Saturday, November 26, 2011

'Ashura 2011 Post #1: Video from the Ziyarat to Karbala, 2010, & Communal Identity through Collective Commemoration & 'Redemptive Suffering'

Millions of Shi'i Muslim pilgrims travel to the Iraqi shrine city of Karbala every year for the annual commemoration of the martyrdom of their third Imam, Husayn bin 'Ali, the son of the first Imam 'Ali ibn Abi Talib and grandson of the prophet Muhammad, and many of his family members and followers in the Islamic lunar month of Muharram in 680 C.E. They were killed by an army sent by the Umayyad caliph Yazid bin Mu'awiya who directed his governor in the region, 'Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad, to stop Husayn's caravan, which was traveling from Medina to the Iraqi city of al-Kufah.

The video below shows scenes from the mass pilgrimage, one of the largest religious pilgrimages (ziyarah/ziyarat in Arabic and Persian) today, to Karbala in 2010. The video's background is a traditional-style mourning recitation (latmiya) for Husayn and the other martyrs of Karbala. The Umayyad tyrant Yazid is also rejected in the lyrics. The pilgrims in the video are performing traditional mourning rituals for the Imam and his followers who were killed. The rituals also serve as examples of penitence or what Mahmoud Ayoub has described as a form of "redemptive suffering" through which the Shi'i community is tied together and expresses its unique identity as a relatively small but influential minority within the larger Islamic communal context.

At the 3:53-minute mark, a large painting of Grand Ayatullahs Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr and Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr are visible. Both were murdered by the Iraqi Ba'th Party of Saddam Husayn, in 1980 and 1999 respectively, and are major symbols for Iraqi Shi'is and Shi'is outside of the country.

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