent of being considered most reliable that Paradise has been guaranteed for weeping over Imam Husain (peace be upon him). In some traditions, even those who make an attempt to cry and recite elegies which make others weep, have been promised Paradise. This guarantee is of no surprise. Both Shia and Ahle Tasannun traditions speak about certain actions for which heaven has been promised. But this does not mean that a person can consider himself to be complete secure from divine chastisement especially by forsaking the obligatory and committing the prohibited. How can such a feeling be developed when the Holy Quran has most certainly promised divine chastisement for abandonment of the obligatory and performing the prohibited? In the light of verses and traditions, these traditions imply that if such actions are accepted then they will lead to Paradise and sometimes excessive sins act as obstacles which prevent us from entering heaven and being secure from Hell-fire. In other words, it can be interpreted as such actions definitely make a person eligible for Paradise but their acceptance largely depends on non-performance of prohibited actions for which a person deserves Hell-fire and especially those actions for which Hell-fire has been promised.

As for the reason why weeping over Imam Husain (peace be upon him) carries such a great reward, then it is because weeping indicates towards the innermost condition of a person’s heart and his attachment. A person weeps when he is deeply aggrieved and saddened and it is an expression of extreme grief. Lamenting over Imam Husain (peace be upon him) is a symbol of true love and acceptance of the Mastership of Holy Prophet and his pure Ahle Bait (peace be upon them). It is a reflection of teachings towards which these holy personalities have invited others, for which they sacrificed their lives and were martyred. It is an evident reality that this incident has caused history to tremble, thrones of tyrants and oppressors to quiver, affirmed and strengthened the roots of Islamic teachings in the hearts of believers. But this is possible only if we hold fast unto them and remember them constantly. Therefore such traditions have been narrated from the Ahle Bait (peace be upon him).

Trying to weep does not mean only manifesting our lamentation in front of others. Rather, it means to feel the reality of grief and then make an attempt to weep. When a person feels that his heart has hardened and tears are not flowing, at that time he should try and weep so that his feelings can answer the call of his conscience.

The reward which has been promised for lamenting upon the remembrance of Allah or attempting to weep is an interpretation of this tradition which many scholars have indicated towards especially Allamah Muqarram who has mentioned it in his book ‘Maqtal al-Husain (peace be upon him)’.

29 Muharram al-Haraam, 1435 A.H.

Question 2

Is it necessary that we leave the mourning procession (Juloos) at the time of Zuhr prayers and recite prayers on time or should we recite prayers after the procession ends? Which of these two are more virtuous?

Reply

Reciting prayers on time! But more importantly, the mourning procession should be organized at a time such that prayers can be performed on time (i.e. the timings of the two should not clash).

Question 3

Is it appropriate that mourning procession is carried out along with very few mourners (Azaadaar) in the first part of the morning and end it before Fajr prayers or wait for more people to gather (i.e. delay the beginning of the procession) and the time for Fajr prayers arrives during the procession?

Reply

Wait for more people to gather, recite prayers during the procession and then restart the procession.

29 Muharram al-Haraam, 1435 A.H.

Question 4

There are many Imambargahs and Husainiyyahs in our area where mournful gatherings in the remembrance of Imam Husain (peace be upon him) and his loyal companions are organised on a large scale. Believers out of their sheer love for Ahle Bait (peace be upon them) offer their valuable services in this regard. Such gatherings involve a lot of material and worldly services. Many large gatherings are organised at the same time at different places. In most of these gatherings, food is served from morning right up to about 8.30 pm as a result of which a lot of food is spilt on the floor and is wasted. What is the opinion of his eminence in this regard?

Reply

Wasting food is abominable and forbidden in Shariah. Arrangements should be necessarily made such that food is not wasted or squandered. Hence, mutual understanding between those who serve food is absolutely essential and an appropriate and required quantity should be prepared in order to avoid wastage.

29 Muharram al-Haraam, 1435 A.H.

Question 5

Can large vessels of brass and copper which have been in use for years and have worn out be sold in exchange of new vessels made up of aluminium, etc. and used for preparing food in a similar manner?

Reply

If old vessels can be repaired and reused then selling them is not permitted. Albeit, if the money spent in repairing them amounts to waste of money then the legal owner of such vessels can sell them in exchange of new ones.

8 Rajab, 1430 A.H.

Question 6

If, in an Imambargah, Husainiyyah, Anjuman, Mosque and other such endowed (Waqf) places, some objects like lights, lamps, carpets, tiles on walls and floor become old and worn out and if a well-wisher wants to replace them with better ones, then is it permissible? If not, then what is the limit for its non-permissibility? Although those things have turned old but can still be benefitted from. There are times when common people look down upon such religious centres.

