Why do Azadari in Muharram?

Why do Azadari in Muharram?

Contrary to the popular belief by some who assert that holding Majlis is a rather contemporary tradition, the first Majlis-e-Hussain (AS) was organized by his sister Syeda Zainab (AS) whose veil was torn off by the assassins Prophet’s (PBUH) grandson.


Who is not aware of the history of Karbala? – of the tragic incident that took place after 60 years of the death of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Dialectics behind Karbala need no glossing over, but what does need to be highlighted is its influence on people over centuries’ span. From languages to countries, from styles to rituals, the Azadari transformed a lot and now while living in Virginia I’m conveniently listening the lectures and “Marsiyas” in English., at my own place.


Currently, people in all parts of the world are seen mourning for Imam Hussain’s death in destitution. The journey of Azadari traveled with his sister from Damascus to Karbala and to Medina. She returned with some family members which includes son and grandson of Imam HussainAS. His son and grandsons always encouraged the performance of Azadari but in their time it was performed in utmost secrecy as the regime was opposed to any remembrance of Karbala.



In 350s AH an Islamic scholar Sheikh As-Suduq became the first person after family of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who started reciting extempore on Karbala’s history to his students. His students used to write his lectures to share it further in the community.  The first ever procession took place in 351 AH in Baghdad and Egypt, when hundreds of men, women and children gathered on the roads beating their chests and weeping for Imam HussainAS. The recitation of elegies started from there and became the part of Azadari, and then Azadari started with an entirely different style. Tamerlane, the founder of Timurid dynasty, introduced the institution of (Taboot and Alam) the icons of flags and coffins of Imam HussainAS.



Under the rule of Tamerlane’s grandson in central Asia, the Azadari went to sub-continent and deep rooted in the hearts of Muslims. Lucknow, one of the most developed, cultural cities of India, became the center of Azadari where many Indian poets started writing Marsiyas or eulogies in the remembrance of Karbala. These eulogies touched the peak by the hands of a famous poet Mir Baber Ali Anees. With Mir Baber many poets like Mir Moonis, Salamat Ali Dabeer, Mir Zameer, Ali Haider Tabatabai and Dr. Syed Ali Imam Zaidi wrote eulogies. In the earlier days, speakers and reciters used to read the eulogies and this is how Azadari started in Hindi or Urdu.



According to Muntazir Mehdi, the History Professor, in the era of 1930s, Maulana Sibte Hassan was the first to introduce Azadari in the form of lectures in Urdu and the mourners included eulogies, lectures, Nauhas (eulogies while beating chests) in one Majlis.



The people, who migrated from Arab and sub-continent to the Western world, started Azadari-HussainAS with the same style as they adopted in back homes. For many years, immigrants relied on the original eulogies (Marsiyas, nauhas) of their languages. But the second generations of immigrants who were born in West and whose original language was English were facing issues grasping the complexity of allegories, idioms and metaphors of other languages.



Therefore, parents of that generation started transferring the Azadari’s material in English. They started translating the Marsiyas of Mir Anees and many Persian elegies. Ali Abbas, an English Nauha writer and reciter from Maryland told me, “9 years ago, a scholar from London said to me that English has global reach, and has potential of influencing people of all communities; therefore, poetry in English will convey the pathos of the tragedy of Karbala more effectively.” He said, “Since then I am writing one Nauha every year”.



Ammar Nakshwani, a renowned scholar from London, said that Azadari in English brings Shiite community of different countries under one roof; English Azadari unites people of all countries and spread the message more effectively to other communities.



Ali Abbas believed that imam Hussain’s message is universal and his influence has truly been global as well. While quoting the example of Gandhi; when Gandhi took 72 people in his nonviolent protest against British Raj to mimic Imam Hussain’s 72 companions in Karbala; said that even those who don’t understand the religious significance of it relate it with personal courage, integrity, patience and sacrifice.



Now the youth who is born and raised in West is writing Nauhas on western rhythm which is a way of understanding the responsibilities of learning and teaching Azadari. The trend of writing elegies in English is growing but it will take time, but this transformation has proven one thing that Azadari will grow in different languages and countries. The way it has spread, many say that this is the miracle of Imam HussainAS that how everyone recalls his sacrifices every year in Muharram in different languages.

