Why do we only mourn Imam Hussain (peace be upon him), and would he want us to punish ourselves for him?
Why does mourning Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) hold more significance than mourning the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him and his family)?
In the Name of Allah, the All-Beneficent, the All-Merciful.
May Allah bless Muhammad and his Family and damn their enemies.
We do not only mourn and commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him), but we also mourn and commemorate the memory of all the other Infallibles (peace be upon them) and hold mourning programmes on their martyrdom anniversaries. However, we may put greater emphasis on the mourning and weeping for Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) because the pure Infallibles themselves (peace be upon them) strongly encouraged us to do so.
According to the traditions of the pure Imams (peace be upon them), the tragedy of Karbala is the most tragic of all and a source of great sadness and pain for Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them). It has been narrated that Imam al-Hassan al-Mujtaba (peace be upon him) said:
There is no day like your day, O’ Aba Abdullah
al-Amali by Saduq, p. 177
It has also been narrated that Imam al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) said:
There is no tragedy like ours at Karbala
al-Hidayah al-Kubra by al-Khusaibi, p. 417
It means that the day of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) is the most catastrophic of all days for Aal Muhammad (peace be upon them). Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his pure family) was, in fact, the first individual who held a mourning ‘Majlis’ for Imam Hussain (peace be upon him). This fact is reported by authentic ‘Sunni’: Ammul Fadl bint al-Harith narrated that she took Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) to the Prophet and put him on his lap. The Prophet’s (peace be upon him and his pure family) gaze turned away from her, his eyes flowing with tears. She said:
May I ransom you) with my father and mother Apostle of Allah, what is the matter? ‘Gabriel (peace be on him) came to me and told me that my nation will seek to kill this son of mine and brought me dust made red by his (blood).
al-Hakim al-Nisaburi in Al-Mustadrak alaa Al-Sahihain 176 / 3, al-Hafidh al-Bayhaqi in Dalael al-Nubouwa, al-Hafidh ibn Asakir in Tarikh al-Sham and al-Hafidh bin al-Khawarizmi 1 / 158 – 162
Therefore, we follow in the footsteps of the Holy Prophet and his pure family in mourning Imam Hussain (peace be upon them all).
We do not punish ourselves in any shape or form when we mourn and commemorate Imam Hussain’s Martyrdom (peace be upon him). This is an incorrect interpretation of the essence of al-Sha’aer al-Hussainiyah (the mourning rituals of Imam Hussain( peace be upon him). When we practice the mourning rituals of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him), such as beating the chest (known as al-Latm or Seeneh-Zani) or wounding the top of the head with a sword (known as al-Tatbir, Qameh-Zani or Teegh-Zani), we try to recognise and feel some of the pain our master Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) had felt.
The pure Infallibles themselves recommended that we practice such rituals; they instructed us to perform ‘Muwasat’ for Imam Hussain (peace be upon him), which means imitating and sharing some of his pain. Similarly, we find that Allah (the Most Exalted) had made the Muwasat for Lady Hajar (peace be upon her) among the rituals of Hajj and Umra, as all Muslims are ordered to perform Sa’i between Safa and Marwa to commemorate and share some of the pain and difficulties Lady Hajar went through when she ran back and forth between the two hills (Safa and Marwa) seven times in search of water for her infant Isma’il (peace be upon him). So do we really punish ourselves when we perform Sa’i?!
Therefore, when we mourn, beat our chests and perform bloodletting upon the loss of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him), we try to imitate and share some of his pain, which is among the core teachings of our pure Imams (peace be upon them). As it has been narrated that Imam al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) said:
The family of Fatima (peace be upon her) tore off their collars and slapped their cheeks upon the loss of Hussain ibn Ali (peace be upon them), upon the likes of Hussain, cheeks must [certainly] be slapped, and collars must be torn
Wasa’il al-Shia by Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Vol. 15, p. 583.
It is ironic to see the opponents of Ahl al-Bayt attacking and ridiculing the mourning rituals of Imam Hussain, the grandson of the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon them), falsely claiming that these practices are nothing but Bid’ah (innovation) when it has not only been reported in their books that the Prophet (peace be upon him and his pure family) performed Latm but also threw dust on his head and beard upon learning that his grandson will be martyred!
I went to visit Umm Salamah and found her weeping. I asked her what was making her weep and she replied that she had seen Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) (in a dream) with dust on his head and beard. She asked him what was the matter and he replied: ‘‘I have just been present at the slaying of al-Hussain.
al-Tarikh al-Kabir by al-Bukhari vol. 3 p. 324, Sunan al-Tirmidhi vol. 5 p. 323, al-Mu’jam al-Kabir by al-Tabarani vol. 23 p. 373, Mustadrak al-Hakim vol. 4 p. 19
Furthermore, the opponents of Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them) might be unaware that their mother, A’isha, claimed that she slapped her face and beat her chest upon the loss of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his pure family). Al-Thahabi reported that she said:
I got up weeping, beating my chest and slapping my face along with the women
Tarikh al-Islam by al-Thahabi vol. 1, p.154.
So why do the opponents of Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them) not attack their mother A’isha for indulging in such a Bid’ah?!
Mourning the martyrdom of the holy Prophets and Imams (peace be upon them) by beating the chest is a permissible act; it washes one’s sins away, strengthens his faith and keeps him ever closer to the religion and its symbols. As Imam al-Ridha (peace be upon him) said:
Those who weep should weep over the likes of Hussain (peace be upon him) for surely, weeping over him does away with one’s great sins.
al-Amali by al-Saduq, p. 190.
The Office of Sheikh al-Habib