Everyday Shi'ism in South Asia

Standards Information Network (Verlag)
  • 1. Auflage
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  • erschienen am 20. April 2021
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  • 368 Seiten
E-Book | ePUB mit Adobe-DRM | Systemvoraussetzungen
978-1-119-35715-5 (ISBN)
The first textbook to focus on the history of lived Shi'ism in South Asia

Everyday Shi'ism in South Asia is an introduction to the everyday life and cultural memory of Shi'i women and men, focusing on the religious worlds of both individuals and communities at particular historical moments and places in the Indian subcontinent. Author Karen Ruffle draws upon an array primary sources, images, and ethnographic data to present topical case studies offering broad snapshots Shi'i life as well as microscopic analyses of ritual practices, material objects, architectural and artistic forms, and more.

Focusing exclusively on South Asian Shi'ism, an area mostly ignored by contemporary scholars who focus on the Arab lands of Iran and Iraq, the author shifts readers' analytical focus from the center of Islam to its periphery. Ruffle provides new perspectives on the diverse ways that the Shi'a intersect with not only South Asian religious culture and history, but also the wider Islamic humanistic tradition. Written for an academic audience, yet accessible to general readers, this unique resource:
* Explores Shi'i religious practice and the relationship between religious normativity and everyday religious life and material culture
* Contextualizes Muharram rituals, public performances, festivals, vow-making, and material objects and practices of South Asian Shi'a
* Draws from author's studies and fieldwork throughout India and Pakistan, featuring numerous color photographs
* Places Shi'i religious symbols, cultural values, and social systems in historical context
* Includes an extended survey of scholarship on South Asian Shi'ism from the seventeenth century to the present

Everyday Shi'ism in South Asia is an important resource for scholars and students in disciplines including Islamic studies, South Asian studies, religious studies, anthropology, art history, material culture studies, history, and gender studies, and for English-speaking members of South Asian Shi'i communities.
weitere Ausgaben werden ermittelt
Karen Ruffle, PhD, is Associate Professor in the Department of Historical Studies and the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto where she specializes in the study of South Asian Shi'ism. Her research and teaching interests focus on Shi'i devotional texts and ritual and material practices in South Asia. She is the author of Gender, Sainthood, and Everyday Practice in South Asian Shi'ism.
Acknowledgments xii

Transliteration Note xvi

Introduction 1

Everyday Shi'ism 6

Center and Periphery Reconsidered 8

The Hyper-visible "Invisible" Community 13

Redefining Norms: Shi'i/South Asia/Everyday 15

Representing Shi'ism 20

Contributions 31

The Scope of Everyday Shi'ism 32

References 34

Recommended Readings 38

Theoretical Lessons 38

1 South Asian "Lovers" of the Ahl-e Bait: Hindu and Non-Shi'i Muslim Traditions of Devotion 39

Muharram beyond Shi'ism: The "Composite Culture" of Commemorating Karbala in South Asia 40

The Husaini Brahmins: Hindu Devotees of Imam Husain 42

Pirla-Panduga: "The Festival of Pirs" among Hindus and Sunnis in South India 48

Devotion to Piru-Swami 51

Dulha! Dulha!: Sunni and Hindu Possession Rituals for the Bridegroom Qasem 56

The Shrine of Bibi Pak Daman in South Asian Muslim Cultural Memory 63

Conclusion 68

References 70

Recommended Readings 72

Theoretical Lessons 73

2 "Come, and Cry, Because 'Ashura Is Today": Shi'i Literary Aesthetics 74

Tears of a Horse: Sufi Metaphors in Shi'i Devotional Narratives of Birds and Horses 76

The Female Voice and the Development of Shi'i Devotional Literature 82

A Solace for the Heart, a Source of Religious Guidance: Multiple Perspectives on the Nauhah 84

'Why not Beat My Head in Lamentation?': Gender and Voice in the Nauhah 86

'Karbala: Come to the Best of Deeds': The Nauhah and Normative Discourse 88

Hearing the Miraculous: A Different Kind of Love Story 92

Human Rights and Communal Harmony: Re-Visioning Karbala in South Asian Literary Prose 106

