Sunday, 8 March 2015

Karbala-Ongoing Campaign Against Power Politics

Image result for karbala photos

Karbala and Terror- Stricken Modern World

By Prof. Mazhar Naqvi

The so called tech- savvy modern world is unfortunately also characterized by corruption, terrorism, oppression, exploitation and injustice. Muslim nations too suffer from political ills, ideological differences and seem to have virtually surrendered their sovereignty at the hands of authoritarian establishments. Hazrat Imam Hussain had sacrificed his totality against inhuman principles of power politics, despotism and methods of a coerced regime on the arid plains of Karbala on October 10, 680 AD (10 Muharram 61 AH).His martyrdom, therefore, should not be simply viewed as the most tragic event of Islamic history. Rather, the tragedy of Karbala needs to perceived and used as the most relevant strategy for uprooting the forces responsible for human sufferings across the globe.

What happened with Imam Hussain in Karbala was the ultimate outcome of power politics and its naked use---- denying access to water, beheading the killed ones and exhibition of their heads on lances. Power politics without any tolerance of opposition is a feature of so many Islamic countries today. Corruption in high places is worldwide phenomenon. The menace has grown to gigantic proportions and all spheres of life, be it social, economic, political and even religious activity, are not free from graft, deception and corruption of some kind. The Global Terrorism Database (GTD) has recorded over 87000 cases of terrorist attacks around the world since 1970. These startling facts only indicate that imperialist and feudal establishments- be it a superpower, monarch or dictator,  are still active in strengthening  a corrupt system to silence the right of weak and oppressed class of society in favor of a regime built on force and oppression.

Undoubtedly, Karbala has been a source of inspiration to innumerable pens for centuries. There is no dearth of literature on it. Lamentation poetry has kept alive the message of Karbala. Muharram rituals and ‘Majalises’ (Mourning gatherings) also serve as a reminder that Karbala was a battle between truth versus falsehood. Zakirs’(Orators) too have also been using the majalises sessions as a platform to raise voice against  various evils.But somehow Karbala’s call for good governance, transparency, accountability and   probity in public life have not been highlighted in the way it should have been. On the contrary, repeated attempts are made to legitimize the cruel and oppressive actions of Yazid. If anti-Karbala tendencies have failed to achieve their ill- conceived goals so far it is only because of Imam Hussain’s well- thought of strategy relying on the simple principle- in the face of oppression, it is the stand that matters, not cost or consequences.

He gave many political lessons before sacrificing his life in the most trying circumstances. An idea about his condition on the day of ‘Ashura’ can be found in the masterpiece book of Edward Gibbons on Islamic history. He writes ““Alone, weary and wounded he (Hazrat Hussain) sat himself at the door of his tent…… pierced in the mouth with a dart; and his son and nephew, two beautiful youths, were killed in his arms. He lifted his hands to heaven. They were full of blood and be uttered a funeral prayer for the living and dead.”
Imam established at Karbala that an illegitimate rule will always be wrong and oppressive.  Max Waber says “Legitimate force is the thread that runs through the action of political system, giving it its special quality and importance, and its coherence as a system.” In such a situation where the rulers grab power through backdoors usually try to secure constitutional means and supportive function of a political group to legitimize their actions. They resort to actions contrary to the spirit of good governance and engage themselves in all sorts of corruption, propaganda and pseudo representation.
Yazid too was an illegitimate ruler. His nomination was against the rules of Islamic polity established by the Holy Prophet. The true spirit of an Islamic state was totally ignored under his rule. Illegitimate rulers are always apprehensive of popular and rightful opponents. Yazid too was no exception. He struggled with a constant fear of opposition from Imam Hussain and his followers. Karbala became a certainty when Yazid asked the Governor of Medina Waleed to get allegiance from Imam. The 57-year old grandson of the Prophet analyzed the deteriorating political and social situation. He quickly recognized that the general policy of the Yazidi regime was in accordance with Islamic principles. He was also aware of the Ummah’s painful afflictions. Being the duly sanctioned leader & capable of restoring Islamic values, Imam Hussain rose to challenge the reign of terror and cruelty. Imam did not believe in power but opposed such an establishment. He wanted to correct not conquer. He neither wanted bloodshed nor allegiance to Yazid. He left Medina, reached Mecca and found himself surrounded by enemy at Karbala due to hypocrisy of Kufa residents.
Ruth W. Grant in his book Hypocrisy and Integrity remarks “ Hypocrisy is an epithet, never a term of praise, and for good reason….. What they share in the pretense of virtue, idealism or sympathetic concern used to further selfish ends. Their victims are more to be pitied because of the painful betrayal of trust involved in their victimization.” Kufians also behaved likewise. They had sent about 12000 letters to Imam and pledged their support to him against Yazid. Imam did not act blindly in reply to their invitation. He sent his cousin Muslim bin Aqeel to ascertain the situation.  Kufians warmly welcomed Muslim, assured him of their full support but betrayed him when the Yezidi forces arrived. Muslim was captured and killed. By the time information about his tragic killing reached Imam, he was already on his way to Kufa as a response to his cousin’s initial positive report.
Karbala gives another lesson is that the rule based on force are inhumane and retaliating in enhancement of an unjust order. Directives from Damascus were clear. Hussain was to be besieged and subdued until he paid the allegiance. Yazidi commanders carried out the orders with utmost brutality. They allowed water of Euphrates to animals but denied to even to the children of Prophet’s family. Even after killing Imam and his followers, Yazidi forces looted his camp, humiliated the survivors and set afire tents. Binte Moosa Moosavi writes “The veils of daughters of prophet whom even the sun had not seen were taken away, they were fixed in ropes with their hands after their necks, their tents were set on fire, they were seated on bare backs of camels, and brought to the bazaars of Syria and Kufa and courts of Yazid and Ibne Zyad”.This all was done with the intention of removing the evidence pertaining to correspondence between Imam and Kufians or any. Thus, Karbala also explains that removal of evidence is necessitated by political opponents lest their misdeeds are known.

