Tag Archives: Shi’ism

Arba’een ceremony in Tehran

15 Dec

Re-blogged from Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish:

Arba'een ceremony in the Tehran, IranBy Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images. (double click)

“Shi’ite people gather at Imam Hussein square during the Arba’een ceremony in Tehran, Iran on December 13, 2014. Hundreds of Shiite worshippers attend religious ceremonies in Tehran on the anniversary of the 40th day after the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, grandson of Prophet Mohammad who was killed in the Battle of Karbala in 681 AD.”

Should discuss my Shia sympathies some day…

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Ashura 1435: a poem from Agha Shahid Ali

13 Nov

Iraq Transitions As U.S. Forces Withdraw After 8-Year Presence


Karbala: A History of the “House of Sorrow”

In a distant age and climate, the tragic scene of the death of Husayn will awaken the sympathy of the coldest reader.
—Edward Gibbon

Jesus and his disciples, passing through the plain of Karbala, saw “a herd of gazelles, crowding together and weeping.” Astonished, the disciples looked at their Lord. He spoke: “At this site the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) will one day be killed.” And Jesus wept. Oh, that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain … And Jesus wept. And as if the news has just reached them—fourteen hundred years after the Battle of Karbala (near ancient Babylon, not far from the Euphrates) in the year A.H. 61/A.D. 680—mourners weep for “the prince among martyrs,” Hussain, grandson of the Prophet and son of Ali (“Father of Clay”) and Fatima (the Prophet’s only surviving child). Memorializing Hussain on the tenth of Muharram (Ashura) is the rite of Shi’a Islam—so central that at funerals those events are woven into elegies, every death framed by that “Calvary.” For just “as Jesus went to Jerusalem to die on the cross,” Hussain “went to Karbala to accept the passion that had been meant for him from the beginning of time.”


Zainab’s Lament in Damascus

Over Hussain’s mansion what night has fallen?

Look at me, O people of Shaam, the Prophet’s only daughter’s daughter, his only child’s child.

Over my brother’s bleeding mansion dawn rose—at such forever cost?

So weep now, you who of passion never made a holocaust, for I saw his children slain in the desert, crying for water.

Hear me. Remember Hussain, what he gave in Karbala, he the severed heart, the very heart of Muhammad, left there bleeding, unburied.

Deaf Damascus, here in your Caliph’s dungeons where they mock the blood of your Prophet, I’m an orphan, Hussain’s sister, a tyrant’s prisoner.

Father of Clay, he cried, forgive me. Syria triumphs, orphans all your children. Farewell.

And then he wore his shroud of words and left us alone forever.

Paradise, hear me— On my brother’s body what night has fallen?

Let the rooms of Heaven be deafened, Angels, with my unheard cry in the Caliph’s palace:

    Syria hear me

    Over Hussain’s mansion what night has fallen

    I alone am left to tell my brother’s story

    On my brother’s body what dawn has risen

      Weep for my brother World, weep for Hussain




Reprinted from The Veiled Suite: The Collected Poems by Agha Shahid Ali. English translation copyright © 2009 by Daniel Hall. With the permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

The Great Mosque of Damascus

5 Jun

On top of being a mosque “that was built on the site of a basilica dedicated to St. John, which was built on the site of a Roman temple to Jupiter, which was built on the site of an Aramean temple of Hadad-Ramman, god of thunder and lightning,” the Great Mosque is also an important Shi’ia shrine because several events from Shi’ism’s core Karbala drama are said to have taken place here.  This building must have the most exhalted religious pedigree of any house of worship in the world.

External view of the gate that the prisoners of Karbalā were made to stand at for 72 hours – “Bāb as-Sā‘at” [The “gate of the hours”?]

The place where all the other heads of those who fell in Karbalā were kept within the Mosque.

The white pulpit marks the place where ‘Alī ibn Husayn addressed the court of Yazīd and the raised floor in front of it marks where the prisoners of Karbalā stood during that time.

The place where ‘Alī ibn Husayn used to pray while imprisoned.


Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Things I didn’t know…

25 May

…till Syria got me asking: that there are Alawites in Lebanon too; that Hezbollah supports the Asad regime even though (I would’ve previously thought) they’re Alawite; that Alawites and Anatolian Alevis aren’t as consciously related as lots of people think, though they’re similar in many concepts and rites and are probably both a product — or remnant — of inherently heterodox frontier zones between Byzantine-Arab-Turkic-Iranian spiritual worlds, before the lines hardened; that the relationship of both to “mainstream” Shi’ism varies in intensity and in the degree to which they’re accepted by that mainstream as part of the fold (Alawites, as in the Asad-Hezbollah relation, more than Anatolian Alevis, who are kind of a world of their own); that Iran’s support of Hezbollah is part of a relationship that’s neither new nor one-way — that, in fact, Shi’ia clerics and theologians from southern Lebanon/Jabal Amil (including the Sadr clan) were instrumental in establishing Shi’ism as Safavid Iran’s state creed in the sixteenth century; that that happened in a kind of simultaneous, binary process, as such things tend to, with Ottoman Turkey becoming more orthodoxly Sunni…and more.

This is a cool, very informative book, though sometimes so personal and emotional and out-there-Persian that it becomes confusing as straight history or sociology:

Shi’ism: A Religion of Protest, Hamid Dabashi: http://www.amazon.com/Shiism-Religion-Protest-Hamid-Dabashi/dp/0674049454/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1337903598&sr=1-1

and Distant Relations: Iran and Lebanon in the Last 500 Years, H.E. Chehabi: http://www.amazon.com/Distant-Relations-Iran-Lebanon-Years/dp/1845112555/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1337903763&sr=1-1

Otherwise not good though…not Syria, not another spillover into Lebanon or its again becoming the catch-basin of Levantine conflict. None of it…

Men in a Beirut suburb burned tires and blocked roads after fellow Lebanese Shiites were abducted in the Syrian city of Aleppo. (Anwar Amro/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)



Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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