Matam - A Cultural Practice


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    Matam - A Cultural Practice

    On the Imam Hussain thread a number of people have raised the issue of Matam and its position as a justifiable method of moaning and expressing sorrow.

    From a Shia perspective, it does not form part of ones religious requirements and one can be a fully practicing Shia Muslim and never do matam. However, matam does form an important part of the Shia tradition to remembering the tragedy of Karbala. This has more to do with cultural reasons rather then religious beliefs, as the approach to matam varies across Shia communities in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arab, Pakistan, India…..

    It is also important to note that matam is not the exclusive domain of Shia Islam, as people of other faiths follow similar practices, for example certain sects of Christians try to experience the pain that Christ suffered while he was on the cross.

    As mentioned before, matam is a cultural phenomenon, and one which is clearly evidenced in hadith and historical accounts of the earliest companions of the Prophet (PBUH). Arab men and women were known to beat their cheats and heads to mourn the passing away of a loved one, and this practice continuted during and after the life the Prophet, as suggested by the following accounts:

    Kanz al Ummal, Vol.8, Page 117, Kitab al Maut
    When Hadhrath Omar heard of Nu'man ibn Muqrin's death he beat his head and screamed, "O what a pity that Nu'man died".

    al Tabari in History Volume 9 page 183:
    Abbas narrates: "I heard Ayesha saying "The Messenger of God died on my bosom during my turn, I did not wrong anyone in regard to him. It was because of my ignorance and youthfulness that the Messenger of God died while he was in my lap. Then I laid his head on a pillow and got up beating my chest and slapping my face along with the women".

    Tareekh Kamil Volume 3 page 89
    "When Uthman was killed his killers intended to sever his head. His wives Naila and Umm'ul Baneen lay over him screamed and began to beat their faces"

    There is also a tradition of a famous companion of the Prophet who upon hearing that the Prophet had lost a tooth in battle, was so moved that he broke all his own teeth in remembering the suffering of the Prophet (PBUH).
    "Hadhrath Uways Qarni said to Hadhrath Umar Khattab: 'If you were true in friendship than why on the day when the holy teeth of the Prophet (s) were broken didn't you break your teeth in companionship? Because, it is a condition of companionship.' Then he showed his teeth all of which were broken and said 'I broke all of my teeth without seeing you (O Prophet) and in the state of Ghaybah in your companionship. I had broken one tooth but couldn't get satisfaction so kept on breaking them one by one until I had broken them all '".

    The point of these examples is to illustrate that matam is a cultural issues, and one which was common to not only individuals who Shia hold as people of religious authority, but also those who are important to Sunni Muslims. However, to cast judgement on the correctness of someone faith based on whether they partake in matam is a very dangerous position to assume, as that would also bring into question the religious standing of very important individual in Islamic history.

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    Matam by chest beating is one thing but inflicting possibly life threatening wounds with knives and chains cannot be right. Shia Ulema should step in and stop this practice.


    For answers to the Universe, Life and everything : TheSourceNews(TSN)

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    I can see this thread going nowhere but towards abusing each other. Had many discussion in the past with Shia brothers which ended in insult and abuse. PLEASE DO NOT DISCUSS THIS ANY FURTHER.


    Rudi is a useless umpire get rid off him plzzzzz.

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    Matam by chest beating is one thing but inflicting possibly life threatening wounds with knives and chains cannot be right. Shia Ulema should step in and stop this practice.
    They have. But as the example of Hazrat Uways Qarni illustrates when love reaches its extreme so do the reaction of that love.

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    I can see this thread going nowhere but towards abusing each other. Had many discussion in the past with Shia brothers which ended in insult and abuse. PLEASE DO NOT DISCUSS THIS ANY FURTHER
    Those who abuse others for what they believe lack faith in their own position. We should not be held slaves to the ignorant and should discuss our respective views without fear or threat of the ignorant. That is the way of our Prophet (PBUH), and we all have made him the focal point of our faith.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hasan
    They have. But as the example of Hazrat Uways Qarni illustrates when love reaches its extreme so do the reaction of that love.
    I think we had these discussions before. Lets leave it, you do what you think right.


    Rudi is a useless umpire get rid off him plzzzzz.

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    I think we had these discussions before. Lets leave it, you do what you think right.
    Shia and Sunni Islam are two sides on the same coin, and any discussion which clarifies misconceptions is only for the betterment.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hasan
    They have. But as the example of Hazrat Uways Qarni illustrates when love reaches its extreme so do the reaction of that love.
    I am glad that this is the case although in Bahrain, this is done freely and is considered a tourist spectacle!