References 109

Recommended Readings 111

Theoretical Lessons 111

3 In the House of the Tenth: Spaces of Shi'i Devotion 113

Mosques 115

Case Study-Microscopic 3.1: Toli Mosque, Hyderabad 120

Case Study-Snapshot 3.2: 'Ashurkhanah wa Masjid-e Ahl-e Bait: A Mosque-'Ashurkhanah in Hyderabad 124

In the House of the Tenth: 'Ashurkhanahs in Southern India 130

Lions, Arches, and Chains: Visual Representation andSymbolic Meaning in Shi'i Built Spaces 135

Case Study-Microscopic 3.3: Panjah Shah-e Wilayat 'Ashurkhanah, Hyderabad 141

Imambaras: Dwelling in the Court of the Imam 146

Case Study-Microscopic 3.4: The Bara Imambara of Lucknow 148

Karbala Grounds: Pilgrimage and Burial 151

Case Study-Microscopic 3.5: Karbala Kazmain, Lucknow 157

Conclusion 160

References 161

Recommended Readings 163

Theoretical Lessons 164

4 Metal Hands and Stone Footprints: Shi'i Material Practice 165

Conceptualizing Shi'i Materiality 168

Gazing in the Eyes of a Martyr: Embodiment and Presencing in the 'Alams of Karbala Heroes 171

Na'izah 172

Bori 174

Peta 174

Hatheli 175

Sharja 179

Jibh 180

Case Study-Microscopic 4.1: 'Alam-e Sartauq, Hyderabad 182

Case Study-Microscopic 4.2: The 'Alam of Imam Husain at Dargah Hazrat 'Abbas, Lucknow 187

Ta'ziya: Karbala on the Move in South Asia 192

Ephemeral Ta'ziya 196

Permanent Ta'ziya 197

Case Study-Snapshot 4.3: Permanent Ta'ziya: Seeing, Embodying, and Making Imam Husain Close 197

Zuljanah: Remembering Karbala with Imam Husain's Loyal Horse 203

Debating Devotional Representations of the Imams and Ahl-e Bait 208

Conclusion 213

References 214

Recommended Readings 217

Theoretical Lessons 218

5 Every Place Is Karbala, Every Day Is 'Ashura: South Asian Muharram Rituals 219

"Hobson-Jobson": Representing Muharram in the Religious Imaginaire 221

The Ten Saddest Days: The Ayyam-e 'Aza 223

1 Muharram 225

3 Muharram 227

4 Muharram 228

7 Muharram 229

8 Muharram 231

9 Muharram 234

10 Muharram 236

'Ashura: The Battle of Good vs. Evil, Or Remembering Imam Husain's Martyrdom 237

Always Weep and Remember in the Majlis-e 'Aza 244

The Annual Majlis 247

Silsilah Mourning Assemblies 247

The Dawrah (Round) of Mourning Assemblies 247

Regular Mourning Assemblies 248

The Majlis Structure 248

Opening: The Call for Blessing (Salawat) 249

Burning Words: Soz 249

Poetic Meditations and Salutations: The Salam 249

Poetry of Epic Heroes: The Marsiyah 250

The Remembrance: Zikr 252

Mourning for Husain: Nauhah Recitation 254

Ziyarat: Prayers of Salutation to the Fourteen Infallibles 254

Processions 256

Matam: Inscribing Love for the Ahl-e Bait on the Body 258

Every Place Is Karbala 258

Performing Love for Husain 261

Matam as a Moral Contract 263

Conclusion 267

References 267

Recommended Readings 270

Theoretical Lessons 271

6 Tasting Sorrow before Joy:Vow-Making and Festival Occasions 272

Sweet Blessings: The Niyaz of Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq on 22 Rajab 273