Farheen Rizvi

A masters in International Management from University of Maryland, a social worker and a blogger.

  • M.Saeed

    Azadari to a westerner is a continued mourning of an unfortunate incident of over 1400 years back. They fail to understand and often ask a simple question after observing a procession of beating chests in deep mourning. They ask, if Shias reject the main-stream Islam in such a vociferous way known to the world as Sunni Islam, then what really is Islam?
    There is a need for explaining the real essence of Islam to the world as given to us by our Holy Prophet (PBUH) and starting efforts to bridge the dividing gap between, not only sects, but also faiths, as the Prophet (PBUH) would have liked us to do. We have enough of guidance in Shariah, if we have a mind to read and find our way.

  • Syed Kazme

    Dear brother, Thank for your concern and good wishes for Islam.

    There is only one Islam brought by the prophet Mohammed (SAWW). There is no difference between Shia & Sunni because you cannot be a shia if you are not sunni and vice versa. The difference is between our ignorance. We are not aware of each other’s strengths. There is no difference between a true shia and a true sunni. Please read history as an independent reader you will get all the answers yourself. Allah will open your heart and mind.

    Regarding Azadari – the first Azadar was the prophet himself when Jibrael(AS) came to congratulate him, he smiled and then started crying because he was told what would happen to the Imam(AS). There are millions of our sunni brothers participate in Azadari of the Imam , of course in their own ways because it is sunnat…Let us all remember the Imam together like we used to in the past at least.
    May Allah bless you!

    Please read the following article:

    We cry for Hussain (AS) …So did the Prophet of Islam (S)

    By Yasser al-Madani

    Every year, Muslims around the world commemorate the tragedy of Karbala. They attend mourning meetings and processions in which the story of Karbala is retold, lamentations are held and special poetic readers using dramatic techniques and symbolism recite eulogies to mark the events of the day of Ashura. All these commemorative meetings not only serve to convey the events and message of Karbala but also provide opportunities for us to learn about Islam in general.

    We commemorate Ashura’ to symbolise and express our grief and emotions towards the martyrdom of Imam al-Hussain (AS), to keep Imam al-Hussain’s (AS) cause alive in our hearts and to be committed to his cause. Also, we want to extract lessons from the tragedy of Karbala and apply them to our daily lives. We want to pay our condolences to the Holy Prophet (S) and the Ahlul Bayt (AS). You might then ask why we do not commemorate the death of the Holy Prophet (S) who has a much higher rank than Imam al-Hussain (AS). The answer to this is that although we do commemorate and mourn the death of the Holy Prophet (S), it is the way and circumstance in which Imam al-Hussain (AS) was martyred which makes all the difference, the fact that he was martyred for refusing a government headed by the wretched Yazid, who drank, gambled and indulged in many corrupt practices, the fact that those who savagely slaughtered Imam al-Hussain (AS) called themselves Muslims is what makes us mourn and lament his martyrdom the way we do.

    Imagine, it is afternoon on the day of Ashura’. Imam al-Hussain (AS) is standing on the blood-drenched soil of Karbala in the heat of the scorching sun awaiting to meet his beloved. His head is wounded and blood is streaming slowly down his holy face soaking his blessed beard. He looks around, searching for members of his family and his companions, only to find them brutally slaughtered and slain like sacrificial lambs, lying there on the ground soaked in blood. He hears the innocent crying and wailing of the children and the women. Tears flow down his holy face. He takes a piece of cloth to wipe the blood from his face, whereupon an archer from the army of Yazid (may Allah’s curse be upon him) shoots a triple-headed arrow, which lodges into Imam al-Hussain’s (AS) heart.