    Ofcourse, one cannot stop one from losing control as you indicate but problem is when people are encouraged to do so.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Hasan
    Shia and Sunni Islam are two sides on the same coin, and any discussion which clarifies misconceptions is only for the betterment.
    Bro it won't work. Trust me.


    Rudi is a useless umpire get rid off him plzzzzz.

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    I say no to matam


    What did the Nihari say to the Naan?Oye! Na Aaana Paas!! Main Nihari Hoon!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Foozee
    I say no to matam
    I will go along with that but.. Shia people do it as they think its OK to do which is fair enough.


    Rudi is a useless umpire get rid off him plzzzzz.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hasan
    Arab men and women were known to beat their cheats and heads to mourn the passing away of a loved one, and this practice continuted during and after the life the Prophet, as suggested by the following accounts:
    In jahiliyya, people used to do all that. This practice did not continue after Prophet Muhammad, except for a few exceptions. For those exceptions, see this from Bukhari:

    Volume 2, Book 23, Number 382:
    Narrated 'Abdullah:

    the Prophet said, "He who slaps his cheeks, tears his clothes and follows the ways and traditions of the Days of Ignorance is not one of us."

    As for Umar, far from taking part in maatam, he was the strongest critic of these undignified practices. Again from Bukhari:

    Volume 2, Book 23, Number 391:
    Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Umar :

    Sad bin 'Ubada became sick and the Prophet along with 'Abdur Rahman bin 'Auf, Sad bin Abi Waqqas and 'Abdullah bin Masud visited him to enquire about his health. When he came to him, he found him surrounded by his household and he asked, "Has he died?" They said, "No, O Allah's Apostle." The Prophet wept and when the people saw the weeping of Allah's Apostle (p.b.u.h) they all wept. He said, "Will you listen? Allah does not punish for shedding tears, nor for the grief of the heart but he punishes or bestows His Mercy because of this." He pointed to his tongue and added, "The deceased is punished for the wailing of his relatives over him." 'Umar used to beat with a stick and throw stones and put dust over the faces (of those who used to wail over the dead).

    Quote Originally Posted by Hasan
    However, to cast judgement on the correctness of someone faith based on whether they partake in matam is a very dangerous position to assume
    Nobody (at least not me) is making any judgement on anybody's faith. Only Allah is the judge of that. All I am doing is state what I believe is the correct teaching of Allah and his messenger, and try to put forward my understanding of islamic history.

    And Allah knows best.
    Last edited by Momo; 31st December 2008 at 20:22.

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    I say no to matam
    And that is a position which you have a God given right to take, but those who take the other view have the same God given right.

    Point being this is not an issue upon which ones faith should be judged.

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    Nobody (at least not me) is making any judgement on anybody's faith. Only Allah is the judge of that. All I am doing is state what I believe is the correct teaching of Allah and his messenger, and try to put forward my understanding of islamic history.

    And Allah knows best.
    Do you see my point that there so much conflicting evidence regarding this issue that is it best to leave it to the individual without becoming judgemental. This was my point on the other thead, for those people who get distracted by matam and fail to fully appreciate the true message of Imam Hussain fail to benefit from a key feature of the Prophet's mission.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hasan
    And that is a position which you have a God given right to take, but those who take the other view have the same God given right.

    Point being this is not an issue upon which ones faith should be judged.
    Thats it you have answered your question. Lets leave it to that.


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    They have. But as the example of Hazrat Uways Qarni illustrates when love reaches its extreme so do the reaction of that love.
    Hasan

    Seriously is this love or just a ritual?

    I have grown up among shias and it seems to be a game for the children and just an act of sticking with the community for the adults.

    In the other thread I had posted ahadith which showed that you should not mourn for anyone for more than 3 days.

    Ayotulla Khamenie

    Q1450: Is hitting oneself with swords ḥalāl if it is done in secret? Or is your fatwā in this regard universal?

    A: In addition to the fact that it is not held in the common view as manifestations of mourning and grief and it has no precedent at the lifetime of the Imams (a.s.) and even after that and we have not received any tradition quoted from the Infallibles (a.s.) about any support for this act, be it privately or publicly, this practice would, at the present time, give others a bad image of our school of thought. Therefore, there is no way that it can be considered permissible.


    • There is no reference to the practice of bleeding oneself to mourn someone in the ahadiths for the sunnis or the ahadiths of the imams for the shias.
    • This is not how people mourn deaths
    • It comes across as irrational
    • There are ahadiths which prohibit it (sunni ahadith)


    []Wazeeri aka Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Wazeeri[/]

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    Seriously is this love or just a ritual?
    Given its cultural natural its more ritual, however, not all rituals are against the teaching of Islam.

