Chapter Seventeen: Azadari in other cultures
The world in which we are living is a materialistic, mundane entity with a finite and a definite end; that is to say that it is going to come to an end one day or the other. It came into existence and certainly it has to go out of this existence. In the same way, all things connected with this world will also likewise come to an end.
However when this end is going to come, is not what we are interested in at this time but we are going to talk about things connected directly with this ” end ” which in languages and cultures that exist today and which existed in the distant past is known by the name or phrase called “DEATH”.
Again we are not going to discuss the philosophy of Death rather “events” which are directly influenced by this phenomenon called Death.
When deaths occurs to a human being, he dies and all people including his very own dear and near ones pronounce him as “dead” and eventually deal with his “dead” body as per their individual rites and rules and customs. We see that some people bury their dead, some burn their dead and some allow vultures to make a meal of the dead body of the deceased person. It is an everyday affair witnessed by people all over the world and this process of disposing off of the dead body of a dead person has been going on for eons and ages.
Now it so happens that the departed person was an extraordinary person and was held in high esteems by his family, or tribe or clan and some time his country. When such a person dies, people flock together in huge numbers to pay their homage to the departed soul and remain till the end when the cadaver is either buried or cremated etc. Returning back from the last ceremonies, all jointly decide to hold special meetings or hold mass prayers or collectively perform such social gatherings with one sole purpose in their minds ——– to remember the departed soul! All recollect the good things which the deceased might have performed, remember his good words or deeds and all people sometime stand for a minute or two in silence as a mark of respect for the dead person.
Sometime people who might have been very much attached to the dead person do not like even to say or hear that the person has died! All such tendencies depend how important the dead person was and to how many people he was important and to what extent he was important. It is this degree of importance that dictates the action of the people the dead person leaves behind him that sometime stretches to such an extent that the person is even declared a Saint! Mother Teresa in our times is a good example of such veneration and adoration by the people who were so much impressed by her work of loving the downtrodden, the sick, the poor and the destitute that she has been made a Saint after her death!
If we study the civilizations of the past, we come across hundreds of such examples where people have erected monuments, raised magnificent buildings over the graves of the dead persons, built mausoleums in their memory and even set up statues and named streets and roads and highways on their names! All this is done only to show and express the love and devotion of the people of the “living world” for the dead person! There is nothing unnatural about all these ceremonies, edifices, memorials, meetings, condolences etc. which people perform, cutting across barriers of culture, creed, race, colour, caste, religion, ethnicity etc. In fact it is very human and humane and very natural and very “living” to remember a person who has died and who is no more with us in this world.
As we have said, this “remembering the dead” is a universal phenomenon and it is no surprise that Shi’as also commemorate certain exceptional personalities by observing the days of their passing away, by holding meetings in which their lives and their noble deeds are described and remembered. And these exceptional personalities are none but the Godly souls, the Infallible Imams from the Progeny of the Holy Prophet (s).
At times even their trusted followers too, like followers of Imam Husayn (as) in Karbala are held in high regard.
We give below some examples from the Cultures of the West, which boasts of being on the pinnacle of Science and Technology and Cultural Advancement.
Prophet Esa (Jesus) donkey’s hoof
In an ancient Church in Holland, there is a donkey’s hoof kept and preserved and as the legend goes, it is supposed to be that of the donkey of Prophet Esa (as) People flock to see it and it is held in high esteem.
In another Monastery in Holland, there is a part of some body part of Prophet Esa (as) which has also been very carefully preserved and people come every year to have a glimpse of it.
Replicas and Commemorative Processions
The natives of Belgium are renowned among the European Christians for their religious fervour and zeal with which they commemorate their religious festivals and anniversaries. One of the most notable of these ceremonies is the “Procession of Birth of Jesus”.
Statues depicting Maryam (as) with baby Jesus in her lap and Joseph the Carpenter with two pigeons in his hand are taken out in a huge procession. This scene is supposed to be the replica of the scene when Joseph entered Jerusalem with his wife Mary and their baby Jesus. It was a custom in the tribes of Israel that a new born child was taken to Jerusalem and two pigeons were given as sacrifice for the new born.
From the book, An Apology from Muhammad by Davenport , People of Nation by T.A. Hampton, Part 1, page 364
Exhibit of Jesus’ Blood
This ceremonial procession in which a drop of Jesus’ blood is taken out in a huge procession with great reverence and respect in the city of Burgess in Belgium is an annual event in which the faithful come from all over the world, to take part in the procession and to see with their own eyes, the drop of Jesus’ blood.
