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Independence within self: this is why I do matam (self-hurting) during Moharram

Raza Naqvi | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 3:42 IST
Humans are subject to many kinds of hardships and sufferings during the course of their life. It is very evident in the form of accidents, illness and various other problems.

When seen from a religious perspective, suffering has been explained and justified in different forms by different religions. Some religions define suffering as a process towards the purification of the soul, while some others define it as a retribution for one's sins.

Born into a Shia family, I was always told about the battle of Karbala by my parents. Till date, the story has a great impact on me. In the battle, Imam Hussain, grandson of Prophet Mohammad along with his 72 associates, had fought against the cruel emperor Yazid to save Islam and humanity from despotism and oppression.

In 680 AD, after a valiant fight, Imam Hussain was beheaded and his body was mutilated. The surviving members of his family and his followers were humiliatingly made to march on foot from Karbala to Yazid's palace in Damascus covering a distance of 840 kilometres. Later, they were imprisoned and humiliated some more.

After the survivors were released, they began the commemoration of this tragic event. Since the day, people have been observing Moharram as a mark of tribute to Imam Hussain. In Moharram people, mostly Shias take out public processions with display of self-flagellation.

Self-flagellation known as zanjeer zani in Persian or latmya in Arabic, has become part of Shia Muslim practice over the last few hundred years. Most of the Shias usually beat their chests with their hands (a symbolic gesture of pain and sorrow) known as seena zani', however 'zanjeer zani' the use of metal chains and spikes is an extreme form of paying tribute. Another form is 'qama zani', in which a person performing the ritual cuts his head using a dagger or small type of sword, known as qama.

I do self-flagellation because I believe that the battle of Karbala was a pivot in Islam, I believe that the true bearers of Islam are Imam Hussain and his associates. I do matam just to remember and experience the pain of Imam Hussain, what his companions and family had gone through to save the religion which I follow today.

Another reason for self-punishment is that Imam Hussain had taken a stand of justice, righteousness, truth, loyalty and bravery against tyranny. In all this, the cruel enemies of Islam didn't even spare his 6-months-old son Ali Asghar. An arrow, which was used to kill horses at that time, was used to kill such a small baby.

To pay my tribute to them, I don't mind beating my chest.

First published: 15 August 2015, 8:57 IST
Raza Naqvi @Mir_Naqvi

Raza is an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) and has worked with the Hindustan Times in the past. A passionate follower of crime stories, he is currently working as a Sub-Editor at the Speed News desk.