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The Ayatollahs Recommend Self-Flagellation

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The Shia will oftentimes use Taqiyyah (lying to save one’s religion) when asked about Matam. We often hear Shia, particularly in the West, saying that beating oneself during Matam is actually forbidden in the Shia religion, and that it is only ignorant and “extremist” Shia who do that. This is a bold-faced lie, and we shall prove it here. In fact, the opposite is true: any Shia who claims that self-flagellation is not Mustahabb (highly recommended) is either lying or ignorant of his religion. All of the Shia Maraje’ (high scholars) are agreed that beating oneself is not only allowed in Shi’ism, but rather it is encouraged.

Let us refer the reader to Ayatollah Shirazi’s official website. Again, this is his own website, where he cites his as well as the opinion of other Shia Maraje’ (high scholars), including Ayatollah Sistani, Ayatollah al-Kho’i, and many other leading Shia figures. Ayatollah Shirazi is one of the most revered scholars of the Shia, and nobody could question his credentials. His official website can be viewed at www.shirazi.org.uk . In particular, we would like to draw the reader’s attention to his fatwa in regards to Matam, which can be found here: http://www.shirazi.org.uk/tatbir%20fatawa.htm We strongly urge the reader to visit the Ayatollah’s website, so that he can see it for himself. We simply copied and pasted it all below.

Al-Imam al-Sheikh Abdul Kareem al-Ha’ery, the Founder of the current Hawzah in the holy city of Qum, said:

“The hitting of swords on the heads causing bleeding is allowed provided there is no harm to the person doing this. Furthermore no one has the right to prohibit this (hitting the head with sword). In fact all kinds of TA’ZIAH – mourning – for SEYYED AL-SHUHADA’ – Imam Hussain – may our souls be sacrificed for him, are MUSTAHAB (highly recommended)– desirable deeds.”

The above Fatwa was endorsed and signed by the following eminent Maraje’:

  • Ayatollah al-Udhma al-Sheikh Muhammad al-Araki
  • Ayatollah al-Udhma al-Seyyid Muhammad Ridha al-Gulpaygani
  • Ayatollah al-Udhma al-Seyyid Shahab-el-Deen al-Mar’ashi al-Najafi
  • Ayatollah al-Udhma al-Seyyid Hassan al-Tabataba’e al-Qummi
  • Ayatollah al-Udhma al-Seyyid Muhammad al-Waheedi
  • Ayatollah al-Udhma al-Mirza Jawaad al-Tabrizi
  • Ayatollah al-Udhma al-Seyyid Muhammad Saadiq al-Rouhani
  • Ayatollah al-Udhma Muhammad Mahdi al-Lankaroudi
  • And many other Maraje’ and eminent scholars…

Al-Imam al-Sheikh Muhammad Hussain al-Naa’ini, the teacher of the Maraje’ of the holy city of Najaf, said:

“There is no doubt as to the permissibility of the beating of the chest and the face with the hands to the point of redness or blackness (of the chest or the face). This is also extended to the lashing of the shoulders and the back with chains to the extent mentioned (above), and even if this led to bleeding. As for causing the bleeding of the head by sword beating, this is also allowed provided it does not lead to endangering harm, such as unstoppable bleeding or harm to the scull, etc. as it is known amongst the experts in doing this (hitting on the head).”

The above Fatwa was endorsed and signed by the following eminent Maraje’:

  • Ayatollah al-Udhma al-Seyyid Mohsen al-Hakim
  • Ayatollah al-Udhma al-Seyyid Muhammad Kaadhem al-Shari’atMadari
  • Ayatollah al-Udhma al-Seyyid Abd-el-A’la al-Sabzewary
  • Ayatollah al-Udhma al-Seyyid Abul-Qassim al-Kho’i
  • Ayatollah al-Udhma al-Seyyid Muhammad Ridha al-Gulpaygani
  • Ayatollah al-Udhma al-Seyyid Ali al-Hussaini al-Seestani
  • Ayatollah al-Udhma al-Seyyid Muhammad Saadiq al-Rouhani
  • Ayatollah al-Udhma al-Mirza Jawaad al-Tabrizi
  • Ayatollah al-Udhma al-Sheikh Hussain al-Waheed al-Khurasani
  • And many other Maraje’ and eminent scholars…

Ayatollah al-Kho’i, the former leader of the Hawzah of the holy city of Najaf, was asked the following question.

Question:

Is there any problem with causing the bleeding of the head – TATBIR – as it is practiced, to express one’s grief about the martyrdom of our Imam Hussain peace be upon him, assuming there is going to be no permanent harm?

Answer by Ayatollah al-Kho’i:

“There is no problem with that, given the assumption made in the question, and Allah knows best.”