Reply

A well-wisher can replace them with better ones but if those objects were endowed (Waqf) then they cannot be sold off if they can be utilised in a similar way in other religious centres. But if they are owned by those centres then the lawful caretaker should sell them off and use the money in the expenses of that religious centre.

29 Muharram al-Haraam, 1435 A.H.

Question 7

Every year during Arbaeen, two situations are observed while walking to Karbala:

  1. For those walking alongside the main road to Karbala, the two-lane road is converted only to one lane because one lane is closed for pilgrims. Is this permissible?
  2. Those Anjumans which serve the pilgrims on the way, their members slow down the speed of cars by way of barricades for the safety of pilgrims. Is this permissible?

Reply

  1. Arrangements should be made in such a way that both lanes can be used.
  2. There is no problem in it if done with the cooperation of the traffic police.

29 Muharram al-Haraam, 1435 A.H.

Question 8

What is the ruling regarding the use of drums and trumpets during mourning processions?

Reply

According to common practice, use of these instruments in mourning processions is permissible even though these are the same instruments but not specific to entertainment.

Question 9

In our area, Azadaari is carried out as per Bahraini rituals i.e. elegies are recited in various tunes and styles. Sometimes these styles seem similar to those in entertainment. Can such tunes and styles be practiced in mourning processions?

Reply

Till the time it is not known that these forms, styles and tunes are specific to those used in entertainment, their use in Azadaari is permissible. Once it is known then it is not permissible.

29 Muharram al-Haraam, 1435 A.H.

Question 10

Some believers perform certain undesirable acts such as marriage, moving into a new house, new purchases for their homes, buying new clothes, adorning themselves, laying foundations of new institutions, centres, etc. during the months of Muharram, Safar and other mournful occasions. What is the permissibility of these acts in the eyes of Shariat?

Reply

Although it is not forbidden (Haraam) to perform such acts during these days but it results into insult or devaluing the importance of such occasions such as adorning oneself or expressing joy on the Day of Aashura.

In fact, it is necessary to refrain from any such act during days when we mourn for Ahle Bait (peace be upon them), which we would not perform during any personal tragedy or sorrow unless absolutely necessary…

We should select an occasion other than the mourning period. Allah shall grant Taufeeq.

29 Muharram al-Haraam, 1435 A.H.

Question 11

His Excellency, the honourable Syed! Some youth wear such outfits while visiting the holy places which bear pictures of sports persons, heroes, singers, etc. Some clothes have immoral statements written in different languages. Some youngsters are clean shaven or have beard and hair styles similar to the western culture.

What is your esteemed view regarding these from the aspect of Shariat?

Reply

Whatever has been mentioned, some part of it is forbidden whereas some is inappropriate. Nevertheless, the need is to explain to these pilgrims with wisdom and good advice. It is necessary for youngsters who love Ahle Bait (peace be upon them) and follow them that they should not wear clothes which are tight or have inappropriate pictures or statements printed on them. Clothes are a part of a person’s personality. They are an interpretation of his intellect, culture, civilisation, thoughts and ideology. Some of those clothes are such that wearing them is forbidden like those which encourage a person into committing forbidden acts or those which become a cause of spreading mischief and corruption. It is important to wear appropriate clothes in these holy places, mosques, shrines which are suitable to be worn at these places, uphold their sanctity and respect and are an indication of a person’s honour and dignity. Wearing such suitable clothes is also a part of the etiquette of visitation. Allah shall grant Taufeeq.

13 Safar, 1434 A.H.

Question 12

Is it permissible for a girl or a married lady to go to the mosque, etc. for congregational prayers, listening to religious speeches or attending Majlis while her father or husband do not permit her to do so? What is the ruling of Shariat in this regard when the rights of her husband are being violated?

Reply

As far as a married woman is concerned, she is not allowed to step out of her house without the permission of her husband. For an unmarried girl, if her stepping out of the house results into distress for her father and if the father, out of his love, prevents her based on certain dangers then in such a situation she is not permitted to step out.

Question 13

Can ladies attend Majaalis during their menstruation cycles?

Reply

It is permitted.

29 Muharram al-Haraam, 1435 A.H.

Question 14

There are some CDs pertaining to mourning wherein youngsters remove their shirts and beat their chests. Is it permissible for women to watch such CDs?

Reply

As per obligatory precaution, it is not permissible for women to look at the bodies of men in a condition other than what is normally seen such as chest, stomach, etc.

29 Muharram al-Haraam, 1435 A.H.

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