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Zanjīrzanī or Self-Flagellation (Persian: زَنجیرزَنی, literally: beating oneself with chains) is a Shiite mourning ritual in which people beat their shoulders with clusters of chains attached to a wooden handle in the memory of the elegies of Ahl al-Bayt (a), and in particular, the Captives of Karbala. The ritual is popular in India, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq. It is generally practiced only by men who participate processions on important occasions of mourning rituals, such as the First Ten Days of Muharram and the Last Ten Days of Safar. There are different styles of "zanjirzani". Zanjirzani processions are usually accompanied by Nawhakhwani, drumming, and Sinj (cymbal). Although the majority of faqihs (Shiite jurisprudents) permit zanjirzani, some of them have forbidden it along with Tatbir.


The origin of zanjirzani allegedly traces back to India and Pakistan. The ritual probably entered Iran in the middle of the Qajar period. There is no account of zanjirzani in older sources. There are reports of zanjirzani in European travel books in the period of Nasir al-Din Shah. In the period of Reza Shah, mourning rituals, including zanjirzani, were forbidden. In the period of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, there were temporary bans on practicing such rituals on some occasions. For example, in August 1955, before the Muharram month, the Pahlavi government appealed to a fatwa by Sayyid Hibat al-Din Shahristani, an Iraqi jurisprudent of the time, and banned zanjirzani and some other mourning rituals. The ban was followed by protests, including a huge procession of zanjirzani by people of Azerbaijan who sat in on Sayyid Muhammad Bihbahani's house. The sit-in ended after the intervention of Husayn 'Ala, the prime minister of the time. Zanjirzani was also banned in 1927 in Hyderabad.

Geographical Locations and Places

Zanjirzani is a Shiite mourning ritual which is mainly held in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, and India in different manners.

There is no particular place to hold zanjirzani. It is held in alleys, streets, as well as enclosed places, such as the courtyards of religious sites or Husayniyyas.


The ritual of zanjirzani is probably a symbol for the elegies of the caravan of the Captives of Karbala on their way to, and in, Syria; elegies such as having chains on their arms and legs and being whipped by the guardians of the caravan. Zanjirzani is a sort of undergoing pains and sufferings in order to share the sufferings imposed on the Captives a