    He pulls out the arrow causing blood to gush out. The Holy Imam is thirsty. He cries: “O Allah, I am thirsty”, in the meantime another man approaches and shoots an arrow which thrusts into Imam al-Hussain’s (AS) throat quenching his thirst. Hilal bin Nafi’ was reported as saying: “By God I never saw a person getting killed with his own blood all over his body in a better state than al-Hussain. I was so overwhelmed by the radiance of his face that I refrained from contemplating killing him.” Even when the accursed Shimr approached Imam al-Hussain (AS) to severe his blessed head, he said: “When I approached Hussain ibn Ali and my eyes fell on him, the light of his face so gripped me that I forgot my intention to kill him.” It is reported that when Imam al-Hussain was killed, the sky rained down blood.1 It has been recorded that Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (AS) has said:

    “…For no one the heavens wept for forty days save Yahya and Hussain…”2

    Show me such a spectacle of human greatness in an event other than Karbala and I will commemorate its memory instead of Karbala! How can someone hear all this and not cry and mourn; even those who are not Muslims shed tears when they hear this tragedy. Even the heavens wept for Imam al-Hussain (AS).3

    Let me ask you a question, if a Muslim cries over the passing away of their own relatives, then how can they not cry over the grandson of the Messenger of Allah (S)? As one of the greatest British historians, Edward Gibbon, once said: “In a distant age and climate, the tragic scene of the death of Hussain will awaken the sympathy of the coldest reader.”4

    Furthermore, crying for Imam al-Hussain (AS) is considered seeking nearness to Allah (SWT) for the tragedy of Karbala is bound to the great sacrifice which Imam al-Hussain (AS) endured for the sake of Allah (SWT) and for Islam. It is only when your heart is soft and absorbable that you feel the sense of closeness to Allah (SWT). The Holy Qur’an praises crying and those who cry for a legitimate cause. The Holy Qur’an describes many of the Prophets and their followers when they cried, “When the verses of the Most Gracious were recited unto them, they fell down prostrating and weeping”5

    Moreover, we cry over the martyrdom of Imam al-Hussain (AS) for the Holy Prophet (S) wept for Imam al-Hussain (AS) as recorded in many traditions (ahadith):

    Ahmed and Ibn al-Dhahhak narrated from Ali (AS): “I entered on the prophet (S) and his eyes were flooded, I said: Oh! Prophet of Allah, anyone made you angry? Why are your eyes flooded? He said: Gabriel just left me telling me that al-Hussain will be killed by the river Euphrates. He (the Prophet (S)) said: So he (Gabriel) said: Do you want me to let you smell his dirt (from his burial pot)? I said: Yes! He reached with his hand and grabbed and handful of dirt and gave it to me. So I could not help it and my eyes were flooded.”6

    Ummul Fadhl the daughter of al-Harith said that she entered on the Messenger of Allah (S) and she said: “Oh! Messenger of Allah, I saw a strange dream last night. He said: And what is it? She said: It was difficult. He said: And what is it? She said: I saw, as if, a piece of your body was severed and was put in my lap! The Messenger of Allah (S) said: You saw well – Fatima will give birth, God willing, a boy so he will be in your lap. Then Fatima gave birth to al-Hussain (AS) and he was in my lap – just as the Messenger of Allah (S) said. So I entered one day on the Messenger of Allah (S) and put him in his lap, but I noticed that the eyes of the Messenger of Allah (S) pouring tears! So I said: Oh! Prophet of Allah, my parents are your ransom, what is with you? He said: Gabriel (AS) came to me and informed me that my nation (ummah) will kill this son of mine.” 7

    Umm Salamah has said: “al-Hussain entered on the Prophet (S), while I was sitting at the door, so I saw in the hand of the Prophet (S) something he turned over while (Hussain) sleeping on his stomach. I said: Oh messenger of Allah, I looked and saw you turning something over in your hand when the kid was sleeping on your stomach and your tears were pouring? He said: Gabriel came to me with the sand upon which he (Hussain) will be killed. And he informed me that my nation (umma) will kill him.”8

    Ibn Saad, Ali bin Muhammad, Yahya bin Zakariya, a man heard it from ‘Amir al-Sha’bi say: “When Ali (as) passed by Karbalaa in his march to Siffien and lined up with Nainawa – a village on the Euphrates – he stopped and called one of them men: Tell aba ‘Abdullah (al-Hussain (AS)) what this land is called? He said: Karbala. Then he cried until the earth was wet from his tears. He then said: I entered on the messenger of Allah (S) and he was crying. So I said: What makes you cry?