Yet another lesson from Karbala is that the goal of politics should be the fair game of representation and social justice. These two corners of welfare society remain a distant dream as power corrupts the minds of those who possess it. Karbala also highlights the role of reconciliation and tolerance. Imam tried his best to avoid confrontation and believed more in negotiations. His pleas and sermons evoked no response, for he was addressing the commanders of a ruler who was opposed to any reason or logic being a tyrant. The teachings of Imam Husain seems more relevant to the modern world that has recently witnessed the massacre of children in Pakistan, killings of ‘Journalists prejudiced to Holy Prophet in France and barbaric mayhem of innocent people in Iraq Syria and other countries by fanatics. Such disruptive elements can only be silenced by the proper propagation of  Imam’s teachings and worldwide shouting of just one slogan ‘Remember Karbala’ whenever one feels humanity in danger as an outcome of the inhuman atrocities and activities of Yazid’s descendants.   

How women can assume leadership in adverse circumstances is another lesson that Karbala preaches. The way Hazrat Zainab and Janab-e- Umme Kulsum exposed the despotic rule of Yazid, barbaric acts of his forces and spread the message of imam Hussain all go on to show that a Karbala is needed whenever and wherever an attempt is made to usurp power  without any morality and justice. The backward nations can easily challenge the ugly designs of superpowers to subdue them by following the political principles crafted by Imam Hussain through his sublime revolution. (The author is a Kanpur Based Heritage Guru and Culture Activist.)

Friday, 6 March 2015

Muharram Museum

 Relics at display in Muharram Museum (Courtesy : Ahrab News Com)