    I have grown up among shias and it seems to be a game for the children and just an act of sticking with the community for the adults.
    I would suggest that it is very difficult for a human to trully understand the intentions of another.

    In the other thread I had posted ahadith which showed that you should not mourn for anyone for more than 3 days.
    If that is the case then why did the Prophet (PBUH) mourn the passing away of Hazrat Abu Talib and Hazrat Khadija for a full year?

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    If that is the case then why did the Prophet (PBUH) mourn the passing away of Hazrat Abu Talib and Hazrat Khadija for a full year?
    Timing of ahadith, not all of islam was revealed at once.


    []Wazeeri aka Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Wazeeri[/]

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    [/QUOTE]Ayotulla Khamenie

    Q1450: Is hitting oneself with swords ḥalāl if it is done in secret? Or is your fatwā in this regard universal?

    A: In addition to the fact that it is not held in the common view as manifestations of mourning and grief and it has no precedent at the lifetime of the Imams (a.s.) and even after that and we have not received any tradition quoted from the Infallibles (a.s.) about any support for this act, be it privately or publicly, this practice would, at the present time, give others a bad image of our school of thought. Therefore, there is no way that it can be considered permissible.

    There is no reference to the practice of bleeding oneself to mourn someone in the ahadiths for the sunnis or the ahadiths of the imams for the shias.

    This is not how people mourn deaths

    It comes across as irrational

    There are ahadiths which prohibit it (sunni ahadith)[QUOTE]

    What you need to appreciate is that there are degrees of matam from gently placing your had on your chest to inflecting injury to yourself with knives. The more extreme forms matam have always been discouraged, however, the more moderate forms of matam are encouraged as a means of ritual of remembering the Imam Hussain.

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    There has been many people who have gave their lives for islam. The way to honour them would be to respect their names and follow their example.

    Not beating and cutting yourself up. They are human beings. We humans do not even beat ourselves for allah who commands worship from us.

    matam in its very form is haram because mourning the death of someone for too long is not allowed in islam.
    Last edited by Somali Pirate; 31st December 2008 at 21:03.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Hasan
    Given its cultural natural its more ritual, however, not all rituals are against the teaching of Islam.

    I would suggest that it is very difficult for a human to trully understand the intentions of another.

    If that is the case then why did the Prophet (PBUH) mourn the passing away of Hazrat Abu Talib and Hazrat Khadija for a full year?
    Do you have any proof that Prophet(PBUH) spent one year in mourning? People may not agree with that.

    Its futile, I know people get abusive here or if you go to any of the forum where such discussions take place.


    Rudi is a useless umpire get rid off him plzzzzz.

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    Timing of ahadith, not all of islam was revealed at once
    Most hadith are not authentic (may were created for political expedience). In contrast all actions of the Prophet are based on direct guidance of the Allah.

    But if you are ready to believe every hadith, then I can show you a number of hadith which show that the Prophet mourned for Imam Hussain on the day of his birth some 60 years before the day of Karbala.

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    What you need to appreciate is that there are degrees of matam from gently placing your had on your chest to inflecting injury to yourself with knives. The more extreme forms matam have always been discouraged, however, the more moderate forms of matam are encouraged as a means of ritual of remembering the Imam Hussain.
    Hasan what you are failing to realise is that no one has explicitly raised objections against the gentler forms. It is the knives and zanjeers which people find objectionable.

    As for the gentler forms I believe these should also be rejected because they are bid'ah and they serve no purpose.

    You will see very few scholars participating, they always chose the better way of remembering the tragedy through du'a for the Prophet(pbuh)'s family and teaching people of the event. That is far more appropriate then hurting oneself gently or otherwise.

    It is a ritual which has no basis in religion, it serves no purpose, there are better options and there are indications which suggest that this practice is against our religion.


    []Wazeeri aka Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Wazeeri[/]

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    Most hadith are not authentic (may were created for political expedience). In contrast all actions of the Prophet are based on direct guidance of the Allah.

    But if you are ready to believe every hadith, then I can show you a number of hadith which show that the Prophet mourned for Imam Hussain on the day of his birth some 60 years before the day of Karbala.
    Yes do so and I will show you that he didn't beat himself or inflict damage to himself.


    []Wazeeri aka Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Wazeeri[/]

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hasan
    Most hadith are not authentic (may were created for political expedience). In contrast all actions of the Prophet are based on direct guidance of the Allah.

