Islamic Months · Muharram · Q & A

Hurting Oneself in `Aashoora’

Q. What is the Islamic perspective concerning the acts of the Shiite on the day of `Aashoora’? We see them hurting themselves. Does this have any basis in Islam?

A. In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. 

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Dear brother, thank you for your important question.

First of all, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala says in Surah al-Israa’ Ayah 70,

17:70

And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference.

Thus, if we physically torture ourselves for the sake of mourning, we are actually degrading our humanity. Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala did not prescribe for humans that they should torture their bodies in order to mourn someone. This is so regardless of the status of the person. In the case of prescribed penalties in the Shari`ah, the criminal is not allowed to perform the penalty on himself, so how could punishing and torturing oneself be allowed without a crime?

Many Shiite go out on the day of `Aashoora’ (10th of Muharram) and beat their chests, slap their cheeks, strike their shoulders with chains and cut their heads with razors to let the blood flow in the name of mourning the martyrdom of Al-Hussein ibn`Ali radhiAllahu `anhu. We say that doing such things are absolutely impermissible and a bid`ah that has no basis in Islam.

Elaborating on this issue, we would like to cite the following fatwa issued by Sheikh M. S. Al-Munajjid, a prominent Saudi Muslim lecturer and author:

What the Shiite do on `Aashoora’ of beating their chests, slapping their cheeks, striking their shoulders with chains and cutting their heads with razors to let the blood flow are all bid`ah that have no basis in Islam.

These things are evils that were forbidden by the Prophet sallAllahu `alayhi wa sallam who did not prescribe any such things for his Ummah or anything similar to them to mark the death of a great leader or the loss of a martyr, despite his high status. During his lifetime a number of senior Companions were martyred and he mourned their loss, such as Hamzah ibn`Abdul Muttalib, Zayd ibn Harithah, Ja`far ibn Abi Talib and `Abdullah ibn Rawahah, but he did not do anything similar to what the Shiite do. If it was good, he would have done it.

The Prophet Ya`qoob [Jacob] `alayhi salaam did not strike his chest or scratch his face, or shed blood or mark the day of the loss of Yusuf as a festival or a day of mourning. Rather, he remembered his missing loved one and felt sad and distressed. No one can be blamed for doing this. What is forbidden is the actions that have been inherited from the Jahiliyyah, which Islam forbids. 

`Abdullah ibn Mas`oud radhiAllahu `anhu narrated that the Prophet sallAllahu `alayhi wa sallam said,

“He is not one of us who strikes his cheeks, rends his garment, or cries with the cry of the Jahiliyyah.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

These impermissible actions that the Shiite do on the day of `Aashoora’ have no basis in Islam. The Prophet sallAllahu `alayhi wa sallam did not do them, nor did any of his Companions. These actions were not done when any of the Companions were killed, and they were also not done when Muhammad sallAllahu `alayhi wa sallam passed away, and he was greater than Al-Hussein ibn`Ali radhiAllahu `anhu.

Al-Hafiz Ibn Katheer (may Allah have mercy on him) said,

“Every Muslim should mourn the killing of Al-Hussein ibn`Ali, for he was one of the leaders of the Muslims, one of the scholars of the Companions, and the son of the daughter of the Messenger of Allah, who was the best of his daughters. He was a devoted worshiper, and a courageous and generous man.”

However, there is nothing good in what the Shiite do when they express distress and grief; and most of it may be done in order to show off. His father was better than him and he was murdered, but they do not take his death as an anniversary as they do with the death of Al-Hussein ibn`Ali. His father was killed on a Friday as he was leaving the mosque after Fajr Prayer, on the seventeenth of Ramadan in 40 AH.  `Uthman ibn `Affan was better than `Ali ibn Abi Talib according to Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jama`ah, and he was killed when he was besieged in his house during the days of Al-Tashreeq  in Dhul-Hijjah of 36 AH., with his throat cut from one jugular vein to the other, but the people did not take his death as an anniversary.`Umar ibn Al-Khattab was better than `Ali and `Uthman, and he was killed as he was standing in the mihrab, praying  Fajr Prayer and reciting Qur’an, but the people did not take his death as an anniversary. Abu Bakr As-Siddiq was better than him but the people did not take his death as an anniversary. The Messenger of Allah sallAllahu `alayhi wa sallam is the leader of the sons of Adam in this world and the Hereafter, and Allah the Almighty took him as the Prophets who died before him, but no one took the dates of their deaths as anniversaries on which they do what the Shiite do on the day that Al-Hussein ibn `Ali was killed.