Women's Votive Practices 280

Spreading the Cloth for Abu Fazl 'Abbas: The Dastarkhwan-e Nazri 281

Bringing God and the Imams Close: Women's Prayer Rituals 283

The Prayer of Divine Assistance: Performing 'Amal 288

Pilgrimage to Husain: India - Karbala - India 290

Before Joy, a Taste of Sorrow: Celebratory Events 294

Conclusion 297

References 298

Recommended Readings 299

Theoretical Lessons 300

Afterword 301

Teaching Appendix 305

Glossary 318

Index 331


On a bright, sunny day in Hyderabad's Old City during Muharram in 2005, I was in the lane leading to the house of my mentor, the late Dr. Sadiq Naqvi, a historian of Persian literary and cultural history at Osmania University, as well as a renowned orator (zakir; "one who remembers") in the Muharram mourning assemblies. On the long, white-washed wall off Alava-e Sartauq Mubarak ?ashurkhanah, a centuries-old building where the metal standard containing a piece of the shackle that was placed around the neck of Imam Zain al-?Abidin?-?the only male survivor of the battle of Karbala, Iraq in 680 CE?-?is displayed throughout the year, I saw hanging a massive, black banner, so rich in visual and verbal detail that it stopped me in my tracks to stare at it for several minutes.

The tableau presented by the banner, its subsidiary banners projecting below, as well as the artfully placed potted plants, compelled me to snap a photograph. Over the years, I have taken thousands of photographs of Muharram rituals, Shi?i built space and devotional objects, and it is to the image of this banner that I return again and again (see Figure 0.01).

Each chapter of Everyday Shi?ism in South Asia is informed and inflected by elements of this banner, whether it is ?Abbas's ethic of care for family (represented by his severed arms and the arrow-pierced waterskin), Qasem's blood-drenched name (representing his battlefield valor and commitment to protecting his faith, despite being a newlywed husband), Zainab, whose voice and testimony serves as inspiration for Shi?i devotional literature, and Zainab's young sons ?Aun and Muhammad (symbolized by two small water pots), who chose to fight like men on the Karbala battlefield while suffering terribly of thirst. The poet Millat's couplets add an aesthetic touch to the banner, while amplifying the emotional effect of the verbal and visual images:

Figure 0.01 Muharram banner, Hyderabad. Photo by author, 2005.

On ?ashura morning, deep in thought and with a

Grieving heart, ?Abbas must now show bravery.

Elsewhere on the banner Zainab speaks poetically of her half-brother ?Abbas's valiant sacrifice, and we also hear her tone of righteous indignation at the humiliations suffered by her family:

When Zainab laid eyes on ?Abbas's arm,

She cried out, "Why not come, and cut the other, too?"

Another couplet encourages the devotee to consider the sacrifice of Imam Husain's six-month-old son ?Ali Asghar, whose throat was pierced by an arrow:

Until we live in the path of ?Ali Asghar,

We shall only feel shame.

That an infant would give up his life for the cause of family and faith is intended to give pause, to reflect on one's petty needs and concerns in the world.

This banner is not mere art, although it is certainly artistic. Nor is it simply a work of literary devotion to Imam Husain and the Ahl-e Bait. Shi?i cultural memory is encoded in this banner graphically and visually in ways that are legible for South Asian Shi?a, using symbols and linguistic terms of reference that are resonant and spiritually meaningful. While an outsider may look at this banner and see dripping blood, severed arms, prison doors, and arrows, an insider to the tradition will immediately understand how these images are coded and to whom each representation points. ?Abbas's severed arms are viewed not with revulsion or fear by Shi?a. Rather, they are viewed with a tremendous sense of love for his tender affection towards the children in the caravan suffering terrible thirst in the desert heat and deprived of water for three days. They remember ?Abbas going on a suicidal mission to the banks of the Euphrates River to fill a waterskin, affectionately known as mashk-e Sakinah in memory of his beloved niece and Husain's youngest daughter, whose suffering he could no longer endure. The violence that is remembered is in relation to the caretaking ?Abbas was doing for his family, particularly for the children who could not care for themselves, which brings tears to devotees in the mourning assemblies (majlis-e ?aza) during Muharram.