Question:

You stated that there is no problem in causing the bleeding of the head – known as TATBIR – if it does not lead to harm. It is said that it is not more than a permissible act, then can TATBIR be MUSTAHAB (highly recommended) – desirable – if the intention was the upholding and honouring the Sha’a’er – signs of Allah – and sympathy with the Ahl-ul-Bayt, peace be upon them?

Answer by Ayatollah al-Kho’i:

“Most probably Allah Almighty would give thawab – reward (the individual) – for sympathising with the Ahl-ul-Bayt if the intention is sincere.”

Ayatollah al-Sistani, the current leader of the Hawzah of the holy city of Najaf, was asked the following question.

Question:

What is the ruling regarding the lashing with chains, chest beating, and walking on fire on the occasion of mourning the martyrdom of Imam Hussain peace be upon him?

Answer by Ayatollah al-Sistani:

“If (these are) not associated with extreme harm or loss of limb, there is no objection.”

Question:

What is the ruling regarding wearing black, and chest beating when commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Hussain peace be upon him, as well as other infallible Imams peace be upon them?

Answer by Ayatollah al-Sistani:

“This is permissible, and in fact this is regarded as one of the best means of seeking nearness to Allah, since it is upholding and honouring the Sha’a’er of Allah Almighty.” [This is a reference to the Qur’anic Ayah 22:32. – translator.]

Ayatollah al-Shirazi was asked the following question.

Question:

Some individuals say that I do not see shedding my tears as enough to express my grief for Imam Hussain (AS), his household and his followers on the day of Ashura. So is hitting myself with sword and injuring myself is allowed?

Answer by Ayatollah al-Shirazi:

“The Hussaini Sha’a’er, including TATBIR, are some of the RAAJIH issues. TATBIR is a MUSTAHAB (highly recommended) deed, unless it leads to death, loss of limb, or loss of faculties.” (RAAJIH means MUSTAHAB that could become WAJIB depending on the circumstances - translator)

Question:

What is your opinion regarding hitting the head with sword – TATBIR – on the day of Ashura whether or not it harms the individual?

Answer by Ayatollah al-Shirazi:

“The most common and widely known opinion of the Fuqaha (scholars) is that the desirability (of TATBIR) is in it not being extremely harmful.”

Question:

If one engages in the program of TA’ZIAH for Imam Hussain (AS), and goes on to serve the program of TA’ZIAH but does not do TATBIR (shedding of blood), is he regarded as a sinner, who deserves to be humiliated?

Answer by Ayatollah al-Shirazi:

“TATBIR is a desirable act, and a MUKALLAF – i.e. one who has reached the adolescence age and is duty bound – may forsake a desirable act. It is not allowed to humiliate a Mu’min, and also one who does not do TATBIR may not humiliate or insult others, or accuse them (of false things).”

Question:

What is your opinion regarding the reports that Lady Zaynab (AS), when she saw the head of her brother Imam Hussain peace be upon him, being paraded in public hit her forehead on the bar of the carriage she was travelling in, causing bleeding to flow from beneath her veil, which was visible to onlookers who witnessed the event?

Answer by Ayatollah al-Shirazi:

“Yes that is proven.”

(Source: Ayatollah Shirazi’s official website, http://www.shirazi.org.uk/tatbir%)

Ayatollah Shirazi further said:

“Tatbir (shedding blood using swords) has always been recommended as Mustahab (highly recommended) by the overwhelming consensus of the ‘ULAMA and there has rarely been any, if at all, high-ranking ‘Aalim ever to have declared otherwise.”

(Source: Ayatollah Shirazi’s official website,
http://www.shirazi.org.uk/ashura.htm#ashuramisuse)

He also said:

“The shedding of blood during Muharram for Imam Hussain, peace be upon him, is not only Halal, but it is also very Mustahab indeed, and all PROMINENT scholars and religious authorities - Maraje’ - always encouraged it throughout the history of Islam. This included the Tatbir or Qamah-Zani - which is the hitting of the head with swords. The Maraje’ have even decreed that it is acceptable and permissible if one is harmed in this process, provided of course the injuries sustained do not constitute permanent injuries or endanger the life of the individual.”

(Source: Ayatollah Shirazi’s official website,
http://www.shirazi.org.uk/ashura.htm#ashuramisuse)

On Ayatollah Sistani’s official website, www.sistani.org, we find:

Question:

What is the ruling on beating our backs with chains only during Muharram rituals?

Answer:

“It is permissible.”

(Source: Ayatollah Sistani’s official website,
http://www.sistani.org/html/eng/menu/4/?lang=eng&view=d&code=77&page=1)

We find the following responses by Ayatollah Lankarani on his official website:

Q2: It so happens that people beat their chests and their backs with chains and their bodies turn red and even start bleeding. Is it permissible?

A2: It is permissible and even preferable provided that it does not cause significant harm to the body.