 Muharram Museum
 Prof.Mazhar Naqvi
The more you read about Muharram rituals, the more enlightened you become. Similarly, the more you search about the rituals of azadari in different cultures and countries, the more you become convinced about the miracles of Masoomeen. The existence of a Muharram museum in Tabriz is one such example. Up till now, the blogger was aware of Majlis, Zakiri, Marsiya, Sozkhwani ,Matam,Salam, Nauha, Imambara, Tazia, Alam, Taboot, Zuljana,Patka,Alam,Jhula, Pharera, Janjeer,Qama,Savari, Hazri,Nazr and Tasha as essential ingredients of marasim-e-azadari. The blogger always felt that each old Imambara in itself was a museum, for they contained relics dating back to Badshahi and Nawabi era. Hence, it was surely surprising to him when he came to know about the existence of a Muharram museum in Tabriz. Perhaps it is the only museum of its kind in the entire world but its model can be replicated elsewhere also, especially in those countries where Imamis are few and have erected Imambargahs or are in the process of initiating azadari rituals. As most of them are employed, well-settled and affluent by the blessings of Masoomeen, they can collect old Muharram relics from those who are unable to protect them for variety of reasons in Indian Sub-Continent. This will not only preserve the holy relics of antiquity but also offer an opportunity to the young Imami generation to have a glimpse of  the richly embroidered patkas, chandeliers, candle stands and zari mubaraks that are fine  examples of metal or wooden handicraft.  
As the objective of this article is to focus on Muharram museum, the blogger intends to write about a separate piece on Muharram handicraft later and would like its viewers to know about the Muharram museum of Tabriz. It is in fact an anthropological museum. Anthropolgy is study of people and Muharram ceremonies are deep embedded in the hearts of people in Iran and wherever Imamis, hence, the name Muharram museum. These ceremonies represent the quarrel of good and evil, oppressor and oppressed and the most important point they stand for Ashura . As a whole, it can be considered that the ceremonies held in Muharram all are symbolic.
The relics at display at Muharram museum symbolize all the ceremonies and traditions of Muharram in Iran and nearby areas. All are the elements of culture that strengthen the culture of the society. The signs and symbols are representing something beyond themselves, they could be abstract or natural but the signs, that considered here, are cultural signs. Sometimes the signs signify religious and mythological aspects relevant to the culture and the history of man.
At the  museum, symbols such as candles, lamps, cradles, various alams,panjas, patkas, flags are displayed. The aim of establishing such a museum is displaying material attractions and symbols used during azadari.  The location of the museum, is one of the oldest houses known Sehati's  home which is a a historical and cultural house in Tabriz city. Sehati’s home with brick facade is one of the most beautiful old houses in Tabriz. This home during Dr.A.Sehati's life time was used as a Hussainiya( Imambara) by members of his family. In 1999, it was  registered in national heritage list and subsequently restoration and consolidation of the operations carried out.Since then, it is being used as  a museum of anthropology and Muharram.The style of architecture shows that the building dates back to the end of Qajar dynasty. The house coveres an area of 409 sq. m in three floors. ( Reference available on request)

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

‘Karbala’-An Innovative Booklet in Hindi

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 Front Cover of Karbala by Navodit 