    He said: Gabriel was with me, just now, and informed me: that my son al-Hussain (AS) will be killed at the banks of Furat in a location called Karbala. Then Gabriel grabbed a handful of dirt and let me smell it. So I could not help it, my eyes overflowed.”9

    From this tradition (hadith) we can see that Imam al-Ali (AS) also wept for Imam al-Hussain (AS). There are more traditions showing that the Holy Prophet (S) wept for Imam al-Hussain (AS).10

    Umm Salamah, the wife of the Holy Prophet (S) also wept for Imam al-Hussain (AS).11

    Even the Jinns mourned Imam al-Hussain (AS)’s death, it has been reported that after Imam al-Hussain (AS)’s martyrdom, Umm Salamah said: “I heard the Jinns mourning for al-Hussain (AS).”12

    In conclusion, we cry for Imam al-Hussain (AS) because so did the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (S). Every year we continue and revive the message of Karbala by mourning and crying over the injustice which the Ahlul Bayt (AS) suffered on the plains of Karbala, and through this we renew our pledge of allegiance to the Imam (AS) and keep his noble cause alive in our hearts.

    1.Nadra al-Azdiya, a woman who was contemporary of Imam al –Hussain (AS), is said to have reported: “When al-Hussain b. ‘Ali was killed, the sky rained down blood, so that next morning we found our wells and water jugs filled with it.” This hadith is narrated by Ibn Hajar.

    2.The Holy Qur’an, Aqa Mirza Mahdi Puya, p. 681, pub. Peermohammed Trust (Pakistan). This hadith is recorded under the tafsir of the verse (19:12-15). Aqa Mahdi Puya says that what is meant by “the heavens wept” (in the hadith of Imam as-Sadiq) is that the sun became extraordinarily red.

    3.al-Suyuti reports in his commentary on the verse (19:13) describing Allah’s compassion towards the ancient martyr John son of Zachariah that “The heavens did not weep for the death of anyone except John son of Zachariah and al-Hussain b. Ali. Its redness [at sunset] is the sign of its weeping”.

    4.The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon (1911), v. 5, pp. 391-2.

    5.The Holy Qur’an, (19:58); also refer to (17:109).

    6.Thakhaer al-Uqba, Muhibbuldeen al-Tabari, p. 148.

    7.al-Mustadrak al-Sahih, al-Hafidh al-Hakim al-Nisapouri, v. 3, p. 176, (al-Hakim said: “This is an authentic hadith (Sahih) on the conditions of Bukhari and Muslim but they did not print it”); Dalael al-Nubouwa, al-Hafidh al-Bayhaqi under the subject of al-Hussain (AS); Cf. Ibn al-A’tham IV, (Hyderabad, 1971), p. 211-2, the author narrates this hadith using a different chain of narration.

    8.al-Musannaf, al-Hafidh abu Bakr bin abi Shaibah, v. 12.

    9.al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, Ibn Saad; al-Musannaf, Ibn Abi Shaibeh, v. 12 (with “Patience aba ‘Abdullah, patience aba ‘Abdullah”); al-Moejam al-Kabeer, al-Tabarani, v. 1; Tareekh al-Shamm, Ibn ‘Asakir.

    10.al-Musnad, Ahmad bin Hanbal, v. 2, p. 60-61; al-Taba’qat al-Kubra, Ibn Saad; al-Moejam al-Kabeer, al-Hafidh al-Tabarani (on subject of al-Hussain); A’lam al-Nubuwwah, al-Mawardi al-Shafi ‘I; Kanz al-Ummal, al-Muttaqi al-Hindi.

    11.al-Khasa’is, al-Suyuti al-Shafi’I, 2:125; al-Manaqib, al-Magazili, p. 313; al-Musnad, Ahmad bin Hanbal, 6:294; Tarikh al-Islam, al-Dimishqi, 3:11; al-Bidayah wal-Nihayah, 6:230; al-’Aqd al-Farid, ibn ‘Abd Rabbah, 2:219; Kanz al-Ummal, al-Muttaqi al-Hindi; Cf. Ibn al-A’tham IV, 212-4; Sahih al- Tirmidhi; Mishkat al-Masabih, an-Nawawi, English Version, Tradition # 6157.