    But if you are ready to believe every hadith, then I can show you a number of hadith which show that the Prophet mourned for Imam Hussain on the day of his birth some 60 years before the day of Karbala.
    Did he beat his chest and inflicted wounds by chains? Mourning is natural noone is questioning that.


    Rudi is a useless umpire get rid off him plzzzzz.

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    There has been many people who have gave their lives for islam. The way to honour them would be to respect their names and follow their example.

    Not beating and cutting yourself up. They are human beings. We humans do not even beat ourselves for allah who commands worship from us.
    Agreed, but remember that matam forms just one part of the ritual (Majlis) associated with the remembrance of Imam Hussain. A traditional gathering is composed of the following schedule
    - Reciting the Quran,
    - Poetic recitations in the hounour of the Prophet and his family,
    - Lecture/speech based on Quran, Hadith, and historical events
    - Emotional recounting the events of Karbala
    - Matam

    And remember that very few people do the extreme form of matam, vast majority beat their chest.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hasan
    Agreed, but remember that matam forms just one part of the ritual (Majlis) associated with the remembrance of Imam Hussain. A traditional gathering is composed of the following schedule
    - Reciting the Quran,
    - Poetic recitations in the hounour of the Prophet and his family,
    - Lecture/speech based on Quran, Hadith, and historical events
    - Emotional recounting the events of Karbala
    - Matam

    And remember that very few people do the extreme form of matam, vast majority beat their chest.
    Can I ask you do they abuse certain Sahabas in lectures? please be honest.


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    Did he beat his chest and inflicted wounds by chains? Mourning is natural noone is questioning that.
    The hadith notes that he wept bitterly. However, this may have involved cheat beating as was undertaken by his wife when he himself passed away himself. But we would be speculating.

    As illustrated by the hadith al Tabari in History Volume 9 page 183:
    Abbas narrates: "I heard Ayesha saying "The Messenger of God died on my bosom during my turn, I did not wrong anyone in regard to him. It was because of my ignorance and youthfulness that the Messenger of God died while he was in my lap. Then I laid his head on a pillow and got up beating my chest and slapping my face along with the women".

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    Can I ask you do they abuse certain Sahabas in lectures? please be honest.
    No, however, they do take a critical perspective on the actions of all historical figures. Abusing someone is not within the teaching of the Prophet, however, being critical of someones actions and deeds are.

    If someone is foolish enough to bordor on becoming abusive they are quickly reminded that these occasions are for the rememberence of the Prophet and his family and not for abusing anyone.

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    However, this may have involved cheat beating as was undertaken by his wife when he himself passed away himself. But we would be speculating.
    And if we add that to the prohibition of mourning for more than three days we have a sound argument against Ma'atam. From a sunni sources atleast and we have shia sources showing that it has no basis in religion or ahadith of the family of the Prophet(pbuh).


    []Wazeeri aka Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Wazeeri[/]

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    No, however, they do take a critical perspective on the actions of all historical figures. Abusing someone is not within the teaching of the Prophet, however, being critical of someones actions and deeds are.
    there are other traditions mainly in Pakistan and India where a white chicken is beaten with a shoe. The chicken symbolises Hadhrat Usman.


    []Wazeeri aka Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Wazeeri[/]

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    can somebody clarify this for me...

    is it true that the first person to preform the "matam" at the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam hussain was Yazid himself???

    if yes, then why do shias follow the act of he maz who killed hazrat imam hussain?


    "The Indian bowling attack is as devastating as the Teletubbies"- Sir Ian Botham

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    I dont believe how anyone can justify the act of self torture. It is ok to cry, feel sad, etc. but beating yourself up is wayyyyy over the top


    Ghareeb saray mar gaye
    Kiun kai, zinda hai bhutto zinda hai

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wazeeri
    there are other traditions mainly in Pakistan and India where a white chicken is beaten with a shoe. The chicken symbolises Hadhrat Usman.

    As a member of a Shia family, I can state that this is the first time I have heard of this practice.

    Amongst Sunnis (or people who profess to be sunni), we have people who visit the Data Darbar in Lahore and indulge in all kinds of Bidaa - that doesnt taint the Sunni community - neither should this

    I would also point out that insulting Sahaba is not practiced by many Shias, including possibly all those that I know personally.


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    Quote Originally Posted by MIG
    As a member of a Shia family, I can state that this is the first time I have heard of this practice.