Prof.Mazhar Naqvi
A Delhi based journalist has authored a booklet titled Karbala in Hindi for those who have no or very little knowledge about Muharram, Imam Hussain and his companions. The booklet aims at serving two purposes – To reduce the dearth of literature on Karbala both in prose and poetry and present Imam Hussain as a role model for those longing for peace in terror-shaken world. The author Navodit presented a copy of the book to blogger during his visit to Kanpur last week. Prior to it, he frequently called the blogger to know about the history of Karbala, philosophy of Imam Hussain and his connection with the Holy Prophet’s family. He never hinted what was going on in his mind and the blogger tried to satisfy his quest to the best of his abilities .it therefore turned out to be a pleasant surprise when he placed  in my hands a copy of the booklet with due credit given in the preface for the inputs given by me.
Apparently the booklet does not seem to be much impressive against the literature available in abundance on Karbala already. But it can easily be considered as a significant work if one looks at the literature produced in post Independent India on Imam Hussain .Another unique feature of the book is insertion of 21 ‘dohas’ as a part of the contents. I don’t know whether Navodit had any idea about the non- availability of Dohas in Karbala related literature but he surely deserves appreciation for his innovative effort. By composing dohas, he has filled up the vacuum. There is no dearth of Marsiyas, Nauhas, Salams, soz, essays, articles and Books  on Karbala in Urdu, Persian, English, Turkish, Arabic and several other languages  but composition of dohas on Karbala in Hindi is almost unheard so far. Even Navodit himself has no idea as whether anyone attempted before him to write dohas in Hindi on Karbala. While answering a query, he simply said” I can’t claim my work to be a pioneering. Someone surely must have tried, for Karbala has been a source of inspiration to writers and poets for centuries.
He may not be aware but my own research has also proved futile in locating dohas in Hindi on Muharram or Karbala. I could only lay my hands on the origin and history of Dohas. The research revealed that Doha is a very old "verse-format" of Indian poetry. It is an independent verse, a couplet, the meaning of which is complete in itself. Hermann Jacobi had suggested that the origin of doha can be traced to the Greek Hexametre, that it is an amalgam of two hexametres in one line. The word Doha is supposed to have derived from the Sanskrit words dogdhakadvipadidvipathaka or dodhaka .Iit is also known as duhaviya in Apabhraśa to which the earliest reference is in Vikramorvashiyam of Kalidasa. Dohas have also been found written and cited in a stray manner in older languages such as Prakrit and Pali. Dohas are considered to be quotations of worldly wisdom. The Heritage Guru could not find any Doha on Imam Hussain or Muharram in the works of Kabir, Rahim and other leading poets of Mughal India. The non- availability of Muharram poetry in the work of Rahim is quite surprising as he was Imami by faith and enjoyed considerable reputation among the courtiers of Akbar.  In Hindi, the best known work on Karbala can be attributed to Munshi Premchand. Before independence .Munshi Ji had written a drama under the title of Karbala and incidentally Navodit too has preferred to christen his prose cum poetic booklet as Karbala. Navodit needs acknowledgement from all those who love Imam Hussain. He has done what orators and telecast of their Majlises have not been able to create awareness among non- Muslims. How little people still know about   Imam Hussain despite observance of Muharram throughout the Indian sub- continent and availability of Karbala related literature with impunity was exemplified in one of the episodes    of the first edition of Kaun Banega Crorepati. The anchor Amitabh Bachchan had asked a contestant to name the person in whose memory Muharram is observed and he had failed to reply. It was least expected as name of Imam Hussain was also mentioned in the options. While the contestant lost lakhs of rupees, his inability also brought to fore the need for creating awareness about Muharram in addition to the traditional modes. Navodit has simply done it and set an example for others in the process. Instead of going for a full fledged book, he has used mainly his own articles and dohas to publish the booklet. The Anjumans can take a cue from Navodit .Each year they spend generously during Ayam-E-Aza. A little portion of their funds can easily be utilized to bring out literature on Karbala in Hindi in small booklets which can be distributed among the people during Muharram processions  as Tabarruk. Such work however needs to be undertaken with care. Some publishers have brought out books in Hindi but they are in fact transliteration of books already published in Urdu. Hence, the readers don’t find himself comfortable while going through the contents. An author has to feel in Hindi and also rely more on the language used by commoners to narrate the heart rending events at Karbala. Navodit has used this style and been successful in his attempt as it induces the reader to go through the booklet in one sitting. Some of Dohas that form of Navodit’s booklet are as under :    
1-Beemari Mein Jism hai, Zanjeeron Mein Deen,
Par Himmat Ka naam hai,Zainulabdeen(
2-Ik Bachchi ki aas par, Hamko Hai Vishwas,
Jahan Jahan par pyas hai, wahan wahan Abbas,
3-Barchi Akbar ke lagi, apne seene peer,
Matam se Taskin de, Gaye dard Faqir
4-Sankocho ko chor kar, aao to ik baar
Sabko sab kuch de raha, maula ka darbar
5-Kah Kar dekho Ya Ali,ban jayenge ke kaam
Yun hi nahi Mushil Kusha, hai Maula Ka naam
6-Himmat Taqat aur wafa,teeno jiski das
Duniya ke itihas mein, ik wahid Abbas,
7-Payi hain Khushiyan bahut, man mein hai ullas
Par Maula ke Gham Bina , Ye jeevan hai Vanvaas
8-Bas itni si baat par, duniya Hai hairaan,
Kaam baron sa kar gaya, kaise nanhi jaan
9-Aankhein barse raat din,gham mein har insaan
par jo dil mein roya nahin,usko pathar jaan

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Karbal Katha and its Miraculous Discovery

Remarkable Contribution of AMU Professor Mukhtar Uddin Ahmad in Locating Lost Manuscript of Karbal Katha

