Creative Project 3 – Tears For Karbala Recitation: A commemoratory narration of the aftermath of the Karbala Massacre (Week 5)

The massacre of the Prophet Muhammad’s family in Karbala is the primary historical event of Shia Islam that continues to define and influence its values. As we learned in lecture, the massacre in Karbala resulted in the martyrdom of Imam Hussein and his 72 companions against the powerful Umayyad army of Yazid (“Postprophetic Authority 1 Shii Imams ⅓ Oct” Lecture Powerpoint). Essentially, the events at Karbala was the battle of two perpetually competing forces: “good and evil” (“Postprophetic Authority 1 Shii Imams ⅓ Oct” Lecture Powerpoint). Imam Hussein’s sacrificial resistance to the corrupt Umayyad power system represents the fundamental human value of social justice–that people should fight for the side of righteousness and virtue, no matter the worldly cost. Because this event took place on the 10th, or ashr, of the Islamic month, Muharram, the Karbala massacre is recognized as Ashura. Approximately 1400 years later, Muslims around the world continue to commemorate Ashura annually during the first 10 days of Muharram and 40 days after (the 40th day is called the Arbaeen). Throughout this period, Muslims commemorate the martyrdom and persecution of Prophet Muhammad’s family by performing several aesthetic practices. Among these are supplications known as ziyarat and devotional melodies known as latmiyat. In section, we examined other practices, including films and plays recreating the massacre, such as the Iranian Ta’ziyah (Chelkowski 1).

During the initial ten days of Muharram, one of the Shia organizations in Dearborn, Michigan host a series of immersive Ashura programs. Among many other facets, the programs include quran recitation, poetry, narrational tributes to Karbala, latmiyats (devotional songs for ahlul bayt), and of course, a religious lecture related to the significance of Ashura. These narrational tributes, otherwise known as “Tears For Karbala,” are nightly segments that give a detailed, multi-perspective depiction of Ashura; every night focuses on a particular martyr’s final scene or the family members of Imam Hussein who did not participate in the Battle. In this way, “Tears of Karbala” gives a holistic portrayal of Ashura and often initiates the flow of emotion within the audience during these nightly programs.

In my uploaded video, I am seen reciting the final scene of “Tears For Karbala” for a Ashura Program back in my home city, Dearborn. In this scene, I describe the aftermath of the Massacre, while focusing on Sayida Zainab’s perseverance, as she will have “many sleepless nights” assuming responsibility for the remaining family of Hussain. Like Imam Hussain, Sayida Zainab’s renown statement, ”I see nothing but beauty,” (Section Discussion Week 5) in response to Yazid’s tormenting reference to the Karbala Massacre ultimately demonstrated her enduring resistance against injustice—a theme so powerful that it resonates heavily in contemporary Shia ideology. 

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