    Amongst Sunnis (or people who profess to be sunni), we have people who visit the Data Darbar in Lahore and indulge in all kinds of Bidaa - that doesnt taint the Sunni community - neither should this

    I would also point out that insulting Sahaba is not practiced by many Shias, including possibly all those that I know personally.
    MIG

    Its not about tainting any community. Both sects are muslims. BUT what's wrong is wrong. The data darbar thing you mentioned is wrong too. I know people go there, do sajday etc etc. That's wrong. And so is beating youself up like this


    Ghareeb saray mar gaye
    Kiun kai, zinda hai bhutto zinda hai

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    Sorry - maybe I didnt make myself clear enough - a bad practice is a bad practice but people should stop making it out as if Shias are the only one who indulge in these types of extreme rituals.

    Like I said, my Shia acquaintances and family members have never insulted anyone - they hold Yazeed responsible which is fair game.


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    As a member of a Shia family, I can state that this is the first time I have heard of this practice.
    MIG

    I used to believe this to be propoganda against the shias as well but a few years ago a lady moved into our neighbourhood in Pakistan she was a wife of a high ranking railway official.

    She became friends with some of the women in our family and we don't normally get into what sect someone is from so no one knew that she was shia. She invited my grandad's two sisters to a religious gathering in Maharram and they came back to confirm this.

    Other stories included people crawling under a white horse as this symbolises the horse of Imam Hussain (RA).

    I know this is the most extreme of the practices and it shouldn't taint the whole community but what it does do is taint the people who do this.

    As far as some sunnis are concerned I have heard of people making models of the Kaaba and circling it at the time of Eid Milad un nabi.

    Things like this don't taint a whole community but they do taint the sub-communities or individuals who are involved in it.


    []Wazeeri aka Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Wazeeri[/]

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    Totally agree with what you say - these practices do happen amongst Shias.

    I remember, I once went into an Imam Bargah once and there were various artefacts that people were touching as if in a temple - I found that very distressing and I left the place immediately - suffice to say, this is the last time I ever went into a Imam Bargah.

    However, during my younger years, we used to have majalis at home and at relatives where some really good speakers would come and rally the crowds - I still listen to these on TV and I find them very inspiring - I also enjoy the marsias and the poetry. To me this the true sense of shiism.

    btw, can I add that I no longer follow any Shia imams and for most purposes, follow the mainstream Hanafi practice.


    For answers to the Universe, Life and everything : TheSourceNews(TSN)

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    Quote Originally Posted by MIG
    Amongst Sunnis (or people who profess to be sunni), we have people who visit the Data Darbar in Lahore and indulge in all kinds of Bidaa - that doesnt taint the Sunni community - neither should this

    I would also point out that insulting Sahaba is not practiced by many Shias, including possibly all those that I know personally.
    I agree. That is why I am strongly against labels. They are misleading, vague, and hence useless or dangerous. It's unfortunate that muslims have come to a stage where the other day an Iranian woman asked me without any hesitation at all if I was a 'sunna or a shee'a'.

    Now it will be naive to say that we have not been divided into these two categories (and countless sub-categories), but my point is that knowing that somebody is a sunni or a shee'a hardly adds any meaningful information, because just what kind of a sunni or shee'a that person exactly is still remains unknown.

    So when discussing these things, we should concentrate on issues and not resort to generalizations (easier said than done though, when we are so used to thinking in terms of labels). Most of the time it (rubbishing the other side's opinion) happens unconsciously (Now how can my father and grandfather be wrong?) because most members of our nation are not exactly notorious for using their own brains. But in some cases, it is also done in a deliberate way ('Oh he is a sunni/shee'a; not surprising if he is saying such and such, is it now?'), i.e., using the label as a substitute for argument and pretending that the debate has been won (and of course this sort of thing can also be seen in 'barelvi'/'wahaabi' etc debates).

    So while I am all for discussion (in a scholarly way), it should be about issues, not identities. Of course if an issue is being discussed and I disagree with somebody, I will definitely put forward my point of view on the subject (on the issue and not on a 'community' at large) - like I just did on the subject of maatam.

    Better still (because discussions will most likely not bridge these gaps that are there about certain controversial topics), we should try to focus on the so many things that we have in common, rather than bicker over a few matters where we differ. As long as somebody doesn't openly reject any of the pillars of islam (Alhamdulillah most 'sunni' and 'shee'a' don't), we should have no problems in considering them our brothers in islam (as for differences of belief in these clashing matters, Allah will be the judge, and what a fair judge He is!). If we are all holding the same rope (Qur'an), we can't be that different from one another, can we?
    Last edited by Momo; 1st January 2009 at 01:01.

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