I testify there is no god but Allah.
I testify there are no associates to Allah; He is One, the Only, the most High, the absolute Authority, the most Just, the Master of the Day of Judgement and that I am only a mortal slave of Him.
I further testify that Mohammed (s) is Allah’s last and most beloved prophet.
And I further testify that the Imam Ali (a) is the chosen successor of Mohammed (s) and the 11 Imams from the womb of Fatemah (s) are my rightful Imams and Masters.
It is the eve of Ashura and I visit the Husseini Islamic Center, a stone’s throw away from my home, here in Sanford, FL. I am going for magreeb jamaat prayers and then will pay my respects to the martyrs of Karbala. But only after a hefty helping of Azeem’s fiery booni kitchri and choondo curry first.
Right adjacent to the main prayer building, our excellent and dedicated team of hard working volunteers are putting up an enclosure pen, made of a blue plastic shield, as if in preparation to hide something from prying (public?) eyes. The pen is at the expense of very hard to find parking space. Intrigued, I stop to ask a young harassed helper what’s it this about.
Why Uncle, he says, his eyes wide in surprise, as if I have asked the most preposterously obvious question, we are preparing for the zanjeer maatam for tonight, of course. The young teen, Allah bless him, puts me in a sour mood immediately. Not only does he innocently address me using a most inapt title, his notion that I should know about the zanjeer maatam puts me off. I nevertheless thank him and go about my business.
My mind, however, is in turmoil. Here we go again. Nothing changes. We are stuck in our ritualistic mindset, unable or most likely, unwilling to change. I was hopeful the new, younger, more educated MC at HIC would usher in changes demanded by a growing, more progressive community. Wrong! Same old, same old. Shame on you! Do not allow this illogical and barbaric ritual take place! Show some spine and stand up to what is right, no matter how hard they twist your arms.
You let few old-timers, who have their heads buried in muck, dictate to the majority how to mourn the supreme, sublime, holy sacrifice of our Imam (a). This minority, who hijack the whole concept of Ashura and make a mockery of a noble sacrifice. Year after bloody repeating year. Aree Baba, what will it take to make you change this wrong and barbaric ritual? Are you deaf, dumb and blind?
Let me repeat the whole anti-zanjeer argument here again:
*None of our Imams practiced or encouraged, even remotely, this repugnant practice.
*The practice is illogical.
*The practice is prone to injury, disease and impurity.
*The practice is harming and hindering the message of the Imam (a).
*The practice is shameful, insulting and embarrassing to the honor of Islam.
*We can propagate the message of Ashura in so many other ways; logical, safe, clean, legal, progressive avenues that’ll make the Imam (a) and we stand tall and proud of the day.
The conflicting opinions of our ulemas don’t help. Many leading Marja says zanjeer is not permissible, while few others tell me I will not get Lady Fatema’s intercession if I refrain from robust zanjeer, not that I have ever seen them spill their blood.
Aree Baba, Ashura is about dignity, pride, patience and intellect. Study Lady Zainab (a)’s patience, mannerisms and poise, through all the trials and tribulations she had to endure. Did she do anything that was irrational? Study Imam Sajjad’s (a) stance, wisdom and fortitude; were any of his actions illogical? Of all the people in then Karbala, Imam Sajjad (a) was the most grieved after Ashura, and he would be excused for acting in any manner without any finger pointed at him. Yet, he chose to bear all the atrocity with incredible calm, poise, forbearance and dignity. Dignity to Islam, to himself, to his household and to that of the entire Ahlebeyt (a). And ditto with all the following Imams (a), all of them. Same poise, patience, forbearance and dignity.
With all the examples we have from these idols, some of us take upon ourselves to practice demonic rituals, all in the Imam’s (a) names. Just because we found our fathers and ancestors doing it. Because it is uncomfortable and fearful letting go of rituals that bind us in comfort zones. Even though the Quraan condemns this very argument – following the rituals of ancestors.
I know the inevitable rebuttals. Why should I care and we are spilling our blood and nobody is forcing me to do it and it is our way of showing we love the Imam (a) and shut up and mind your own business… Wrong! As long as the tamasha is played out in the premises of HIC, whose member I am and with who I affiliate, it is my business all right. A wrong done here and we become collectively responsible, legally and morally. If you want your blood shed in a ritualistic manner that has no Islamic basis – DO IT IN YOUR BACKYARD!