It is said that Prince Theodore, Count of Flanders brought from Jerusalem, a drop of Jesus’ blood and encased it in a glass cage and placed it in a Church in the City of Burgess. It is this glass cage that is taken out annually in a big procession with the faithful following it with deep reverence and veneration. A picture of this procession is shown on page 365 of the book, People of Nation by T.A. Hampton. Looking at the picture, it appears that the glass cage is enclosed inside a box (using an Urdu term, Zareeh) and this is very richly decorated and then the City’s Bishops, Priests and such other people of the Church clad in their finest attire and raiment, bare – headed and bare – footed, place this decorated box, encasing the glass case holding the sacred blood drop, on their head and walk slowly in a procession though the streets of the Burgess. Royal cavalry, members of the Dutch Royal family all walk in this procession with utmost solemnity and veneration.
Excerpt from the book, People of Nation by T. A. Hampton, Part 1, page 356
We now with due respect, ask these Nasibi who are against Matam Processions in particular and Azadari in general, are not Zareeh, Taaziyah, Matam and similar such Processions taken out on such similar lines? Do these processions of Shi’as take out objects which are derogatory or un-Islamic? Do these Zareeh, Taaziyah, Matam etc. create inter communal hatred? Do they hurt the feelings of any Muslim brother? No never. What a contrast! Just consider this….. People in Belgium who do not share the same sentiments with the people who celebrate these festivals, who do not believe in the birth of Jesus tableau procession, do they ever oppose these celebrations, stage protests against banning these processions? Do they ever create communal hatred, disharmony amongst the people of their country? Never! No, never heard of any violation based on narrow communal feelings, of basic Human Rights there or for that, matter any where in European Continent nor anywhere in American Continent!
What a shame for Muslims who pretend to follow Islam, the religion of Peace, yet who haunt, hunt & persecute their own fellow Muslims just because they profess Islam as ordained by Allah All Mighty and His Prophet (s) and who are known by their Qur’anic name of “Shi’as”!
Islam itself means peace yet Muslims have created Hell on Earth for the people who perform Azadari for Imam Husayn (as). Open your eyes O! Muslims of the world! After all these Shi’as are Muslims like you and your brothers – in – Islam!
Saint Vittovitti was a Christian lady from the Christian Community of Morocco who was martyred. So goes the legend that her tomb was washed away by the flood waters and submerged. Devout Christians and the faithful from the community somehow managed to salvage whatever remnants they could, of her body from the burial – casket which was thrown on the Island of Corsica and brought back to Morocco. Accordingly, January 7 has been proclaimed as the Martyr Day in her remembrance and a huge procession is taken out through all the roads and streets of the City as a sign of benediction and blessing.
From the book, People of Nation, Volume 1, Page 351
It is believed that a tooth of Buddha, the founder of Buddhism is buried in a Temple in Sri Lanka. Devotees in their thousands flock each year to that Temple from India, Japan, China and other countries of the world to pay their respect and have a glimpse of the tooth with utmost devotion.
From the book Yaadgaar, Page 110
Zareeh, Taaziyah, Matam
There is the example of a funeral procession which is taken out annually in Tibet to commemorate the death of Japan’s Crown Prince. It is the biggest procession in Tibet with a record number of people joining it and no other procession is as large and lengthy as this one even though the Crown Prince died 1300 years back! The main part of the procession is a casket carried very reverentially by the devotees and which looks like an exact replica of a Taaziyah!
From the book People of Nation, Volume 1
Death of King Edward VII
King Edward VII, Emperor of Great Britain died on May 6, 1910 but the mourning period lasted full one year! His faithful subject remained clad in mourning black for complete six months! They tied black arm – bands during this period and all Government stationery had black borders on all papers including all Government Letters and Envelopes, as a mark of mourning! The day when Edward was buried, it was a standing Government Order that all Offices, Employees in fact all people should stand still! It is said that all trains in not only erstwhile United India but in the entire British Empire came to a complete halt wherever they were at the moment and remained still for fifteen minutes! Why all this ado? Why so much melodrama? It was nothing but to show the people’s love and affection for the departed King or Leader.
- Commemorating Muharam
- The rewards for mourning Imam Hussain (as)
- Is Azadari against patience (sabr)?
- Crying and wailing for Imam Hussain (as)
- Reciting elegies for Imam Hussain (as)
- Convening Majlis (Gathering) to remember the dead
- Wearing black attire
- Hitting one’s body in grief
- Putting dust in one’s hair
- Seeking Waseela from the Saints (Awliya)
- Creating and revering symbols (Sha’er Allah)
- Street Processions (Juloos)
- The misuse of Shi’a texts to ‘prove’ that Azadari for Imam Hussain (as) is Haraam
- The stance of Ahlulbayt (as) regarding the commemoration of Ashura
- Refuting common Nasibi objections to Azadari
- Azadari in other cultures
- The tragedy of Karbala
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