By: Agha Shaukat Jafri
Enclosed is a dramatization of a grotesque scene (CLICK HERE) in the the city of Hyderabad, India in which a Zakir (Religious speaker) is being confronted by a group of congregants. They express displeasure with his inept and illicit sermons that they consider misleading and harmful to the public psyche. Such painful portrayals reveal what has gone awry with the practice of Azadari (commemoration for the martyrdom of the Prophet’s grandson and his family members). What is shown in Hyderabad is what so tragically is taking place in almost every single corner of the Shia universe.
The Afghan, Arab, and Persian Shia communities tend to demonstrate a more subtle, but practical, disposition towards the centuries-old tradition. Whereas people hailing from the sub-continent of India and Pakistan in particular, appear to posses an entirely different outlook with respect to this practice. They exhibit a discourse that is much influenced by cultural rituals and local customs, which are not always in consonance with the puritanical precepts of the faith.
Azadari is a solemn and sacred institution that was adopted by the members of the Prophet’s family especially after the Martyrdom of Hussain Ibn Ali (AS) and his family and friends. It has been under threat by the enemies of Ahl ul Bayt at numerous times during the course of Islamic history. Al- Khawarij, Banu Ummayya, Banu Abbas, the Salafites, the Ottomans and now the Wahhabi goons are known enemies of the family of the Prophet. They did everything possible to suppress any expression of grief and sorrow manifested by the lovers of Ahl ul Bayt.
Sadly, in the past few decades, the form as well as the norm of Azadari have begun to move towards a deleterious direction. The conduct of Azadari by certain Momineen, while complying with their respective customs, remains unsupervised either by a council of authentic and acclaimed scholars or by the institutions based in the holy cities of Najaf and Qum. Also, it is impossible to challenge someone’s Aqueeda (Belief), because it is a personal choice enshrined in the constitutions of numerous nations under the context of “Freedom of Religion.
Time, the most precious commodity of all, is being wasted to no end. A Majlis (Lecture) that can last anywhere from 60-90 minutes is measured, not for quality and accuracy of information, but by how loud and long-winded it is. The Zakirs (speakers & the chanters) command honorariums (Hadya) that are in most instances measured for glib and incite rather than for the knowledge that they impart.
The Tabbarruk (food), that normally get served at the festivities of weddings and birthdays (four to five course dinners) have become common occurrences during these somber events. Accounts are routinely kept and then settled with friends and family members, who must prioritize attending a Majlis hosted by one loved one over another, inevitably insulting someone in the process. Speakers from far out lands are invited and accommodated with a great deal of reverence and remuneration, while the local speakers are routinely discarded and demeaned; particularly during the holy months of Ramadan, Muharram and Safar.
The practice of Azadari and its sanctity must be preserved at any cost. Otherwise, the implosion from within the Ummah’s ranks will cripple the spiritual and intellectual fiber of this most unique and powerful institution forever. Emotionally charged audiences that include tear jerkers and chest beaters must be made to understand that the mode and modality of their sorrow for the holy martyrs are justified acts, as long as they comprehend the true essence of Azadari and its virtues. Reforms and resolutions are needed not just on the grassroot level, but also for the leadership that controls pulpits, who must wake-up and stop this self-inflicted chaos and confusion.
When asked as to why he was subjecting himself and his endeared family and friends to the most dangerous confines of Iraq and its hostile environment, Aba Abdullah Al-Hussain replied, “I am going to reform the people of my Grandfather, while defending and upholding his religion”!
Picture Reference: http://shiaazadariranchi.blogspot.com/