The best that can be said when remembering these and similar calamities is that which `Ali Ibn Al-Hussein narrated from his grandfather, the Messenger of Allah sallAllahu `alayhi wa sallam who said,

“There is no Muslim who is afflicted by a calamity and when he remembers it, even if it was in the dim and distant past, he says “Inna Lillaahi wa inna ilayhiraaji`oon (verily to Allah we belong and unto Him is our return),” but Allah will give him a reward like that of the day when it befell him.” See: Al-Bidayah wal-Nihayah (8/221).

Celebrating that day is a bid`ah, and making it an anniversary for mourning is also a bid`ah. Hence, Sheikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him), said,

“Because of the killing of Al-Hussein ibn`Ali radhiAllahu `anhu, Shaytan caused the people to introduce two innovations: the innovation of mourning and wailing on the day of `Aashoora’, by slapping the cheeks, weeping, and reciting eulogies and the innovation of rejoicing and celebrating. Therefore, some introduced mourning and others introduced celebration, so they regarded the day of `Aashoora’ as a day for wearing kohl, performing ghusl, spending on the family and making special kinds of food. Every innovation is a means of going astray. None of the four imams of the Muslims or any other scholars regarded either of these things as recommended.” See: Minhaj al-Sunnah (4/554).

It should be noted that these impermissible actions are encouraged by the enemies of Islam, so that they can achieve their evil aims of distorting the image of Islam and its followers.

Concerning this point Musa Al-Musawi said in his book Al-Shi`ah wal-Tas-heeh,

“But there can be no doubt that striking heads with swords and cutting the head as a way of mourning Al-Hussein ibn`Ali on the tenth day of Muharram reached Iran, Iraq and India during the British occupation of those lands. The British are the ones who exploited the ignorance and naiveté of the Shiite and their deep love for Al-Hussein ibn `Ali, and taught them to strike their heads with swords.

Until recently the British embassies in Tehran and Baghdad sponsored the Husseini parades in which this repulsive spectacle appears in the streets and alleyways. The aim of the British imperialist policy of developing this unsightly spectacle and exploiting it in the worst manner was to give an acceptable justification to the British people and the free press that opposed British colonialism in India and other Muslim countries, and to show the people of these countries as savages who needed someone to save them from their ignorance and savagery. Images of the parades that marched in the streets on the day of `Aashoora’, in which thousands of people were striking their backs with chains and making them bleed, and striking their heads with daggers and swords, appeared in British and European newspapers.

In this way, the politicians justified their colonization of these countries on the basis of a humane duty to colonize the lands of people whose culture was like that, so as to lead them towards civility and progress. It was said that when Yasin al-Hashimi, the Iraqi prime minister at the time of the British occupation of Iraq, visited London to negotiate with the British for an end to the Mandate, the British said to him: We are in Iraq to help the Iraqi people to make progress and attain happiness, and bring them out of savagery. This angered Yasin al-Hashimi and he stomped out of the room where the negotiations were being held.  However, the British apologized politely and asked him with all respect to watch a documentary about Iraq, which turned out to be a film about the Husseini marches in the streets of al-Najaf, Karbala’ and al-Kazimiyah. This film showed horrific and off-putting images of people striking themselves with daggers and chains. It is as if the British wanted to tell him: Would an educated people with even a little civility do such things to themselves?”

Allah Amighty knows best.

Published with the permission of OnIslam.net. We express our gratitude to them for allowing us to put their work on our blog. May Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala bless them for this generosity. The only changes made are in the spellings and Arabic terms.

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