    12.Tarikh al-Kabir, al-Bukhari (author of the famous Sahih), v. 4, Part 1, p. 26; Fadha’il al-Sahaba, Amhmad Ibn Hanbal, v. 2, p. 776, tradition # 1373; Tabarani, v. 3, p.130-1; Tahdhib, v. 7, p.404.

    • Anonymous

      I am aware of the following verses of The Quran:

      Al A’raaf 7:188 “Say: For myself I have no power to benefit, nor power to hurt, save that which Allah willeth. Had I knowledge of the Unseen, I should have abundance of wealth, and adversity would not touch me. I am but a warner, and a bearer of good tidings unto folk who believe.”

      Al Ahqaf 46:9 “Say: I am no new thing among the messengers (of Allah), nor know I what will be done with me or with you. I do but follow that which is inspired in me, and I am but a plain warner.”

      Would you kindly guide me to the verses confirming “Jibrael(AS) came to congratulate him, he smiled and then started crying because he was told what would happen to the Imam(AS). “

  • shahid

    I request Miss Maheen to use(RA) instead of (AS). Further, Hazrat Imam Hussain (RA) and Hazrat Imama Hassan are “SARDAR” of Hannat. How a muslim can deny this. So we all Muslims feels like this.

    But Can someone quote some examples from Hazrat Zainab (RA) life or from the life of Hazrat Imam Ul Aabideen that they hold holding Majlis/Auzadari or Marseea in such a way that present day Shias are doing.

  • M.Saeed

    So you say!
    A peter pan never grows up.
    You will also say “long live the tradition of tabbarrah-dari”.

  • Anonymous

    NASAH Sb

    I assume your reference to Anees & Dabeer is the aesthete in you – and not an admirer of exagerrated myth making. With distortions of history having become an artform, past consequences of mixing power politics of tribal nature with matters of simple faith?! should inspire many more marsiagos to be vocal about what Islam and Muslim has cone to mean today!!!

  • M.Saeed

    A very good and appropriate rejoinder.
    The nasty turns of events in the world call for a thorough scientific investigation into history to find out who created the killing virus of sects in Islam and find ways and means to revive the real Islam as lived and given to us by our Holy Prophet (PBUH).
    It is infinite wisdom of Allah (SWT) that, non of the three sons of Prophet (PBUH) was given a life beyond childhood that could have started dynastic lineage after the Prophet (PBUH).

  • Anonymous

    NASAH Sb

    “But Qalim sb what is poetry without exaggerations? Only “ghass phoos”.”

    No grievance with exaggerations but when they turn into dry, fanning wind on a hit day, the unexaggerated, dry “ghass phoos” turns into a fuel from a feed!

  • Anonymous

    NASAH Sb

    Agree infinitum ” Please no TYRANNY of the Majoritism” (or minorities).

    My apologies for the lack of clarity on my part that led you to a certain conclusion. The intent is not a fatwa on a partisan basis – who am I to expel anyone from the circle of Islam if they profess the singularity of God and the prophethood of Muhammed (p.b.u.h) and want to be known as Muslims?!

    Excluding the finality and the basis common between the sects, of The Quran, my observation cum opinion was/is geared at all sects we come across in ‘hetrogeneous’ Islam and is driven by the scepticism about historical accuracies or inaccuracies. The impartial and unbiased recording of all facts is a responsibility that human historians have trouble with (glossing over the favourable positives and concealing the negatives of any situation) and this leads to the heretics like me being sceptics – aesthetically appealing/pleasing is not necessarily logically and factualy sound

  • Anonymous

    Hazaar bar ghari bhar mein Meer martay hein
    Inhon ne jeenay ka ye dhaab naya nikaala he

  • M.Saeed

    Dear Guest,
    Sorry for delay because this blog is no more active.
    For a simple clarification, I want to remind that, Islamic year based upon lunar movement is of 355 days against 365 days of the Western Calendar based upon Solar year.
    Multiplying 50 with 365 and dividing with 355 would give 51.4 Islamic years for 50 solar years, while 50 lunar years would equal 50 x 355/365= 48.6 solar years.