(Source: Ayatollah Lankarani’s official website,
http://www.lankarani.org/eng/adv/06.html)

Thus, there can be no question about the practise of self-flagellation in the Shia faith: it is Mustahabb (highly recommended), and this is the opinion of all of the ranking Shia Maraje’.

It is only a modern trend amongst the Shia youth living in the West to deny the acts of Matam, and this is usually done out of ignorance of the faith. We found one Shia youth who asked the following question to Ayatollah Shirazi:

I had a fellow brother at the Mosque mention one of the teachings of Imam Shirazi. The teaching in question deals with Ashura and the beating of swords and chains. This brother mentioned that Imam Shirazi says that it is allowed to use swords and chains and the drawing of blood, while someone else has said it is not allowed. Please enlighten me on Imam Shirazi’s teachings regarding this. I personally do not agree with violence in Ashura. I dare to say that I could not imagine Imam Hussain (AS) would even want us to hurt ourselves. In fact I would think he died to keep real Islam alive and keep us from going the deviant path of innovators.

In response to this question, Ayatollah Shirazi said:

“As with the issue of hitting the head with swords (Tatbir in Arabic or Qamah-Zani in Farsi) Imam Shirazi is not exceptional in any way to permit, and encourage, this action in Ashura. In fact ALL high-ranking ‘ULAMA and AYATOLLAHS not only have allowed this, and continue to do so, but for the entire history of the Shi’a over the past fourteen centuries, they have always encouraged this, declaring Tatbir or Qamah-Zani as very Mustahab indeed.”

“…Tatbir has always been recommended as Mustahab by the overwhelming consensus of the ‘ULAMA and there has rarely been any, if at all, high-ranking ‘Aalim ever to have declared otherwise.”

“As for Iran, significant number of devotees, just as in many other countries, have always performed Tatbir for many years (or rather centuries), and in recent years despite its prohibition being enforced by the authorities, people continued to perform this duty. In the last couple of years even the authorities there have started to turn a blind eye to such programs given the insistence and eagerness of the people to perform Qamah-Zani.”

(Source: Ayatollah Shirazi’s official website, http://www.shirazi.org.uk/ashura.htm)

As Ayatollah Shirazi mentioned, Iran’s official government policy is that such public displays of Matam are forbidden but only because they give a bad image to the Shia faith, not because these acts are forbidden in Shi’ism. As such, the prohibition of public displays of Matam is Taqiyyah. It is a policy which is not enforced, and in fact, the authorties “turn a blind eye to such programs.”

Ayatollah Shirazi was asked the following question.

Question:

Is shedding of blood on Ashura allowed? What is your position of Zanjeer and the use of knives, blades, and hooked chains to shed your own blood during Muharram … Is this sort of act Haram, Halal or Makruh? Is this the Sunnah of the Ahl-ul-Bayt at all?

Answer:

“The shedding of blood during Muharram for Imam Hussain, peace be upon him, is not only Halal, but it is also very Mustahab [highly recommended] indeed, and all PROMINENT scholars and religious authorities - Maraje’ - always encouraged it throughout the history of Islam. This included the Tatbir or Qamah-Zani - which is the hitting of the head with swords. The Maraje’ have even decreed that it is acceptable and permissible if one is harmed in this process, provided of course the injuries sustained do not constitute permanent injuries or endanger the life of the individual”

(Source: Ayatollah Shirazi’s official website, http://www.shirazi.org.uk/ashura.htm)

Ayatollah Shirazi then answered the following question.

Question:

Is Tatbir allowed? Is the practice of TATBIR, hitting one’s head by sword to cause bleeding, allowed in Islam?

Are there any other Marje’, alongside Grand Ayatollah Imam Muhammad Shirazi, who considers TATBIR as Halal in Islam or even MUSTAHAB?

There are people who do TATBIR on Ashura in Bahrain, is it practiced anywhere else in the Muslim world?

Answer:

“Practicing TATBIR is highly encouraged by Islam, as can be seen from the decrees of the most prominent MARAJE’ of Islam. Ayatollah al-Udhma Imam Muhammad Shirazi is not the only one who has allowed the Sha’a'er al-Hussaini, but in fact all of the most prominent MARAJE’ have also allowed these.”

“…It should be interesting for you to know that TATBIR is not only practiced in Bahrain, but it is also practiced in many countries around the world such as Saudi Arabia - al-Ihsaa’, Kuwait, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Pakistan, Australia, the United Kingdom, the Scandinavian countries, United States of America and Canada.”

(Source: Ayatollah Shirazi’s official website, http://www.shirazi.org.uk/ashura.htm)

There can thus be no more Taqiyyah or ignorance on the issue of self-flagellation in the Shia faith. We have provided the proof from the official websites of all of the top Shia scholars.

www.ahlelbayt.com

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