Prof.Mazhar Naqvi
Hazrat Zainab, the messenger of Karbala had predicted that no power on earth could erase the memory of Imam Husain’s martyrdom for the sake of humanity. And whenever the oppressive forces would try to suppress the Karbala revolution, the philosophy of Imam Husain would shake the conscience of the whole world more vigorously to frustrate the sinister designs of anti-Ahlebait elements.’ The disappearance and reappearance of Karbal Katha’, the first written prose of Urdu exemplifies how correct is the prophecy of Hazrat Zainab. Karbal Katha or Deb Majlis by Syed Fazl-Ali Fazli was first written in 1732, during the reign of Muhammad Shah and Ahmad Shah, and was revised in 1748. This manuscript, written in beautiful Nasta’liq, narrates the events of martyrdom of the family members of Imam Husain at Karbala. It is one of the earliest examples of Urdu prose and has great importance from the linguistic point of view.
It was an abridged adaptation from Persian ‘Rozat-ush-shuhada’ of Vaiz Kashfi ( Died in 1504).In fact, Rawzat al Shuhada was written within a few years of the Safavid dynasty’s coming to power. It quickly earned tremendous popularity among Iranian mourning rituals as Kashfi had used many quotations from Persian poetry. The book exerted so much influence on the development of majlis that it became a standard vehicle for conveying the tragic events of Karbala for two centuries.  Passages from it were recited, becoming known as rawza klnvani [recitation from the Rawza], and so common was the practice that the.majlis reciter was simply called a rawza khwan [reciter of the Rawza]. Even royal ladies of Mughal harem used to recite Kashfi’s work at red fort during Muharram.
An idea about why Fazl Ali authored Karbal Katha can be formed from his own words “This humble, inadequate servant as per request from the mentor used to recite the Rauzat-ush Shuhada, but the ladies and the women in the assembly could not understand the meaning. And the emotionally stirring and moving parts from that remarkable book could not bring tears to their eyes because of the difficulty of Persian vocabulary. It occurred to this humble one that if the above-mentioned book is translated in a colorful idiom with Hindi metaphors, it would be easily understood”. Karbal Katha also became popular among Azadars and holding Majlises without its recitation was considered beyond imagination. It gave fillip to Zakiri(Oration) and made it an integral part of a majlis. When Mughal power waned, the manuscript of Karbal Katha  was considered lost. It remained untraceable for over a century and when the entire world viewed it as lost forever Professor Mukhtar Uddin Ahmad of Aligarh Muslim University traced it in the Tubingen University Library in Germany. The discovery of manuscript proved once again that anything associated with Karbala can’t be erased whether it is terrorists attacks on Azadars or a piece of mourning literature.   
Professor Mukhtar was born on 14th November 1924 in Patna, Bihar in a religious family of Maulana Zafaruddn Qadri Rizvi . He completed his primary education from Jamia Islamia Shamsul-Huda, Patna. He successfully completed the course of Maulvi and Alimiat from Madarsa examination board and secured distinction in Fazilat examination. He completed his matriculation from University of Patna in 1943 and joined Aligarh Muslim University for higher education. He completed M.A. in Arabic in 1949 and joined Ph.D. under the guidance of Maulana Abdul Aziz Memon, a word renowned Arabic scholar, Professor and Chairman Department of Arabic, AMU Aligarh and disciple of Deputy Nazir Ahmad. He became renowned after Editing the famous Ghalib Number of Aligarh Magazine. After completing his Ph.D. he joined Department of Arabic as Lecturer in 1953. In the same year he received Rock Fuller Fellowship for research in Middle-East and England. He traveled to Germany, France, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq for educational purposes. He also stayed in Holland for couple of months and worked in Leiden University Library. He wrote the thesis under the guidance of Prof. Hamilton A.R. Gibb in Oxford University to receive his D.Phil.
However, his most remarkable contribution to Urdu was the discovery of the rare manuscript of 'Karbal Katha'. Professor not only undertook painstaking search but also ensured its subsequent publication in collaboration with his close friend, the late Malik Ram. The duo edited and also added an explanatory 40-page introduction about the origins and significance of this classic work. Before his departure for Oxford, he paid a courtesy visit to Qazi Abdul Wadood who urged him  to look for the manuscript of Fazli’s book by the name of Karbal Katha. Qazi told him that Dr. Sprenger, who was Principal of Delhi College, had taken back with him the manuscript of the rare book when he left Calcutta to return to Germany about a century ago. Dr. Alois Sprenger was born on 3 September 1813 in Nassereith, a small village near Innsbruck in the province of Tirol. Sprenger completed his early education in his own village. Then, he joined Innsbruck college at the age of 14.Later on, he joined Vienna University. Dr. Sprenger had  arrived in Calcutta in early 1843. Calcutta was then the centre of the British power and was surrounded by many cantonments. He met some men of authority who were quick to recognize the great scholar in him. They recommended the educational authorities to make proper use of his scholarship. Just then Felix Boutros, the French principal of Delhi College, proceeded to England on medical leave and Sprenger was appointed in his place. After a successful stint with Delhi College, he too returned to Germany in 1856 and  prepared a catalogue of the manuscripts and got it published in 1857.Moved by the words of Qazi upon coming to know about the importance of Karbal Katha in shaping the current form of Zakiri, Professor devoted his full energy to locate the lost manuscript .His efforts yielded him the desired result when he traced the manuscript in a library of a small German University town of Tubingen by sifting through thousands of manuscripts one by one. ( References available on request)