This banner reflects an important dimension of everyday Shi?ism through which Shi?i devotion to the Imams and Ahl-e Bait is grounded in emotional practices that mediate historical remembrance of the Karbala events, providing outlets for creative expression through ritual performances of the cultural memory of a violent act without violence. In Shi?i cultural memory, the battle of Karbala was an act of shocking and horrific violence that was committed against the grandson and family of the Prophet Muhammad. It is through the shared cultural memory of the violence of Karbala, ritually performed through orations describing their suffering, the recitation of poetry in the mourning assembly, the display of devotional objects, and through the performance of highly structured forms of self-flagellation (matam) performed with the hands and with instruments such as blades and chains, that individual and collective bonds of loyalty (walayah) and love (mahabbah) are reaffirmed each year.

Clifford Geertz's "Notes on a Balinese Cockfight" offers useful insight into how we might further understand this banner and how it is emblematic of the ethos of the everyday Shi?ism I present in this book. In his ethnographic study of the cockfight in Bali, Geertz came to treat this ritual performance of a violent act without violence, considering it "as a text is to bring out a feature of it (in my opinion, the most central feature of it) that treating it as a rite or pastime, the two most obvious alternatives, would tend to obscure: its use of emotion for cognitive ends. What the cockfight says it says in a vocabulary of sentiment . Attending cockfights . is . a kind of sentimental education. What he learns there is what is his culture's ethos and his private sensibility (or anyway, certain aspects of them) look like when spelled out externally in a collective text" (Geertz 1973, 449). The banner I photographed draws on key Karbala themes of sacrifice, suffering, violence, love, bravery, valor, kindness, faith, and generosity. This banner offers a microscopic perspective into the South Asian Shi?i ethos and is a primer of religious sentiment.

The dense bundling of symbols and text on this Muharram banner demonstrates that for South Asian Shi?a, memory of Karbala does not reside in an abstracted, remote past. While the event of Karbala happened in the historical past in 680 CE, its memory is embodied through social and cultural forms of production such as poetry, oratory, material objects, and built space. The banner is a mnemonic device, that is, it serves as a "reminding object" to help Shi?a remember the panoply of Karbala events (Assmann 2015, 332). According to Jan Assmann, the forms that cultural memory takes are myriad and formalized as "narratives, songs, dances, rituals, masks, and symbols; specialists such as narrators, bards, mask-carvers, and others are organized in guilds and have to undergo long periods of initiation, instruction, and examination" (2015, 334).

This book is about the contours of everyday life and cultural memory of Shi?i women and men, which is shaped by visitations to the shrine-tombs of saints, recitation of poetry, remembrance of the battle of Karbala, religious architecture and the devotional objects these buildings contain, festive events known as jashn, and different types of vows and votive offerings, all of which are inflected by perpetual devotion to the Imams and Ahl-e Bait. The identities of these Shi?a are also shaped by virtue of living in South Asia, by rank and status (whether one is sayyid or not), by the languages they speak, such as Urdu, Bengali, Sindhi, Telugu, Panjabi, or a range of other regional languages, and territorial affiliation to diverse locales, including Chennai, Ladakh, Kohat, Rampur, or Cambay. The vicissitudes of the 1947 Partition of the subcontinent into the postcolonial nation-states of India and Pakistan have further molded Shi?i identities in the modern period. For Pakistani Shi?a, one's status as a migrant citizen (muhajir) who came to the Muslim state from Lucknow or Delhi or elsewhere in India in the mass movement of people across the borderland constitutes a discursive domain in which "local" vs. "foreign" practices are negotiated and debated.1

Everyday Shi?ism

This book focuses on the everyday religious worlds of Shi?i individuals and communities at particular historical moments and places in South Asia. I draw many of my examples from Hyderabad and the surrounding region, where I have conducted fieldwork on Shi?i history, ritual, and material practices since 2003. I do not intend to make Hyderabad "speak" for all of South Asian Shi?ism, however, this is a place where I have spent extended periods of time. I have also studied and conducted fieldwork in Lucknow, India, and in Islamabad, Lahore, and...

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